Mitsumame: a summer dessert

https://1tess.wordpress.comI’m looking through my window at the jungle our garden has become, at the bunches of pale green tomatoes hanging heavily in the cool sunlight. The trees and the house are casting shadows narrower and angled more northward than they did only a month ago. The sunlight is thinner after traveling through more air at a steeper angle, providing ever less warmth as we move closer to the equinox.

I’ll admit that today’s recipe is not suitable for my weather. It’s a light and refreshing Japanese sweet to be enjoyed on a hot and humid summer day. (ok, I’ll admit my posts have been sparse and I made this a month ago…) But it makes me happy that somewhere it is warm enough that this recipe will be just the perfect cooling dish to invigorate melting flagging spirits / appetites.

Mitsumami: Japanese Summer Fruit Dessert
This is a classic Japanese sweet summer treat, featuring soft, smooth, crisp textures and colors of all the seasonal fruit, studded with sparkling cool gems and creamy ice cream. What is not to like!
Like ordinary gelatin, agar is flavorless and becomes gelatinous when it’s dissolved in water, heated, and then cooled. It can be used as a substitute in most recipes. Agar, though, gels more firmly than gelatin, and it sets and melts at a higher temperature–it can even set at room temperature.

Persimmon Purée Gelée

Persimmon Pureee GelatinPersimmon, an exotic fruit for one who has always lived in cold northern places, is a taste of tropical paradise and daydreams. The first time I ate a persimmon was when I moved to Ann Arbor after college and lived in a house with a communal kitchen. My husband, who was then just one of the house-mates, found a crate of almost rotting fruit behind a produce store. I was reluctant to taste trash, but everyone else seemed to be enjoying them. That was the best fruit I’d ever tasted. Astringent persimmons (Hachiya) are edible only when they are very soft. They were perfect!

Mitsumame! Japan’s Summertime Sweet

MitsumameMitsumame is a traditional Japanese summertime sweet—a bowl of fruit, sweet red peas, ice cream and gelatin that looks like ice cubes. Does this sound appealing? No? To be honest, I was hesitant to try this recipe.

What a surprise: this dessert is fabulous! Use fresh ripe fruit. You won’t be disappointed.

Maize Gelée

Maize Gelee Corn Kanten Corn agar-agar, korn kanten, maize gelée, creamy yellow jello… What was I thinking? Tomatoes have always been my highlight of summer, but suddenly I am attracted to corn. I was thinking about creamy corn soup, but cold, so the idea of a savory corn gelatin came to mind. It’s pretty, but it surprised me how sweet it was! I’ll have time to experiment with this recipe. Lots of possibilites: shoyu, miso, cheese, yogurt? Or go with dessert? vanilla…

Watermelon Jewels

Watermelon Kanten Agar-AgarWatermelon can be an elegant summer dessert—what is more tempting than frosty pink fruit shimmering in the heat. At your next sophisticated soirée, you can serve watermelon without worries about the seed-spitting, juice dripping antics disrupting the urbane atmosphere of your affair, if you make watermelon gélatine!

Kanten Jellies: Summer Jewels

Cucumber and Carrot Agar-AgarAt my favorite Japanese grocery I know it’s summer because I see a colorful variety of shimmering desserts in their refrigerated cases. These cool and refreshing jellies, made with kanten (agar-agar), have captured my culinary imagination. Think about how wonderful it would be to eat cherry jewels, raspberry gems, all manner of sparkling summer-fruit bijou. Consider the essence of melons, green grapes, strawberries, apricots condensed and concentrated into edible crystals!

Make a Square Mold for Agar-Agar

Make a Square Agar-Agag MoldIf you like the way cubes of agar-agar look in a bowl, you may want to make a square dish just the right size for a batch (1 3/4 to 2 cups) of this cooling snack. Here is a picture of my mold being used. By making your own, you can have square corners. Of course you can use a square plastic food container or a small bread-pan.

Avocado Sashimi

Japanese Avocado SaladSummer is here with double digit humidity and high temperatures. Japanese jellies made with agar-agar are cool and refreshing. While it is most often used for making sweet snacks and desserts, agar-agar is sometimes made with savory flavors suitable to serve with a meal. I just made an avocado sashimi, which we ate as sort of a salad.