Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Fastnacht bread with sweet potato サツマイモ ”ファストナハト” ケーキ

My wife is a devotee of Japanese sweet potato "Satsuma-imo" サツマイモ. Whenever she sees it at our near-by Whole Foods, she will get some. The most common way we enjoy Japanese sweet potato is cooking it wrapped in aluminum foil on the Weber grill when we are cooking either chicken or pork roast (using indirect heat). She usually mashes the potato and adds soy sauce and butter. Then using the left-over mashed sweet potato, I make croquets (with ground pork, onion and shiitake mushroom) which is great (I have posted it). She has also used the mashed sweet potatoes to make gnocchi. This was a really good preparation because the sweetness combined with the saltiness of the soy sauce comes through very nicely. This time, my wife decided to make her "Fastnacht cake" using the mashed sweet potato. Her thinking was 'the recipe used regular mashed potatoes so how would it taste if I substituted the sweet potato?' She also modified the way she incorporated the "rivels*".

*According to the wikipedia definition of rivels, they are a type of spaetzle like small dumpling put in a soup. In the context of this fastnact cake, "rivels" are a sweet sugar crumb topping. (My wife did not make up this terminology. According to the ancient Pa Dutch cookbook she uses they specifically say "top with rivels" then give explicit instructions on another page under the heading of sugar topping. These include brown sugar topping, streusel topping and rivels. The main difference between them being the ratio of sugar, butter and flour).

The rivels are a crucial part of the cake. They are nice and crunchy and sweet. The problem is many of them fall off when they are put on the top and you end up picking up the crumbs eating them separately from the cake. She wanted the rivels to be a part of the cake. So, she decided to put a layer of rivels in the center. (pictured below). With this innovation, the rivels still come off the top and you still end up picking up crumbs (which apparently is just an inevitable part of enjoying this cake) but in addition there is now a guaranteed layer of lovely sweetness in each bite from the layer in the center of the cake.

She doubled the rivel recipe. Since the recipe makes two cakes she split the dough into quarters. Then put 1/4 of the dough in the bottom of the pan, sprinkled on 1/4 of the rivels and topped it with another quarter of dough (#1). She did that for both cakes. Then covered both with the remaining rivels (#2). The third picture shows the cake as it came out of the oven. And #4 shows the cake sliced.

Both the use of the Japanese sweet potato and adding rivels to the center of the cake worked out well. The sweet potato is completely substitutable for regular potatoes. The only difference may have been that the texture was a bit more tender and slightly sweeter. The rivels in the center amalgamated into the  texture of the cake. But they also provided a moist layer of sweetness that was very pleasant. This may be the primary way my wife makes this cake in the future. 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Natto, squid sashimi and cold tofu イカ納豆と冷や奴

This was inspired by a post in an Izakaya blog I follow. The blogger Mr. Hamada 浜田さん is rather well-known Izakaya  aficionado in Japan. He frequents "tachi-nomi (Standing-up)" 立ち飲み izakaya called "Yakiya" やきや in Ogikubo 荻窪 in Tokyo.  On one such visit, he had this dish which was a combination of natto, squid sashimi and cold tofu いか納豆と冷奴 and his write-up  piqued my interest.

I bought both natto and squid sashimi frozen at our Japanese grocery store. I garnished the Squid-natto with chopped scallions and perilla from our herb garden. The cold tofu is from "otokomae tofu". It is comes in a package of three connected small squares filled with silken tofu called "san-ren-chan" 三連チャン. For this dish, I cut one of the tofu squares half and topped it with chopped scallion and bonito flakes.

I premixed the natto (one package divided among us) using my natto stirrer with the sauce that came with the natto and a bit of wasabi. I placed the squid sashimi next to it (below). I premix the natto to make it more palatable for my wife.  (A thorough mix will add air thus reducing the ripe...very ripe cheesy smell).

I then garnished it with chopped scallion and perilla (from our herb garden).

