Spaghetti with Shiso and Umeboshi
spaghetti with shiso, umeboshi, and tomatoes
This summer I haven’t used the shiso from my garden nearly enough. What was I saving it for?
Remember the scene in Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome when Zeena had gone away overnight leaving Ethan and Mattie alone in the house with her cat. Mattie put a red ribbon in her hair, and carefully set the supper table for Ethan with festive treats and colorful serving dishes. Though they never touch, the atmosphere of illicit romantic tension was palpable until Zeena’s cat jumped onto the table. Zeena’s red pickle dish shattered and Mattie cried, “It was a wedding present don’t you remember? It came all the way from Philadelphia, from Zeena’s aunt that married a minister.”
Zeena had insisted that the red dish remain unused. The evening was shattered, and the dish becomes a symbolic of the sexual and emotional deadness of Ethan’s and Zeena’s marriage…
What was she saving it for?
spaghetti with shiso, umeboshi, and tomatoes
Well, really, me not using the shiso in the garden is not so dramatic. It’s more like the guest towels no one is allowed to use: when I see those obviously fancy towels I never know whether to dry my hands on one, or what to do with it if I did. And those soaps molded into shells and shapes; does anyone ever use them? What are they being saved for?

Over the weekend, frost was predicted in low-lying areas so I decided it was now or never to use shiso. I was on my own and cooking for one means doing simple things. This is not so much a recipe as tossing stuff toward the stove, but the result is good enough to serve to a lover, on colorful dishes…

(just make sure the cats are locked out of the dining room)

Spaghetti with Shiso and Umeboshi
Tess’s not quite a recipe
serves 1

  • 2 -3 cloves of garlic, grated finely
  • 2 – 3 Tablespoons butter
    (hey, you have to get your dairy!)
  • a good bunch of shiso, chiffonaded
  • a few small shiso leaves for garnish
  • an umeboshi or two
  • a couple of small tomatoes from the garden, cut into wedges
  • a couple of Tablespoons grated cheese
    (it’s all I had in the fridge, and it was too dry to get much from it—it might have been Parmesan—I always save those hard rinds because I read somewhere that they can be added to soups or sauces to add extra flavor (haven’t tried it yet: keep forgetting about them)
  • thin spaghetti, angel hair pasta, capellini, or your favorite pasta shape

Heat a small skillet, melt the butter. You could let the butter brown if you like a little bit of nuttiness; careful—do not let it burn! Sauté the garlic—again, do not let it burn. Boil the pasta al denté and drain, reserving a few Tablespoons of the water. In a pretty bowl, toss the pasta with the garlic butter and shiso. Pour the pasta water over the spaghetti. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top and garnish with the small whole shiso leaves, tomatoes and umeboshi.


6 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Shiso and Umeboshi

  1. You will be surprised at how good tomatoes and umeboshi together taste. Well, I was!

    And there must be a better way to toss spaghetti with fresh herbs: for me they end up on the bottom of the dish.

    You know, it is the simplest things that are most difficult. Like haiku. Like a well written story…

  2. This looks so good, I can taste it in my imagination. Shiso and umeboshi are two ingredients I will never find in Mexico, so I will have to satisfy myself by imagining the tastes.


  3. If you can grow basil, mint, or parsley, then shiso would be easy for you to grow!
    Also, if you travel to the U.S. where you could buy umeboshi, they last a long time. I was amazed that I’d never used umeboshi with tomatoes before: each enhances the other similar to eating olives and tomatoes!

      • Do you ever have difficulties bringing food products across the border?

        Customs confiscated some sausage from France once: it was in a shelf-sable package! I forgot to mention that the roses I was carrying were picked from a friend’s garden, probably loaded with all sorts of foreign pests…

        Apples from Washington to Vancouver are a no-no too.

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