A nice bright salsa to end the summer (never mind it’s been over for a month). This recipe is very simple, and I love the way the flavors and textures work together.
I like to serve this with homemade tortillas (or rice or quinoa), avocados, and roasted kabocha tossed with cumin and cayenne.
And oh, how I have waited for goat cheese and fresh beets.
Photographed pre-pine nuts.*
The more I learn about cooking and food culture, the more I’ve become fascinated with cultural concepts of portable foods. As I’ve written before, Japan’s main example is onigiri, rice balls, but in the Shinshû/Nagano region, it’s oyaki, the steamed buns often made with savory fillings and soba-flour dough. Combine oyaki with another one of my favorite foods, kabocha, and you have a delicious, healthy addition to your bento that is easy to make and transport.
I used to refer to cauliflower as “broccoli’s sad cousin.” Years of veggie trays at family functions taught me that dip does not make raw cauliflower taste good. A month of a “let’s try new vegetables” experiment in high school taught me that no amount of cheese will make me touch boiled cauliflower. (Seriously. There are some things even cheese can’t fix.)
At some point last year, everyone on the Internet seemed to having a foodgasm about using mashed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potatoes, and as I was snarking away*, my husband revealed that he likes cauliflower.
Whoa whoa whoa. Back up there.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
Of course he was. And then he challenged me to try it again.
Are you guys sick of kabocha and kabocha purée yet? I never am*, but let’s change it up a bit today.
My first encounter with a vegetarian cookbook of any sort was my dad’s copy of Anna Thomas‘s The Vegetarian Epicure, a memento of a few months in the ’70s when he dabbled in meatless cooking. I have no recollection of my dad (or my mom) ever using VE for anything but the cornbread recipe that we brought with us to every Thanksgiving dinner. I find vintage (sorry, parents) cookbooks really fascinating from a social-history standpoint, so perhaps I’ll peruse the book again when I’m home next.
On the themes of both autumn and non-chickpea hummus-adjacent spreads, I present kabocha hummus, one of the many fine uses for kabocha purée. As I stated in my baba ghanoush recipe, chickpeas/garbanzo beans (Japanese: hiyokomame, ひよこ豆) are relatively expensive in Japan, so I’ve been trying to less expensive chickpea alternatives. If chickpeas are cheap where you live, consider this recipe an interesting seasonal twist on a classic.
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I’ve covered bread here, so let’s move on to sandwich fillings, specifically pita. Hummus or falafel seem like obvious choices and are very easy to make at home if you can get the ingredients. In Ishikawa, chickpeas are mostly relegated to the import stores (and are expensive), and my first blender was a cheap plastic thing that did not like anything with a consistency harder than melted butter. Hummus, therefore, was not a food I could make consistently while living out in the country.
Fortunately, I discovered baba ghanoush after yet another incident where I had too many eggplants. This magical food solves all of the making-hummus-in-Japan problems. This eggplant-based spread uses no chickpeas, which means no special trips to the import store; eggplants are plentiful and cheap; and the soft consistency of the vegetable base means you won’t murder your blender. Instead of tahini, which is also import-store-only, we’re going to use white nerigoma, Japanese sesame paste. Tahini is a paste made of roasted sesame seeds; nerigoma is paste made with sesame seeds that haven’t been roasted, so to get a smokier flavor, we’re going to add cumin.
Typhoon season has brought the temperature down from the endless blazing days of August, one of the few times of year when Ishikawa isn’t rainy. Because of Mt. Hakusan, the typhoons that slam into west of Japan dissipate into thundershowers over Kanazawa, a sign that fall is near. With all the squash at the market and the slight drop in the heat, I’ve been on a roasting kick lately. Unlike in the winter, when I warm the apartment cooking dinner and hide out in the kitchen area for most of the night, roasting in late summer and not using the AC just means I go hide out in a different room with the fan.
This salad has some of the best of autumn’s flavors and is reminiscent of stuffing but is vegan and gluten free. Apples and kabocha squash roasted with chestnuts and tossed with quinoa (or rice) and sauteed onions and garlic. Simple as that. Because the dish is naturally on the sweet side and enhanced with cinnamon, it would made an excellent side dish in the style of sweet Southern-style side dishes like pineapple stuffing or creamed corn to a savory entree. As an entree, you could serve this chilled on a bed of fresh greens or with some savory sides to balance out your meal.
I couldn’t resist buying a box of 10 large (230 g), gorgeous tomatoes for only 598 yen at the grocery store a few weeks ago. Tomatoes in Japan can be quite expensive, and although the price drops in the summer when they are in season, 600 yen might get you 5 if you are lucky.
How did I use my 10 tomatoes?
Early May means fresh bamboo shoots are in season again here in Ishikawa, and I received not one but three lovely shoots from my friends and coworkers this year! 2012 is apparently a bumper year for bamboo in the forests and in my kitchen.
Whether you purchased or received fresh bamboo, one large shoot can seem like a lot to cook up. The best English-language resource for cooking bamboo is, in my opinion, Makiko Itoh’s Just Hungry. The reason why I have only one bamboo recipe on this site is because I always use hers! What I do have to offer is how to cook raw bamboo, my master list of bamboo recipes, comments, and my own photos. Enjoy! [Updated 5/18/2013]