As much as I love Thanksgiving,it doesn't take too many days after the day for me to start longing for lighter fare. My thoughts begin to turn to light broths and winter salads. Japanese food is the perfect antidote for the traditional heavier foods of the holidays.
Los Poblanos hosted a demonstration class with Nancy Singleton Hachisu in late October and she provided an excellent introduction to Japanese food and cooking. She went to Japan for the food and fell in love with a Japanese organic farmer. For the last 20 years she has been living in Japan, raising her family and learning how to cook and eat Japanese farm food. Her new book, Japanese Farm Food, recounts her cooking, eating and living adventures in Japan and gives us insights into a very different culture as well as some great recipes.
Nancy Singleton Hachisu is amazingly energetic and a persuasive spokeswoman for the glories of simple, rustic Japanese cuisine.
Japanese Farm Food is a beautiful book in every way. The writing is clear and evocative; the pictures are gorgeous and it is beautifully bound. Even if I had no interest in the food, I would want this on my shelves simply because it is such an enticing, well-made object. (The curse of the collector)
EGGS PICKLED IN SOY SAUCE
- 8 fresh eggs at room temperature
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
Fill a medium-sized saucepan three-quarters full with water and bring to a boil Place the eggs in a small strainer and lower into the boiling water. Boil for 8 to 9 minutes, depending on size. Set a large bowl in the kitchen sink and fill with cold water. Scoop the eggs from the boiling water with the strainer and immediately plunge into the water. Run more cold water if the water temperature feels warm. When the eggs are cool, gently crack by rapping and rolling on a cutting board. Put the eggs back in cold water for a few more minutes, then peel Try to get to the inner membrane and peel by running your thumb under the membrance to free the shiny white egg.
Lay the peeled eggs in a dry dish towel. Pat dry,then place the eggs in a freezer-style gallon resealable plastic bag. Pour in the soy sauce, tip the bag to distribute, press out all the air and roll up any unused portion of the bag to create a tight cylinder. Refrigerate overnight. Serve before dinner with drinks or as a side dish for a barbecue or picnic. Best on the first day.
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 9 ounces/250 grams each)
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 small heads of butter lettuce
- Sesame-Miso Vinaigrette
Fill a deep frying pan or wok halfway with water and bring to a simmer over high heat. The pan should be large enough to be able to set a steamer over but not in the simmering water.
Sprinkle each chicken breast with 1 tablespoon sake, then smear each piece with 1 teaspoon grated ginger and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Wrap in foil. Set the foil-wrapped chicken in the steamer and cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove the steamer from the heat and allow the chicken pieces to cool in their juices.
Tear off any outer discolored leaves of the lettuce and cut off the stem end with a sharp knife about 1 inch from the bottom (this helps remove unwanted dirt). If possible, don't wash the lettuce--just wipe away any clinging dirt with a damp towel. Leave the lettuce leaves whole if they are not too big, otherwise cut crosswise into 3-inch wide pieces.
Make the sesame-miso vinaigrette--but reserve a teaspoon or so of the ground sesame seeds to sprinkle on the salad after dressing. Whisk again right before serving.
When the chicken is cool, remove it from the foil packets but do not discard the liquid. Shred the chicken by hand into 1/4-inch thick pieces and moisten with a tiny bit of the steaming liquid if the meat seems slightly dry.
When ready to serve, remove the lettuce from the fridge and mound attractively on a large platter or individual plates Strew the chicken pieces over the top, drizzle sparingly with some seasame-miso vinaigrette and sprinkle with reserved roughly ground sesame seeds.
(makes enough for 1 main-dish salad)
- 2 tablespoons unhulled seasame seeds
- 1 tablespoon brown rice miso
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 4 tablespoons rapeseed oil*
Measure the sesame seeds into a small frying pan and roast over medium-high heat while lifting and shaking the pan to avoid burning the seeds. (They burn easily!) When the seeds start to pop, remove from the heat.
Slide the seeds into a Japanese grinding bowl (suribachi) or mortar and grind roughly (reserve a teaspoon or so of the smashed seeds to sprinkle on the salad after dressing). Mash in the miso to form a thick paste and add the vinegar to lighten and brighten the miso-sesame mixture. Whisk in the rapeseed oil slowly until emulsified. (Be sure to whisk again right before dressing your salad.)
Strew the dressed salad withe reserved roughly ground seeds.
RATIO: seasme:miso:rice viegar:rapeseed oil--2:1:2:4
*Rapeseed oil is marketed here by the name of Canola Oil. I tend not to like becuase it is often rancid by the time it reaches our grocery shelves and stands a very good chance of being contaminated by GMO's. Grapeseed oil can be a good substitute. Whatever you use, it needs to be light and bright.