Minty Carrot Tsukemono

There many kinds of Japanese pickles (漬物). Pickles add a diversity of color, shape, and texture to a meal, even to the most basic Japanese meal of rice, miso soup, and pickles. 

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While some pickles are made especially to preserve food, others celebrate the time of year by transforming the best seasonal vegetables into annual traditions to look forward to.

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Japanese pickles play a role similar to Korean banchan, making a dinner more than the sum of its parts. They are like little salads—almost as if one picked out the best most flavorful items without having to chew through the acres of greens, drenched in oil based dressings.

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Chukasoba with Stir Fried Flowers and Scallops

Japanese food is supposed to be a feast for the eye, but my skill at fruit and vegetable carving is limited. I saw a YouTube video about how to cut beautiful cupped flowers which looked easy. I had the fattest carrots I could find (from the video, Japanese carrots look very thick) and some slender zucchini for my victims. Peel the carrot, then mark 5 lines down its length. Make two cuts for each petal to remove a ‘v’ shaped shred. The idea is that you want a flower shape on each end. OK. Trim one end like a blunt pencil. Cut, or shave around all five petals, and continue to a sixth. Remove your first flower.
Well, I’m not putting the video up: this is not something to try at home! You notice my flowers are flat—a homey touch, those irregularities.

Spicy Stir-Fried Fennel and Carrots

fennel bulbThis recipe demonstrates how a vegetable not usually found in Japan, fennel, can be cooked in a Japanese way. Fennel is not a vegetable I cook very often, either. A few days ago, Mr. Tess bought some fennel, but I don’t remember how I used to cook fennel, so it’s fortuitous that my project-book includes a recipe. Whoever would have looked in a Japanese cookbook for a fennel recipe!