Monday, January 14, 2019

New Year's feasting , evening of day 3 正月3日目の夕

On day 3 of the New Year, we are still enjoying the osechi box. Here I show a few of the highlights or our favorites.

This is "ankimo tofu" あん肝豆腐 or "monk fish liver terrine". It has smooth creamy texture bursting with ankimo flavor.

This is new item this year; "Ebo-dai koji-zuke" えぼ鯛麹漬.  "Kabura" white radish and white fish meat (butter fish) marinated in koji 麹 (malted rice). This dish evokes a childhood memory for me of "ii-zushi or izushi" 飯寿司 of Hokkaido where I grew up. It is a dish similar in which koji-rice, vegetable and fish (in Hokkaido, herring, anchovies, and salmon were popular) fermented together. It appears that this is a type of izushi that is a New Year's dish in the Kanazawa 金沢 area called "kabura-zushi" かぶら寿司. In any case, it has a nice gentle sweetness from the koji. The subtle sourness and crunchy vegetable in contrast with the savory and soft fish meat are a great combination.

This is the last of steamed sea urchin. Although fresh raw sea urchin is the best, this is really good in its own right. It was steamed on a sheet of cedar which renders a subtle flavor/smell. Come to think of it, this is a good way to preserve the sea urchin so that it will last through New Year's cerebration.

On the left is miso-marinated (and dehydrated) egg yolk with walnuts. All of these items are perfect with cold sake. We can really get used to this.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Jan 2nd evening 正月2日の夕

Now it is the 2nd day of New Year. The first three days of New Year are called "shogatsu sanga-nichi" 正月三が日 or simply "Sanga-nichi". These days are considered official New Year holidays in Japan. So, since we observe this custom in our household, we continued indulging in the good food from the Sushi Taro osechi. I served several assorted items by placing them in a small hexagonal "juubako" 重箱 container.  Almost all except a few items are from the osechi box.

We also enjoyed head-on shrimp provided in the box. To make them fit on the plate and to make it easier to access the goodies in the head (mostly the liver), I separated the head from the tail. There is nothing delicate about this; the only way to enjoy is to pick it up and suck it out. The shrimp was large and had a nice sweet firm meat. It almost tasted like lobster. Wedges of Meyer lemon also added a bright flavor.

One of the tips to enjoying the osechi box fully is to heat up certain items before serving. Here I heated up the fish in the toaster oven and simmered vegetables in the microwave oven. Heating up these items really makes them more succulent and accentuates the flavor.

The items in the small blue bowl are hachling fish called "Jako arimani" じゃこの有馬煮. They had such a nice flavor (I like to put these on rice). The items in the center are "date maki" omelet and steamed ground white fish meat with matsutake mushroom or "Matsutake shinjo"松茸真蒸 .

This picture shows cod roe wrapped in kelp (bottom left), herring roe with butter fish underneath and white radish in koji 麹 or えぼ鯛麹漬け (top left). More about this in a later post.  On the right in a small light blue bowl are black beans in syrup or "Kuromame" 黒豆 (again, a must-have for New Year).

These were really nice starters.  At this point, we have consumed near 2/3 of the osechi goodies. We have to hurry up to finish it while it is still fresh. (Its a tough task but I think we are up to it.)

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mozzarella cheese mochi マッツレラチーズもち

We used to have "Isobe -maki" grilled mochi (grilled mochi coated with  sugar-soy sauce mixture wrapped with a sheet of nori) for lunch on the second day of New Year but now we (especially my wife) like grilled cheese mochi. This year, we used low-moisture cow-milk Mozzarella cheese (from Whole Foods) and it worked very well. It came out almost like gyoza with wings or "Hane-tsuki gyoza" 羽根つき餃子. The "wings" of this type of gyoza dumpling are made by adding cheese or a thin flour/starch batter that creates the crunchy fringe when cooked. I also served soup and other items for this second-day lunch.

This is double wing version with cheese wings both top and bottom. We had this with a bit of soy sauce. My wife precut her piece into small pieces using a pizza cutter. I posted how to make this before.

The soup is leftover from zoni 雑煮 or new year's day soup. I added more vegetables (shiitake mushroom, snow peas, carrot) but no mochi.

To help digestion, diakon namasu 大根なます (daikon in sweet vinegar) is a must with mochi. As usual, I also added boiled octopus leg and ikura salmon roe.

