Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Looking back, it was RED

For last week and this one, the color RED has been the theme. There were fresh strawberries, raw beets with lemon, beet tops sauteed in olive oil with garlic, and red bell peppers in the Lightning Salad. Local tomatoes were simply sliced and topped with a grinding of sea salt and cracked black pepper.

The strawberries were sliced and a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of agave syrup added, eaten with oatmeal. Or, for dessert,  they were topped with 1/3 cup Tropilicious Haupialani sorbet (just a little over 100 calories). Yum!

The raw beets were peeled, then cut into matchsticks and tossed with flat leaf parsley and an easy dressing of lemon juice, a drop of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. These are just as good mixed with a commercial ume (pickled plum) dressing (like Pietro) with a handful of chopped cilantro. In fact, DH liked the second treatment better!

The bell peppers add sweetness to this original recipe. Why is it called Lightning Salad? When we first made this, from all the thunder we'd heard the previous night, no rain materialized! So we jokingly named this salad, with its touch of chili-garlic sauce heat, for the unstable weather. We eat this often when we find beautiful cauliflower we can afford.

Lightning Cauliflower Salad (makes approximately 4 cups)
  •        ½ head of medium-size cauliflower, trimmed and cored, sliced thin and into 1x1-1/2-in. pieces
  •        Small crown of broccoli, cut as above
  •         ¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
  •         1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
Combine the above ingredients, and toss lightly with the dressing below. Stir together:
  •         1/3 cup mayonnaise (I use light mayo)
  •         Heaping tablespoon or more Chinese chili-garlic sauce (like Lee Kum Kee)
  •         Juice of ¼ or more lime or lemon (to taste)
Please adjust dressing to your taste. You may want to add salt to the dressing, or more lime or lemon.

NOTE: this salad tastes much better LIGHTLY dressed, rather than heavily so. So, you may have leftover dressing. We've learned this by overdoing!

I totally forgot this red food: shiso. It's also called perilla, and it's related to mint. The green version, aoba, is eaten with sashimi, but the purple, aojiso, is what I picked up from the big farmer's market at the city entertainment center.

I recall my grandmother had a perilla shrub, but I don't remember that she ever cooked with it. Food for her was sustenance, but it was also love and medicine, so I have no doubt she may have been eating the shiso leaves raw, or making a tea from them.

The first thing I made was shiso vinegar - heated rice vinegar to which I added washed shiso, steeped and drained. It's a lovely pink, and I'll use it to make salad dressing. I added some leaves to salad, and also to the beet tops I sauteed - in both of these, the shiso flavor was very mild and faint.

With the last of the leaves, I made shiso juice. I boiled water, added rice vinegar and steeped. After 30 minutes, I strained the liquid, then added honey. It is quite concentrated, so to drink, I dilute this 1:1 with water, and add less than a teaspoon of agave syrup. If I were to do this again, I would replace some of the vinegar with lemon juice.

IF. For, while this is pleasant enough to drink - and it is a beautiful ruby color - in actuality, it had me looking around for the rice, ume and nori. I associate the same concentrated flavor and aroma of shiso so closely with umeboshi (Japanese pickled plums), as it is used to color and flavor the ume, that I immediately want/need a musubi (rice ball)!

So, while I'll be finishing the shiso juice - which is like a prettier and tangier lemonade, I won't repeat making it.

Have you been eating your colors?

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