Somebody at the farmers market recently introduced me to Shiso leaves and scallion micro greens. Breaking off the respective leaves, I mulled over them in my mouth for a few seconds. Interesting flavors I thought. The Shiso had notes of cumin, but very slightly. I wasn’t sure how I would use them in cooking but figured that I would think about that later. The scallion micro greens looked like watercress, but tasted like a scallion (spring onion), now there’s a surprise. ‘I’ll take them both!!’ it is nourishing for the soul to take a risk now and then.
On my way home, people stopped me on the bus, in the elevator, in the candy store to find out exactly what these leaves were. Was this my Warhol 15 minutes of fame?? Then a lovely Japanese lady stopped me and informed me of how often Shiso is used in Japanese food. So finally, a little context on Shiso, however, she didn’t quite share ‘how’ and there I was back at square one. Thinking about the flavors of the scallion micro greens and red shiso or rather hints of onion with hints of a cumin and anise hybrid, I knew that I wasn’t going to alter the flavor by sautéing, frying or grilling. I wanted them to taste as they had when I broke them off the stem for tasting at the farmers market. I decided to work them in to a tapenade and really maintain the freshness and colors which drew me to them. Not wanting to create too much drama with this tapenade, I simple stove-top toasted a piece of whole grain bread and spread my tapenade over it. I topped this garden of Eden toast with prosciutto and speck. The deep green color of this tapenade with hues of burgundy and flecks of white from the parmesan cheese add aesthetic value to this spread and the sesame oil adds an Asian touch. I was ready to unwind with my open faced toasted sandwich and my Jazz C.D…another delightful purchase from the farmers market. I would love to add here that my snack was accompanied by a glass of white but since need comes before luxury, I turned to my caffeine friend ‘Earl Grey’.
4 cloves of garlic
2 cups of red Shiso
1 cup scallion microgreens
1 cup of parmesan cheese
1 cup of olive oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
Juice from ½ a lemon
½ lemon rind
kosher salt and fresh cracked pepperWhole grain bread
1. Crush the garlic in your food processor
2. Add your de-stemmed shiso leaves and scallion microgreens
3. Give them a few pulses in the blender..careful not to over blend or it will become pasty
4. Add ½ half the grated parmesan cheese, the lemon rind, sesame oil and olive oil and give it a quick whizz
5. Add the remaining parmesan cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste
Stove-Top Toasted Bread
1. Heat a non stick an on high
2. Cut thick slices of whole grain bread
3. Add olive oil to the hot pan
4. Lay the brown bread on pan and brown on each side for 2 minutes (until it forms a crust)
If you wish to serve this as a main course, simply toss over pasta. It could also work well as a marinade for meats and fish. You may also serve as an appetizer, spread over crostini.
Pearls of Wisdom
I must confess that I added too much salt to my tapenade. Please don’t make the same mistake. Given that the parmesan is a salty cheese, taste the tapenade before adding the salt to see how much is required.