This small plate has red and white fish cake (with wasabi and soy sauce), date-maki omelet roll (this is one I made), Russian marinated salmon and marinated herring roe.

This was a rather filling lunch because of the mochi (one mochi must be equivalent to, at least a full bowl of rice). The low-moisture mozzarella made a nice crunchy crust which contrasted with the soft texture of cooked mochi.

Friday, January 4, 2019

New Year's day evening with Sushi Taro Osechi 元旦の夕, すし太郎のおせち

We were wondering how long we have been getting Sushi Taro's Osechi box to celebrate New Year. We went back to our blog and it appears we started getting Sushi Taro Osechi on 2012.  In any case, we got the box on the afternoon of New Year's eve and started indulging in its contents the evening of the New Year's day.

We were delighted to see our favorite "karasumi" 唐墨 or "bottarga" or sun-dried mullet roe this year as well (right upper corner) along with the other usual goodies.

This is the second layer. Miso-marinated beef tongue  (right upper corner) is new this year. We like beef tongue but this is quite different from how we prepare it. Another one of our favorites "Monkfish liver terrine" or "ankimo tofu" あん肝豆腐 is peaking out on the right upper corner of the third (bottom) row.

Since I got frozen bluefin tuna sashimi block form Catalina Offshore products last December in preparation for the coming new year, we had some on New Year's eve and finished it New Year's day evening.  The tuna was very good and it was between chu-toro 中とろand ko-toro 小とろ.

On the sashimi plate, we had tuna, steamed sea urchin, karasumi, boiled shrimp (leftover from making ozouni), white and red fish cake, salmon Russian marinade, marinated herring roe (this is one I prepared) and burdock root stuffed with mustard. This year, karasumi was sliced a bit thicker than usual so I grilled it lightly in the toaster oven before enjoying it.

The second small plate had my "Chicken matsu-kaze yaki" 松風焼 (left in the picture below, I used toasted walnuts instead of pine nuts so it is not really "matsu-kaze" or "wind over the pine"). The green vegetable is from the osechi box called "pickled Chishatou" ちしゃとう or celtuce. This is a food item I am not familiar with but it is a stalk of a type of special lettuce. It has a nice crunchy texture. This "Date-maki" egg roll is from the osechi box and the meat behind it is miso marinated beef tongue. It is firmer than I make it but it had a nice beef flavor.

The third small plate had "renkon" lotus root cut in flower-shape dressed in vinegar, marinated (I assume in miso) egg yolk with walnut (another of our favorites), smoke salmon rolled in thinly peeled radish and cumquat in syrup. Behind the renkon is steamed fish cake with matsu-take mushroom or "matsutake shinjou"松茸しんじょう(cut in half).

This is an octopus leg I dressed in mustard miso vinegar タコ足のぶつ切りの芥子酢味噌和え.

We had the same sake (the last bottle) as last year which we brought from Japan two years ago. Jurakudai daiginjou from Kyoto.

We thought these are the starter but after eating these and drinking, both of us were quite full and called it quits. It was a nice evening to start 2019.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Happy New Year 2019 新年御めでとうございます 2019

We had an unexpected break in our blog last year due to some unforeseen events that absorbed most of our attention. As the saying goes, life is what happens when you are planning something else. Hope we can start up and continue the blog again with the start of the new year. Although it is getting repetitious our first post of 2019 starts with our Kagami-mochi 鏡餅 new years decoration and since it is year of the boar; two figurines of boar. We placed this in the"tokono-ma" 床の間 alcove of the small Japanese-style room we call the tea room.

The larger boar is made of fired clay in the form of a bell called "Do-rei" 土鈴 and the small one is carved from wood.

As we are entrenched in our routine, it is very hard to start the morning without coffee and bread. So we had our usual cappuccino and assorted breads for breakfast instead of the traditional new year's soup "Ozou-ni" お雑煮 which we had for lunch. Although, as usual, we got the osechi box from Sushi Taro yesterday, we are not going to touch it until this evening. So the lunch consisted of dishes I made in addition to the soup.

I made this year's ozo-ni slightly differently. For the broth, I combined chicken and kelp/bonito broth and used sous-vide chicken breast. We had dikon, carrott, seasoned freeze-dried tofu ("koya-dofu"高野豆腐), shrimp, shiitake mushroom and snow peas. I precooked the chicken breast (sous vide), shrimp and snow peas separately and added them to the soup at the last moment just to warm them up. I added frozen "Yuzu" 柚子 skin  just before serving.

