Leah Zoller (CIR Ishikawa-ken, Anamizu, 2009-11) is the editor of The Ishikawa JET Kitchen: Cooking in Japan Without a Fight. A writer and web administrator for The Art of Travel (formerly The Art of Japan: Kanazawa & Discover Kanazawa), she also writes I’ll Make It Myself!, a blog about food culture in Japan, and curates The Rice Cooker Chronicles, a series of essays by JETs and JET alumni on the theme of cooking/eating and being alone in Japan.
New Rice Cooker Chronicles submissions always welcome. Just e-mail it to Leah at jetwit [at] jetwit.com.
I’ve covered bread here, so let’s move on to sandwich fillings, specifically pita. Hummus or falafel seem like obvious choices and are very easy to make at home if you can get the ingredients. In Ishikawa, chickpeas are mostly relegated to the import stores (and are expensive), and my first blender was a cheap plastic thing that did not like anything with a consistency harder than melted butter. Hummus, therefore, was not a food I could make consistently while living out in the country.
Fortunately, I discovered baba ghanoush after yet another incident where I had too many eggplants. This magical food solves all of the making-hummus-in-Japan problems. This eggplant-based spread uses no chickpeas, which means no special trips to the import store; eggplants are plentiful and cheap; and the soft consistency of the vegetable base means you won’t murder your blender. Instead of tahini, which is also import-store-only, we’re going to use white nerigoma, Japanese sesame paste. Tahini is a paste made of roasted sesame seeds; nerigoma is paste made with sesame seeds that haven’t been roasted, so to get a smokier flavor, we’re going to add cumin.