Sunday, January 8, 2017

Happy New Year 2017!

The new year always brings both hope and anxiety, oddly, for the same reason: What lies ahead?

Sometimes that question is a good thing because it symbolizes possibilities. From the opposite perspective though it represents change, which while also good, can be a bit frightening too.

One thing New Year's Day has come to symbolize for me is the traditional Japanese (sometimes dangerous*) New Year's Day soup known as "Ozoni." I've blogged about my attempts to re-create this cuisine from my past recalling that we didn't have it often and it was always the same recipe of a homemade pork broth with shredded bits of pork, sliced napa cabbage, and mochi, which are sweet glutinous rice cakes.

Here was my attempt for 2017. This year I improvised. When I went to my local grocery store the smallest head of napa cabbage was still 4 lbs and would have cost $6.00. Since I only needed enough for one bowl of soup I couldn't quite bring myself to make the commitment I'd find other recipes to use the remaining 3 lbs and 15 oz of cabbage in. LOL.

So instead, I used Brussels sprouts. Oven roasted Brussels sprouts, an idea gleaned from an order of ramen I had years ago in SF. I also added sliced sweet yellow onion, a little fresh spinach, finely chopped green onion just before serving, and I used brown rice mochi (toasted in a cast iron frying pan) instead of white rice mochi to be healthier. That's the neat thing about ozoni. You can use any thing from vegetable broth to meat broth, white rice or brown rice mochi, and a wide assortment of vegetables and other ingredients.

When I lived in California I was able to procure fresh lotus root (the round things with holes in them) and the pink and white kamaboko (steamed Japanese fish cakes) that I used in my 2010 ozoni, pictured above.

Another time I went simple with vegetable broth, only napa cabbage, and a traditional white rice mochi cake but added beautifully cut carrot crabs just to make it special.

It's the only New Year's Day tradition I've celebrated in years. I usually don't even wait until midnight to see the ball drop in Times Square mostly because we don't have a television :D Or maybe it's because the symbolism of a new beginning means more to me than the end of the year before.

It's not always an easy thing to embrace the unknown but each year that's the perspective I choose to take, one that looks forward to the possibilities of what is to come.

I wish you a good new year. Yes, it will be filled with both happiness and sadness because that's just how life is. But I hope you find more fulfillment and contentment because (imho) that's really what matters most. And here's a hint: They're not the things that money can buy. They're all about how you look at the world and how you prioritize your own worth and self. If you make your own evolution a priority you will become a stronger person who can deal with all that is coming your way (the good and the bad) with dignity, grace, appreciation, and empathy for yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you.

*Mochi is very chewy, so if you ever try to make this dish only take very small bites and chew very well. Each year people in Japan choke to death, usually the elderly or the very young because they aren't able to chew as well :( I use my hashi (chopsticks) to tear very small bites from the mochi cake. Toasting also makes it a bit safer as the toasted exterior becomes crunchy instead of chewy.