Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Have you ever been incredibly intimidated by some task only to realize when you finally tried it that it wasn't so bad? That finding the nerve to cross into the unfamiliar was perhaps the hardest part. It's wonderful and a little bit scary, isn't it, how powerful our minds can be? Our mental state can do anything from pin us down in fear to propel us to success.
It's a bit odd, but what got me thinking about this was a camera setting. In the half year or so since purchasing my DSLR, I've relied entirely on the aperture priority exposure setting. Why? Cause it was safe and the results, satisfactory. At that time even the most "dumbed down" photography tutorials about f-stops, ISO, and shutter speed made my head spin. So I convinced myself that my camera was smarter than me and wisely (or so I thought) got out of its way.
That worked alright for a while...but Ms. Canon and I often split on what "proper exposure" meant for any specific photo. Then last week it finally dawned on me that some of my favorite photos are technically "over" or "under" exposed but have the perfect lighting for the artist's vision. So scary jargon be damned, I flipped the setting to manual and started snapping away.
And you know what? Nothing exploded or melted (myself included). Really it just felt like a natural progression from how I'd been shooting (except less cursing and more fun playing with settings to find my perfect exposure). Don't get me wrong -- I have plenty of nits to pick with these photos. Yet with this step I finally feel a potential for growth. Perhaps this example of mine is silly, but next time you have a chance to reach beyond your comfort zone, why not go for it?
While we're on the topic of daring to try something new, you've just gotta give this sweet potato dish a go. It may look serene (to match the Japanese theme), but flashy colors would definitely be involved if photos reflected flavors 8). Combine the savory complexity of miso with the sweetness of mirin, tang of rice vinegar, and nutty richness of tahini, and you've got one addictive sauce. Just be forewarned that you may find yourself putting it on everything from sandwiches to salads.
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso-Tahini Glaze [Printable Recipe]
Adapted from Teaism via Washingtonian
Serves 8 as a side
XIAOLU'S NOTES: My sweet potatoes were more medium-small, so I only got about 4 small servings and had LOTS of sauce leftover (though I didn't mind a bit). Be sure to get larger sweet potatoes or twice as many for the right number of servings. If using larger ones, I'd recommend cutting into cubes. If you end up with more sauce than needed for the sweet potatoes, it stores well and tastes great on lots of things (be adventurous!) :).
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled 1 1/2 inch cubes
[I cut them in 3/4-inch thick round slices.]
Neutral-flavored oil, such as canola or vegetable oil, as needed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss sweet potato cubes with enough canola oil to coat the potatoes lightly but evenly. Add the potatoes to a small baking pan; you want to crowd the potatoes in the pan to help them steam. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, making sure the cubes or slices are cooked through. Let cool for at least 10 minutes.
1/3 cup yellow or white miso paste
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
3/4 cup water, more if desired
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup mirin
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk until completely blended. Taste and adjust seasoning with sugar. Add more water if a thinner consistency is preferred. This dressing is best if it’s prepared and kept overnight to allow the flavors to mingle [but tastes great the day you make it as well].
To serve, portion the roasted sweet potatoes onto each plate, and drizzle with miso-tahini dressing.