Monday, March 9, 2009


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Above is a series of 3 photos that my husband, Brian Grogan, took last Wednesday when we went for a walk on the south end of our home island, Denman Island, BC, at Boyle Point and Eagle Rock. The herring run is happening now and lots of wildlife about. We could just make out the sea lions congregating on a little uninhabited island off of Hornby Island, the next island over. We could hear them barking, and then a deep, rumbling sound that got louder as we got closer-- it was the bulls roaring! These eagles were on a tree just down from where we were standing.

Here was our view of the water, mountains and Chrome island, the old lighthouse Island, below us:

Something really exciting happened on our way to go shopping on Saturday-- when we were on the ferry there was a pod of Orcas making it's way up Baynes Sound (which separates us from Vancouver Island), no doubt eating herring along the way, and cavorting in the water. I have never seen Orcas firsthand, so it was pretty exciting! Twice, a big one jumped vertically out of the water, showing his or her white belly. We could see a huge dorsal fin sticking up out of the water in the distance-- must have been the Grampa of the group! Unfortunately, we didn't have cameras! It was a fun ride-- the captain went really slowly and everyone on the boat was out of their cars crowding to the railings to watch. Everyone was excited and grinning and it felt very good!

In this ocean-y context, I want to talk a bit about what I substitute for anchovies in my Italian cooking because this pertains to the recipe below. Anchovies are frequently used as a flavor booster-- lots of umami (see here and here)-- in Italian cooking, especially so-called "meatless" cooking. When I was writing my Italian vegan cookbook, Nonna's Italian Kitchen, I noticed that miso has a complex, salty, fermented flavor very much like preserved anchovies. Just like anchovies do, miso provides that mysterious "something" to many dishes, that secret ingredient (umami) that makes a dish taste so delicious, but you can't figure out what it is. I discovered that I can use miso in place of anchovies, at the rate of 3/4-1 tsp. for each fillet, or use an equal amount of miso if anchovy paste is called for. (Of course, this won't work in sauces which consist primarily of anchovies.)

Below is a good example of this usage, a recipe that I pull out when I want a tasty, satisfying meal but have only 10 or 15 minutes to throw it together! I usually have everything already, so all I need is a salad. It's a pasta with a naughty name and a possibly dodgy history, but, oh, it's good!

Printable Recipe

Servings: 6

This dish with the unrefined name "Spaghetti in the manner of a prostitute" is exceedingly popular-- and so-named perhaps because the “ladies of the night” made it quickly when they had a chance. Anchovies are replaced by miso in this vegan version.

NOTE: This pasta dish is traditionally not eaten with cheese, so don’t worry about a substitute.

1 lb. spaghetti (a good brand)
1-3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1" piece of dried hot red pepper (or 1/4 tsp. chili flakes)
2 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes, chopped (don’t peel and seed them—that’s where most of the flavor is)
OR a 28 oz. can of good Italian tomatoes, drained (save juice)
2/3 cup pitted and sliced black calamata olives
1 T. capers (optional)
2 T. soy or chickpea miso (not the very dark variety)
2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Put on a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Pour the drained tomatoes (if using canned) into a bowl and “squish” them up, or break them up, with your fingers.

In a large heavy skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and hot pepper and cook just until the garlic starts to change color slightly. Add the tomatoes, olives and capers and let simmer while you cook the spaghetti to the al dente stage. (If you are using canned tomatoes and the sauce is too dry, add some of the reserved tomato juice.)

Mash the miso in a small bowl with some of the sauce, then add it back to the sauce and stir well. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the drained pasta, toss well and cook for a minute. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Nutrition Facts (calculated using only 1 tablespoon oil)
Nutrition (per serving):
415.4 calories; 23% calories from fat; 11.1g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 711.7mg sodium; 480.2mg potassium; 68.4g carbohydrates; 4.1g fiber; 6.6g sugar; 64.3g net carbs; 11.7g protein; 8.4 points.



Kelly said...

That's a great substitution idea. Seeing it in your post it made me wonder why I've never thought of that before. I love to make a simple pasta dish with caramelized onions and anchovies and will now have to try it with the miso instead. Great suggestion.

spiceislandvegan said...


Beautiful! I have been to your island and hike that area where we could see Hornby Island. Boy, I wish I am there now! You and Brian has a nice island life there.

The puttanesca is delish. I make this dish from your cookbook many times after tasting in when I was at your cooking vacation class in 2004. Oh what a memory that lasted forever and how we had a great time at Denman Island in 2004.


jb said...

Beautiful photos, and the spaghetti looks delicious. I also just blogged about your vegan sponge!

Susan Voisin said...

If you and Brian ever want to trade places and live in the south for a while, just give me a call! I'm so envious of your lovely surroundings. I firmly believe that being able to see mountains is good for the soul.

Will definitely try this recipe. I'd never thought of using miso in puttanesca before!

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Hi, Susan! So nice to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Your Pasta Alla Putanesca is my favorite meal. So quick and fresh and delicous with kalamata olives - yum!