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Untangling My Chopsticks ...with the latest Cook the Books selection.

When she was twenty-five, Victoria Riccardi left behind a good job, a good boyfriend, and a good apartment in New York City and moved to Kyoto, Japan.  Memory and longing led her to study tea kaiseki...and in turn gain knowledge in ancient Japanese traditions, wisdom, and customs.  While only there for one year, this multi course meal that evolved in the Zen monasteries of Kyoto and its link to Zen Buddhism would have great influence on her life.  You can read more in Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi, the latest Cook the Books selection.  I am always romanced into books like this.  Imagining myself dropping everything and going somewhere to to immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture.  Putting my finger on the pulse of the people the way I know best...through the kitchen.  I couldn't help but draw on my fondness for Memoirs of a Geisha once Riccardi arrived in Japan- describing the atmosphere.  Subtly stunning kimonos.  Cherry Blossoms.  The art of refinement.  Stark beauty. 

Tea kaiseki is a meal that is based on rice and comes before the actual formal tea ceremony.  During the ceremony a moist sweet will be served before the bowl of thick tea and a dry sweet will be served before the bowl of thin tea.  The food is subtle, beautiful, and it readies your palate...and your mind...for the actual tea.
Although the recipes nestled in at the close of each chapter called to me one by one.  What I would up making was inspired by the simplicity and beauty of the dishes presented for kaiseki.  Although this particular dish would never be served at a tea kaiseki because the amount of salt and chile flakes would dull your palate before the tea master presented you with your tea.  My friend Deb sent me a little package of ogo seaweed with some gorgeous red Hawaiian sea salt from Hawaii and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to put it to use.  And I just knew I wanted to use tofu when I read that Buddhists brought it with them to Kyoto...which now produces the finest tofu in all of Japan!
Tofu Poke
yield ~1 lb.

1 lb. tofu, pressed overnight & drained
~2 Tbs. Sesame Seed Oil
1 small bundle of dried ogo seaweed
Hawaiian Red sea salt, to taste
crushed red chile flakes, to taste

Cube the pressed tofu and toss with the sesame seed oil.  Rehydrate the dried ogo in hot water for two minutes, then squeeze dry and chop.  Toss with tofu and sesame oil.  Add in salt and red pepper flakes to taste.
Simple beauty.  Worth untangling your chopsticks for.
"I had tasted the origins of tea kaiseki at Enryaki-ji and at last experienced its spiritual roots." ~Victoria Abbott Riccardi
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