Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thinking inside the box

Strawberry blossom
Eaten by an oppossum
Tea is awesome!

-- Kristin, Pia and John's haiku written during chaji, June 6, 2010

We held a Chaji this June to celebrate Pia's 33rd and Kristin's 33-1/3 birthdays. John joined them as a guest. Even though the weather was gray, muggy and drizzly, the mood was lighthearted and playful.

Annie made the omogashi and was teishu (host). Shana was our kimono dresser. Laura was hanto (assistant) and helped me in the kitchen along with Dan and Dhar. We served tenshin (a light lunch) before koicha. Photos are forthcoming. Some recipes are below.

June Tenshin Menu

In the shokado box:
Vegetable "Sashimi" of carrots and daikon
Zucchini Dengaku
Homemade takuan (bran-pickled daikon) and chard pickled in miso
Miso soup with cucumber, garnished with a sprig of cilantro and a dab of mustard

Sake -- Momokawa Organic Junmai Ginjo, Kurasawa Junmai Dai Ginjo

Hashiarai of pine nuts

Hassun -- Artichoke heart boats with fresh-grated daikon; seasoned water chestnuts wrapped with nori

Omogashi -- "Ie Ichigo" ("One Meeting Strawberry"), mochi-wrapped strawberry with an.

Koicha -- We used a very good quality usucha from Wada-en for koicha. Unorthodox, but delicious.

Higashi -- an-filled cakes bought by Kristin at Ginkaku-ji in Kyoto

Usucha -- Ippodo "Ao Arashi"

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Vegetable Sashimi

This dish was inspired by a recipe for "Tomato 'Sashimi'" from The World in a Bowl of Tea by Bettina Vitelli.

For the "sashimi," slice several young carrots and a 2" length of daikon into 2" x 3/8" pieces -- about 1 to 1-1/2 cups. Microwave (or steam) briefly until just barely tender -- for a minute or less. Allow to cool to room temperature.

For the dressing, combine
juice of one lime
1/4 tsp each of salt and sugar
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
Toss dressing with cooled vegetables. Arrange and serve like classic sashimi, with ken, tsuma and karami. Ken is fine strips, or chiffonade, of daikon, cucumber or seaweed which is placed under the sashimi. Tsuma is an aromatic garnish such as shiso or perilla. Karami is a pungent garnish, such as wasabi, mustard or ginger.

Our presentation was arranged on a chiffonade of young chard leaves with a dollop of wasabi. We added a sprinkle of chopped mint leaves and finished with a drizzle of dressing.

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Zucchini Dengaku

Dengaku is a favorite grilled dish, made by grilling skewered vegetables or tofu. Sauces vary with the season. This recipe is modified from from "Nasu no Oden" from The Heart of Zen Cuisine by Soei Yoneda.

Select several young zucchini squash and slice in half lengthwise. Brush with oil and grill until tender, basting with yakitori sauce while grilling. Slice diagonally into bite-size pieces. Spread miso topping on each piece and serve while still warm.

Miso topping
4 level Tbsp sweet white miso
1-1/2 Tbsp sake
1 tsp sugar
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Vegetables Pickled in Miso

Any vegetable can be used, but I chose the still-tender flower spikes and stalks from our bolting chard.

Mix together
1 scant cup miso, any kind
1 Tbsp sake
Cover vegetables with miso paste. Vegetables such as carrot, radish, broccoli stems or cucumbers should pickle 1-5 days. Chard blossoms were ready overnight.

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Pine Nut Hashiarai
1 c hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground toasted pine nuts
Steep and strain. Garnish with 3 or 5 whole toasted pine nuts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Save the date for a possible Horai fundraiser!

On August 1st, the Ink People Center for the Arts (Horai's foster organization) is holding a fundraiser, and we can get in on the action! The Ink People is still in temporary quarters after their offices were damaged by January's big quake. Their quake-rattled offices are not slated to be repaired any time soon and they may soon need to find more permanent offices. Naturally this is all a huge strain on their budget.

I'm thinking we can make bowls of tea for donations. It will be great to get us out there and visible to the public, plus it will endear us to the Ink People and maybe even raise a little cash for both worthy causes! This event is also intended to promote the Ink People to the public at large and showcase the work they do with DreamMaker programs such as Horai.

Mark your calendar! Put on your thinking caps! Let's get the ideas flowing!!

Here's the scoop from Tanya at the Ink People:

Hello All DreamMaker Programs

I am writing to you to request your assistance and involvement in The Ink Peoples next Fundraiser.
On August 1st we will be throwing "The Golden Road Art & Music Fair."

