Quick daikon pickle
(adapted from Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji)

Get home from work, look through mail, put junk mail in the recycling bag in the kitchen. Open fridge door thinking about what to make for dinner. Look through your vegetable bins. Push aside the funky lettuce and take out the daikons you bought at Whole Foods (when was that? two Wednesdays ago? Tuesday? Yes, when Wendy loaned you her car). Remember how you stood in front of the leafy-spiky wall of misted vegetables associating three medium-sized daikons with living in Japan—the first time was 1990 to 1992—when you met Carlos, when you met contentment. That night in Whole Foods you bought daikons to prolong your nostalgia. And perhaps to make a nice braised side dish.

Quick daikon pickle
Photo: Making quick daikon salt pickle—the one-hour press.

Take out Japanese mandolin (French-style would work fine, but you aren’t going to shell out the cash for one of those huge metal contraptions they sell at Williams-Sonoma—what a rip). Peel and slice the daikons fairly thinly, but not paper thin. Consult recipe in Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art for “Quick Turnip Pickle” looking for the correct ratio of vegetable to salt. Say aloud, “For fuck’s sake how much do ’12 medium turnips’ weigh?” Guess how much salt to sprinkle on the sliced daikon because the five tablespoons salt in the recipe is way too much. Add three heaping teaspoons kosher salt thinking daikons require much less salt than turnips.

Gently knead the salt and daikon slices until well mixed. Let the daikon sit a few minutes. Stare out window at bird feeder in backyard. See male cardinal eating seeds, his salmon-pink body so delightful you feel a rush of elation. Dump the daikon slices in a colander and press out as much liquid as you can. Squeeze hard. Take out a lemon and some kombu (dried kelp) that you bought at the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo last summer. Is this ma kombu or rishiri kombu? Can’t remember. The package has “kombu” handwritten (in kanji) with a permanent marker, the scribble of a busy merchant. Wonder how long kombu keeps. Cut off about four square inches of kombu and cut into four pieces. Peel three or four large strips of zest from the lemon. Mix lemon zest and kombu with the pressed out daikon, place in a bowl, cover with another bowl, and weigh it down with two 28-oz. cans of San Marzano tomatoes bought at the commissary on Fort Myer—must remember to reserve a ZipCar for Monday to go to your medical appointment. You should stop at the commissary and the exchange on the way home.

Wait an hour, give or take hanging a load of laundry on the rack in the back room and starting some rice in the rice cooker that you bought in Japan back in 1990. That rice cooker astounds you with its faithful service after all these years and household moves. Remove kombu from daikon, fluff slices with your fingers and serve. Your husband says, “Oooh it smells just like real Japanese pickles.” Take photo for blog. Eat some now, store rest in fridge for a week (or whenever you find the jar in the back of the fridge).

Quick daikon pickle
Photo: Quick daikon pickle.

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