Sometimes, it’s better to go slow. To resist the all-consuming urge to go, go, go, get in as much as you can as fast as you can, instant gratification circus for the low and slow way. There’s a certain magic that come along with it, a magic that is personified in this Spicy Black Bean Dip….
Summer’s in full swing. Some celebrate with vacations, trips to the beach and barbecues, and I celebrate with pickles. In addition to the onslaught of zucchinis at the market, pickling cucumbers come out to play in the summer in a big way. There are several varieties in season right now, and trust me, you’ll be able to tell which are pickling cucumbers. Their dark green, pimply exteriors give them away in an instant….
Step aside, grains and salad greens, zucchini is here. So often we can fall into the trap of just putting vegetables on a bed of grains or salad and calling it a day. I do it all the time! But not today. Today, the vegetable, our beloved zucchini, is the main attraction….
I didn’t realize until I was writing this recipe out just how much I cook and love Japanese food and flavors. Until a few years ago, all I knew about Japanese food was just sushi and miso soup.
My Japanese culinary education is thanks to A, my friend and former co-worker. While we worked together, we bonded over our love of food and Japan. A is Japanese and I would (and still do) ask her all sorts of questions about the food she brought for lunch or what she would eat in Japan or anything about Japan. I’m surprised she didn’t get tired of it or think I was one of those crazy Japanese fangirls.
As we became closer, I started going to Japanese markets more and buying ingredients to make things similar to things she would bring in or things I would see on TV (mostly No Reservations) that looked good and not too technical. Before I knew it, I was regularly buying miso, sesame oil, mirin, rice vinegar, and other things I now can’t live without.
Eventually, I left that job for another one and A and I became real friends, not just office friends. To keep in touch, we meet once a month over dinner and catch up. 99% of the time, we meet along Sawtelle, which a street filled with blocks of Japanese restaurants. We eat ramen, she introduces me to Japanese food I haven’t tried before and gives me the “inside” scoop on what she ate when she was growing up.
This week A and I are having dinner (somewhere on Sawtelle, no doubt), and I thought I would make something Japanese inspired. I’ve actually made this wakame cucumber salad several times over the summer (one week it got a little crazy just how many times I made it) and now seems like the perfect time to share it with you.
If you’re new to Japanese food (or making it), wakame (wah-kah-may) is a kind of seaweed. You’ve had wakame before if you’ve had miso soup. Seaweed, besides being delicious, is also extremely healthy for you. Wakame in particular is high in omega-3s and calcium.
You can buy wakame online, at your local Japanese grocery store, or at a higher price in the “international” sections of a regular chain grocery store. They come in all different preparations, but I prefer the pre-cut kind. Most seaweed will be dehydrated and you’ll need to soak it in boiling water to rehydrate. When do, you’ll see that it blooms and doubles or triples in size!
I also use Shichimi togarashi, which is a Japanese red pepper spice blend. You can get that same places you get the wakame (though I’m not sure if they carry at the big box stores). This is a new addition to my spice rack, and I love it! The peppers bring the heat, but the other spices in it (like black sesame and orange) give it more depth than your average pepper mixture.
This salad, served cold, is perfect for the final days of summer. Cool off with this wakame cucumber salad and I hope you start a love affair with Japanese food like I have.
Sometimes you make something and it takes days for it to leave your mind. Your mind wanders to it at random moments of the day, you recall the taste in your mouth like it was seconds, not days ago. The people you shared it with give you a look and you know what they’re thinking. Let’s eat that again. You need to make it again.
I floated in this happy haze all last week. I didn’t even hesitate on what to share with all of you this week. This recipe is the one. And I get to make it again, which isn’t a bad thing.
Last week, when I gave all of you a recipe to give yourselves a break on Labor Day, N and I invited our friends R and C over for dinner. We wanted to return their kindness of inviting us to Big Bear with a great meal. For the first time in a long time, I started planning the meal backwards with the dessert selection first.
I picked up the amazing Bakeless Sweets by Faith Durand at the library a few weeks ago and marked it up with recipes I wanted to try to see if I wanted to buy it (now it’s a for sure buy). I had already make C a recipe from Bakeless Sweets (that probably gave all of cavities ;)) so I figured she would love it.
I chose to make Faith’s Cardamom-Yogurt Mousse for us and build an Indian-inspired menu around it. Faith’s recipe calls for apricots, but since a face-swelling incident when I was four, I decided to change it. I found passion fruits at my farmer’s market and knew that would be a great swap for the apricots. The tartness and bright colors would punch up the creamy mousse and cool everyone off from our spicy meal.
The four of us had a great dinner. (R and C are some of my favorite dinner guests because they genuinely love everything I make, which feels amazing) Then, I brought out dessert. C’s eyes got wide. We quietly descended on dessert, and it was just…wow. The brightness of the passion fruit and the pop of the passion fruit’s seeds in our mouths sang with the creaminess and delicate flavor of the mousse. And then it stuck it us, for days.
A note for when you buy passion fruits: the uglier and wrinklier, the sweeter. If you want a tarter taste, go for the smoother passion fruits. Simply take a knife and cut off the top and scoop the fruit out. Discard the rest.
I have been itching to do this recipe for weeks. I’ve been in peach heaven this summer, getting delicious varieties from the farmer’s market AND my CSA. It’s almost too much to handle.
But I’ll admit, I haven’t done anything special with them. I’ll have them with my cereal or as a snack, but that’s pretty much it. And that’s kinda boring. I decided to do something simple yet different for me: roast them (and then top it with ice cream). Roasting them brings out an even sweeter flavor than I thought possible. And it’s also just so easy!
With Labor Day coming up, I thought it was be a great way to give ourselves a break. Labor less, enjoy more. 🙂