* Sorry, couldn’t resist. Please feel free to groan.
[A cuppa matcha, pure and straightforward. . . a warm, comforting, health-boosting sip to enjoy daily!]
* * * * For details and to enter the Matcha giveaway, see the end of this post! * * * *
You know, sometimes I actually forget it’s the 21st Century. After all, I’ve spent more of my life before 2000 than since. Yet there’s no doubt that we’ve already lost many 20th Century conventions–handkerchiefs, girdles, bank withdrawal forms. Still, the real changes have all emerged in the realm of communications. When’s the last time you heard of someone receiving a telegram? Or how about rotary telephones–remember how reviled those people were whose numbers contained too many zeroes? And who still writes letters–old-fashioned, pen-and-paper-walk-to-the-mailbox-to-mail-’em letters? They’re more or less obsolete, too.
I do miss letter writing, though. Over the years, I’ve exchanged letters with two devoted correspondents: one was my revered mentor, John Ditsky, whose missives seemed to arrive at my home practically before I’d returned from the mailbox to deposit my own letters to him. The other is my Japanese penpal, Masayo, whom I’ve known since we were both twelve years old.
Back in sixth grade, my school received letters from six Japanese girls seeking Canadian penpals. Ever the nerd (and always interested in writing), I responded to all six. Over the next year, all but one dropped away, and we continued to correspond, at the rate of 2-3 letters per month, for the next 30 years or so.
When we were about 18, Masayo wrote to tell me she had planned a summer vacation in Canada. Of course, I immediately invited her to stay for as long as she liked with me and my family in Montreal (fortunately, this was okay with my parents, too). She was landing in Vancouver on July 12, she wrote back, and would I be so kind as to pick her up at the airport? (for the non-Canadians among you, that’s tantamount to asking someone in New York City to pop over and pick you up at the airport in Los Angeles).
I explained that distances in North America were, perhaps, a tad greater than those on the islands of Japan. Astonished at the possibility, Mako nevertheless arranged for a second flight to Montreal.
[Matcha-Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles: a perfect healthy indulgence!]
On the eve of her arrival, I waited anxiously at the airport with my dad for the plane to disembark. Over the years, of course, I’d seen innumerable photos of Masayo and felt fairly confident I could recognize her in a crowd. My eyes trained on the exit stairs attached to the airplane, I’d stare with steely eyed intensity each time a petite, dark-haired woman emerged from the doors, only to be disappointed as she passed by.
Finally, I heard what seemed like a tiny, disembodied voice calling from somewhere above my field of vision. From within the throng of passengers there stood before me a petite young girl with a mop of wavy black hair, perfectly coiffed in the ultra-hip shag haircut of the day. She wore black Calvin Klein jeans and a screamingly vibrant Hawaiian shirt. As she glided toward us, her dainty feet seemingly floating along the stairs, she called out in her delicate, excited falsetto: “Ricki! It’s Masayo! Ricki!”
We hugged and immediately began to chatter as if we’d known each other our whole lives: How was Vancouver? How was the trip? Do you live far from here? How do you like Canada? Is everything here so big? Is all of Canada this beautiful? I love your shirt! I love yours, too! We continued the gabfest until well past 2:00 AM the next morning, giggling and squealing as we confirmed, in person, a friendship we’d established on paper over the previous six years.
The next day, I knocked on Mako’s door. What followed was a classic ”Who’s on First” exchange.
Me: [knocking on door]: Mako?
Me: Hi, good morning! Is it okay to come in?
Me: Er, hi. Did I wake you?
Me: Sorry. Is it okay if I open the door?
Me: Hi. Should I wait for you to get dressed?
Me: Okay. So should I meet you upstairs?
Me: [at a loss] Hi. . .
What I hadn’t realized, you see, was that Mako might still be suffering from jet lag, and too sleepy to remember to translate Japanese into English. And I didn’t know at the time that ”Hai” (sounding like “hi”) in Japanese means “yes” while “Eee-ya” (resembling “yeah”) means “No.”
The trip was, truly, a once in a lifetime experience, and we forged a bond that has lasted until this day. I was thrilled to discover that Mako was witty, upbeat, silly, smart, hip, and fun to be with–all the qualities I loved in my closest friends. She was also incredibly generous, toting a huge sack of gifts for everyone in the family.
[Frozen Matcha Latte--so simple, and so refreshing.]
