Washoku – five colors, five tastes

“Five tastes, or go mi, describes what the Japanese call anbai, the harmonious balance of flavors – salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy – that ensures that our palates are pleasantly stimulated, but not overwhelmed.” — Elizabeth Andoh, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

I haven’t posted a washoku meal for a while now. I began my exploration of the Japanese “harmony of food” by attending to the five colors (red, yellow, green, black, and white) on my plate. Then I turned my attention to the principle of “five ways,” which encourages the cook to incorporate several different cooking methods in preparing the meal.

Today’s lunch focused on inclusion of the five flavors. I had sweet from the corn in the polenta and the mirin-sake-tamari-shitake broth in which the carrots had been simmered. Salty came from the miso in the goma miso dressing and spicy from the red pepper-yuzu condiment sprinkled on the broccoli. I made a little salad of radish, hijiki, black sesame seeds, and rice vinegar which pulled in bitter and sour notes to complement the rest of the meal.

Five colors were also represented – red from the carrot and radish, yellow from the polenta, green from the broccoli, black from the hijiki and sesame seeds, and white from the radish – as were five cooking methods – simmered carrots, steamed broccoli, dry-roasted sesame seeds in the goma miso sauce, and the radish salad which was somewhere between pickled and raw.

I had wondered if the polenta, which is fairly neutral but still tagged as “Mediterranean” in my mind, would go well with the Japanese flavors of the carrots and broccoli. As promised by washoku, however, somehow the radish salad, with its crisp texture and bright flavors, created a kind of flavor bridge that pulled the whole meal together, and indeed I found my palate “pleasantly stimulated, but not overwhelmed.”

Goma Miso Dressing
This is one of my favorite sauces. I can rarely resist ordering goma ae (goma miso sauce over cooked spinach) at Japanese restaurants. I hadn’t realized how easy it is to make at home!
Recipe is from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen .

1/4 cup white sesame seeds
2 T. sweet, light miso
Scant 1/4 cup dashi (I used my mirin-sake-tamari broth instead)
pinch of salt, if needed

Heat a small, heavy skillet (dry, without oil) over medium-high heat and add sesame seeds. Stir with a wooden spatula or gently swirl pan occasionally. In about a minute the seeds will begin to darken and you’ll smell them – remove from heat and continue to stir seeds in pan for another 20-30 seconds. If the seeds look in danger of scorching, put them immediately into the food processor. (The seeds may pop quite a bit – I like to cover my pan with a splatter screen while roasting the seeds.)

Process still-warm seeds in a food processor until all the seeds have been evenly crushed. Add a tablespoon of the miso and two tablespoons of the broth and pulse until combined. Taste and adjust sweetness with salt, if needed. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl, add the remaining miso and broth, and pulse until smooth. Makes about 1/2 cup, which was way more than enough for three large stalks of broccoli.

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The best broccoli of your life

I don’t like to post recipes without providing a picture, but I know the crappy picture I took late at night while everyone was eagerly waiting to pounce on the food is not going to convince you. I don’t know if my words are going to convince you. Maybe Adam over at The Amateur Gourmet, from whom I got this recipe (and the title of this post, because really, what else is there to be said?), can convince you. Perhaps a read-through of the recipe will sway you. Maybe the fact that we’ve made this recipe 15 or so times but I’ve never managed to make it last long enough for a real photo-shoot will carry some weight.

But really, the only thing for it is please, PLEASE just make this recipe. Make it once, and I won’t need to convince you. Because you’ll taste, and you’ll see, and you’ll know.

lemon_brocc

It’s broccoli, and it’s roasted. The recipe specifies the broccoli should be completely dry (we just get organic brocc and don’t wash it at all first) and that means you may be headed for your first ever not-gross roasted broccoli. It’s roasted with garlic, which is always a good idea, and the garlic is sliced instead of chopped, which means it doesn’t turn into burnt, bitter, angry little nuggets but instead becomes crisp and the essence of garlic. Then afterwards there is some lemon zest, and some lemon juice, and, as with everything, it’s even better if those lemons are Meyer lemons. And then there are toasted pine nuts, which are so enchanting, so enrapturing, that when you bite into the occasional lemon seed that has slipped into the dish and cunningly disguised itself as a nut you’ll just laugh and laugh because you’re so in love with this broccoli that there’s nothing in the world gonna bring you down.

