The second VTS tea of 2013 was a Japanese friendship tea hosted by Lady MH, complete with a cherry blossom theme that sang, “Spring!”
To start, Lady MH regaled us with stories of the Japanese side of her family, including a moving one about her father-in-law who spent time in a Japanese internment camp. During his internment, he carved wooden birds from scraps of wood to pass the time. The birds now sit lovingly framed and displayed in the dining room. His motto was, “Keep moving forward!” which he used to keep himself going and a guiding principle he passed on to his family. If anyone is a model for that motto, it’s Lady MH!
How lucky were we, to be drinking tea from exquisite Japanese Sōma-yaki pottery! Sōma-yaki pottery originated about 300 years ago in Fukushima, Japan and in 1978, it was designated a national object of traditional craftsmanship (from Wikipedia). Sadly, the Sōma-yaki pottery industry was destroyed in the 2011 tsunami which makes these pieces even more rare and special. Lady MH received these heirloom pieces from her mother-in-law.
Another unique characteristic of Sōma-yaki pottery is its multi-layered structure.
The double walls of the pottery insulate hot liquids while keeping the outside cool, to prevent burned hands. A hole is built into the bottom of the outer layer to allow drainage of water when washing.
Japanese Friendship Garden soba noodle salad
(inspired by the soba noodle salad at the Japanese Friendship Garden)
4 small bundles of soba (buckwheat noodles)
Assorted lettuce red, butter, romaine, etc.
Cucumbers, sliced thin
Carrots, sliced thin
Green onion, chopped thin
4 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
Pinch of toasted pine nuts (optional)
4 Tbsp. sugar
1/3 c. vinegar
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. finely minced ginger
1/2 c. salad oil
Mix dressing. Break noodles in half for easy serving. Follow cooking directions, drain and rinse in colander. Mix a little bit of dressing with the noodles to keep them from sticking together and store in refrigerator until ready to serve. Layer salad ingredients on a small 7″ diameter salad plate in the following order: soba at the bottom, topped with greens, and drizzled with dressing. Top with a pinch of pine nuts if desired. Serve immediately.
Zen-sational mushroom delights
(adapted from Wonder bread Mushroom Appetizer Croustades recipe)
Makes 12 appetizer servings
12 slices white bread
2 green onions or leeks, finely sliced
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, both dried* and fresh, finely diced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 Tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
Truffle salt for finishing (optional)
*Rehydrate the dried shiitake and roast them for extra flavor before sauteing
Bread croustades: Preheat oven to 400F. Cut crusts from bread and flatten with a rolling pin until quite flat, about ⅛-inch thick. Cut circles from the bread with a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter. (You can cut 2 circles from each slice of bread.) Lightly brush mini-muffin pan with melted butter. Gently press each round of bread into a mini-muffin cup, forming it into a bowl shape. Repeat, making as many croustades as specified in the recipe. Bake about 9 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool slightly, then remove the croustades from the pan and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack.
Mushroom filling: Reduce oven temperature to 350F. Melt butter in medium skillet over medium high heat. Cook green onions and mushrooms about 4 to 5 minutes or until moisture evaporates, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with flour and stir well. Add cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, lemon juice and cayenne pepper.
Fill cups and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes. Serve at least 2 per person.
Kushisashi (Chicken on a Samurai Stick)
(by Lady MH)
1 chicken breast, cut into marble sized pieces
6-7 in. bamboo skewer sticks
Prep skewers the night before. Skewer, alternating 3 pieces of chicken. Layer into a container and sprinkle lightly with salt. Keep layering and cover container and refrigerate overnight.
Lightly dust chicken with flour, shake off excess. Scramble 3 to 4 eggs in a large drinking glass (large enough to fit the skewers). Put panko into a pie pan. Dip chicken skewers into egg, then dredge with Panko crumbs. Prepare all of the chicken skewers, then get ready to fry. Fill a large frying pan about half full of oil. Heat to med. high and start frying. Cook until light brown, drain.
Tranquil Matcha Green Tea Scones
by Lady J.
1 8.3-oz. package of Matcha Green Tea Scone mix*
1 c. heavy whipping cream
¼ c. currants
¼ c. walnuts
¼ c. sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and pour in the heavy whipping cream, mixing as you pour. Mix until the cream is absorbed in the dough. Work dough around the bowl until all dry ingredients are incorporated and dough is already
sticky to the touch.
Place dough on a floured counter; press into 6-inch circle; then cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges. Place wedges on a baking sheet (grease or use parchment paper); sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 20-24 minutes or until lightly brown. Test by inserting toothpick into center of scone; it’s done if it comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool slightly before serving.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After the scones course, Lady MH asked us to share our favorite quotations about friendship. On the table was a beautiful Japanese zen meditation bell that has been in her family for generations. Lady MH instructed us to strike the bell before unveiling each of our friendship quotations.
Lady MH read her favorite quotation which she received from her friend, Lady S., 30 years ago! It is something she has cherished since and she wished to pass it on to all of us.
Lady J. contributed the following quotation: “Friends are special people. We can’t pick our family, and we’re sorely limited in the number of them at any rate. Society and mores (and often our own conscience) dictate we select a single mate. But our friends can be as diverse and infinite as the adjectives we choose. Our friends, in a very real sense, reflect the choices we make in life.”
Lady ML followed up with, “Friends are the family we choose.” Great friends think alike, Lady J. and Lady ML!
I surprised everyone with a friendship poem that D. wrote specially for this occasion. It reminds us that friendship is the foundation of all love.
In addition to the special quotations above, Lady KL played a song (theme from Friends), and Lady B. showed us a piece of artwork with a quotation about tea and friendship. In addition to the sentimental moments, there were some funny moments too, like when Lady MH and Lady T. both simultaneously quipped, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, the other is gold,” recalling their days in the Girl Scouts. The exchange of friendship quotations was the icing on a lovely afternoon. Lately, I had been feeling tinges of regret that I am not able to foster all my friendships on a deeper level but this day reminded me to be grateful for what I do have: I have many friends for which I am privileged to have in my life and I should enjoy and appreciate the moments as they are presented to me. Thank you, Lady MH, for a memorable and special afternoon tea and for making me reflect on friendship this day! I’m grateful for your friendship.
Sakura strawberry dessert (aka Pink Stuff)
(by Lady MH)
1 c. flour
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 c. brown sugar
Stir together and bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, until crunchy. Set aside with 1/4 of mix reserved for topping.
1-10 oz. box frozen strawberries (slightly thawed)
2/3 c. sugar
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
12 oz. Cool Whip (optional)
Whip on high speed until stiff peaks form. Stir in Cool Whip if using. Spread the Pink Stuff over the crunchy mix in a 9 x 13 pan (or portion it into individual cupcake cups), and top with remaining topping. Freeze until ready to serve.