Monday, May 02, 2011

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 Sauce
Make about a cup
Total 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 almonds
¼ cup very hot tap water
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon mellow white miso
1 garlic clove, smashed and peeled
¼ cup lemon juice plus ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
¼ cup flavorless vegetable oil, such as canola
¼ 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.


  1. That is the most accurate description of the taste of nutritional yeast I have ever read.

    We are always looking for fake-cheesy sauces for our dairy-free daughter. Excellent!

  2. plazamom1:24 PM

    Can I just say how happy I am to find new blog posts from you every Monday and Friday morning? I sat down at my computer just now and thought "oh yeah, it's Monday -- Catherine Newman should have a new post up!" -- and here you are!

    Thank you for being a bright spot (or a couple of bright spots!) in my week.

  3. I feel like I should know the answer to this question since I've owned a Moosewood Cookbook for approximately 25 years, but where in the grocery store should one look for miso? Asian foods? Does it come in a can, bottle, jar? I kind of know what it is but have never used it.

    I love dippy sauces, or saucy dips, or whatever you want to call them. And I love gooping good saucy dips in a bowl with rice and beans. So this is right up my alley. I just need to find the miso and the nutritional yeast.

  4. I am so glad to be back receiving recipes and great blog posts from you. Love your recipes! This was made me laugh because my cousin in Portland is always raving about Yumm sauce and Yumm bowls. Now I can give it a try!

  5. Ellen, the miso I buy is refrigerated, and it's either near the tofu, or near the "weird" stuff: sauerkraut, wonton wrappers, kale sprouts, etc. It's in the first set-up picture: the white container with a sad face on it.

    1. Anonymous9:32 PM

      the sad face remains the same. : )

  6. Angela2:51 PM

    Well, I miiiiight try it, but I don't think my kids are quite adventurous enough yet... :)

    But that description of nutritional yeast makes me think of Marmite. Yum! I might like yeast on popcorn!

  7. This sounds very interesting, and I say that as someone who grew up with salt and pepper as "spices" and now happily eats everything. Including nutritional yeast.

    Your explanation to Michael about the recipe sounds like me explaining your recipes to my husband, in the sense that it is like a recipe from a friend, even though I don't "know you" know you, and how I know it will be a good recipe. Which it always is- he refers to you as that "Internet Catherine", with slightly raised eyebrows (his, not yours) but in a good way. (so many parentheses, so little time...)

    I also agree with everyone else that it is a highlight of my Mondays and Fridays to get to read your blog! Keep it up, is all I can say.

  8. I'm a little bit addicted to nutritional yeast. I sprinkle it on popcorn.

  9. elsimom4:16 PM

    Haha - laughing about my "friends" i don't really know on the internet - I currently refer to you as "on the dalai mama blog...." and when my husband looks at me blankly (every time) I say "you know, the pork lady" because we make that pulled pork recipe all the time. However, having read you for many years, I have the feeling you wouldn't really object to being "the pork lady" on the basis of that recipe, right?

  10. I talk about you to my husband like I know you, then when I get the blank look I have to add, "you know, the internet lady with the hilarious kids whose recipes I use?"

  11. Teafortwo8:27 PM

    Oh brother. I was just at Whole Foods this morning speed-shopping for veggies between a PTA meeting and carpool pickup. Oh that I'd seen this beforehand. Ah. I can't wait to try it!

  12. Teafortwo8:30 PM

    I post, and then have another thought. The pediatrician's office had copies of "ChopChop" out for the taking today. The nurse said that they had a case of them. I gladly took one. Can't wait to try it and pass it along to my next door neighbor.

  13. Ooh, I can't wait to try this. I <3 nutritional yeast and the hubby and I are doing a month-long stint as vegans (as opposed to our normal regular vegetarianism). This sounds perfect! If you love nutritional yeast, you might like this bean dip. We make it at least weekly.

    PS. I love how you started a recipe post talking about yonis. ;)

  14. I heart Yumm sauce! Been eating it since attending the U of Oregon back in 1993. Cafe Yumm finally opened a restaurant over here in Bend 2 years ago. I've always wondered what was in their sauce. Can't wait to try this and do side by side taste test!

  15. Amy Mayfield12:09 AM

    This was cracking me up because we made homemade Yumm bowls for dinner tonight. We buy the sauce from the restaurant here in Corvallis, Oregon, in a huge container. I've never tried to make the sauce myself, but yours looks good! You'll have to try Cafe Yumm if you ever come to Oregon, they have some other delicious stuff that doesn't even involve Yumm Sauce, my favorite is the Nori wrap. It comes with rice, shelled edamame, a cabbage-carrot slaw, ginger dressing, and little nori sheets for wrapping.

  16. I admit to telling my kids "This recipe is from my friend and her kids really like it" so I'm glad you have online "friends," too.

    I'm in Portland so I'll have to make a run to Cafe Yumm to compare :)

  17. Shauna2:53 PM

    I’ve read your column for years (years!) but am not much of a poster. This may be like the second time. But I feel compelled to tell you the following things:

    -I live in Oregon and ate a Café Yumm last night. What a coincident!

    -My family of 4 spent $29 on rice and beans that had yummy sauce on it. Yikes.

    -My 4 year old declared loudly in the restaurant that she hates rice and beans and then proceeded to throw a fit and not eat a thing.

    -I too, have tried to make Yumm sauce using one of the recipes I found online but decided it wasn’t worth it because of the soybeans. Miso is brilliant.

    -Have you tried nutritional yeast in salad dressing? Yumm.

