Clockwise from top left: Honey umeboshi from Tokyo, my homemade umeboshi ready to age, Small umeboshi from Kyoto

In early 2013, I picked up a dozen umeboshi for a princely sum to make a batch of pickled cherry blossoms. As i sat in my seat on my flight to Japan, I earmarked umeboshi to bring home. The salted plums are pretty amazing little bombs of flavor. At Nishiki Market in Kyoto, I was on the lookout for umeboshi to bring back to Tokyo then Chicago. We arrived at the tail end of ume season, butas I chowed on takoyaki, my partner saw a vendor who was still selling green ume. Continue reading

Lamb Heart Andouille

A fifteen minute walk through a small-town Wisconsin farmer’s market yielded some of the finest variety meats I have had in some time for prices so low I could not fathom how there was so much to buy. In a state where offal is less flashily portrayed and truly ends up on your grandma’s dinner table rather than on a contrived dish using her as a prop, I was surprised to see offal from seemingly pristinely raised animals being ignored. Even so, there was an old man in traditional Amish garb selling what appeared to be some great lamb. I asked about offal and he brought out what he had. For a couple dollars (literally), I bought every last lamb heart the guy had with him. Then some ground lamb as well to make it worth his while. Continue reading

Smoked Mexican Chorizo

C is for chorizo

A friend’s family has what I understand to be a long-standing annual sausage making appointment on their calendar. While our family has its own traditions I love and appreciate, I can barely help but be jealous of the family sausage party. Making sausage is a process which has not changed much over time and continuing to do it the same way year-in and year-out would seemingly be a great way to connect with older relatives. When he smoked some of the excess Mexican chorizo they made, I was curious why Spanish chorizo was traditionally smoked while smoked Mexican chorizo was completely new to me, so I made some for myself (and the family). Continue reading

Green Coriander Berries

In the summer, I am much happier with my hands in the dirt of a garden than with my feet in a pool. For me, there is something restorative about growing plants whether they yield shade, flowers, or food. With doing so much of my self-restoration on the road this summer, I found myself barefoot in my dad’s garden a few weeks back near a plot of bolted cilantro. Continue reading

Tart Cherry BBQ Sauce

We are ready to be at home. Summer travel is reality for most, but we are sitting on weekend 8 of the last 10 of being out of state/country with one final weekend looking us straight in the face. It might be Thanksgiving before we recover, but the reality is if Wednesday comes around and we have produce from the prior weekend, it has to be put to use. Continue reading

Instant Ramen Cured Egg Yolks

The weeks following our return from Japan proved to be a somewhat rocky re-entry. First, it reminded me how life does not wait when you are away, but rather piles up like the newspapers on your front step. Second, our jet lag combined with our girls’ new middle of the night loneliness made days next to impossible. Finally, after a week of eating better than maybe any other week of my life, what were our options when we got home? (I guess make everything out of koji.)

Continue reading

Backyard Beverages – Lilacs, Chamomile and Roses

Sitting outside and looking at the blossoms on the rose bushes growing in our backyard, my older daughter remarked, “I wish the bushes had those flowers all year.” It is interesting to see how my inability to enjoy moments without lamenting their fleeting nature has been passed down. I walk around my garden, thinking of how I wish my purple mustards would hold off from seeding for another month at the same time I beg the tomatoes to get color. It clarifies how it is not that I do not appreciate moments, but rather I am greedy for all of the peak moments. I get nothing from the low moments. Like little R, I want the roses blooming, the purple mustards edible without cooking, and the tomatoes soft, red and warm from dangling in the sun all day – and just like little R, I want all of those things all year long.

But I know this is not reality. Seasons are reality. Lilacs to roses to jasmine to the red maple to bare branches is reality, but I am a greedy child in an adult’s body. Continue reading

Chicken Skin-Shio Koji Sausages

After the shio koji finished fermenting, I had a few ideas on how to use it. The initial idea was sausages. I was going around and around trying to find a way to make a sausage with enough simplicity to taste the shio koji which still being interesting enough to want to eat. After filtering through ideas, this sausage was based in the skewered chicken eaten while in Japan. Continue reading

Koji Horchata

There has been a lot written lately about how food has become more photogenic than delicious. While I do not dispute food becoming more photographed and photograph-able, I think when someone says care for flavor and texture is losing out to beauty they are picking nits. There are examples where it is true, but there have always been examples of beautiful dishes which taste like nothing, or worse. My opinion is because of the volume of exposure to the creative process, it is more likely we, as public, are being exposed to more of the creative process, and more of the editing process, than in the past when whatever little we saw, was refined and edited to the nth degree. There is a ton of demand for the exposure to that process and then encouragement to make the experiments available to the public. Herein lies the conflict, the photos and exposure are free marketing and far more far-reaching than word of mouth reports of a delicious roasted chicken or a soulful bowl of beans. Continue reading

Shio Koji

As I unpacked my souvenirs from our trip to Japan, I grabbed a plastic deli of white sludge packed in plastic. The sludge was purchased in Nishiki market in Kyoto when I asked for koji. For some reason in those situations, even if I know the requested item is dubious relative to the request, I take it and run as to not offend. Either this was the funkiest koji I had ever seen or I had gotten something different from what I had requested. Continue reading


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