Autumn #4: Miniature Tea Eggs and Chrysanthemum Sunomono / 秋#4:茶玉子と菊の酢の物

The other day I noticed flowers being sold at my local greengrocer. Chrysanthemums, to be specific.
I'd never cooked with chrysanthemums before, so I asked the little old lady how I should go about preparing them. She recommended sunomono -- a vinegared Japanese-style side salad. 菊を料理に使ったことない私だから、お店のおばちゃんと相談した。彼女のおすすめ:酢の物。

Sunomono is quite simple really, it just calls for equal parts rice vinegar and mirin (sweet cooking sake), and a touch of salt. I decided to jazz it up, and take the opportunity to tackle a recipe I've been biting at the bit to get to. 酢の物は本当にシンプルで、ちょっとだけチェル的にしようかな。。。

Ever since I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. このレシピを見た瞬間、私も絶対作りたいと思った。

Tea-glazed eggs. 茶玉子。

But when I got to the poultry store, delicate little gems beckoned me away from those ungainly, vulgar chicken eggs...
The little masochists begged me to boil them and crack them and boil them again. How could I resist? I'm only human...

So I boiled them for half a minute or so to set them, cracked them with the back of a spoon, and then put them back in the pot, this time joined by soy sauce, darjeeling tea, star anise, and a splash of mirin. And I let them boil...
And boiled them and boiled them, for close to two hours.このまま2時間近くゆでた。
And when the came out, they were scarred - but also somehow more hauntingly beautiful. And also more delicious.
I wasn't through with them yet. I prepared a beautiful bed of sunomono made from slivers of mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley), okra, red onion, and the chrysanthemum petals, which I plucked from the flowers and doused in hot water before adding to the mix. このミニ茶玉子をチェル的な酢の物を!みつば、オクラ、赤いタマネギを細く切って、菊の花弁も湯通ししてから入れた。

Autumn is a sad season of endings, a season of bitter experience: the spring chicken gets fattened to become winter's warming soup. But with experience comes...



Autumn #3: Edamame and Persimmon Tororo Donburi / 秋#3:枝豆と柿のとろろどんぶり

There is an expression in Japanese: "Shokuyoku no Aki." It translates into "Appetizing Autumn." 食欲の秋ですね。

I can't even walk down the street without the being stopped in my tracks by the produce spilling out of the mom and pop shops. 今の八百屋で青物大盛り。。。圧倒的な気持ち!

Just last night I couldn't resist the temptation to buy fresh edamame on the stalk. 昨日どうしても新鮮な枝豆を買いたくなってしまった。。。

Afterall, "edamame" does mean "beans on a twig." 枝豆っていうから、枝で買うともっと適当でしょう?

But what to do with them? それで、枝豆とどうすればいいかなー

Then I remembered another fall favorite: the persimmon. そうね!もうひとつの秋の味を思い出した!
I first discovered persimmons as a fifteen-year-old living in Japan. They baffled me. They were like the lovechild of a tomato and an apple. All I knew for certain was that I wanted to eat them. A lot of them.

Whatever it was, it was love at first bite. 一口惚れだった。

Today the weather was perfect for something light, so I thought I would go ahead with my plan, and make an early autumn donburi. 今日の天気も晴れて、ちょうど軽い初秋がおいしいの日。

A donburi is basically a one-bowl rice dish. To bind together the bright green edamame and the vivacious orange persimmon, I turned to the nagaimo, or "long potato." 枝豆と柿を結ぶことを長いもに任せた。
Ain't much to look at, but like so many brutes, the nagaimo has a sensitive interior. いる人間のように外面はひどいけど内面はきれいな長いも。
The inside of this root vegetable, when grated, makes tororo: a cloud of white goo upon which I intended to rest my autumnal jewels. これでとろろの雲の上に枝豆と柿を載せる。

First, I parboiled the edamame and then shelled them. まず、枝豆をゆでて、さやをとった。

Such bright little beans! なんと元気なみどり豆ちゃん!

After dicing the persimmon, I then peeled and grated the nagaimo, filling a bowl with neba-neba : slimy deliciousness. それで柿をさいの目に切って、長いもをおろして、とろろのねばねばを生かした。
Neba neba! ねばねば!

Then I simply mixed all three, and poured them over my rice:
For seasoning, a little soy sauce and wasabi...

                          AND EAT IT! 食う食う食う!


Autumn #2: Bacon-Embraced Figs / 秋#2:ベーコンに抱きしめられたイチジク

Figs are in season. イチジクの季節ですね。

All fruits are sensual, but the fig in particular exudes a kind of eroticism. 果物は基本的にエロチックだと思うけど、イチジクが特に色っぽいと思わない?

Maybe it's because the fig is actually the flower of the plant, the blossoms of which form inside the plump little beasties. Quite literally, the Chinese characters used to designate the fig translate as "no flower fruit" (無花果). イチジクは同時に花と果物で、多分それはイシジクの好色力の原因かもしれません。イチジクの漢字(無花果)だけでわかるけど、実はフルーツの中に花が隠しているだけ。

What a little flirt! 色っぽいって言ったんじゃないですか!

Tonight I decided to wrap these babies in the savory embrace of bacon, but not before stuffing them with honey, miso, crushed walnuts, and (why not?) freshly ground pepper.

The little bundles of joy looked like this when they went into the toaster oven:

And ten or so minutes later:

Quite a lusty affair. 恋愛沙汰.

To flesh out the meal, as it were, I took my leftover latke batter (from yesterday's dinner) and leftover rice:

...and made fried rice. それでチャーハンを。。。

It was a little dry, but it balanced out the extreme juiciness of the sticky figs.

...Satisfaction. ごちそうさまでした!


Autumn #1: Potato and Kabocha Pancakes / 秋#1:サツマイモとカボチャホットケーキ

I just moved to Tokyo from New York City. Japanese food is delicious, but I feel a little clumsy in my own kitchen. My mission is to buy local and seasonal, and cook it up my own freestyle way: a little Western, a little Asian, all Cheru style.


First things first. I needed a farmers' market.


I tried this one in Shibuya.

The bounty of fall! それで、これを買った:

I was seduced by the colors of the mini kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), purple sweet potato, red okra.

Which led to this evening's menu:
Spiced sweet potato and pumpkin latkes
Okra and avocado salsa


*Cultural Note: いもに作られたホットケーキはユダヤ伝統的な料理で、「latke」というものだ。ユダヤ人じゃない私にも愛されている。

For the latkes, I coarsely grated the red sweet potato and kabocha, to which I added coarsely grated onion, finely grated ginger and garlic. Also some pinches of cumin and salt. ホットケーキにはサツマイモとカボチャ下ろしにタマネギ、ショウガ、ニンニク下ろし。少しだけ塩とクミンも入れた。この感じで:

 Lastly, I added two eggs to the mix, and fried them up in vegetable oil. 最後に卵2コと混ぜて、普通のホットケーキと同じように油とフライパンで揚げた。

For the salsa, I used raw okra, thinly sliced. サルサには生オクラ:

Okra are what the Japanese call neba neba: slimy, but in a really delicious way. To match this glorious sliminess, I added diced avocado and fresh lemon juice. Also, on a whim, some black sesame salt. オクラのねばねばを生かすためにアボカドとレモン汁と混ぜた。適当にごま塩も。。

And so...それで...

How about an action shot? クローズアップで。。。

With a little salad it went down real easy. いつものサラダと食べて。。。あっ。満足。ごちそうさまでした!