Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shibazuke しば漬け

When I was in Japan, I unexpectedly fell in love with their pickles. I thought I would go there and eat sushi and kushimono (串もの, things on a stick, like chicken teriyaki) and leave a happy woman. But there was such crazy diversity to the little side dishes they had, and I found that one of my favorite things to buy wherever I went was tsukemono, side-dish pickles. If you are familiar with Korean banchan, they are very similar.

My favorite pickle was shibazuke, made with purple shiso (an herb kinda like a cross between mint and basil), ginger, myoga (ginger bud), eggplants, and cucumbers.

I grew some shiso in my garden this year just to make these pickles. Yay!!

(thanks to Shiro Gohan for the recipe!)

Disclaimer - this calls for a lot of Japan-specific herbs. I could only find them at a specialty Japanese market (I had to special order the myoga). I'm sure you could order them online as well.


-about 40 leaves of purple shiso (akajiso, 赤紫蘇)
-2 medium cucumbers, preferably the skinny Japanese kind
-2 small Japanese eggplants (chinese works too, you want the long skinny ones)
-1 5-6 inch piece of ginger (a medium size piece)
-4 ginger buds (myoga, ミュウガ)
-coarse sea salt, for pickling.


Wash all the veggies and herbs. Put the shiso in a bowl, and sprinkle with 1/2 Tbs coarse sea salt, or enough to coat everything. Let sit for about 20 minutes, then gather all the shiso in your hands and squeeze until all the lovely purple juice comes out of it. If it needs additional time, let it sit longer-you want to extract a lot of the juice from the shiso (note-the recipe I used even said to do this, but I forgot and threw the shiso in with everything else. I think it would have been better with this extra step).

Cut the eggplant and cucumber into small, bite size rectangles - each rectangle is about a 1/4 inch thick and 1 or 2 inches long. After cutting the eggplant, soak it in cool water so it doesn't brown. Peel the ginger and cut into thin strips. Also cut the myoga into thin strips. Cover all this in about 2 Tbs coarse salt, or enough to coat, and let sit for 20-30 minutes. You should see juice from all the veggies forming at the bottom of the bowl by now - yay osmosis!

pre-pickling pickles

Then toss the juiced shiso leaves, veggies, and the shiso and veggie juice into a pickling pot (or for me, a tall, skinny tupperware that holds everything). The way you pickle everything is by putting a weight on it and allowing the veggies to excrete all the juice necessary to cover themselves. At this point too, you want to taste the salt and see if it's a good level - you want it to be significantly saline, just like if you were doing traditional cucumber pickles (basically, salty enough to pucker, but not unbearable). 

Once everything is in the pickling pot, put the pickling weight on it. If you're doing old-school tupperware like me, I just put a smaller tupperware (like a left over cream cheese container) on everything and put a jar of sundried tomatoes on it (cause it was hefty enough to weigh down the veggies - something like a can of beans or even just rocks would do). Then I covered the tupperware, and let it sit in my fridge for a week, stirring once halfway through. 

At the end, throw your veggies in a jar, cover it with the juice that the veggies have made themselves (you want to cover everything, so if you need additional liquid just mix 1 Tbs salt in 1.5 cups water and pour till the veggies are covered), and enjoy!

 My favorite way to eat these is in onigiri, where you mix chopped shibazuke into the rice, or on top of plain steamed rice. They're also great as a small side dish or a snack :) いただきます!(Itadakimasu!)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September Travels

I have been traveling around a lot lately, as well as enjoying the rest of our lovely Colorado summer. I just wanted to share some of my favorite food experiences from the places I've been:

We started our trip in Madison, WI. We flew into Chicago, and then immediately drove to Madison to join our friend from Peace Corps, Peru in her home state. This was my first time to Wisconsin, it was beautiful. Not to mention that Madison is awesome in the way that every hipster college town aspires to be. AND the food fest was the best I'd tasted. Bacon and pickled eggs on a stick, lots of fried cheese curd, craft brew, ice cream, and Jamaican food - YAAY!

yummy beer at the Taste of Madison

Then, we went back to Chicago, where we spent all day at museums and ate heartily at night. Here I am, in all my beauty, daintily eating a Chicago polish dog:

Polish dog from Kim & Carlo's hot dog stand outside the field museum.

