22 September 2009

Baby Spinach and Japanese Eggplant, Shojin-style

Dinner tonight was Japanese-themed. I needed to do something with the Japanese eggplants from the Saturday farmers' market, and had baby spinach in the fridge that was on the verge of being forgotten if not used soon. Fortunately, I had a copy of Good Food from a Japanese Temple (Yoneda, 1982) on hand, thanks to my local library, and had been browsing its many treasured recipes just yesterday. I absolutely love this cookbook and need to find a copy of my own. The book contains recipes and information regarding shojin ryori, a Zen Buddhist cooking tradition that features elegant and flavorful vegetable-based dishes without the addition of animal products (vegan!). The recipes are arranged by season, and those I've tried so far are quite good; seasonality is important and totally makes sense. I serendipitously happened upon this lovely book while searching for another book that I still have not tracked down, and I don't mind it at all.
Above is a photo of Whole Simmered Eggplant, which uses my favorite (so far, at least) recipe from the cookbook. It's fairly simple and requires few ingredients, but the result is nonetheless delicious. Shojin cooking and presentation can be very specific--it's a certain art, really--so although I followed the directions for prepping and cooking the eggplant, I am sure I've not done the presentation justice. I also made Spinach with Walnut Dressing (using pecans instead of walnuts), which was actually labeled as a winter dish. But I had spinach around, as I've said. Anyway, that's also both simple and delicious. I served both dishes with white rice. There is so much to the shojin tradition that I find so fascinating, so if you're as interested in it as I have now become, I suggest you read up on it, too.

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