We’ve only had one night of frost so far but that was enough to kill all our outdoor tía tô (perilla) plants. Luckily, we’ve already started winterizing our herbs garden. This year, we’re experimenting with hydroponically growing our herbs indoor with the hope that more godlike control over our plants’ world will keep us well supplied with fresh herbs until next spring. Growing hydroponically is a technique for growing plants without soil, with well defined nutrients solutions delivered directly to plant roots. Another advantage for us is the ability to heat up the nutrient solution coursing through the system and keep the plants warm in spite of the cold air temperature in the apartment. Lay the nutrient tubing underneath the other pots and even the non-hydroponic plants will have warm happy feet!
We are always on the look out for unusual pairings of ingredients and admire the chefs who made the disparate items into a unified dish. We adapted this light and tasty soup from Chef Murata’s beautiful Kaiseki book and used the soup as an intermezzo. The soup’s intense tomato flavor and thick texture was perfectly balanced out by the rich yet light and savory frothiness of the yuba cream that always magically floated to the top.
We’ve been waiting a year to make some sương sâm (vine jelly). Yes, it took a year to nurture and grow this tropical vine in Michigan and harvest enough leaves for a few experiments. Sương sâm is a refreshing snack for a hot afternoon consisting of wobbling, jiggling blocks of fragrant leafy jelly served with ice and simple syrup. Sương sâm is available in the States in cans but if we wanted to explore its applications we needed the leaves. We were very excited to finally try our hands at making sương sâm from scratch. We also created watermelon flavored sương sâm, combining two refreshing summer snacks for unprecedented cooling power 😛
Playing with gấc (spiny bitter/sweet/Cochinchin gourd) leads to vegan bò nướng lá lốt (grilled beef wrapped in lolot leaves)
Our experiments with colorful bánh tét and xôi (steamed sticky rice) started my fascination with gấc (spiny bitter gourd, sweet gourd, cochinchin gourd). Lamp and I both loved xôi gấc for its nuttiness and unique flavor. Gấc was also reported to be very well endowed with healthful phytochemicals. I was curious why such a colorful fruit with very distinctive taste is relegated to only one dish – sticky rice. I wanted to explore gấc’s potential when paired with other ingredients in different preparations. So far, we found we really liked pairing gấc & tofu wrapped in lá lốt (Piper lolot) and other herbs.
Now that we have a good recipe for tofu misozuke, it’s time to experiment! With the ecology of cheeses as inspiration and guide, we hope to drive the speciation of our delicious creamy tofu to many unoccupied niches. One of our goals was to recreate a variant we only knew from written description: a pungent, Roquefort-like kombu-wrapped miso marinated tofu. We started a pilot experiment 2 months ago and we were excited enough about the results to pursue further.