Also, right next to the youth hostel we were staying at in The Loop, there was this great Cuban cafe called Cafecito. Their cubano was quite delicious, it was as good as any in Miami. 

random Inca Kola we found at Cafecito. Brought back Peru memories of pollo a la brasa...

We took a day to just walk around Chicago and see all the different neighborhoods. First, we went to the University Village/Little Italy neighborhood and had espresso and fig cookies at Scafuri bakery. If I lived in Chicago, I would be here ALL THE TIME

way better than a Fig Newton

 Then we found our way to Greek Town, where I got Greek coffee and a delicious phyllo, nut, honey, and chocolate pastry that I forgot the name of at the Pan Hellenic Pastry Shop. Another place that I would frequent constantly if I were to live in Chicago. Also - the lady sitting next to me as I took pictures of my food kept commenting on how girls with cameras are hot, so good Pavlovian memories are linked to this place for me now. Heh.

We also bought an italian beef sandwich and a polish dog at Al's #1 Italian Beef just outside of Greek Town (it has multiple locations). The italian beef was soggy and tasteless, but the Chicago dog was blow-your-mind-eat-until-you-explode tasty. If you come to Chicago. Eat here. Please.

Good dog. Tasty, tasty dog. 

And then we ate deep dish and stuffed pizza. Like, three times. Our German friends that were travelling with us thus decided that this is why America is unhealthy. Because when so much cheese and bread is put in front of you, you must eat it ALL of it, because it's just too gooey and cheesy and bready. We went to Giordano's and Lou Malnati's. They were okay, it was too bland and cookie cutter for me.

my boyfriend contemplating the meaning of pizza.

Then, dear friends, we returned home to Denver, and promptly took off for New Mexico with our friend from Hamburg, Tim. We started off in Santa Fe, where we filled ourselves full of spicy green chile over home fries at The Pantry Restaurant (not pictured) - now one of my favorite New Mexican eateries next to Michael's Kitchen in Taos. Then we went to the Marble Brewery downtown, and had exceptional IPAs with blue-corn crust pizza.


Then we went to Albuqerque. It took us a while to find where we wanted to go there, but thankfully we stumbled upon a salsa-tasting festival while there, then found our way to the university district. We didn't try the salsa festival since we were stuffed from the huevos rancheros we had that morning, but we did find some amazing dinner, beer, and dancing that evening near the University of New Mexico. If you go to Albuquerque, go to the University. I could have definitely spent a few more days in that area alone. Unfortunately, it was dark and the pictures of food did not turn out well. But the beer pictures did! Hooray! Our favorite food in New Mexico was at The Last Call taco stand, you must try their fries if you go to Albuquerque.

ristras - chili wreaths - at the salsa festival in Albuquerque

The Last Call taco stand - we had fries covered with chipotle sauce, crema, and carne asada that was easily the best meal of the whole New Mexico trip. If you go to Albuquerque, make this your first (and last) stop

Tractor Brewing - excellent Belgian and pale ales

We then came back through Western Colorado where we stayed in Ouray, went through Grand Junction to eat baked potato pizza with BBQ sauce at Pablo's Pizza (Katie's favorite pizza EVER), stopped in Vail to see how pretty it is, and came back home. I just came back from volunteering with Public Coffee (a pay-it-forward pop-up coffee shop here in Denver) at a harvest dinner at the house of one of our donors. It was a beautiful evening at a beautiful house with delicious dinner (home-smoked ribs and homebrew porter, anyone?)



pickled Thai chilis

Last summer I bought some lovely heirloom peppers at a beautiful little farmer's market in Gunnison, CO. I was so sad at the prospect of losing the peppers that as soon as I got home I took out all their seeds and threw them in a pot with some soil. I raised my baby peppers for about 9 months before I was able to plant the ones that survived in my garden! Sadly, most didn't survive, but I got two extremely hardy Thai chili plants that grew to be about 4 feet tall. Happily, Thai chilis are among my favorites since they are the perfect level of spice for me.

