Wednesday, October 22, 2014

French toast with crushed honey sesame stick crust セサミステックフレンチトースト

We are again on vacation on the Atlantic ocean. One of the challenges cooking here is to make something good with limited resources available. In the past, my wife came up with a savory French toast with hot sauce. This time, she came up with this rather unusual but very successful French toast.  To add some sweetness and crunch, she (actually her sister) crushed honey sesame sticks (which my wife bought as a snack) by banging them with the bottom of the plate in a Ziploc bag. The idea was that the flavors of the honey sesame stick would add both sweet and salty dimensions with some sesame flavor and also a nice crunch. Since we did not have maple syrup, I also made a strawberry sauce. On the side, my wife made plain yogurt mixed with skinned and diced Asian pear. The combination worked very well.


This is not for just the two of us but we had two additional guests.


Egg liquid: Beaten eggs (4) with milk (2 tbs) without sugar or other seasoning.
Honey sesame sticks: coarsely crushed.
Bread: This one was labeled as "Italian Artisan bread", sliced.

1. Soak bread slices in the egg mixture for 10 minutes to let it absorb.
2. Dredge it in the crushed honey sesame sticks, pressing with your palm to make it adhere.
3. Fry it with melted butter on a non-stick frying pan on medium heat turning once (2-3 minutes each sides)

For strawberry sauce: Wash and remove the petal end and cut it into half or quarter. Add sugar (amount totally to your taste) and mix. After 10-15 minutes, juice/syrup will accumulate on the bottom of the bowl.


Although I was initially skeptical of my wife’s idea of using crushed honey sesame sticks it actually worked.

We were all impressed with how well this one turned out. Subtle sweetness from the honey sesame stick crust and the strawberry sauce was very pleasant and we did not miss the maple syrup. The added crunch was very nice. Again, this dish proved that necessity is the mother of invention.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Grilled Tofu, shiitake mushroom, and rice balls 焼おにぎり、焼しいたけ、焼き豆腐

This is continuation of our ad hoc grilling one fine fall day. These are the ending dishes. After enjoying grilled squid and capelin with roe, we grilled tofu with miso sauce, large thick and meaty fresh shiitake mushrooms with soy sauce and mirin and our usual grilled rice balls.  I prepared the tofu by wrapping it in paper towels, sandwiched it between two plates with a weight on top. I left it in the refrigerator for several hours to remove extra moisture. I probably should have brushed the tofu with oil since it tended to stick to the grill.

After the surface of the tofu developed a nice char mark, I flipped it over and smeared on the miso sauce (mixture of miso, mirin, and sugar  with micro grated zest of lime). After the other side was grilled, I briefly (30 seconds) grilled the side with the miso sauce  and served.

I put the mushrooms gill side down on the grill. After several minutes, I turned them over and added soy sauce and the mirin mixture on the grilled side of the mushroom. Then I added finely chopped scallion. The mushrooms absorbed the sauce adding to the flavor. While we enjoyed the grilled tofu and shiitake mushrooms, as you can see, the rice balls were getting cooked.I grilled the rice balls with all sides and they developed a lovely crunchy crust. I finished it with the miso sauce.

We really enjoyed grilling outside and when we finished, it was completely dark and we were basking in a warm red light of our infrared heater. This was definitely a bonus grilling day which we enjoyed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Grilled Capelin with eggs 樺太シシャモ焼

Shisamo” シシャモ is rather specific to Hokkaido but the vast majority of fish label “shishamo” is actually capelin or Karafto shishamo 樺太シシャモ.  The lovely autumn day we had our impromptu grilled marinated squid, I also grilled shishamo or capelin.

The shishamo which we can get at the Japanese grocery store is usually slightly dried and frozen. Although I could have cooked them in a frying pan or toaster oven, charcoal grilling adds an additional flavor dimension to the fish and is one of favorites.

This is the first time I noticed that the package was honestly labeled as Canadian Caperin with roe or “komochi karafto shishamo” 子持ちからふとししゃも  (see below). There must be a new regulation and enforcement to label the  origin of the food items.

In any case, this capelin with its roe was very good. We served this with a small mound of grated daikon or “daikon oroshi” 大根おろし with soy sauce. This was very good indeed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Grilled marinated squid 炙りイカ

I had a large frozen squid in my freezer and it had been living there for some time。My wife complained it was taking up too much space and it was time to evict it. I decided it wasn’t getting any better with age so I used it one weekend. This squid was identical to the one I used to make “squid rice”. I cleaned the innards and cartilage and removed the dark thin membrane of the skin. I removed the fin (“enpera” えんぺら), separated each tentacles, and cut the body into rings. When I prepared it, I thought I would make fried squid rings (breading with panko bread crumbs and deep fried) but the day turned out to be a nice sunny but cool fall day. We figured the cool weather would keep the mosquitoes relatively inactive. Conditions were perfect for cooking the squid on our small Japanese Yakitori grill. Because the squid was going to be grilled, I marinated it for several hours in an equal mixture of soy sauce and mirin and added grated ginger root.

The picture below shows the squid when it came off the grill. The legs were particularly good, not too chewy.and perfectly cooked.

This was also the first time, I used the Looftlighter to start the charcoals for the Yakitori grill (below). I just made a mound of charcoals in the middle and started the fire. Since I did not have to transfer the lit charcoal from the chimney starter, it was much less dangerous and much easier.

The below are marinated squid parts.

The squid cook rather quickly.

I turned them over after 1 minute or so and the squid rings firmed up and showing nice char marks. Another minute should be enough.

