The only plants to escape the ruinous hailstorm earlier this week were the red shiso seedlings. They were protected by a hard plastic tunnel cover that even with strong winds and a barrage of golfball-sized hail, managed to stay put and nary a leaf was bent out of place. I wouldn’t have minded if half of the lot was wasted, because each year I end up with more than I know what to do with. Shiso leaf oil, in pickles (the leaves bleed a dark purple red), in salads, pesto, and even as leaf wraps for ground pork, I have done them all but it never makes a dent in the crop.
This morning I got it in my head to decrease the production so I snipped off the top half (I’m hoping they’ll die out) and gathered a small bowlful of young leaves. I’ve seen the leaves used in furikake, but not wanting to turn on the oven for hours to dry them, I used a trick that I’d seen on MasterChef Australia…I dried them in the microwave!
What you’ll need:
Fresh shiso leaves (I didn’t bother to measure mine but let’s say half of a colander’s worth)
White sesame seeds
Golden brown sugar
The process is simple: loosely place rinsed and dried leaves (no need to destem) on a plate large enough to fit in the microwave and nuke for 2 minutes at 1-minute intervals. After the 2 minutes, remove plate – careful, it’ll be hot! – and allow to cool until leaves are easy to handle. Feel them. If they are crisp-dry, good. If not, zap for another 30 seconds. Transfer cooked leaves to a large bowl and repeat process with remaining leaves. My microwave doesn’t have a high/med/low; I just use the preset factory setting, that is, ON and OFF.
This next part is optional but it adds some umami to the end result: microwave a half cup (loosely packed) of bonito flakes for 30 seconds until super dry. Set aside to cool.
While you’re waiting for the leaves and bonito flakes to cool, place 1/2 tablespoon of toasted white sesame seeds and 1/2 tablespoon golden brown sugar in a spice blender and pulse to a coarse texture. Tip into a small bowl and stir in 1/2 TBSP whole sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes.
Make your furikake: gently crumble leaves with your fingers, removing the bits of stem as you go. I ended up with a third of a cup. Crumble bonito flakes and stir into the shiso. Add the sesame seed mixture and stir to combine. Taste for salt and add more salt flakes if needed. Store in an airtight container.