Kinpira, a dish utilizing a combination of saute, steam and simmer, perfectly illustrates how the same cooking technique can be tailored for warmer or cooler weather.
In cooler weather, we need more warming dishes. When a dish cooks for longer on the stove or in the oven, it gathers more heat. If you cut vegetables in larger pieces, they take longer to cook, and the dish ends up having a more warming and strengthening effect.
A classic kinpira has carrot and burdock root. However, burdock is a very dense, strong root vegetable, more appropriate for the cooler seasons. In the warmer months, we can choose lighter, seasonal vegetables in our dishes. Here is a lighter version of kinpira, quickly cooked, with onion.
I would have used turnips because they are a bit more yin and less dense than the rutabaga, but we didn’t have any. Use the lovely fresh, small turnips at the farmers market if you can find them. For the order of adding vegetables, if you use turnip add them after the carrot. If using rutabaga, add before the carrot. Rutabaga takes a little longer to cook.
Other vegetables that would be lovely in this dish are red radishes and golden beets. Add a little ginger juice at the end for a delicious variation.
I use sesame oil for this recipe because I like the flavor. If you prefer a high heat oil, I tend to choose either grapeseed or refined coconut.
Summer Style Kinpira
1 small onion (a sweet onion is nice),sliced in thin half moons
1 carrot, sliced into thin matchstick, about 1/8″ thick
2 small turnips or 1 small rutabaga, sliced into thin matchstick, about 1/8″ thick
shoyu or gluten-free tamari
toasted sesame seeds
1. Heat a medium size cast iron (or stainless steel) skillet, on medium heat. Add a few teaspoons of oil as soon as the skillet gets hot to touch.
2. Add the onions when they sizzle gently in the pan and a small pinch of sea salt. Saute, moving the onion constantly, until it starts getting soft. Push the onion to the outer edge of the skillet.
3. Add the carrot in the middle of the skillet, with another small pinch of sea salt. Saute for a few moments, then add in the onion. Saute constantly again for a minute or two. Push the onion and carrot to the edge of the skillet.
4. Add the turnip or rutabaga to the center of the skillet. Saute for a few moments, then add the onion and carrots in. Keep sauteing, moving the vegetables constantly for a few more minutes. Add a little more oil at any point if vegetables seem to be getting dry.
5. Push all vegetables into a mound in the middle of the skillet. Add a few tablespoons of water along the side. Bring to a simmer. Cover and lower the heat to simmer gently.
6. Let cook for 5 minutes, or a little longer, depending on how thinly the vegetables are cut. Remove cover, add about 1 tsp of shoyu, or to taste, and let cook for 5 more minutes. Adjust these times as needed so your vegetables don’t get overcooked.
7. Remove from heat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds right before serving.