CSA Week 15: Tempura with Shiso Flowers

September 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

The haul:
butternut squash
lettuce
cabbage
kale
pears
tomatoes
eggplant
peppers

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This bouquet is for my mother. It’s aka shiso (a.k.a. red perilla) from my very own garden, for which she gave me the seeds as a birthday present! The flavor is hard to describe – like a cross between anise and basil, sort of fresh-tasting in the same way as daikon radish, and not really like anything else. This summer we have been sprinkling the leaves on Korean food. The plants are also beautiful on their own, but it’s started getting cooler here and they were all going to seed, so it was time for a shiso harvest.

There are a ton of shiso recipes if you search around on the internet (I wish I had tried this shiso gazpacho recipe!) but one thing I came across over and over again was shiso leaf and shiso flower tempura. Apparently I have a thing for eating flowers (and drinking them). I decided to preserve the shiso leaves for the winter by making shiso pesto (just a little canola oil and the leaves in a food processor, no pine nuts or parmesan!) and give the flowers pride of place in my first ever effort at making tempura.

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Tempura with Shiso Flowers
From Mark Bittman’s tempura recipe. This is enough for sizable portions for at least four people… sadly tempura doesn’t make very good leftovers, so consider a half recipe.

lots of vegetables – I had string beans, butternut squash, eggplant, shishito peppers, and the shiso flowers
1.5 cups of flour plus 1 cup of flour
3 egg yolks
2 cups ice cold water
a neutral oil, enough to fill your pan an inch or so
thermometer

  1. Get all your vegetables prepared before you do anything else. Slice the squash and eggplant 1/4 inch thick.
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  3. Mix the egg yolks and 1.5 cups flour. Put the 1 cup flour in a separate bowl. Add the ice water to the egg-and-flour mixture just before you’re ready to fry. Mix lightly – the batter will be thin and still lumpy.
  4. Heat the oil in a high-walled pan (I used my dutch oven, although it does seem to have stained the inside some so non-enameled cast iron might be better) to 350 degrees.
  5. Dredge each vegetable piece in flour then in the batter.
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  7. Fry until the flour has very lightly deepened in color, only a few minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with a paper towel. Keep rechecking the oil temperature periodically as the food can cool it quickly.
  8. Serve as soon as possible with tempura dipping sauce (still fiddling with this recipe, but I used a combination of water, soy sauce, Chinese rice wine vinegar, sherry, sugar, and ginger, briefly boiled).

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So yummy! The light herbal flavor of the shiso flowers is a really nice contrast with the oily batter. I’m still working on refining this recipe to just the way I like my tempura – I’ll try it with rice flour next time – but it was an awfully good start.

What would you do with shiso?

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