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Lockdown lessons and recipes from Miica’s “Bio Labo House”

One of the first friends my husband Julien and I made after moving to Tokyo was the caring and creative Miica Fran. After meeting her at our coworking space, she invited us to her first pop-up restaurant called “Eat Provence” — an intimate series inspired by the slow food and cozy lifestyle of her experience in the southeast region of France.

That was almost three years ago. Miica has since traveled throughout Europe to research how to have a zero-waste kitchen and she now hosts her own experimental zero-waste kitchen “Bio Labo House” at the charming bar aVin in Meguro-ku. 

This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miica for a story in The Japan Times and sharing the steps she and her community are taking to reduce kitchen waste, such as harvesting “imperfect produce” directly from local farms, using reusable boxes and bags instead of plastic, trying to use as much of a plant or animal as possible, composting, upcycling with Swell Plastic, and saving onion skins to make natural plant dyes with the local artist Emiko Hasegawa

A large source of food waste is also, of course, the food left on our plates, but this has never been a problem when Miica cooks because her food is so flavorsome!

As was the case this past winter when Miica and I hosted our second installment of We are Wabi-sabi — a series of gatherings where we explore the meaning of the Japanese concept of “wabi-sabi” — the beauty of things imperfect, transient, and incomplete — while enjoying a gorgeous meal made with beautifully imperfect produce, or what we lovingly call “wabi-sabi veggies.”

Miica’s menu was a medley of healthy and hearty French-inspired cuisine with organic Japanese ingredients: kale, walnut and golden raisin salad; steamed radish and radish leaves; carrots with soy milk dip; soy milk cream pasta with hemp seeds; a Lyonnais cassoulet made with tomatoes, beans and bacon, and a perfectly baked tart amandine for dessert.

As we know, this was before the coronavirus crisis and our city’s shutdowns. We might miss these social gatherings — food brings us all together after all — but staying at home doesn’t mean we can’t eat well. One silver-lining to this lockdown is how it can make home feel more like a laboratory for deeply experimenting with tasty recipes, as well as tricks for reducing waste.

As such, I asked Miica if I could share with all of you her recipes for the famous Lyonnais cassoulet and the almond tart that she prepared at “We are Wabi-Sabi.” We chose these dishes because they’re adaptable and easy to rustle up with common pantry staples, such as beans, canned tomatoes, herbs, flour and nuts. Traditionally, cassoulet is prepared with pork, but meat can easily be left out to be vegetarian while still flowing with umami flavor. So, next time you feel like experimenting in your home kitchen laboratory, get cozy with Miica’s cassoulet and almond tart!

So, next time you feel like experimenting in your home kitchen laboratory, try getting cozy with Miica’s cassoulet!

Miica’s Recipe for Cassoulet

Ingredients (for 4 people):
Organic dry white lupini beans 150g 
(or any beans you happen to have at home)
200g Pork shoulder loin (or boneless pork rib)
250g bacon
(you can leave out meat for a vegetarian version)
1 organic onion
1 carrot
2 tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
4 sprigs thyme 
2 sprigs rosemary 
1 bay leaf 
extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
black or white pepper to taste
red pepper to taste
1/3 cup bread crumbs (without additives)

Method:
1. Soak the white beans overnight.
2. Boil the beans for about 30 minutes on low heat until beans get soft.
3. Season pork with salt and pepper and cut into 3cm-wide pieces.
4. Cut the bacon into bite-size pieces.
5. Mince the onions and garlic.
6. Cut the carrots into large pieces.
7. Cut the tomato.
8. Stir fry garlic, onion, tomato and carrot.
9. Add bacon and meat and cook until brown.
10. Mix in boiled beans, broth, stir-fried vegetables, herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper.
11. Put all ingredients in a baking dish and sprinkle bread crumbs on top.
12. Bake it for 20 minutes in an oven at 180 degrees Celsius.

Miica’s Recipe for Almond Tart


Ingredients

For the pastry
150g flour
40g butter
60g cane sugar
1 egg

For the filling
100g almond flour
slivered almonds (adequate amount)
100g butter
2 eggs
100g cane sugar

Method

For the pastry
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. 
2. Mix the butter put in room temperature until it gets creamy.
3. Add sugar in the above and mix it until it looks white.  
4. Gradually add the beaten egg and mix well.
5. Mix in the flour and knead it until it becomes dough.
6. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
7. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin.
8. Place the dough in a 22cm tart tin and lightly prick the pastry all over with a fork.
9. Bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees C.

For the filling
10. Mix the butter with a whisk until smooth.
11. Add sugar and mix well.
12. Add in half of the beaten egg and mix well, then add the other half and mix well.
13. Add almond powder and mix well.

14. Pour the mixture into the tart shape.
15. Sprinkle slivered almonds so it covers the top.
16. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees C.
17. Serve warm or cold and enjoy!

JULIA // Tokyo

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