AND... (duh duh duh DUH!) I have a new camera! A shiny, new, DSLR! Hooray! Now you can see my chilis in high definition :)

So, I took my lovely chilis and I pickled them in vinegar just as I'd seen in Thailand. Just a little salt, to taste, with white vinegar and sliced chilies. You leave them to pickle at room temperature for 2 or 3 days, and they are ready to spice anything. I put them in my corn chowder, it was love.

Summer is almost done, I'll be so sad to see my Thai chilis go. Hopefully I'll be able to pot it and keep it indoors! Sadly, no bees would be around to give me my lovely chilis though. I'll keep the seeds at least and maybe have them next year too ;) 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Summer in a bottle

"The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered."

Ever since I was assigned to read Fahrenheit 451 (I think it was in middle school) I have been a Ray Bradbury fan. His prose is brilliant, and he's got great old school sci-fi style.

My favorite of his books, though, has always been Dandelion Wine. Because when summer started and I had warm and sunny afternoons all to myself, Dandelion Wine congealed all my thoughts about summer into one book. Central to the book was the dandelion wine of course, and thus  I was forever intrigued about what dandelion wine would be like....

"The medicines of another time, the balm of sun and idle August afternoons, the faintly heard sounds of ice wagons passing on brick avenues, the rush of silver skyrockets and the fountaining of lawn mowers moving through ant countries, all these, all these in a glass."

"Peer through it at the wintry day--the snow melted to grass, the trees were reinhabitated with bird, leaf, and blossoms like a continent of butterflies breathing on the wind And peering through, color sky from iron to blue."

This was something that Mr. Bradbury seems to have loved deeply. My grandfather, who grew up in Montrose, Colorado, also had fond memories of family members making dandelion wine. It was something that made me nostalgic and for which the thought of it made me feel comforted, though I had never tried it.

I had just come back from Peru in February 2012. When April hit, the dandelions started to pop up all over the fields behind my parent's house where I was residing while still unemployed. One lovely evening while the sky was still pink with the sunset I went out with a shopping bag and spent an hour collecting dandelion heads, procuring two quarts of the lovely aureate blooms.

There were manifold permutations of recipes for the wine on the internet. I consulted many sites, the two of which that stood out as most detailed in the wine-making process were these: Jack Keller's Winemaking Home Page and Mother Earth News. Though I followed neither recipe, really, they were great guidelines.

I liked best the idea of using citrus and dried golden-colored fruits, and I think #17 on Jack Keller's page came closest to the ingredients I used. Now, I had never made wine before, and I had none of the winemaking equipment that the recipes required. So I made things up as I went along, seeing as I had neither the money nor space to meet traditional winemaking standards.

But a year and a half later, when I've uncorked my first bottle of wine, it turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I expected something like a cross between moonshine and dandelion tea, but what I made became more like a lovely champagne; it was a bit dry, had a lovely pale yellow color and a complex tart but faintly sweet taste. It uncorked like champagne too--the bubbles were incredible and quickly threatened to overflow when I poured my glass!

So, I wanted to share my winemaking success, and get the point across that while more convenient and refined, carboys and bottling equipment aren't always necessary to making a good wine, All you need is flavorings, sugar, yeast, bottles, and patience.

Dandelion Wine


-2 quarts dandelion heads (just the yellow flower and the green back to the flower, no stems)
-1 c. dried apricots
-1 c. golden raisins
-The juice and zest of 3 oranges
-3 lbs sugar
-1 gallon water
-1 tube fresh champagne yeast (you can find this at your local brew shop)


Bring water, apricots, raisins, orange juice and zest, and sugar to a boil. Place washed dandelion heads in a large bowl, and pour boiled mixture over them. Cover with cloth, and let sit for 1 week. Strain the mixture through several layers of cheesecloth or an old T-shirt, add the champagne yeast, and pour into sanitized bottles (preferably Grolsch bottles, since they're built to withstand pressure and you need that. I had a weaker tequila bottle I was using explode! The Grolsch ones did great, and were safer), and cork the bottles. Store in a cool, dark place (such as a basement) for two months.

