I was recently invited to enter the East Meets Delicious Recipe Challenge sponsored by Marx Foods. I love the products from Marx Foods and I love a good challenge, so I was quite happy to participate.

I was sent a small box with samples of Adzuki Beans, Dried Maitake Mushrooms, Mochi Rice, Dried Star Fruit, Organic Millet, and Hijiki, and was asked to make two original recipes using at least four of the ingredients. One recipe had to be an appetizer; the other had to be a main course. Here’s what I came up with.

For the appetizer, I decided to use the hijiki and the maitake mushrooms. I chose this combination because 1. I love cooking with seaweeds and hijiki, with it’s detoxing properties, benefits for the thyroid gland, and extraordinary amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium, is definitely my favorite 2. I adore mushrooms, but I’ve never cooked with maitakes; they are chock full of fiber and immune-enhancing nutrients.

I decided to do a riff on a fairly traditional Japanese preparation- braised hijiki with carrots- and added the maitakes and some kale, along with an Asian dressing. This is an extremely healthy and satisfying dish, one I can’t wait to make again.

For the main course, I decided to use the millet and the dried star fruit, along with a generous amount of fresh mint and a smattering of feta, and created a slightly unusual (though really delicious) salad. Millet is a wonderful grain: gluten-free, and easily digested, and the starfruit adds a nice sweet component to this salad. If you can’t find the starfruit, you can substitute another type of dried fruit, or use pomegranate seeds instead.

I topped servings of this with eggs (from my own chickens) gently cooked in coconut oil; this meal is not just extremely tasty, it’s also gluten-free and vegetarian.

Recipes for Braised Hijiki with Maitake Mushrooms and Millet Salad with Mint, Feta, and Dried Starfruit

Ingredients:

For the Braised Hijiki with Maitake Mushrooms:

*1/2 cup hijiki seaweed, soaked in a 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes
*1/2 cup dried maitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup warm water for 30 minutes
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*1 onion, peeled and diced
*2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
*2 organic carrots, sliced into small "circles" (cut the larger slices in half)
*1 handful shredded organic kale
*2 teaspoons tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
*2 teaspoons brown rice vinegar
*2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
*1 teaspoon mirin (Japanese rice wine)-optional

For the Millet Salad:

*2 cups cooked and cooled millet (to cook the millet: add 1 cup rinsed and drained millet to 3 cups boiling water to which you've added 1 teaspoon sea salt. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the water has all been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to stand, covered, for another 10 minutes. Transfer to a larger bowl to cool before using in the salad; you will have some leftover which can be used for another purpose)
*1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped fine (about 1/2 cup)
*1 head California endive, chopped
*1/4 cup chopped dried starfruit
*2 tablespoons raw or toasted pine nuts
*2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
*2 tablespoons olive oil
*juice of 1 orange (blood orange is nice)
*1 teaspoon capers
*1 garlic clove, minced
*4 eggs cooked sunny side up in 1-2 tablespoons organic coconut or butter - for serving (optional)
*freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

For the Braised Hijiki with Maitake Mushrooms:

1. Drain hijiki and maitake mushrooms, reserving the soaking waters in a small bowl. Chop mushrooms into bite-size pieces.

2. Heat olive oil in large (preferably cast-iron) skillet and add the onion. Cook for several minutes over medium heat until the onions are starting to brown, then add the garlic, sliced carrot, hijiki and the maitake mushrooms. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved soaking water to the pan (if you don't have enough, supplement with plain water), and turn the heat down to a simmer.

3. Cover skillet and cook for 30-35 minutes, until the carrots are quite tender (you can add additional soaking water or plain water to the pan if it seems dry while cooking). Add shredded kale and cook for another 5 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and add the tamari, brown rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil, and mirin. Mix well, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary, and serve.

For the Millet Salad:

1. In a medium bowl, combine cooked and cooled millet with chopped mint, endive, dried starfruit, pine nuts and feta cheese.

2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, orange juice, capers, and minced garlic. Pour this over the salad and mix well. Taste and adjust to your liking: feel free to add more feta cheese and/or olive oil, etc., if desired.

3. Serve the salad as is, or transfer portions to individual bowls and top with sunny side up egg(s) and freshly ground pepper.