This week's menu includes several dishes with an Asian theme. Although I was trained in classical French techniques, I've always been drawn to the flavors and ingredients of Asian cuisine.
One of my favorites is an herb called Shiso, or perilla frutescens. A member of the mint family, this particular herb has an almost peppery flavor. The green leaves are most commonly known as the liner for wasabi paste on sushi platters, but I grow the red variety. Why? Because it's a great way to add a slightly pink hue to the foods you cook it with. Most notably, umeboshi, or pickled plum, is made pink by including shiso in the brine. I put a few leaves into rice and it makes it a beautiful rose color that I find really attractive.
Shiso was originally cultivated in China, but is used throughout Asian cuisine. Fortunately for me, it's easy to grow, even in Wisconsin. I plant it from seeds that I purchase from the Kitazawa Seed Company. I broadcast the seeds in my grow boxes in spring and get huge bushes of the plant. Like mint, it's tough to kill these babies and they spread, so it's a good idea to be careful if you plant them in your garden beds, or they tend to take over. The red leaves are beautiful in planters though, and you'll most likely have more than enough for your culinary endeavours.
This week's Miso salmon has some chiffonade of shiso as a garnish. I also put some into the Udon Badger Bowl. You can eat the leaf in salads, but be careful the flavor is intense - a little bit goes a long way! I use shiso with my mint when I make mojitos - which might need to be a recipe of the week at some point. The plant is said to have antibacterial properties, so basically that makes that mojito medicinal in my book!