Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Day for Rain Barrels

Not that I have rain barrels to get working on that. Also on gutter cleaning. Did anyone else forget what rain sounded like? I was so surprised to hear the sound of heavy, steady rain this morning! Summers in Portland spoil me--months at a time without more than a sprinkle of rain.
I'm happy that all my plants are finally getting a DEEP drink of water. Especially the potatoes. Their roots are so deep, I don't think I ever give them quite as much water as they'd like.

A friend from high school is coming to town tonight and we're going to eat at Biwa! I'm excited...I haven't been there in at least a year! As I recall from the last time I was there, they make the best ramen I've had in Portland (and no, it isn't vegetarian) but their veggie options left something to be desired. Mainly I was grumpy about how they slapped what tasted like just plain miso on slabs of tofu and called it dengaku. Dengaku has a couple more ingredients in it which balance its flavors between salty and sweet, and give it a silky texture...plain miso is not a good substitute! (However, I did appreciate that Biwa uses my favorite locally made miso.)

Dengaku recipes vary in their proportions, but they always include miso (red or white), sake, and sugar. Some include an egg yolk for a smooth and glossy texture. You might start with three tablespoons of miso, 2 of sake, and 1 of sugar (with or without an egg yolk)--place all of these in your smallest pot, and cook over low heat, stirring, until smooth and uniformly thick. (You can also use the microwave, especially if you're not using egg yolk.) Taste and adjust sugar and sake amounts if it is too salty or too thick. Then brush onto sliced sweet potatoes and cook on the grill until sauce bubbles and caramelizes. That's my personal favorite way to use this sauce, but it's also great as a topping for grilled tofu or pan-fried eggplant.

Although I'm getting all judgmental about how to make tofu dengaku, please don't get judgmental about the local-ness of the food I'm about to devour--it's in my personal set of rules that I can eat at any restaurant as long as I'm not doing it excessively or purposely to avoid the effort of preparing something local.

Speaking of Japanese food, did you know that spinach crowns are "the most delicious part of spinach", according to a favorite cookbook of mine, Good Food from a Japanese Temple? I always try and save them from the compost bin when another person at my house cooks spinach greens. The whole crown, including lower stems, tiny inner leaves, the rosy connection between stem and root, and the little bit of attached root are all not only edible, but delicious. I wash them, soak them in clean water overnight to loosen even more dirt, and then boil them in salted water for about three minutes. They are good with just a little soy sauce or with a miso, sesame, or nut dressing.

And now for a picture of my CSA garden, which is a place I love so much that I want to take out-of-town guests there to this picture you can see castor bean (no, we're not going to eat it), quinoa, and sunflowers.

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