Shoshanna at Redwood Raks has offered her space for free.
Dave Ferney at Arcata Play House has offered their space for free.
Thus (Thankfully) the event will take place at The Old Creamery Building.

My plan thus far.... is to run the event from noon until midnight.
I have a letter in to the owners of the building requesting the use of the parking lots off L Street & 9th Street for an outdoor street fair.
If they deny us the use of the parking lots, we will simply apply to have 9th Street closed between L & N street (not the least expensive way of doing it, but still doable.)

The daytime part of the event (noon to 8pm) would be outdoors and in the Arcata Play House.
It would include....
*music on an outdoor stage
*and other art forms (dance, spoken word, circus arts) in the Play House
*Up to 60 vendors, mostly arts & crafts and some food
*A large kid zone with crafts, puppet shows, dress up zone, face painting, circus arts workshops, etc...
All to be concluded by a fire show (if management allows) and drum circle

The Ink people would stand to make money off of the vendors fees and their own vending table of goods.

The night time part (8pm to midnight) would include:
* a sliding scale $5 to $10 fee to get into Redwood Raks to see live music by: 2 bands
(The Miracle Show would headline... not sure who would open yet but I have many offers)
* a table with t-shirts and cards
* a beer bar (for sale!!!)
* a food table (w/food for sale???)
* and a photo both
* with a Jerry Garcia/ Janis Joplin Look-a-like contest (Prizes ????)

What I need from you is your assistance on any level that you feel comfortable:
Entertaining & Sharing what your DreamMaker Program does
Planning & Organizing
Calling possible sponsors to raise funds to keep the day time part of the event free to the public
Helping to Manage the event
Volunteering at the event for any amount of time that you can offer as security, set up, clean up, booth, back stage, bar, food etc...
Your Talents- circus, music, handyman, accounting... I will take you all!!!!!
What Ever You Have To Offer!!!!!!

Thanks so much
You know where to find me.
Tanya "T" Nordberg
Programs Manager
The Ink People Center for the Arts
517 3rd Street Suite 36 Eureka, CA 95501

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

One chance

Shortly before she left the U.S. to return to her home in China, Shuai Chen, an HSU student and practitioner of the Chinese tea ceremony, invited us to her house to enjoy an afternoon of tea and conversation. It was a luxuriously sunny Sunday last September, and her presentation was as lovely and fluid as the delicious tea we sipped.

I began this entry right after our gathering, but set it aside to deal with the many other things life was tossing at me. I wish I had finished writing this post when the memories were fresh, but now what I have to share is an incomplete accounting of imperfect memories. And so here is the lesson of ichigo ichie -- one chance, one meeting.

I remember that Pia and Kristin couldn't make the rendezvous so it was just me and Laura. Shuai wore a beautiful Chinese dress -- the kind with the "Mandarin" collar and knotted buttons on the side. We listened to traditional Chinese music and she excitedly showed us a new travel tea mug. We met a roommate who, although charming, seemed to sidetrack our conversation. She showed us Chinese tea ceremony magazines (one article in particular featured photos of a prototype of the Japanese ceremony). I think I might have taken her some dorayaki (a Japanese confection). We talked about how sweets are served with Japanese tea, but not with Chinese tea. I don't recall the variety of tea we drank -- was it oolong or pu-ehr? -- and I had completely forgotten about a darling little clay frog figurine Shuai had on her tea tray until I opened up the draft for this post and found links I had saved to (below).

I found the Web site while searching for a travel tea mug like Shuai's, and, of course, found plenty of other tempting things like a little clay frog quite similar to Shuai's. Intending to visit the site again, I saved the links. But here I am, nine months later, still without a travel tea mug or clay frog and trying to piece together bits of memories of that lovely day. I'd like to say "lesson learned," but that's not entirely accurate. Let's just say lesson received.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

Kaiseki -- The Ultimate Locavore Cuisine

Kaiseki a light meal served during a Japanese Tea gatheringLocavore one who dines upon food grown or produced close to home

Laura has been studying Chado for several years but had not yet enjoyed a formal Tea gathering, or Chaji. She, along with friends Pia, John and Tony, joined us for a chaji in February in honor of her 50th birthday.

I've had no training other than working at the shoulder of my Sensei and Sempai, but I have an deep love and respect for what I believe is the epitome of locavore cuisine: Kaiseki. In cha-kaiseki -- kaiseki for the Tea ceremony -- the ingredients must be seasonal to reflect the theme the host has chosen for the Tea gathering. By extension, seasonal ingredients are fresh and grown locally or, at the least, regionally in California or the Pacific Northwest. (How on earth could something shipped halfway 'round the world be fresh?) Naturally, the best ingredients would be plucked from the garden that very morning.

