"At night with the 'kettle' of yu-miso on the fire I hear it reproaching me"
The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a a way of life that transcends rituals and customs. Throughout its four hundred year history, it has inspired philosophies and aesthetics that have come to define the Japanese culture. One aesthetic principle that arose from the Zen influence is wabi-sabi.
Wabi-sabi is an intuitive appreciation of the transient beauty that exists in the humble, modest, imperfect, and even in decay. It is finding refinement in the unrefined.
It might be said that wabi-sabi is seeing a flower in a dying bulb.
Or, maybe even, finding poetry in a citrus kettle.
Yuzu miso, as the name implies, is a yuzu-scented miso from the Shizuoka and Nagano prefectures in Japan. It is typically used in Dengaku, an ancient form of miso cuisine, where various foods are lightly grilled, glazed with miso, then finished grilling.
Commercially prepared yuzu miso is made by simmering white (shiro) miso with sugar, then blending in yuzu zest. The ancient preparation, yuzu gama (literally, yuzu kettle), where the seasoned miso is cooked in a hollowed-out yuzu, is far more romantic in concept and exemplary of the Japanese approach to cooking.
To make yuzu gama miso: Blend together 150g shiro miso, 38g sake, 50g mirin, and 17g sugar. Slice the tops off of 4 yuzu. Remove all of the pulp and membranes from the insides, leaving only the rind. Pack the seasoned miso into the hollowed-out yuzu and replace the tops. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes at 350F/178C, or until miso is bubbly. Will keep in refrigerator for up to a month.
Over the years, I've attempted to grow nearly every type of allium that I could find seeds for. Shallots and cipollini are perennial favorites because they require little space to grow and will keep throughout the winter when stored in a cool, dark place. I'm still experimenting with garlic, looking for a variety that will flesh out into plump heads instead of the paltry ones that I've been getting. And with onions being so readily available, I don't usually grow them unless I find an interesting variety.
Last fall, a friend gave me a bag of a sweet onion variety called "Candy", which I promptly deposited in a makeshift root cellar. Months later, I found they had begun to sprout. Sweet onions, because they have a higher water content, are not great keepers.
When bulbs sprout, the new growth draws on the energy that is stored in the parent bulb. In the case of alliums, the quality of the edible flesh becomes compromised and, eventually, consumed. Instead of composting them, I decided to force them like hyacinths, if for no other reason than to watch something grow.
Many flowering bulbs such as hyacinth, tulips, and narcissus can be forced to flower out of season, provided that they have been exposed to temperatures between 35-45F for a minimum of 12 weeks. I buy bulbs in the fall and store them in bags of peat moss in a spare refrigerator to force after New Years. To start them growing, simply place in a vessel with a mouth that is just narrow enough to allow only the base of the bulb through. A glass with tapered sides is perfect. Fill the glass with just enough water to cover the base of the bulb (left image). Submerging the bulb will cause it to rot. Alternately, bulbs can be supported by filling bowls with small stones and maintaining the water level. After about a week (center image) the roots begin to emerge and the shoots start to take off. After 2 weeks (right image) the bulb sends out multiple roots to support the vigorous growth. Bulbs forced in water can take 3-5 weeks to bloom.
I had intended to watch them grow— perhaps to flower— but upon tasting the new shoots, I found they were mild and sweet and begging to be braised with yuzu miso.