Last year, in a nor’easter (winter hurricane) we lost the 30 year old cherry tree that formed a canopy over our deck and was the foundation of our hanami celebrations. Although we immediately replaced the destroyed tree with a new one it is “just a kid” (only about 7 feet tall). Although it is blooming it’s little heart out it has some serious growing to do before it replaces the gap left by the tree that was destroyed. Luckily we have two other cherry trees which were growing on the property when we moved in. Some years all the cherry trees sing as a chorus; blooming all at the same time. At the other extreme, some years they perform sequential solos. This year the small native cherry tree bloomed first. Last weekend, it was in it’s full glory. Then the “kid” joined in for a duet. We are waiting to see when the last, oldest tree, will decide to make its voice heard.
The cherry tree blossoms were accompanied by the vibrant pink of our plum tree. It usually blooms much earlier sometimes even in February. We actually have pictures from previous years of the blossoms covered in snow. Between the cherry trees and the plum tree we decided there were enough pink blossoms around for us to have our first hanami 花見 or cherry (cum plum) blossom gazing.
So, our hanami appetizers for the evening are shown below. I served 5 appetizers in a 5 well rectangular plate. All except for the asparagus spears with sesame dressing アスパラの胡麻よごし are store bought. I added two more plates of appetizers rounding out the 5 to 7. My wife chose pink sake cups for both of us to commemorate the cherry blossoms.
The first two dishes are our usual ika-shiokara イカの塩辛 and ika-mentai いか明太子.
For the dishes shown below I blanched the asparagus and served only the tips for this dish. The sesame dressing was made using white sesame paste (from the pouch) and grated roasted sesame seeds, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar. On the right is “spicy baby clams” which I bought in a plastic container from our Japanese grocery store. It is sort of Chinese flavor with rings of red “togarashi” red pepper and wakame (the root portion). It was quite good and not too spicy if you avoid the red pepper.
The last dish shown here (on the right) is Chinese-style squid salad which also came in a plastic container. All these small dishes were perfect for sake.
I also served my dashi-maki Japanese omelet だし巻き卵, Campari tomato, blanched broccoli and braised cauliflower.
The last dish is boiled octopus leg thinly sliced with su-miso dressing 酢味噌, thinly sliced and salted cucumber and topped with “ikura” salmon roe.
These were just enough appetizers to honor the first hanami of the year accompanied by sips of cold sake.