On this, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, Bookman and I have a holiday celebration. As many of you know, Bookman is a wizard in the kitchen and does all the cooking. Except on Winter Solstice. Way back in the murky past when we began celebrating Solstice, Bookman, being in the retail biz, often had to work during the day. Therefore in order to have a special celebration dinner, I had to dust off my cooking skills and whip it all together.
The whole process actually begins two to three weeks before Solstice when I comb through recipes looking for something just right. We never have anything that we have eaten before, the recipes are always entirely new. As you can imagine this might sometimes backfire like the year I thought Salisbury tofu steaks would be great. It was so bad the leftovers went into the trash. Or the time I attempted to make little tarts with filo, something I had never used before. Instead of lovely little flute-edged pastry cups filled with fruit, I served a mashed up crumble. It tasted good though, so that was something.
Sometimes parts of the meal end up being integrated into the regular dinner repertoire. Black bean burgers when we were still newish vegans were a miracle that saved us from having to continue to buy those horrible frozen burger patties from the grocery store. And the year I made breakfast for dinner that included vegan sausage. Bookman has since put his own spin on it and has turned it into an even tastier sausage but he used the recipe to create his own version of hot dogs too.
As Bookman tried really hard to stay out of the kitchen today and only help when I asked, he kept saying things like, “oh this gives me ideas.” Happy words.
This year’s dinner was flavorful and pretty simple. In recent years I’ve spent all day standing in the kitchen chopping, chopping, chopping, mixing, simmering, stirring, chopping some more. This year there was very little chopping and only a moderate amount of grating.
The meal begins with a green salad: lettuce, mung bean sprouts, raisins and a sprinkling of sesame seeds with “Ninja ginger carrot” dressing. Bookman was sitting at the kitchen table keeping me company while I had the food processor going blending this up. Why is it called “Ninja”? he asked. At that moment I had stopped the blending to open the lid and check on the progress. I turned around, I can’t see! I’m blind! I cried, tears streaming down my face. I’d been Ninja-ed by the potent miasma of fresh ginger, white onion and vinegar that wafted out when I opened the food processor. That answered Bookman’s question. Lucky for us, eating it was a different matter.
The main course for the evening was tempeh katsu. This is tempeh marinated in ginger and garlic, soy sauce and mirin all day, then battered and coated in sesame seeds and panko and baked for half an hour. Served with homemade tonkatsu sauce, buckwheat soba noodles and green cabbage with lemon. We’ve had tempeh many times before but never cooked like this. We have also had soba noodles before. Nonetheless, I had no idea what this was going to taste like. Wow, was it good! And it was easy to make too. This is a meal that will definitely be making more appearances.
Dessert. In keeping with the Japanese flavors, I made red bean vanilla ice cream mochi dumplings. Bookman made the coconut ice cream from scratch yesterday. This morning I stirred in mashed sweetened red (adzuki) beans. I made the mochi dough in the microwave. The dough gets cut out in little circles and then wrapped around a small scoop of the ice cream and put back in the freezer. We’ve had adzuki beans before but not like this. We’ve had mochi before too that we bought at the store and then puffed up into sticky treats in the microwave. These little dumplings were so simple and so very tasty. Paired with a dark roast coffee it was pretty close to heaven.
And of course there are leftovers of everything for dinner again tomorrow.
In honor of the Winter Solstice the weather tried to snow but could not decide whether it was snow, sleet or rain so it kept changing back and forth all day. It is odd “warm” weather we are having. But at least we got a little snow. No bonfires in the city but we lit a candle at dinner to call back the sun. And now, ever so slowly, the days will start to get longer again.
It has been a nice day; relaxing and cooking with Bookman and sharing a delicious meal together. The best kind of day. The best kind of celebration.