For the last 10 years Midori Takahashi has been spending two days a week in her husband's hometown. When the "food stylist" began visiting Kuroiso in Tochigi Prefecture, she fell in love with a warehouse with a nostalgic feel close to the station.
She felt the town could do with a little more vibrancy, so she and her husband renovated the warehouse and opened the antique shop Tamiser Kuroiso in 2009. They hoped it might attract a few more people to the area.
With the theme "Making life a little more pleasurable," the shop sells used articles that Takahashi’s husband, who runs an antique shop in Tokyo’s snazzy Ebisu district, purchased in Europe, as well as tableware, cookbooks and olive oil selected by Takahashi.
Although the store is open only Sunday and Monday afternoons, people began visiting from Tochigi as well as other prefectures.
Since Takahashi, 60, and her husband adore eating quality grub, they usually end up chatting with the customers about nature and ... food. Sometimes, she advises them on table settings and which wine for whatever dish.
Since fresh vegetables are readily available in Kuroiso, Takahashi says it has "spurred her love of vegetables." Her favorite dish is a vegetable stir-fry that she picked up from Wu Wen, an expert on Chinese home cooking.
Instead of cooking the vegetables together, they are stir-fried separately. The key lies in the way the vegetable is cut and when the salt is added. The timing is important since the salt must be used to enhance the texture and flavor of each vegetable with attention to its water content. At the same time, salt draws out the sweetness of the vegetable.
The daikon radish is cut along the fiber, sprinkled with salt first, then stir-fried after the excess water is removed. The bell pepper is sliced in rounds. Salt is sprinkled on the oil before cooking the bell pepper briefly. The carrot is finely sliced at an angle to cut the fiber, then cut into strips. Salt is sprinkled right before it is done.
"Each turns out to be a fine a la carte dish that goes well with wine. With other vegetables, you can also experiment with the way they are cut and when the salt is applied," says Takahashi.
For stir-fry of daikon radish:
500 grams daikon
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 Tbsp olive oil
For stir-fry of bell pepper:
6 green bell pepper ("piman" variety)
1 Tbsp white sesame oil (Taihaku variety)
Salt and pepper
For stir-fry of carrot:
1.5 Tbsp white sesame oil
Salt and pepper
Peel daikon radish, cut along fiber into strips measuring 3-cm long and with a square section of 3 mm on a side. Sprinkle with salt and leave for about 20 minutes. Tightly squeeze out water that has seeped out. Heat olive oil in pan, stir-fry daikon until transparent.
Remove seeds and whitish ribs from bell pepper, cut in rounds that are 7- to 8-mm thick. Heat sesame oil and bit of salt in pan over medium heat, add bell pepper. Sprinkle with pepper right before it becomes tender and turn off heat.
Peel carrots, slice at an angle, then cut into fine strips. Heat sesame oil in pan over medium heat, add carrot. When it starts to become tender, add bit of salt and pepper and turn off the heat.
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From The Asahi Shimbun's Watashi no Ryori column