Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 illustrated recipes: set 3 (pickled plums)

I'm happy to report that the third in my series of illustrated recipes for The Japan Times ST was published in the July 24th issue. The ingredient I chose to focus on for the summer set (four recipes from appetizer to dessert) was umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums).

Umeboshi comes in more forms than you might think.  First, and most typical, is the red, wrinkly, soft umeboshi that is so sour and salty it sets your teeth on edge. It is a great accompaniment to fish with strong flavors, such as the sanma (pacific saury) in my recipe for Pacific Saury with Shiso and Umeboshi.

Lately, though, some of these umeboshi are marketed as "marinated in honey," a treatment that takes the edge off the extreme tartness and makes them suited to dessert recipes like my Umeboshi Cheesecake.

Then there is the small, crunchy umeboshi (kari-kari ume) that comes in both green and red varieties. Green is the natural color of the unripe ume fruit, and red is the outcome of pickling the ume with purple shiso (perilla) leaves. The small crunchy umeboshi are great as a snack, or when you want that crunchy texture in a refreshing summer salad like my Naga-imo and Umeboshi Salad.

There is also the pureed umeboshi that comes in small squeezable tubes, and the crumbled, freeze-dried (from puree) version that comes in small plastic bags. Umeboshi is considered to have health benefits, but it is also high in salt content, so beware of eating too many at one time. FYI, ume are not really plums at all, but a type of apricot. You can learn more about umeboshi from this Wikipedia entry.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

where the stars live

I've been spending a lot of time in Atsuta Village, on the Japan Sea coast side of Hokkaido. It's only a little more than an hour's drive from my home in Sapporo, but it's a different world. Atsuta is where the stars live. They press against my window after dark to kiss me goodnight.