Although this was a lunch, we had a small cup of symbolic sake for good luck and health.  The sake cups are a gift from our sisiter-in-law in Japan many years ago and made of thinnest porcelain.

These are are the dishes I made for this year (all posted in the "Norio's New Year dishes" tab in the main blog page); salmon kelp roll 鮭の昆布巻き, herring roe in broth 数の子, Russian salmon marinade 鮭のロシア漬け(from left to right in the back), Date-maki omelet 伊達巻 and simmered freeze-dried "ko-ya"  tofu 高野豆腐 (front right to left).

Of course, I had to serve daikon in sweet vinegar or "daikon-namasu" 大根なます with boiled octopus leg and ikura salmon roe いくら.

So we did what we could to make an auspicious start for 2019 and we're looking forward to hitting the Osechi box this evening.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ricotta muffin リコッタチーズマフィン

This is, again, my wife's baking. I may have to change the title of the blog to reflect the fact my wife's baking is more frequently featured. In any case, she baked this from La Brea Pastry cookbook. This is a muffin with fennel flavor stuffed with ricotta cheese/cream filling. It is topped with pecan.

The stuffing got mostly absorbed in the muffin. I asked my wife to take over from here.

for the batter

2 tsp. fennel seeds
2 cups All Purpose Flour and 1 cup +2 Tbs cake flour (or 3 cups AP flour)
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
3/4 cup vegetable oil

for the filling
1/2 cup (4 oz.) ricotta cheese)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. sour cream

for the garnish
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans


Toast the fennel seeds in a pan until slightly brown and fragrant. Cut or crush into fine bits.
In a large bowl add the dry ingredients including the fennel seed. In another bowl mix the yogurt and vegetable oil until blended. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until blended.

For the filling mix the ricotta cheese and sour cream (for a thicker filling just use the ricotta cheese).

Spoon the batter into greased muffin cups to fill about 1/3 full. Spoon the ricotta cheese filling on top #1, then cover with more batter #2.  (It doesn't matter if the filling seeps out the sides, put in a healthy amount). Sprinkle with chopped nuts (#3). (Press the nuts into the batter otherwise they will just fall off after the muffin is cooked.) Cook 20 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven #4 & #5.

The muffin had a nice section of filling #6. I was cautious about adding the filling and I had a lot left over. In retrospect I will be more aggressive in adding the filling and use it all up because I adds a very nice texture and flavor to the muffin.

We are not sure we really like fennel flavor in the muffin. Other spices like cinnamon may work better. For the stuffing, my wife thought straight Ricotta cheese may work better instead of a mixture of cream and Ricotta. In any case, this is a good muffin especially for a breakfast.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Spiced apple with nuts インド風のリンゴのデザート

Among apples we like Fuji apples the best. So when we see them we tend to get them. Some of them stay in our refrigerator for quite sometime. Although apples last for long time, we decided it was time to make room for the new crop apples which should appear in the stores soon. So we used the apples from last year, that were somewhat past their prime to make this spiced cooked apple with nuts.

This comes from an Indian cookbook but my wife reduced the butter and sweetness. She also tamed down the spices a bit to our taste. Since we happened to have a Ricotta and cream mixture, we topped this with it.

6 apples (we used Fuji apple), peeled, cored and cut into small wedges (see below).
1/4 cup butter, unsalted enough to lightly saute the apples
1/3 cup honey or to taste
1/8 tsp. Cinnamon,
1/4 tsp. ground cardamon,
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
Roasted blanched almond slivers
Walnuts, toasted, skin removed and chopped


On low heat gently saute the apples in the butter. (The more butter you add to more sauce you'll have.  The apples will start to exude juice. Cook slowly until they start to soften and become partially translucent. Then add the spices stirring until the apples are coated. Finally add the nuts. Remove from heat. (The apples will keep cooking as they cool so keep that in mind if you would like an apple with a little bit of crunch in the center.)

This is a nice desert. Not too sweet but pleasently sweet with mild spices. The apple still maintains some crunch. My wife overdid it with the two kinds of nuts. Next time she can reduce or even eliminate the nuts.

P.S. We have had long days of rain and clouds. One afternoon, this totally wet red tail hawk landed in our cherry tree. Although this was a rather small hawk, it looked fierce. It specializes in squirrels.