After 2 months, uncork the bottles, and pour the top portion of the wine from each bottle into a large bowl (here, you are trying to get rid of the sediment that forms at the bottom of each bottle). Add 1 c. sugar to the wine, and pour into sanitized bottles. Cork the bottles, and store in a cool, dark place again for at least 6 months to 2 years. Mine was drinkable at 6 months, but tasted great after 1 year. Before drinking, put the still corked bottles in the fridge until thoroughly chilled. Uncork (watch out, it's like champagne and comes with a lot of carbonation), and celebrate summer!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Here we go round the...

As far as I know (and my family may correct me on this one), I have never had a mulberry before. Never never.

They look like bitty blackberries, like it was probably picked wild since their color is so deep and they're so tiny.

I was so excited when I got my little baggie of mulberries! I rushed to open it and smear the first juicy, delicious berry all over my face.

But sadly, my little berries were a bit bland. It was a little like heartbreak.

But I cooked them up good anyways! I was dreaming of a berry pie or crumble or something berry-y, and that is what I made. Adding some sweetener and lime juice really enhanced the berries and gave them a rich and mellow flavor that was really unique and delicious.

I just read a blog by one of my favorites, Lady and Pups, and was inspired. I made my own mulberry version of her Peach Mascarpone Pot Pie, and I stuffed my face, it was wonderful. Despite my general lack of things in my household at the time (butter, flour, molasses), I made it work without involving precious time wasted on going to the store (time that was spent eating pie!) 


dry part:
  • 1 c. oat flour (I just ran oats through my food processor) and 2 Tbs. whole oats
  • 1/3 tsp each baking powder & cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp each clove, nutmeg, and salt
wet part:
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 3 Tbs coconut oil
  • 1/4 c brown sugar
  • 3.5 Tbs date syrup
  • 1 beaten egg

  • 2 c. mulberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbs water
  • 1/3 c. agave syrup
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbs water

Throw all the filling ingredients except cornstarch and lime into a pot. Bring to a boil, until berries either become thawed or start to break down. Add cornstarch slurry and lime juice, and bring to a boil. Cook until it has the consistency of pie filling, then remove from heat and pour into ramekins.

Then, add all dry ingredients in one bowl and stir, and all wet ingredients in another and whisk. Add wet to dry, and stir until just combined. Pour over the mulberries.

Bake at 360 degrees F until a fork comes out clean (about 24 minutes here in beautiful Colorado). Eat with a big spoonful of fresh goat cheese on top.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Umezing! 手作り梅酒

My host mother in Japan used to keep a jar under the sink. It was full of viscous liquid and little green balls, so I never touched it. Who knows what could have developed under that sink.

One night at dinner, she hauled the jar out from under the sink, and unloaded it into ice-filled glasses for my friends and I.

So I, who will try anything, ventured a sip. 

Lord, was it delicious. A tiny bit sour, syrupy, tangy, and alcohol...y

It was homemade Umeshu, a liqueur made from Japanese sour plums (they're kinda like crab apples), rock sugar (kouri-zatou 氷砂糖, or ice sugar in Japanese), and shochu (Japanese vodka).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Wild like a goose

I would like to share with you all a lovely snippet of Colorado life that I was introduced to in Hayden, CO.

First, let me make something clear. I do not care for food fads, and one of the ones I do not participate in is the gluten free diet (because I do not have celiac's disease, I don't think that I'll contract it somehow from eating gluten, and on top of it all I think the belief that gluten is unhealthy is just silly. That's just like saying that peanuts are unhealthy for me even though I don't have a peanut allergy).

But the gluten free banana muffins at Wild Goose Coffee at the Granary in Hayden are legendary. Legendary! Like, I-don't-even-like-muffins-but-I-bought-four-at-once-and-they-didn't-last-a-day legendary. They have crunchy, caramelly sides and swirls of ripe banana and brown sugar, and it's not just in one bite, the whole friggen muffin is that way.