A couple of weeks ago a Japanese government representative here in New York handed me an interesting pamphlet called "A Guide to Japanese Ingredients," listing food producers and their ingredients, as well as a few recipes. One dish in particular caught my eye, for onion salad. The restaurant Yakitori Totto (which I love and should have mentioned in my restaurant post!) features it and it's fantastic. It's a kind of aemono, "dressed things," which, according to "Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art," is Japanese-style salad of several raw or cooked and cooled ingredients tossed with a dressing. Typical aemono dressings are vinegar-based and thickened with pureed tofu, ground sesame or miso. Just like the one in the recipe below. This dish makes a tasty small plate to accompany sake at the beginning of a meal. (But I would lose the raw garlic; too overpowering I think.)
2 Medium white or red onions
10 Shiso leaves
2 T red miso
2 t vinegar
2 t sugar
½ t garlic, minced
3 T water
Katsuo bushi for garnish (dried, shaved bonito)
Thinly slice onions and soak in a bowl of cold water for ten minutes. Afterwards, place the onions in a kitchen towel and wring out the liquid. Do it in batches. This is a technique I learned at Matsuri to squeeze some of the bitterness out of the onions, and also help them keep longer.
Julienne the shiso by stacking the leaves then rolling them up and thinly slicing. Mix the miso, vinegar, sugar, water, and garlic in a bowl and whisk. The recipe calls for red miso, which is a wonderful salty, aged miso, but I mixed in a little saikyo miso, a lightly fermented sweeter miso to see how that would work (was pretty good). Don't hesitate to try other kinds of miso or mixtures of them.
Arrange onions on a plate and sprinkle julienned shiso on top. Pour dressing over and garnish with katsuo bushi.