Adam of The Amateur Gourmet got the recipe from The Barefoot Contessa, and I got him from him. I present it to you here veganized and featuring our choice of flavorings (Adam goes for parmesan and leaves out the basil and pine nuts, we leave out the cheese and herb but can’t imagine it without the pine nuts). We’ve found that kosher salt stays crystallized and gets caught in the broccoli crowns, making them too salty, so we use plain iodized salt or sea salt. I’ve also tidied the recipe a bit – Adam’s wonderful narrative recipe style is a little hard for folks with brain fog (like me!) to follow while trying to cook at the same time.

Writing this post I feel like I sound like Duck when he writes so lyrically and dreamily about The Best Song in the World. Because that’s what this is – the best song in the world, dancing across your tongue.

Roasted Broccoli with Pine Nuts and Lemon Zest

4 to 5 pounds of broccoli (maybe two large bunches)
5 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsps regular salt or sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 lemon
3 T pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 425.

Cut broccoli into florets (but relatively big ones.) Here’s the key that she doesn’t mention in the recipe: dry them THOROUGHLY. That is, if you wash them. I didn’t wash my broccoli; I wanted it to get crispy and brown. If you’re nervous, though, just wash and dry it obsessively.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, salt, fresh ground pepper, and stir until the salt is at least somewhat dissolved. Slice 4 cloves of garlic. Toss the broccoli pieces and the garlic slices with the oil in a large bowl, or straight on a cookie sheet if you are brave (line it with foil or parchment if you want easy clean-up).

Roast in the oven 20 to 25 minutes, until “crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.” Keep a good eye on it – you don’t want to burn it, just brown it a bit.

While the broccoli is roasting, toast 3 Tbs pine nuts in a dry pan over medium-high heat, shaking or stirring the pan constantly so the pine nuts get slightly browned but not burned.

When it’s done, take it out of the oven–and here’s where it gets really good–zest a lemon over the broccoli, squeeze some lemon juice over it (a half to a whole lemon, depending on how juicy your lemon is and how acidic you like your food), and add the toasted pine nuts.

Sit down with the pan, someone you love, and two forks. Expect no leftovers.

Energizing broccoli for the fatigued cook

broccoli
There is, for me, no vegetable more vegetable-y than broccoli. When I am craving a serious does of healthy veggie goodness, I usually want either broccoli or kale. But steamed broccoli is often just a little too plain, especially to have for several meals in a row. And something a bit more exciting, like stir-fried broccoli, is often too labor-intensive when I’m tired and just want to get dinner on the table.

But welcome to the most delicious compromise you’ll ever meet! Chopped garlic (and as a time and labor-saver you can chop the pieces fairly large because they are going to be steamed until they are mild) is thrown on top of chopped broccoli, and the whole mix is cooked in a tiny bit of water and soy sauce. One pot, no oil, no mixing sauces. Because you are cooking it in a tiny bit of water, it retains more nutrients than if you boiled or blanched it, but there’s no steamer basket to wash!

This recipe is also great for taking the bitterness out of broccoli rabe, also often known as “broccolini”. I had a friend who otherwise couldn’t stand the bitter taste of broccoli rabe, but loved it when prepared this way.

Easiest Broccoli with Garlic and Soy Sauce

1 bunch broccoli, baby broccoli, broccolini, or broccoli rabe
5-7 cloves of garlic
1/2 Cup water
2 tsp. soy sauce or wheat-free tamari

Chop broccoli into pieces. For baby broccoli or broccoli rabe you can leave the stalks whole, too. Chop garlic into small pieces. You don’t have to mince, nor do the pieces have to be pretty or evenly sized.

Combine the water, soy sauce, and chopped garlic in a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Add the broccoli, cover, and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Serve the broccoli immediately, with or without the garlic pieces.

Meanwhile…

My new box arrives tomorrow, and the only post I’ve made this week stars a vegetable that arrived a month ago. You may be feeling anxious for me right about now, wondering how I’m going to cope with an influx of new produce that will pile into my already overburdened refrigerator, since I clearly haven’t consumed any of the new arrivals yet. Fear not, gentle reader!, for this is not the case. I simply haven’t made anything worth photographing. So I thought that since this week has been so skimpy on posts I might make one documenting the simpler fates my produce meets throughout the week.

