Mmm Sauce

Birdy and I were in the tub recently, and she was lying lengthwise next to me, studying us. I was braced for one of her inadvertently damning bits of commentary ("My body looks like a seal's body, and yours does too, but kind of more like the grandma seal.") but instead she was wanting simply to note how her yoni crack looks just exactly like the letter Y. "But yours," she observed soberly, "looks like a martini glass. A martini glass filled with hair."
Cocktails, anyone? Mmm.
I think that ridiculousness is kind of running in the family. Michael came home from work the other day, and even as he was still staggering in through the door with all his gear, the kids and I were already gushing over the dinner we'd put aside from him. "You're going to love it!" the kids kept saying. "It's got yumm sauce and it's so, so yummy." When Michael finally took a bite and said, "This is good. Wait. What's yum sauce?" I had to explain that, well, it's based on this sauce that everybody loves at this café in Oregon, the Yumm Café, where they serve it on Yumm Bowls (hello, tarted-up beans and rice!) and, well, sure, I've never actually eaten there, or actually even heard of them before today, but my friend Katy Killilea posted a recipe on facebook and it looked so good. "Your friend Katy who?" "Oh, well, she's not, like, a real friend. I mean I don't actually know her." Which does not stop me from being entirely convinced that I would like her copycat sauce recipe from a café I've never been to.
This is, I know, like the opposite of the chocolate cake--a recipe that is so beyond tried-and-true that I could make it in my sleep. This is instead something I made once, and loved, and then made again a few days later. Yesterday, in fact. But not until after some engrossing internet research. "OMG!" writes everyone who's ever been to Café Yumm. "We are all completely addicted to that sauce!!!!" Everyone agrees that there must be something they're doing wrong, that there must be some secret ingredient they're missing (meth?) because the sauce they're replicating is good, very good even, but not snort-it-through-a-rolled-up-dollar-bill good, even though they have the ingredients list right there. But you know what I think? One of the ingredients is "soybeans," and even though folks are soaking and boiling soybeans, folks are opening cans or steaming edame, I think that "soybeans" is code for miso. Which is where the addictiveness starts. This is my hunch, and who would know better than a person copying a copycat recipe from a friend she doesn't know who either has or hasn't been to the restaurant in question? I rest my case. There is nothing like blindfoldedly leaping on a bandwagon without an instrument.
And not only that: this is also, to be a frank, a recipe you might not like, even though I love it. It's like a cross between hummus, curried salad dressing, and a dairy-free cheese sauce: a little funky, a little strange. But it makes a perfect dinner topping and a perfect dip. And if you go to the Yumm site, you'll wonder why you didn't open your own rice-and-beans restaurant so that you, also, could be laughing all the way to the bank. Which is not to demean the project: I love rice and beans, and I love finding fantastic new ways to spin it. The Mmm Sauce does just that, making the humblest meal feel like an adventure in luxury. I put out rice and pintos, raw baby spinach and pickled jalapenos and Mmm Sauce (the sauce is so rich, I didn't feel like we needed cheese), and I let the kids top their own bowls, which they happily did. If I'd had avocado or good salsa, I would have put that out too, but still. Mmm.
Mmm SauceMake about a cupTotal time: 10 minutes
The web is full of attempts at this recipe, along with notes about the success (or absence thereof) of these attempts. And here's what I gather: many folks are using the wrong kind of yeast! They're using yeast yeast--the bread kind. "The top popped off the container, and the sauce foamed out all over the fridge!" they're writing. "It puffed up really huge, and I had to put it in a large bowl!" Egads! Nutritional yeast, if you've never had it, is a yellowish flaky powder sold in the bulk foods section of stores like Whole Foods, and maybe prepackaged in the natural foods section of the supermarket. It is crazy nutrient-dense (protein, B vitamins) and tastes like parmesan cheese crossed with soy sauce crossed with a multivitamin. I know. That's not the most compelling case, but there it is. Suffice it to say: if I don't feel like sharing my popcorn with Michael, I sprinkle nutritional yeast on it, and I enjoy it very much. Another note: chickpeas is an official ingredient, but I used pintos one time (I pulled them straight from the dinner we were about to eat) and white beans another. I don't think it matters very much.
¼ cup whole, raw almonds¼ cup very hot tap water2 tablespoons nutritional yeast1 tablespoon mellow white miso1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled¼ cup lemon juice plus ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest¼ cup flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola¼ cup canned or cooked beans, drained (white beans, pintos, garbanzos. . .)½ teaspoon kosher salt (or half as much table salt)¼ teaspoon curry powder, plus more to taste
Soak the almonds in the hot water while you assemble and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Now whirr everything together in a food processor, running it until the sauce is very smooth. Taste for seasoning: it should have a lemony kick, a salty richness, a faint whiff of curry and a big hit of more more more (aka umami) from the miso. Serve as a sauce, salad dressing, or dip.
These are some of the ingredients.
Also these. I thought soaking the almonds would make the sauce creamier, but it is not a scientific study as there was no control group.
Beans. Nothing like a bean sauce for topping beans. Ha ha.
Miso. I think that red miso would be too strong for this. If you don't have miso, use soy sauce and see how it goes.
Curry powder. Even though all the online approximations of this recipe call for it, I was kind of dubious. But when I tried omitting it the second time, the sauce didn't taste as good, so I put it back in. Yumm fans allege that there are green specks in the Yumm sauce, but I did not add any herbs to mine.
The Lemonator.
Before mxing. Note the flakey nutritional yeast.
And after. The texture is great: silky and creamy, and just a little nubbed from the almonds.
Mmm Bowl fixings. Mmm.
And fixed. This is not a beauty shot, but it still appeals to me.
Yummy Kid #1, eating.
And Yummy Kid #2, with dinner and pink monkey.
Last night I made this to bring to dinner with friends, and there was not a single yummy drop of sauce left afterwards.