“Hanami” Cherry blossom gazing 花見

japanese cake

The cherry blossoms are in full swing in Washington, DC. This is much earlier than usual years.  Even in our back yard, the cherry blossoms are in 80% in bloom. The trees in our back yard are usually 2 weeks behind the district but this year our trees are in sync with the tidal basin. The cherry blossoms aren’t the only things blooming–the forsythia, the magnolia, the plum, the bradford pears and even the dogwoods are all clamoring for center stage. Usually it is a multi-act show with each plant having its own solo but because of the unusually warm weather all the acts combined into one grand display.  

We had to transplant the smallest cherry tree this year. We had planted two trees next to each other on the same day twenty some years ago. One thrived and grew to almost 3 stories high (big brother)(shown in the picture above) while the other remained about the same size as when we planted it (little brother). Last fall we discovered why. The poor thing had spent its life planted in a shallow layer of soil above a highway “jersey wall” and other trash that had been used as land fill when the house was built.  We cleaned out the trash filled void and refilled it with soil.  We also transplanted little brother to a new site on the property. Despite it’s diminutive size little brother did bloom valiantly next to big brother and as a result of his transfer to better soil, the display seems a bit sparse this year. Nonetheless we hope little brother thrives in his new location and admire his will to survive under such, unbeknownst to us, adverse conditions.  

I could not get decent sashimi items to have with Hanami, so I had to rely on frozen items. Beside in this nice weather, it is difficult to leave the deck and go inside to cook. I was planning to have a bit more elaborate array of dishes but that did not happen.  This is an opening drinking snack which is another variation of “Namerou” なめろう made of frozen saku (block) of sashimi-grade yellow fin tuna. This time I added several new twists and made it a Japanese-Mexican fusion dish. This is a hybrid between “ceviche” and “namerou”. 

For two servings, I used 1/2 of tuna block or “saku”. Other ingredients included scallion (3 including some green parts finely chopped), Jalapeño pepper (1/2 medium, seeded and veined, finely chopped), lime zest (one, grated using a micro-grater), juice of one lime (add in increments), fresh cilantro leaves (1 tbs, finely chopped), miso (1 tsp to start and added more as I tasted).

I started with all the herbs finely chopped and mixed in cut strips of tuna sashimi and miso as seen in the left. Using a sharp knife, I started “hitting” or “tataku” たたくthem changing directions and gathering, mixing and turning over so than all the ingredients were well mixed and chopped. I added the lime juice and miso in several increments as I tasted it until I was satisfied with the texture and taste. 

I just decided to make it this way on a whim but this turned out to be an excellent Japanese-Mexican fusion tuna tartar. Some people may not like the cilantro flavor but we love it. The jalapeño pepper was not hot but gave a nice fresh peppery taste since I removed the seeds and veins. Just as a reminder and for whomever needs an extra kick I topped this fusion namerou with a slice of Jalapeño pepper with some veins (white stuff) remaining and a wedge of lime. Other dishes to follow.

We have a total of 4 cherry trees in our yard. Two were on the property when we moved in and may be between 30 and 50 years old. In addition to these we planted two–big brother and little brother. We planted them so we could enjoy hanami on our deck. Of the previously existing trees, the largest is a native American choke cherry tree. It blooms in late May and produces small sour cherries that the native indians are said to have harvested–now it is the favorite of only the birds. The other is an ornamental cherry that is a cultivar different from the kind we planted and blooms later than they do. The following picture is of big brother. 

The cherry trees all went from bud to full bloom in about 2 days. We hope the flower will last for several more days or hopefully until next weekend. Unfortunately spring and cherry blossoms come only once a year.

P.S. This is little brother…he seems happy in his new home

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