Monday, March 17, 2014

Mottainai: An Anthology of Recipes

Carrot tops are edible, too! Mottainai!
Mottainai is a Japanese word expressing regret for the loss of respect for the inherent value of something. It reminds the listener that waste is a sign of disrespect, that the worth of the item in question is being disregarded. It is this same idea that inspires people to turn old jeans into quilts or insulation for homes, to turn old tires into planters, to fashion a beautiful window out of old glass bottles.

For me, the result is often a new recipe. For example, one year at the farm an absolute boatload of nasu (eggplant) were left after cleaning up the field at the end of the season. I made pickles. Another year the carrot mabiki (thinnings) got turned into soup. So, when the shu bottle runs dry I'm left with a very nice bundle of fruit that begs for another opportunity. The result is jam.

Here's what I've come up with so far:

Candied yuzu peel - Yuzu is far too precious to waste in any form, and so after making my first bottle of yuzu nihonshu (yuzu sake), I ended up with lots of peel. Candy seemed an obvious answer. We used the syrup leftover from that process on our oatmeal for weeks. So wonderful!

Brandied chestnut butter - A batch of brandied chestnuts resulted in nearly a kilo of well-soaked chestnut meat. Too strong to eat by themselves, it seemed a shame to simply pitch them. An experimental batch of chestnut butter resulted in some very happy friends and some scrumptious toast.

Umehachimitsu and umeshu jam - This is seriously one of the best jams I've ever made other than the yuzu marmalade. Made using the leftover plums from these two beverages, the result is a green jam that is sweet, sour, pungent, and wonderful. I've even frozen the fruit to be jammed at a later date. Works like a charm.

Sakekasujiru - Ok, I didn't make the sake, but our local sake shop sells the kasu in winter, and I can never pass up a new ingredient. The soup was incredible, to say the least, and the homemade amazake was divine. Certainly, sakekasu can be found at the supermarket, but I recommend heading over to your local sake shop. The owner will be friendly, knowledgeable, and probably provide you with some excellent recipes, too. Not to mention he or she will help you find your new favorite sake(s)!

Homemade furikake - One lovely leftover from the umeboshi (pickled plum) making process are the shiso leaves. Steeped in the umeboshi brine, the leaves add a bit of salt and sour to their distinctive taste. Gently spread to dry at the same time as the plums, they crumble up beautifully to make a pretty and tasty rice sprinkle.

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