  18. 1) I bet the craze over Yum sauce is from the nutritional yeast, which I find weirdly and completely addictive.
    2) Also, I'm thinking Disney would not have been okay with printing "yoni crack." See, another reason why this new change is so good.

  19. Can't wait to try this! And I love nutritional yeast too, I just have an impossible time remembering what it's called whenever I go to the store. I went to the health food store and asked the guy for the stuff that goes really good on popcorn and has a texture like that fake cheese from a can, but is actually good for you. He just stared at me. So thanks for the recipe (I actually have all the ingredients) and thanks for telling us the name of nutritional yeast.

  20. This has nothing to do with Yum sauce which I might just have to try..anyway the Brazilian cake was excellent. I made your Mexican chicken salad recipe from last summer (I'm way behind) and we had Brazilian cake for dessert. If you lived closer I would have invited you over for dinner but since I live nearly on the other coast...well you get the idea.

  21. Corinna4:38 AM

    Love reading your blog. (and I simply refer to you as "you know, the food blog I'm reading", since I'm 22 and I normally do NOT read any food blogs- apart from yours, that is)
    I might actually try this. If I ever stop eating at the university cafeteria twice a day.
    Just wanted to say, that you make me feel, like I actually want to cook.

  22. heather11:50 AM

    that is so funny! my daughter, who's just six, was in the tub and had the same revelation: that her yoni was shaped like the letter 'Y' ...

  23. Erin K.2:58 PM

    I love everything about this post. Especially the bath story. I have two small boys so our conversations are a little different - They are sure that I must have a tiny penis hidden somewhere in the dark mystery of my 'China'

    I also love Nutritional Yeast on my popcorn - AND am completely addicted to it on Kale Chips - AND If I'm making fresh tomato sauce and the tomatoes aren't great and it need a little something - and if no one is looking - I put a little in the sauce and it completely pulls it together. I can't wait to make this sauce.

  24. I ran out, bought some miso and nutritional yeast, and made this tonight -- totally delish! Definitely going to make regular appearances at my place in Brooklyn from now on. My 3 year old helped me make it...and happily enjoyed eating it (my picky 7 year old, well, he wont even eat rice, let alone beans, let alone Yum Sauce, ah well).

  25. I love sauces, so I can't wait to try this! I've been meaning to buy nutritional yeast, but the only store I found it at sells it in a giant tub for like $25. Seems like a big investment if I might not like it, but you and all the comments have made up my mind.
    I refer to recipes from you as, "It's a Catherine Newman." You're a brand in my house, apparently.
    Thanks for making my Mondays more bearable!

    My word verification is umpifi. I don't know what it should mean, but it's funny.

  26. I'm confused. Is it yummm sauce or mmm sauce? I think I'll make it the next time I need to take something to a party. I lurve a dip. Also, so happy you are blogging and recipeing away. You make my life better!

  27. Teafortwo3:15 PM

    Mmmmmmmm. I made it back to the store for white mellow miso. So very delicious! I had something similar at a restaurant down in South Florida.

  28. Nutritional yeast is so old school hippy. Next thing you know I'll be growing sprouts and talking about auras and cooking with carob (gateway ingredient for sure). It is yummy though, and popcorn wouldn't be the same without it.

  29. Oh, Wow, Catherine, I made Yumm bowls just last night. It's an old standard for us, especially when we're in places where we can't get a lot of ingredients. Beans and rice, grated carrots and cheese, almonds and tomatoes and black olives... we can find them almost anywhere. And whenever people come to visit us from the U.S., I get them to bring... Nutritional Yeast. Often it's my only request.

  30. Anonymous3:57 PM

    My husband watched me make this and put it together with a variation of your quinoa sundae and roast kale. Then he checked my pits and legs for hair!
    Seriously though, the whole family loved it.

  31. MaKelly9:42 AM

    I just made this last night, and it was truly Yumm! For those of you out there who love miso, South River Miso has a great little book of recipes, and everything in it that I've tried is super-yummy. This Yumm sauce reminded me of the The Miso Happy Salad Dressing which really makes you want to eat nothing but salad until the bottle's gone. You can pick up their amazing miso and recipe book at a lot of local stores in Western Mass, and the recipes are also on their website.

  32. I made this last night using dashi miso because that's what I had in the house. Holy cats it was good! I think the wiff of fishy seaweediness from the dashi was a good addition . . .

  33. I made this and almost everyone loved it (my 4 year old nephew was the only hold out). I had cooked up a batch of Good Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo, and holy crap, the meal was life changing. I'm working hard to keep from serving beans and rice at every meal, so we don't get sick of it.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  34. Anonymous1:14 PM

    I made this for Father's Day and it is fantastic! Gonna take some camping, put it on a sandwich, beans and rice and yumm yumm. mmmmmm

  35. Flaked yeast sprinkled on hot, liberally-buttered wheat toast... mmMMMmmmm...

  36. Can't wait to try this. I am upgrading from my functional but highly frustrating 'mini food processor'. If you are thinking of getting a mini one, DON.T. You will forever wish you had taken a paper route for a month to pay for a full size one.
    But... which full size one to get?? I know I'll see what my friend Catherine uses. I have been scouring you pics and my detective work is not effective. Care to share tell us your make/model and # of stars?

    1. Beth. What I have is a Cuisinart from 1990. I love it, but it is very old. Still, if I were buying a new one, I'd buy another Cuisinart. Helpful? No?

  37. Anonymous9:35 PM

    I can not believe I didn't comment here back in the day. I am Katy Killilea! I must have been so flustered to have been noticed by you.