Why am I using “quotes?” Because while this is bursting with wasabi flavor, there is no actual wasabi in it. Real wasabi is hard to come by. And the stuff you and I have access to in the grocery store—the green-tinged powder, or that gunk in the tube—is just dreadful; it’s full of artificial color, preservatives, and mysterious chemicals, and the flavor shows it. Instead, I hereby direct you to buy yourself a fresh bottle of prepared horseradish, close your eyes, and tell yourself it’s wasabi for this recipe and for any sushi you make at home. If you must, add a little green food coloring or spirulina powder for color. Leftover horseradish can be smeared on your roast beef sandwich, or saved for the gefilte fish on Passover. Makes about 2¼ cups
Time: about 1 hour
1 pound carrots, preferable a mix of colors, peeled
4 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1½ teaspoons very finely minced or grated fresh ginger (use a Microplane grater if you have one)
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into ribbons, getting as much out of each carrot as you can; discard (or eat) the nubs. Combine the carrots with the horseradish, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes, and ginger and toss very well, using a fork (or two, if necessary) to really work the seasoning into the carrot ribbons. Cover with a drop lid and 1 pound of weight and let sit for 30 minutes, retaining any liquid that falls to the bottom of the bowl. After a quick toss, the pickle is ready to eat; covered and refrigerated, it keeps at least 6 weeks.
Burdock root is a mysterious vegetable for the Western table, but it needn’t be. It’s mild and slightly sweet, and its texture is somewhere between jicama and sunchokes/rutabaga. These long, brown, starchy-looking vegetable logs used to be exclusive to Asian groceries, but here in San Francisco I’ve even been finding them in big chain grocery stores as of late. They boil up beautifully in soup (pickled or raw) and it’s terrific in any kind of stir fried or boiled rice dish. As a pickle, it fully stands up on its own. The only trick to burdock is that it discolors to a hideous brown very quickly – much more so than potatoes – so some caution has to be taken to keep its creamy white color.
1 lb. fresh burdock root
4 T red umezu (ume plum vinegar)
6 T unseasoned rice vinegar
3 T sugar
¼ cup water
Burdock loves to go brown as quickly as it’s peeled. Let’s keep it from getting its way by peeling it with the help of an acidic water bath. Ready a large bowl of cool water and add a couple of tablespoons of white distilled vinegar or the juice of half a lemon.
Additionally, set a medium saucepan of water on to boil.
And in a vessel or measuring cup with a pouring spout, combine the umezu, vinegar, sugar, and water to make the brine.
Chop the burdock into 4-inch lengths. Working with one piece at a time, peel it very deeply. its woody, fibrous skin tends to run fairly deep. After peeling, transfer each piece to the acidic water bath. Then, working with one piece at a time again, slice the burdock into thin circular coins, placing them back in the acidic bath as you go.
When your water is boiling, drain the burdock and transfer it to the pot. Boil the vegetable for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the burdock tastes tender and sweet.
Drain the burdock well and pack it into a glass jar(s). Pour the brine over to cover, secure with a lid, and let it sit at room temperature for one day before refrigerating. Your burdock is ready to eat, but it will taste even better after three days.