It’s interesting to travel the world by way of dinner. Last evening included an array of dishes from eastern Europe, Greece, and Japan. And like any trip where you plan too many activities in a very short time, the experience was perhaps odd.
In three dishes, we ate two sphere-shaped foods, and two that are creamy without dairy products. This coincidence must have come from my subconscious thoughts about the holiday and the circle of life and the endless cycle of changing seasons. Though we don’t follow kosher dietary laws most of the year, I make an effort during the holidays to not eat milk and meat together; thus the craving for forbidden “cream.”
But, what does this have to do with being “Dressed in White?” Click to find out!
First, eastern Europe: we had gefilte fish. No matter how I try, I cannot make only enough for two people so these were a recapitulation (ok, leftovers!). These were a sort of experimental gefilte fish, made into very small quenelles with salmon poached in a light dashi broth. There is a recipe in my book for “sardine dumplings in consummé” that inspired me. The gefilte fish tasted good, though they were a little dry because the salmon was not particularly fatty. And Mr. Tess kindly held his tongue, not saying that they were not like his grandmother’s.
Next, I made a Greek avgolémono meatball soup called Youvarlákia from Jacoba at Just Food Now. Who can resist the wonderful creamy-tangy combination of an egg and lemon sauce? The first time I made such a sauce, it was for a Moroccan pastilla (or bastilla, bsteeya, b’stilla), and it seemed like a miracle how the chicken broth became light and velvety. This soup is much easier to make, and delicious. I wasn’t sure about adding raw rice to meatballs, but the rice cooked as the meatballs simmered. When I added the egg-lemon mixture, the soup was transformed. The pictures don’t look as rich and golden as the real soup!
Finally, we ate a Japanese salad with a creamy sesame-tofu dressing. I really liked the cheerful freshness of the fruit, though it’s hidden under the dressing in the pictures.
In all, the menu was an odd mix of flavors and if this were a restaurant review I’d say the chef was more ambitious than prudent.
Asparagus, Papaya, and Apple in a Creamy Tofu Dressing
4 servings, as a side dish
- 1/2 block firm tofu (about 7 ounces)
- 2 Tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted
- 3 Tablespoons sesame paste, preferably Japanese
(I used tahini)
- 1 Tablespoon usukuchi shoyu (light colored soy sauce) or regular soy sauce
- 1 Tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking wine)
Blanch the tofu for 20 seconds, drain and place it in a tightly woven cloth. Squeeze to remove excess water. Note: I really squeezed the tofu dry; after putting this recipe together, it seems that you should really leave the tofu a little damp.
In a suribachi (or other mortoar) grind the toasted sesame seeds fine. Add the sesame paste, and grind until the mixture is well combined. Add the tofu, and grind until the mixture is creamy and fluffy. Note: This is where my overly squeezed tofu failed to fluff, so I had to add some water.
Mix in the shoyu, mirin, and salt to taste. The dressing can be covered and refrigerated for use later in the day.
- 9 ounces asparagus, tough ends removed
I should have known better than to buy it out of season: it was woody so I had to peel it. Zucchini or green beans would have been better!
- 1papaya, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
(original recipe: 1/2 large mango, but they are out of season here)
- 1 crisp, tart apple, cored, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and
- tossed with lemon juice
Parboil the asparagus for 1 minute. Drain and plunge it into cold water to stop the cooking. Wipe it dry and cut into 1-inch pieces. (Ms. Shimbo says 1/2″)
Have the fruit ready. You want the salad ingredients dry so the dressing doesn’t become diluted, so I had to drain the juice from the papaya.
Immediately before serving, toss the salad ingredients with the dressing. Serve in individual bowls, or place it next to grilled fish or meat on a plate.
Shia-ae,the Japanese name for this salad dressing literally means “dressed in white.” This dressing is indeed creamy because it’s made with tofu and sesame paste. It contains no dairy products at all! Traditional salad ingredients include flavored and simmered carrot, hijiki sea vegetable, spinach, and chrysanthemum leaves.
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