Friday morning I woke up and pulled my amazake ferment out of the fridge, blended it with a bit of water and heated some with cinnamon and ginger. Yum! What a great start to the day. For those not familiar with amazake, it is traditionally a sweet fermented rice drink, but can be made with other grains and used in different ways as the base for sake and miso or even as a sweetener! There is a line of amazake drinks made by a company called Grainassance which you may have seen at your local co-op or health food store. But to make amazake at home, you’ve got to start with koji
Koji is rice that has been cultured with a specific mold spore that helps to break down the cooked rice or grains you add it to. It requires some specific temperatures to incubate successfully as well as some stirring and tasting throughout the process, so it’s a good idea to make amazake on a day you’ll mostly be at home. The basic process is to add koji to some freshly cooked rice, cover and maintain the temperature at about 140F for about 6 to 9 hours (I used a water bath in my dehydrator). You stir it occasionally and begin tasting around the 6 hour mark; you’re looking for a sweet taste and pudding-like texture. When it has reached the desired sweetness you have to cook the ferment for a few minutes to stop the fermentation, then it’s ready to be eaten or stored in the fridge or freezer. What once began as a simple and distinct particulate bowl of brown rice and koji ends up as a thick rice pudding with a delicate sweet flavor (without any sugar added!). Along the lines of this:
So far I’ve eaten it straight up or blended into various drinks, but I plan quite soon on using it as a sugar substitute for some morning muffins; while less sweet than using more traditional sweeteners, it also helps to make baked goods moist, which is especially desirable with gluten-free stuff. Hooray!
Getting to know my Friday night work shift a little better and knowing that a real break with real food isn’t usually in the cards for me, I decided to fix myself a tasty meal to keep my energy up so I wouldn’t be tempted to get something caffeinated. And, boy, did I make the right choice (hooray for people calling in sick! ::sarcasm::) when I filled up on a simple soup and a slightly fancy salad.
The soup is an old standby that’s so easy and cheap to make it’s a wonder I don’t do it more often, and really isn’t fancy enough for a written recipe. I saute an onion and sometimes some garlic in a splash of olive oil until beginning to brown, then add chopped green cabbage and carrots and saute it some more until the veggies begin to soften. Cover it by an inch or so of veggie stock and simmer the whole pot until the veggies are soft, then blend with an immersion blender (or carefully in a regular blender). I season it with salt, white pepper, and a bit of nutmeg to taste and reheat it on the stove if I need to. It’s really good all year round because it’s warm and “creamy” enough for colder months, and light and fresh enough for the warmer months, especially when you add some fresh herbs like chives or parsley.
Salad was a tasty mix of peppery arugula, tart green apple slices, raw walnuts, and chopped dried figs drizzled with balsamic reduction. I wonder why I don’t eat combinations like this more often – so good! In fact, I ate it again with dinner tonight.
I’m excited to welcome my girlfriend back on Monday, so I’m busy this weekend re-tidying the house and plotting some sunchoke risotto and roasted portobellas for her return dinner. And making amazake muffins, of course! Have a great weekend, everyone <3