Because I know things are always better with pictures, I provide you with one here. What could be a better emblem of simplicity than my adorable rat, Crunch, nibbling a tender leaf of kale, no more processed than when it came out of the ground?

Crunch with kale

(For those of you who are grossed out even by pet rats, think of her as that cartoon chef rat in the Disney film Ratatouille. Everyone loved Ratatouille, right?)

The Fate of Box 10:

Lettuce: has gone into many a salad, including a full-meal salad tonight with carrots, thinly sliced daikon, Rome Beauty apple, napa cabbage, Manchego cheese, and hearts of palm, with a bizarre but tasty dressing of walnut oil, lemon olive oil, rice vinegar, and apple cider (I’m working on honing my dressing skills) .
Crocodile Spinach: Sauteed with garlic and then into a frittata with quinoa and port-infused Irish cheddar. Served with tempeh bacon, of course.
Pink Lady Apples: Snacked on straight and as a light lunch with some kind of beer-cheese. (Yes, I went a little cheese-mad at Trader Joe’s)
Satsuma Mandarins: Disappeared almost immediately as they are one of my top three favorite foods of all time.
Broccoli: Straight into the compost – more aphids than green stuff in this batch. So sad!
Kale and Collards: Immediately steamed and packed alongside quinoa and various lentil and chickpea dals from Tasty Bite, for several lovely lunches to-go.

Simple Pleasures

As winter closes in, I find myself really craving comfort food. This afternoon, as I walked home through the chilly fog, I got a yen I haven’t had in years. I wanted tuna casserole, that ultimate comfort food, the kind with the crusty broiled top and the simple-but-brilliant filling of macaroni, tuna, and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup all mushed together and seasoned with nothing but parsley, salt and pepper. I don’t eat tuna anymore, and I don’t eat wheat pasta, and I sure as hell don’t eat whatever craziness they put in a can of Campbell’s, so my casserole tonight was a bit of an adventure, but in the end it came out perfectly and filled my tummy with warm, gooey, winter coziness.

[For the rest of this post, which contains no photo, follow the “more” link below:]

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Turnips, Three Ways

Tonight it was time to tackle the turnips. I still had the white “Tokyo” turnips from Week 4 and the “Red Scarlet” turnips from Week 6.

I was especially curious about the unusual red scarlet turnips, although I’m pretty unfamiliar with turnips in general. I googled about and checked out turnip recipes, and ended up with a kind of turnip souffle, which was basically mashed turnips mixed with roux, soymilk, a little sugar, and egg yolks, with beaten egg whites folded in. I left the skins on the turnips, so my (unfortunately not very photogenic) souffle/cassrole thingie ended up with lovely little pink flecks as well as an allover rosy glow. The flavor was light, savory, eggy, and a little sweet from the turnips.

Turnip Souffle

I also wanted to see what the turnips were like roasted, since roasted roots in the form of beets, parsnips, and carrots are already one of my staple foods. I ended up making a kind of “refrigerator roast,” roasting an unlikely combination of everything in my fridge that looked remotely roastable. I put together a concoction of scarlet turnips, white turnips, carrots, onion, garlic, broccoli, and a green apple I found abandoned at the back of the middle shelf, all seasoned with some of the sage left over from the Quinoa Butternut Pie. I followed Deborah Madison’s instructions for roasting turnips from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which is usually my veggie prep bible. In this instance, though, Debbie let me down. She had me boil the turnips for 3 minutes before roasting, and they ended up more soggy than delightfully caramelized. (Probably because my turnips were much smaller and more tender than the typical huge lavender-tipped turnip of the traditional root cellar.) They were lovely to look at, though, and quite tasty to eat in any case.

Refrigerator Roast

The more discerning reader may notice I seem to be drawing to a close on this post, here. “What’s the third way?,” you may be asking yourself. Why, raw, of course! My CSA newsletter explained that the scarlet turnips were “Japanese salad turnips.” Unsure if this was a merely honorary title, I was curious to try them raw. I found them spicy and peppery, and a bit solid for straight raw consumption. They’d make fantastic pickles, though: I’m already plotting Turnips, Way Number Four…

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