Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Eating Flowers And Leaves

Another summer of shiso; I am giving away big bundles to friends and sushi joints in Montauk and swapping recipes with my shiso-loving pals. Even though we were having inferno like temperatures a few weeks ago we fired up the bbq, the most I could muster in the kitchen was a pot of boiling water for some noodles. I chopped some parsley and cilantro from the garden and in my own particular slap dash fashion made a 'made up in the heat of the moment' dressing of mirin, rice vinegar, plum vinegar, soy sauce, a little bit of brown sugar, sesame oil and olive oil, of course I didn't measure, but my rule of thumb is to use about the same quantity of oil (sesame and olive combined) and mirin and about a tablespoon for the rest of the ingredients but of course you can adjust the amount of each to your own liking. The addition of shiso leaves made this noodle dish extra exuberant; cut the leaves into fine long strips chiffonade and toss with the noodles, dressing and the other herbs. I used udon noodles but any will work, even spaghetti or linguine and as an alternative omit the dressing and just simply use lemon juice and olive oil with the shiso.
We had chilled chunks of iceberg with the same dressing drizzled over and of course striped bass caught by the NZ'er.

Plums and shiso go together so well (umeshiso is a japanese paste made from pickled plums and shiso leaves). A salad was concocted; I did have some plums which I had intended to use for for frozen plum souffles but that would have required more of my time not to mention my concentration on such a steamy Montauk evening. The black plums were thinly sliced and then I fried the shiso in olive oil until crispy and sprinkled some mirin, rice vinegar and soy to finish.

The Harvest restaurant here in Montauk makes a special appetizer much loved by locals of bay scallops served on a bed of deep fried spinach and come Fall I will be craving this seductive dish, but I am also going to try my own version of deep fried shiso with our delicious local bay scallops. Public restaurant in NYC has deep fried oysters wrapped in a shiso leaf, I had them (again) just the other night with a glass of champagne; heavenly.

Rose geranium leaves are wonderful for flavoring sugar which can then be used in cakes and biscuits or they can be used to flavor syrups and to make jellies. I also like to place them on napkins at the table, it's fun to watch folks rub them between their fingers and enjoy the fragrance of the subtle but intoxicating scented pelargonium. 

I used borage flowers and rose geranium leaves to decorate a trifle, actually it was more like whim wham as there was no custard and I made a simple cake using ground almonds in place of the usual sponge fingers and of course I used loads of booze; splashes of cassis and limoncello on the cake and a splash of chardonnay in the whipped cream. Rose geranium leaves are used just for flavoring but borage flowers are edible and I usually put them in salads, they have a vague hint of oysters which is a little bit disconcerting with cream and cake, but oh so pretty.

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