The Zen Kitchen: A Recipe from Our Tenzo’s Hidden Treasure

:: Post submitted by Fukutoku, Ann Morishita ::

Greeting from the Tenzo.

I wanted to share a recipe with you that I have used at sesshin (retreat) for the first bowl of oryoki meals. If you don’t know, at a formal retreat at Clouds we use the oryoki style of eating which means that the meal is served in three bowls. The first bowl is set down on the left of the placemat and is the largest. It typically holds a grain mixed with some other ingredients or just a grain. 

For that reason I have gotten more interested in combination rice dishes. Prior to becoming a tenzo, my family tended to eat rice as a side dish by itself. My husband, being Japanese-American, was used to this style of eating that requires mixing the rice with other items once it is on the plate – or just keeping it pristine and plain on the side with a tiny bit of salt.

In the “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” cookbook by Mark Bittman, touted as the ultimate guide to meatless meals (agreed), I found an interesting section called “The World of Rice Salads.”  In this section there is a basic recipe for 4 people. Large portions!

3 -4 cups of COOKED rice, room temp

¼ cup chopped scallions (or other onions you might have)

1 small red pepper cored, seeded and chopped

¼ to 1/2 cup of shredded celery (add the amount that is pleasing to your taste

¼ to 1/2 cup of shredded carrots

¼ to ½  cup of vinaigrette.

Mix it all together and serve. Very tasty and simple. You can add whatever protein you would like to this. Cooked tofu is great or chopped nuts.

What follows in the pages after is about 15 variations on the basic recipe. For example, add chili powder, cilantro, and tomato to make it Mexican style rice. If you are a cook that can improvise, you can imagine different seasonings and ingredients to change it up. Seems to me it would be a great idea to make a batch using the basic recipe one day and eat it for two more days by taking out a portion and seasoning it in the way you would like for that meal. When storing it in the fridge it is best to warm it a bit in the microwave or on the counter before eating in order to get the best rice flavor. I enjoy the Japanese version listed in the cookbook that calls for roasted seaweed on top and also uses a Miso dipping sauce instead of vinaigrette.

The dipping sauce is super easy:

6 tablespoon Miso (which you can find at Trader Joes, Whole foods, Hyvee, coops, maybe Cub)

¼ cup of water

1 teaspoon of sugar

1 tablespoon or Mirin or honey

1 tablespoon of vinegar (a light vinegar like rice vinegar is good)

Add salt as needed after tasting

Whisk the above ingredients together to create the sauce. Add the Miso dipping sauce to the rice mixture above. Really tasty. Also you can use the sauce to season vegetables etc. since you will have extra. It can be stored in the fridge for a week.

Hope you have a chance to try the recipes out. Someone from long ago left this cookbook at the center, and I found it when reorganizing the kitchen, so I think of it as a hidden and now found treasure of Clouds in Water. 

Fukutoku, Ann Morishita is the Tenzo and a priest-in-training at Clouds In Water Zen Center. 

In the Zen Kitchen, the tenzo holds the responsibility of planning, preparing, and serving meals to the community. At Clouds in Water, our tenzo ryo consists of a group of volunteers who, as Fuku shared, ensure that everyone attending our sesshins receive delicious nourishment to support their practice.

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