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Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.
Today: Expand your collection of go-to herbs; start using shiso in, well, everything.
Shiso is a Japanese herb in the mint family, along with basil -- and like the rest of its family, shiso is a fresh vibrant shade of green. It sports fancy ruffled edges (1), and has a pleasantly assertive bite -- think similar to mint with a gingery edge, though its flavor is also described as herbal or citrusy. There are red forms of shiso too, but those generally are not consumed raw; they're mainly used to give color to umeboshi (a pickled Japanese fruit).
Look for shiso at farmers markets or Japanese grocery stores, and keep in mind that shiso goes by a variety of other names -- perilla, beefsteak, and Japanese basil. Like most fresh herbs, shiso has a short shelf life. Use yours quickly, or preserve them by salting or freezing.
Shiso leaves are often eaten with sashimi -- and when it's battered and deep-fried, shiso makes a great addition to a platter of tempura vegetables. Think about where you'd use basil or mint, and follow suit with shiso: add it to salads, salad dressings, roasted vegetables, pesto, or pasta. Pair it with tofu (which isn’t scary, we promise) or rice dishes. Or, go sweeter -- it works well with fruits like asian pear, pineapple, avocado, and grapefruit. Thirsty? Try shiso in lemonade, fruit-filled cocktails, and even Pepsi (okay, maybe not Pepsi). And that's just the beginning, really. We've got you covered for the week:
Friday: Pork Belly and Shiso Skewer/Yakitori
Saturday: Grilled Flank Steak with Asian Green Sauce (Shiso, Miso, Daikon & Pear)
Sunday: Lychee Shiso Sorbet
Monday: Quick Cucumber and Shiso Pickles
Tuesday: Bacon and Shiso Fried Rice
Wednesday: Shiso Nigiri with Avocado and Umeboshi Paste
Thursday: Sesame Shiso Wings and Shiso Slaw
Photos by James Ransom