I was given a purple and indigo kimono (which she helped me to tie in the traditional manner–so much excess cloth!) and a beautiful, delicate and hand-painted porcelain tea set along with a cannister of Japanese tea. I’d never seen tea like that before, light and loose and intensely green. Mako explained that this tea had amazing medicinal properties and that she was wont to drink an entire teapot of the stuff herself in an evening. The first time I brewed the tea for myself, I was surprised anew at how green it was, like a freshly mown lawn in summer. Eventually, I grew to appreciate the slightly bitter, astringent flavor of the matcha, and, before I knew it, the cannister was empty. And while I continued to use the tea service for years afterward (I searched, in vain, to find it for this post; sadly, it is buried under some of the other 57 boxes still unpacked in our basement), I never did buy more Japanese green tea.
This past week, I returned on a wave of sensory memory to that long-ago summer of Masayo’s visit. After receiving a sample pack of tea from Matcha Source, I’ve been once again imbibing the green stuff, as well as cooking with it. I love it as much as I did back then–and this time, I vowed, I won’t let three decades elapse before I buy more!
Pleased with the opportunity to play with some matcha recipes, I decided to use the tea for more than a simple brew (though I do adore the tea on its own). Here’s what I came up with.
If you’ve never experienced matcha green tea before, now’s your opportunity to try it!
Enter the giveaway to win some matcha and a stunning tea kit, by clicking here. And whether you win or not, do give these recipes a try!
Matcha-Bittersweet Chocolate Truffles (based on the Matcha Source Recipe)–and ACD-friendly version
A perfect treat for any chocolate lovers. The pairing of deep, dark bittersweet chocolate and slightly bitter, umami matcha is, unequivocally, one of the most heavenly taste combinations I’ve ever savored. Feel free to adjust the sweetness to your taste–these are deliberately just barely sweet.
1 cup (240 ml) full fat coconut milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Sucanat (optional)
12 ounces (340 g) good quality bittersweet chocolate (I used 70% cocoa)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) matcha powder, plus more for dusting
pinch fine sea salt
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, place the coconut milk, maple syrup, Sucanat (if using), chocolate, 1 Tbsp (15 ml) matcha powder, and sea salt. Cook over lowest heat possible, stirring constantly, until chocolate is almost completely melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Add vanilla and stir to blend well.
Pour the mixture into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until just solid enough to hold its shape. Using a small scoop or teaspoon, roll mounds of dough into balls and place on a plate covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until solid.
Just before serving, sift a bit more matcha powder over the tops. Makes 30-40 truffles. Will keep, covered in the refrigerator, up to 5 days (good luck keeping them that long!).
ACD-Friendly Matcha Chocolate Truffles
10-1/2 ounces (300 g) chopped unsweetened chocolate (I used Cocoa Camino)
3/4 cup (180 ml) full fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp (15 ml) matcha powder
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
10-20 drops stevia liquid, to taste
Matcha powder, for dusting
In a small, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the chocolate, coconut milk, matcha powder, and salt over lowest heat possible until most of the chocolate is melted. Remove from heat, add the vanilla and stevia, and stir until all the chocolate melts and mixture is perfectly smooth. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature, then chill until set.
Using a small scoop or teaspoon, roll the mixture into balls (it will begin to melt on your hands). Once rolled, dust the truffles with additional matcha. Chill until ready to serve. Will keep, covered, in refrigerator up to 5 days. Makes 12-20 truffles.
Cool Summer Matcha Latte
adapted from a recipe at About.com
A most refreshing drink for those hot summer days (or, in my case, autumn mornings when you want something invigorating).
1 cup (240 ml) cold unsweetened soy or almond milk
1 cup (240 ml) ice cubes (7-8 cubes)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) warm water
1 Tbsp (15 ml) light agave nectar or 5-8 drops stevia liquid
1 tsp (5 ml) food-grade matcha powder
Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until the ice is completely incorporated. (If your blender isn’t strong enough to pulverize all the ice, then strain the mixture through a sieve before drinking). Pour into serving glasses and enjoy immediately. Makes 2 servings.
If you’ve never experienced matcha green tea before, now’s your opportunity to try it!
Enter the giveaway to win some matcha and a stunning tea kit, by clicking here.
Last Year at this Time: Gastronomic Gifts I: Fudge Two Ways
© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs