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Momiji Tempura for #UnearthedParty #sponsor

This sponsored post is written by me in conjunction with the The Book Club Cookbook
of their new food blogger party feature. All opinions are my own.

There is a new food blogger party feature on The Book Club Cookbook website and I'm excited to be part of the inaugural event. The first title Unearthed: Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden by Alexandra Risen.* You can check out details about the #UnearthedParty: here.

On the Page...
Unearthed: Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden by Alexandra Risen is a memoir whose events are bookended by the deaths of her father, at the beginning, and her mother, at the end. After her father dies, Risen and her family purchase a home in Toronto that has a garden that's been long forgotten. When they first look at the home, Risen writes...

"It's a complete mess," I say. I love it. Could I finally put all my gardening books to use? I've collected hundreds from bookstore sale bins. From bulbs to grasses to trees, I have the perfect manual. I read them for pleasure like I read my cooking magazines, which are full of aspirational recipes that I'm never actually going to prepare.

The book is a tale of discovery. Risen discovers surprises at every turn as she renovates the garden. In the chapter titled "Cattails" Risen's husband, Cam, warns their son, Max, about future meals from the garden.

"Mom keeps finding weird plants for us to eat down there," says Cam, "We better look out, buddy."

"It's called foraging," I say. "It means searching for food in the wild."

"Like animals do?"

"Exactly. We're animals." ...

"Your mother is going to make us eat weeds," Cam says.

As different plants jog her memories of her parents and she sifts through a box of old documents, Risen uncovers truths about her family's history - how they immigrated from the Ukraine and how they forged a new life for themselves. She grows to accept the childhood that she had and to let go of some of the resentment she harbored that her parents were not like her friends' parents. She shares...

I'm reliving moments of my  youth, as scenes play through my dreams: My parents. Fighting. Silent meals. Their friends singing melancholy tunes. Their need to stay together. The way they took care of each other in their last years, alone in the house and hiding their frailty. The row of gravestones.

My research has made me wiser, and the wisdom has brought heartache.

I'll be honest: the narrative was not riveting as I had hoped. It's well-written, no doubt, but I longed to be compelled off the couch and into the garden.  While Risen is clearly an accomplished gardener, I wanted her words to convey more of a passion for the plants versus just knowledge of them.

Throughout the memoir, Risen shares recipes for foods such as Japanese Knotweed Crumble, Cattail Fried Rice, and Mulberry Granita. She also shares recipes for Lily of the Valley Potpourri, Smudge Sticks, and Dried Acorns. Now the recipes I found intriguing and inspiring! If I can get my hands on some of the new-to-me ingredients - what are serviceberries?!? - I will definitely give all of her recipes a try.
Recipes and Foraging Guides excerpted from UNEARTHED, © 2016 by Alexandra Risen. 
Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

On the Plate...
At the bottom of this post, there are some good practices for foraging; keep these in mind if you're sourcing your ingredients in the wild.

When I was at one of my best friend's house for brunch, I noticed a Japanese maple tree near her front door. I snapped a photo and asked if I could have some of the leaves. I'm not sure she knew I was going to cook them, but a few days later she dropped the leaves off, rinsed and stored between moist paper towels.

While Risen uses maple syrup for her recipe - because she's lucky enough to have sugar maples in her garden - I substituted ginger syrup in my version. I'm lucky enough have a local-to-me company that keeps my pantry stocked with all things ginger. But I am jealous of her maple syrup.

Before I share the recipe I have an amusing story about this dinner. One of my good friends conveyed a conversation she had with her kids that same evening. I think we all argue with our kids about food at one point or another, right? This exchange had me chuckling, though I am sure she was frustrated.

Daughter: Can I get a snack?

Mother: (to both kids) Yes, and by the way, before you criticize my cooking again, you should know that D- and R- had deep fried leaves for dinner.

Son: That's all they had?

Mother: No, probably not, but I think it was the main course.

Son: I bet they tasted yummy.

Mother: I'm sure they did, and you're welcome to eat at Camilla's from now on!

And if it's any consolation, to her, my kids did ask me, incredulously, "Are these leaves?" 

Yes. Now eat your dinner!
Momiji Tempura
slightly adapted from Unearthed

In addition to swapping out maple syrup for ginger syrup, I made my own tempura batter with rice flour and sparkling water. Also, I didn't have white sesame seeds, so I used furikake as a garnish; furikake is a Japanese seasoning made up of toasted sesame seeds and bits of dried seaweed.

Ingredients serves 4 as an appetizer
  • 1 C rice flour
  • 1 T organic corn starch
  • 1-1/2 C sparkling water
  • 20 fresh red Japanese maple leaves
  • maple syrup or ginger syrup
  • canola oil for frying
  • furikake

Clean maple leaves thoroughly with a moist towel. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the rice flour, corn starch, and sparkling water to create an airy batter. Do not overmix; the batter will be slightly lumpy.

Preheat oil in a pan. The oil has reached the correct temperature when a small drop of batter sizzles and floats.

Pour ginger syrup in a shallow dish. Use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of syrup on each leaf. Or you can simply dip the leaves in the syrup.

Lightly dip leaves in batter and fry immediately until golden brown.

Drain on a rack or on paper towels. Sprinkle with furikake while hot. Serve immediately.

Later this month, I'll be sharing Risen's recipe for Evergreen Tisane as well as her recipe for Seaweed Salad and hosting a giveaway for the book. You won't want to miss those! Please, stay tuned.

Foraging Guidelines
  • Avoid areas where you know pesticides are used. Be careful of major roadsides, industrial areas, or areas where heavy chemical use may occur.
  • If you are prone to allergies, be careful. Have appropriate medical supplies with you.
  • You may want to test plants by rubbing on your skin before picking. If in doubt, don’t pick at all.
  • Learn to identify plants. Before handling any plants and using them in the recipes and crafts in this book, consult a reputable guide for safely identifying plants.
  • Respect endangered species in your area. It is illegal to pick them.
  • Pick only what you need, and protect the roots of plants.
  • If you are washing leaves, add a teaspoonful of white vinegar or lemon juice to a large bowl and let them soak a few minutes before rinsing. Pat dry with paper towels.
  • Some plant parts are edible, some are not. Sometimes the season affects what part of a plant is edible.
  • Some plants are poisonous. There are also some look-alike plants. It is important to be aware of these.

Find Houghton Mifflin Harcourt here...
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Find Alexandra Risen 

*Disclosure: I did receive a complimentary, advance reading copy of Unearthed: Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden by Alexandra Risen for my participation in the #UnearthedParty as well as an opportunity to give a copy away. Opinions are my own. I received no further compensation for this post.


  1. Another thing I would have liked to see I. The Memoir was photos. I think it would have made the story more "real"

  2. Hi Camilla! Thank you for the lovely recipe interpretation! I love the use of ginger syrup - it's perfect - and thank you for educating me about furikake! I can't wait to use it. Great anecdote about the conversation with the children. Hilarious!

    (Wendy, sorry there were no photos in the advance reading copy, as it is an expensive proposition for the publisher. Photos are in the final released version.)

    1. Oh, I see and I completely understand. I may have to pick up a released copy from the library when they get it so I can see the photos. I like to compare as to how I imagine things to be.


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