A new year means another 365 (minus 7, 8, 9, 10, tick tock, tick tock) days of eating. There’s a world of food and flavors out there that my taste buds are eager to discover. What foods/dishes are on your list to eat and/or cook in 2017?

You probably didn’t think twice before reaching for the pepper mill in preparing last night’s dinner. Yet, the contents of that pepper mill, what you hold in your hands, is the culmination of a long and complicated history – of lands discovered, wars waged, deception, flavor, and mystery. Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, and nutmeg were responsible for creating vast empires. In the Old World, the most desired trading goods were gold, silver, and spices — symbols of wealth and power; the spice (maritime) routes linking the east to the west.

Thanks to those long-forgotten, intrepid sailors and entrepreneurial traders, nowadays, spices and herbs are inexpensive and readily accessible. This is a good thing of course, as spices intensify the flavor and aroma of food. Spices also allow you to be creative and adventurous with your cooking. No more boring weeknight meals. You just need to add a bit of spice to your cooking.

That being said, while not a new discovery per se, but perhaps a bit less mainstream, (at least here in the States) is shichimi togarashi, a common (in Japanese households) seven-spice blend that includes red chili, dried orange peel, black and white toasted sesame seeds, sansho (Japanese prickley ash, related to Sichuan pepper), ginger, and nori (seaweed). It has some heat to it, but is not overly spicy. The orange peel adds a vibrant quality whereas the nori lends umami. Sansho imparts a citrusy flavor (described by some as a combination of of yuzu, which I happen to love, and grapefruit) with that similar electric, tongue-tingling sensation that you find in Sichuan pepper.

What to do with togarahsi you might wonder? Sprinkle this versatile condiment over steamed rice, (udon) noodles, soups/hot pots, stir-fried vegetables, avocado toast, popcorn, or scrambled eggs. It also makes a great rub for grilled meats and fish.

Today, I used togarashi to make a highly addictive chili-infused sesame oil (along with fresh shallot, garlic, ginger, scallions, sesame seeds, and peanuts). Proceeded to drizzle it over a big bowl of brown rice with sliced avocado, nori strips, scallions, watermelon radish, and a poached egg on top.

Today’s breakfast was delicious!

Shichimi Togarashi = red chili, dried orange peel, black and white toasted sesame seeds, sansho (Japanese prickley ash, related to Sichuan pepper), ginger, and nori (seaweed).

A highly addictive chili-infused sesame oil along with fresh shallot, garlic, ginger, scallions, sesame seeds, and peanuts…

Brown rice bowl with shichimi togarashi-spiced sesame chili oil…a good way to start any day!

 

Brown Rice Bowl with Shichimi Togarashi-Spiced Sesame Chili Oil

brown rice
1 avocado thinly sliced
Nori, cut into thin strips
Green parts of scallion, thinly sliced on a bias
Watermelon radish, thinly sliced
Poached egg
shichimi togarashi-spiced sesame chili oil (recipe below)

Shichimi Togarashi-Spiced Sesame Chili Oil

Adatped from Japanese Soul Cooking
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallion, white parts only
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1/2 cup toasted sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (used Korean Gochugaru flakes)
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds (combination of white and black if you like)
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts
salt to taste

Add 1/4 cup sesame oil to a a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until it comes to a simmer. Add the ginger, garlic, scallion, and shallot. Bring back to a simmer over low heat. Gently simmer, swirling the pan, until the ingredients are soft and golden (but not browned), about 3 minutes.

In a heatproof bowl, combine the togarashi, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, and peanuts. Pour the hot mixture into the bowl. Add the other 1/4 cup of sesame oil. Season with salt and stir to combine. The oil will develop more flavor as it sits for a few hours.

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This sesame oil sounds (and looks!) incredibly addicting. Want. want. want. What a beautiful dish!

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