Monthly Archive September 2011

ByRay Proper
Sep 26, 2011

Autumn’s Treat – Matsutake Mushrooms

Just about everyone has seen these mushrooms in the supermarket; these are not the grown on top of a bottle en masse 100 yen variety, these are THOSE mushrooms that leave the unitiated wondering what kind of mushroom could possibly be worth 2000 yen or more? Next time you see them, I suggest you pick them up and smell them. They are very, very fragrant, and are often equated to truffles in their ability to add a distinct and delicious flavor to dishes prepared with them.

Matsutake Mushrooms - Wikipedia
Like Truffles, these are not produced on farms; they grow natrually in the forest, and while easy to pick, they are hard to find. In Japan, the mushroom is generally associated with the Japanese Red Pine, and the name in fact means Pine Tree Mushroom. The price of matsutake mushrooms varies tremendously. As domestic supply routinely outstrips demand, you can also find much cheaper imported varieties that could come from nearby China, or as far away as the United States region known as the Pacific Northwest; where I am from. While still not cheap, they pale in comparison to high grade locally harvested varieties that can run as much as 25,000 yen each, over $200. I am not sure they are worth THAT much, but people pay it, so I guess they are.

If you are interested in trying this autumn treat, I found a nice recipe for Matsutake Risotto that should do the trick for you. It does not require a lot of mushrooms, and would make a lovely appetizer to a great meal.

Matsutake Mushroom Risotto
serves 4 as an appetizer

4 cups kombu dashi
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tbs minced shallots
6 ounces fresh matsutake mushrooms thoroughly cleaned
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon unsalted cultured butter
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cups sake
5 oz Carnaroli rice
2 tablespoons panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/2 ounce parmigiano reggiano, grated
1 tablespoon unsalted cultured butter

Prepartion: Soak an 8″x 2″ piece of dashi kombu (dashi kelp) in cold water overnight or reconstitute powdered dashi in water according to the package directions to make 4 cups of kombu dashi. Put the dashi and salt into a saucepan and heat until steam rises from the surface. Cut the stem from the cap of the mushrooms. Julienne the stems into matchsticks. Slice the caps into 1/8″ thick pieces.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan with 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until hot. Add the shallots and julienned matsutake stems until the butter is browned and the mushrooms take on a light brown color. Add the rice and fry for a minute, stiring to coat each grain of rice.

Add the sake and stir until it has evaporated, then add two ladles of dashi and stir constantly until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding dashi 1 ladle at a time, stirring constantly until the rice has reached a texture you’re happy with. Stop at about 3 1/2 cups for al dente risotto.

While the risotto is cooking, heat a second pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Fry the matsutake caps until they are browned and season lightly with salt and pepper. Transfer the mushroom to a plate, then add the remaining tablespoon of butter. Add the panko and toast the breadcrumbs in the butter, stirring constantly until they are golden brown. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

When the risotto is done, add the cheese and butter and stir until they are incorporated. Taste for salt and more if necessary. Plate the risotto and top with the sauteed matsutake caps and toasted bread crumbs.

Link to original recipe on the [No Recipe] Blog

ByRay Proper
Sep 13, 2011

Kanazawa Castle Park in Ishikawa Prefecture

Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle is a large castle in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan that has been lovingly restored. Located adjacent to the celebrated Kenroku-en Garden, which once formed the castle’s private outer garden, Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku Garden are popular tourist destinations in Kanazawa; highly recommended for people interested in Japanese gardens.

Kanazawa Castle was founded in 1583 by the Maeda klan, who came to Kanazawa to establish the Kaga Domain. Due to damage from earthquakes, fires, battles, and other calamites the structure has been rebuilt many times since its completion. The Castle was almost completely destroyed in 1881 in a fire. Some portions of the structure, including the 1788 Ishikawa Gate, 1858 Sanjukken Nagaya (primarily a warehouse for weapons and ammunition), and the Tsurumaru Storehouse survived to become a part of Kanazawa Castle Park in 1997.

The Hishi Yagura turret, Gojikken Nagaya warehouse, and Hashizume-mon Tsuzuki Yagura turret were restored in 2001 using traditional construction methods to their 1809 form. The modern recreation of the pillars uses Japanese Hinoki Cypress timber with American cypress ceiling beams. The structure is so large that in the late 18th century it was known as “the palace of 1,000 tatami”.

One of the castle’s most distinctive features are the roof tiles. The whitish color of the tiles, which makes winter photographs of the structure so common, are mead of lead. Using lead not only fireproofed the roof, but also provided a ready source of material to be melted down and cast into bullets during sieges.

Kenrokuen Garden Kenroku-en, along with Kairaku-en and Koraku-en, is one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan.

Kenroku Garden, or kenrokuen, is located next to Kanazawa Castle, and is one of the 3 finest Japanese gardens in Japan. Kenroku-en`s development began in the 1620s and lasted until the 1840s by the Maeda clan of Kanazawa Castle. It originally formed the outer garden of the castle, and covers 114,436.65 m², or more than 25 acres.

The garden as well suffered occasional destruction along with the castle, and through improvements and reconstructions the modern garden gradually began to deomonstrate distinctive characteristics like the Emerald Waterfall (Midori-taki), the teahouse (Yugao-tei),Winding streams the Kasumi Pond, filled with water drawn from the Tatsumi Waterway that make up the modern attraction. The garden was opened to the public on May 7, 1874.

The garden’s name, kenroku, literally “Garden of the Six Sublimities,” was derived from a famous Chinese poet, and symbolizes the six attributes of a perfect landscape: spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, waterways, and panoramas. It implies that this is in fact, the perfect garden, and having been designated in the top three in Japan, it seems pretty close!
The gardens grounds also play host to the Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art (IPMA).

Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park Illumination Schedule

Kenrokuen Garden and Kanazawa Castle Park are “illuminated,” or decorated in lights, 7 times per year. The illumination really chantes the atmosphere available during the day, or even on a regular evening in the park, and is well worth a visit to experience it.

• 2011 April 9th – April 17th  18:00 – 21:30

• 2011 June 4th – June 5th 19:00 – 21:00

• 2011 September 16th – September 18th 18:00 – 21:00
• 2011 November 18th – November 20th 18:00 – 21:00
• 2011 November 26th – November 27th   17:30 – 21:00

• 2012  February 3th – February 5th 17:30 – 21:00
• 2012 February 10th – Febrary 12th 17:30 – 21:00

Follow these links for more information