To market... to market...
With grocery list in hand, I took off for the Asian grocery store.
Now for anyone who likes to cook, trying a new recipe equates to an adventure... sometimes good and sometimes bad, but an adventure none-the-less! Those of us who live in the Dallas area are fortunate to have a number of Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern markets available to us. Some are large and some are small mom-and-pop kinds of grocery stores. Each time I go, I marvel at the variety of foods that I have never tasted and have no idea what they are.
So on this particular day I was in the market for the following products:
Black Vinegar - slightly sweet with a rich, malty flavor made from fermented rice, wheat, barley and sorghum
Shiro (white) miso - fermented soybean paste (very salty to my taste)
Mirin - a kind of rice wine with lower alcohol content and higher sugar content
Shiso - an herb in the mint family
Japanese Eggplants - long thin bright purple eggplants
I found everything except for the shiso. I figured it was an herb but did not look it up ahead of time assuming that it would be labeled as such. I searched the herbs but to no avail. It is interesting to note that all of the herbs looked very fresh and came in large bunches and at a very cheap price compared to the regular chain grocery store prices.
Where is the Shiso?
So I turned to an Asian woman shopping next to me and asked her if she knew what it was. She had me spell it and she still did not know and suggested I ask the produce guy. So, I went over and asked the produce guy and he scratched his head and had no idea what I was talking about, but said he would go find out and physically went running to the back to find the answer. While he was gone several women who had overheard the conversation came over to try to figure out what it was I was looking for... and still no answers.
Soon the produce guy returns bringing another employee with him and I explain to her what I am looking for and she too has no idea. Hmmmm... what to do? Then another woman spoke up and she thought it might be cilantro. Being that I like cilantro, I decided I would get that and give up on the quest. Come to find out, shiso is in the mint family, but I do think the cilantro worked just as well in this recipe.
It is not the first time I have been in an Asian market and had people more than willing to help me, and I like that. Perhaps it is because I have this forlorn look trying to figure out what things are and how to use them.
Fish in a Tank
So I walked throughout the store but cringed when going through the meat and fish area. They have fresh fish swimming in tanks... well, barely swimming as they are crammed in so tightly. I had to turn away. It made me feel sick knowing that in a few hours they would probably be dinner on someone's plate. I wanted to buy them all and let them free to live their lives. And then there was the table of crabs on ice trying to crawl away. And all of this just confirmed why I choose to be a vegetarian. This consciousness came to me late in life but I am so glad that I finally saw the light, so to speak.
Are You a Vegetarian?
It was interesting the last time I took my little dog to the vet and I happened to mention to her about being vegetarian, and I was curious how a vet would respond to this, being that she must love animals and works to save their lives on a daily basis. She told me that several of her staff are vegetarians but she is not and then went on to say that God made animals so we could eat. Not exactly the response I was anticipating! And once again, I cannot get away from religion seeping into my life.
So here is...
Miso-Roasted Eggplants with Tomatoes, Dill, Cilantro and Black Vinegar
For the recipe: http://www.pbase.com/shutterpug/image/156848819
Keywords: Asian Market, Black Vinegar, Cilantro, Dill, Heirloom Tomatoes, Japanese Eggplant, Mirin, Shiro Miso, Vegetarian
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