The squid was very good especially with cold sake.It was seasoned enough and not needing any sauce. Probably this was better than the fried squid rings I originally planned. With the help of the infrared heater, we stayed outside after the dark and enjoyed our grill (more items were grilled of course).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sous vide oil poached salmon 冷製スービイサーモン

I have been experimenting with sous vide salmon for a while including the temperature and length of cooking time. The last post of olive oil poached sous vide salmon, I used 135F for 30 minutes. Next time I tried,cooking frozen and vacuum packed salmon at 130F for 1 hour. The result of this attempt was not as good as the first attempt and came out rather dry. This time, using the same type of package for the salmon I defrosted it in the package under running water and stored it in the refrigerator for several hours.  Then I sous vide the thawed salmon for 30 minutes at 130F. This salmon was seasoned with pepper, salt and dried dill and vacuum packed in olive oil so the salmon was essentially oil poached.

This time, it came out very moist. Actually, when I tried to removed the salmon filets from the bag, they were so soft  they started to fall apart.. I briefly seared one side only (it was not possible to flip them over without having them completely disintegrate). We first ate it warm and it was very nice. I did not take any pictures.

The above picture is left over cold salmon served with other vegetables a few days later.  As a cold salmon, it was excellent. The vegetables are
1. Boiled (cold) green beans with sesame dressing.
2. Branched broccoli sautéed in olive oil and garlic dressed with grated Parmesan.
3. Taro Okamoto's cauliflower
4. Wedge of skinned tomato seasoned with smoked sea salt
5. Japanese-style sweet pickled cucumber.

We served salmon cold with a mixture of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt and Dijon mustard. This was rather healthy dish with lots of vegetables. Broccoli cooked with garlic and parmesan cheese went particularly well .

Monday, October 6, 2014

Ricotta Pudding リコタチーズのプデイング

Deserts are not a regular part of  a Japanese meal so I am not a dessert eater. Although I generally don’t eat dessert.  I found a Peanuts cartoon I saw many years ago particularly relevant. In this cartoon Snoopy is lying on his dog house musing “Dogs don’t eat desserts but we like to be asked”.  I concur; I don’t eat desert but I like to be asked. My wife, on the other hand is a dessert devotee. As far as she was concerned, it was a fundamental part of dinner when she was growing up. It was the prototypical parental bribe to get her to clean her plate as in “eat all you dinner or you won’t get desert”.  So even in adulthood, she relates to the expression “life is short eat desert first”.  She also knows that if she wants desert she has to make it herself…although I have been known, when enticed, to eat what she makes. So one evening, she whipped up this pudding. It is actually the filling for a sweet ricotta filled roll which you will see in another post. But it works well as a stand alone.

1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4/tsp vanilla or almond extract
handful of raisins.

This is fairly easy to make. She mixed all the ingredients together (first picture below). She put them into individual ramekins (second and third picture) and then cooked in the toaster over at  350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (fourth picture).

ricotta pudding
This is a lovely light desert. It has a very pleasant texture, mild vanilla flavor and is not too sweet. Perfect for that person who likes to end a meal with a bit of sweet flavor.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Matsutake, chestnuts and tuna sashimi 秋の味覚とマグロの刺身

This time, all the goodies I ordered came at the same time which included matsutake 松茸, Northern American Chestnuts 北米産栗 and tuna 本マグロ, amaebi 甘エビ and uni うに. from Catalina.  I have posted matsutake and chestnut dishes many times before but we can only have these items once a year so I still take delight in their arrival. In addition, on the same day, we received sashimi items from Catalina (the sashimi was scheduled to arrive that day but it just so happened that the other items while not scheduled for delivery arrived the same day). This fortuitous coincidence called for an "akino mikaku" 秋の味覚 or tastes of autumn feast.

I used the fresh matustake from Oregon, by cooking them steamed with sake in a touban grill . We like this way of cooking matustake best (after trying many other dishes). The wafting smell of the matsutake when I remove the dome-shaped lid is the best and one of the pure enjoyments of the experience. I simply served with kosher salt and a wedge of lemon.

I also served a small sashimi of amaebi and uni. The amaebi was very fresh and sweet  (some were still alive when they arrived). The uni was "premium uni" and, to be truthful, not that great. Since I had boiled chestnuts, I also served one.

We also had chestnut rice as shime dish with a miso soup with heads of anaebi.

Here are the matsutake from Oregon mushroom. As you can see they were quite dirty. This time many stalks were left with knife gashes indicating they were not carefully harvested.

Most of instructions for cleaning matsutake indicate that after shaving off the stem ends with embedded dirt as you would if sharpening a pencil, gently rub off the dirt using a wet dish towel. I didn’t  think this would work well. Nothing is worse than biting into sand and dirt when eating matsutake. So after cleaning as above, I use a sharp paring knife and cut off or scraped off the thin surface layers to make sure no sand or dirt remained (see below).

These are the “colossal” chestnuts we received.

I used the chestnuts to make chestnut rice. In previous years I used a mixture of “glutenous” “mochi gome” rice 餅米 and regular short grain rice, this year, I used all imported Koshihikari コシヒカリ rice from Niigata. I cooked it using “Kamadosan” earthenかまどさん pot rice cooker (see below).

For libation, we had junmaishu 純米酒 called “Kurosawa” くろさわ from Kurosawas shuzou 黒澤酒造 in Nagano 長野. This was made by an old process called “Kimoto” 生酛 in which naturally occurring lactic fermentation is used instead of inoculation with lactobacillus. Although, Ginjou and Daiginjou sake are elegant and clean and crisp, sometimes we like to taste a more down-to-earth sake flavor and “Junmai” class is the best bet for this. This one is not overly yeasty (which often happens in this class of sake) and had a slight sweet note with distinctive honey suckle after taste. We really liked it although a bit more acidity may have been better. In any case, sipping Kurosawa with all these autumn tastes, we feel we did justice to the celebration of the arrival of autumn.