I took this photo last summer of the shiso that grows in our backyard. Years ago, a potted plant of shiso had flowered and spread its seeds, and so each spring I find tiny sprouts growing in the yard. Because I love shiso so much, I pluck up the sprouts and replant them in my herb garden. Shiso is a uniquely flavorful herb that is difficult to describe. It has an intense flavor similar to anise but with a cinnamon kick that tickles your nose. I think it tastes best eaten fresh, and is excellent paired with fish, or vegetables, or chopped fine in a chiffonade and spread over pasta or tofu. It is so popular in Japan that in the summer of 2009, Pepsi Japan released a new seasonal flavored beverage, Pepsi Shiso. Shiso (its scientific name is Perilla), is also known by its more common names of beefsteak plant or ooba. Perilla seeds form an essential part of the famous “shichimi” seven spices of Japan , which originated more than 300 years ago in Kyoto. I am so smitten with this lively herb that I named one of my kitties Shiso, who sadly, passed on over the weekend. This is the only baby picture I have of her, she was awfully cute; a tiny fuzzball that loved frolicing and playing.
She grew up to be a long haired beauty with fire trimmed raven tresses and a mysterious allure.
And she had such a soulful gaze, you know how it is when a cat is trying to glamor you…
Green perilla leaves are often wrapped around sushi or served with “sashimi” as a garnish. Shiso and tuna is a classic combination and when my little girl was suffering, tuna was one thing that she would respond to. I had a stack of canned American Tuna that I ordered from Open Sky in the pantry. Not to knock Open Sky, but you can get a better price shopping directly from the American Tuna website. It is a small family business, based in San Diego, CA and their product is 100% pole caught — a sustainable fishing method.
ooh did someone say tuna?
Just look at this gorgeous hunk of sashimi grade albacore tuna, it is made from the loin, hand filleted and hand packed. You can tell that the contents are made from a single filet. The small (12-25 pound) albacore used are very low in mercury levels, making their tuna exceptionally safe to eat, which is important, especially when feeding a sick cat or its anxious caretaker.
I drained all of the precious liquid and mashed it up with a bit of the filet, which made a restorative elixir for my ailing girl. After that, it took a bit of work to break up the remaining filet, but it makes a gorgeous mound of tuna that is infinitely more flavorful and fresh tasting than chicken of the sea.
I made a rather grand tuna sandwich for Mr. K and me. Simply made with vegennaise, chopped red onion and capers, it is fabulous with shiso leaves tucked in with the lettuce…
Mmmmm, delicious… a very special sandwich indeed!
Shiso is in our heart and thoughts, we’ll think of you every summer when the garden is in bloom…