Themes for Tea gatherings vary. Traditional Japanese holidays are common themes (such as New Year or Children's Day), but so is the observation of the turning of the seasons or simply honoring a guest. Take the spring equinox, for example. In late March, the weather might still be chilly, but we begin to anticipate the coming of warmer weather. Days lengthen. Migrating birds return home. Spring flowers are beginning to bloom. After the winter dearth of fresh vegetables, baby-fresh greens are coming to the market. The host selects spring-heralding flowers to decorate the Tea room, and utensils and a scroll will be chosen to also reflect this light and celebratory mood. Winter is finished, we celebrate spring!

It follows, then, that the menu for a Tea gathering must also be in harmony with the theme, and so it was for Laura's birthday chaji. In February, we were still in the grip of winter but getting the first hints of spring and deciding on what to serve at the Chaji was a challenge. Humboldt County's forgiving climate gives us an embarrassing abundance of ingredients to choose from. We can have greens from the garden or ocean-fresh salmon pretty much year 'round. Failing that, several natural food stores offer regionally-grown produce, plus Farmer's Markets operate from May through November. Locavores have much to choose from, with the exception of grains (which some Hum Co farmers are now beginning to grow).

As far as we know, rice has yet to be cultivated on the Arcata Bottoms; that was an ingredient that needed an exception to the "local" rule. Same for the edamame, hijiki, sesame, tofu pouches and others, but many key ingredients were grown close to home. And close to our heart.

Laura's February Birthday Kaiseki

Chaji 2/20/10

Food Adventures

Gohan -- plain white rice, cooked with a pinch of salt and a slice of kombu (kelp)

Misoshiru -- kombu dashi and a mix of red and white miso pastes (about 70%/30%), with simmered home-grown daikon topped with a dab of Sweet Mama Janisse's Sticky Love Sauce (a sweet mustard sauce manufactured in Humboldt County)

Muukozuke -- mixed sea greens with ginger and lemon zest
Sake #1 -- Momokawa Organic Ginjo Junmai (from Oregon)

Wanmori -- tofu pouches stuffed with seasoned portabello mushroom slice, hijiki and edamame, and tied with konbu; bamboo shoots, carrot, young broccoli and lemon zest garnish in a lightly thickened vegetarian broth

Yakimono -- tofu negi dengaku (tofu from Arcata's Tofu Shop grilled with Westbrae Soy miso dengaku sauce made with a generous amount of sauteed spring onions)Azukebachi -- 1) simmered California-grown spinach seasoned with sesame dressing; 2) braised carrot and home-grown daikon with a creamy tofu dressing

Sake #2 -- Momokawa "Diamond"

Hashiarai -- seasoned lightly with umeboshi (pickled plum), lemon zest and a fresh plum blossom

Hassun -- 1) California asparagus seasoned with sesame; 2) "fans" of nori seasoned with miso sauce and lightly toasted

Omogashi -- daifuku (mochi and anko) freshly home-made by Annie (see "Microwave Mochi")

Further reading

The Heart of Zen Cuisine, A 600-Year Tradition of Vegetarian Cooking. Soei Yoneda, Kodansha International, Tokyo and New York, 1982. Originally published as Good Food from a Japanese Temple. Yoneda was the Abbess of Sanko-in Temple of Kyoto.

Kaiseki: Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking. Kaichi Tsuji, Tankosha Press, Kyoto, 1972. Lovingly illustrated with original woodcuts and beautiful full-color photographs. Detailed notes seasonal foods, serving ware and preparation and arrangement of food.

Untangling My Chopsticks, A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto. Victoria Abbot Riccardi, Broadway Books/Random House, New York, 2003. "As Victoria Riccardi goes in search of culinary enlightenment in this intimate and beautifully crafted memoir about living, cooking, and falling in love with Kyoto, the reader is seduced and transported by the scenes and flavors she paints with words. Riccardi writes with a sensuous eye for detail that brings alive the extraordinary beauty of Japan and the sumptuous pleasures of its table." --Lora Brody, author of Growing Up on the Chocolate Diet

The World in a Bowl of Tea, Healthy, Seasonal Foods Inspired by the Japanese Way of Tea. Bettina Vitelli, Harper Collins, New York, 1997.

North Coast Journal, selected articles about the Humboldt County local food movement and local grain farmers