Instead of straight soy sauce, I added concentrated noodle sauce and mixed the squid-natto well. We ate the squid-natto as is but based on the advice of Mr. Hamada in his blog we mixed the natto with the cold tofu. He was right this is a good combination. My wife pointed out that the combination of round natto beans and long strips of squid made it difficult to eat with a spoon or chop sticks. (The spoon worked for the natto but not the squid while the chop sticks got the squid but made eating the beans very difficult. She suggested cutting the squid into shorter strips so that it is closer in size to the beans making it easier to eat with a spoon. According to Mr. Hamada, at Yakiya, they use a specific part of fresh squid to make their squid-natto. What I made probably is not quite up to that standard but, for us, it was still pretty good with our new house sake "tengu-mai" daiginjou 天狗舞大吟醸.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Simmered bamboo shoots and chicken

This is a small dish commemorating spring that I made recently. Since we cannot get fresh bamboo shoots, I made this from packaged boiled bamboo.

As a substitute for "nanohana" 菜の花 I used blanched rapini. For protein, I used chicken drumettes leftover from making "Teba-gyoza" 手羽餃子.

1 package of small boiled bamboo shoots, cut into small wedges.
6 chicken drumettes
Blanched rapini tips for garnish
1 cup dashi (made from kelp and bonito flakes)
3 tbs light colored soy sauce
3 tbs mirin

In a non-stick dry frying pan, I placed the drumettes on a low flame until the oil came out. Then I turned up the heat to medium and browned all surfaces. I transferred the drummettes from the frying to a sauce pan and added the bamboo shoots, dashi broth and seasoning. I simmered it with a "otoshi buta" 落し蓋 for 30 minutes or longer or until the liquid reduced somewhat, mixing several times. I refrigerated it overnight (although it could have been served immediately). Before serving, I warmed it up (either in a microwave oven or in a pan).
I garnished it with blanched rapini tips.

The bamboo shoots absorbed all the flavors but were still crunchy in texture. The addition of chicken added a nice umami flavor. The drumettes were tender enough that the meat fell of the bone and could be eaten with chopsticks. This is a nice small side dish/appetizer.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Poke, sort of, and Champagne マグロとサーモンのポケもどき

We had something to celebrate but did not have a chance to get anything special and did not feel like going to a restaurant, either. So I got filet mignon and sashimi (salmon and yellowfin tuna) from a local gourmet grocery store. The quality of the sashimi was not great so I decided to make a "poke" like dish. The sashimi was in rather thick slices. I marinated it with Japanese concentrated noodle sauce for several hours in the refrigerator and then cut it into small cubes. In addition, I served some chicken tenderloin which I removed from a sous-vide cooked chicken breast I made earlier in the day. From right to left are tuna, salmon and chicken.

For the tuna, I used soy sauce, wasabi and perilla as dressing.

For the salmon, I used soy sauce, red pepper paste (from a tube) and dill.

For the sous vide chicken tenderloin, I used soy sauce and yuzu-kosho 柚胡椒 (from a tube) and garnished with sesame seeds.

These three starters borrowed from the concept of  "poke" which is getting popular here. Some fast food "poke" chains have even opened up. Instead of our usual cold sake, we started with champagne.

This was among the ones we happened to have on hand. I am not sure when and where I got this one but it is called Philippe Fourrier Cuvée Millésime Brut Champagne 2008. We made an ice bucket to keep the champagne cold. My wife somehow dug up a special cloth/towel we had tucked away somewhere with a representative champagne bottle depicted on it, to absorb the condensation from the champagne ice bucket.

This was vintaged (2008) and had a nice slightly yeasty/beady aroma with subtle melon and green apple taste with fine bubbles and went quite well with this appetizer I prepared.

After this, we had a filet mignon steak, green asparagus and some kind of potato. We switched to 2006 "the Maiden". This was one of the old wines we had stored in our basement. The conditions there, however, are is not really great for the enhancement of wine over time. We were afraid that the wine may have been way past its prime. I carefully decanted it and let it breathe for one hour before serving. There was a definitive brown hue indicating age/oxidization. As it had more contact with air, this wine opened up and we could taste good black  fruit, vanilla and chocolate. The tannin was quite mellow. We would have preferred to taste this wine a bit earlier but it did age quite well and went well with our impromptu celebratory steak dinner.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Asparagus stir-fry アスパラガスの炒め物

In our regular grocery store, we often find bags of colorful mini sweet peppers. My wife likes these peppers especially broiled with the skin and seeds removed. It is a bit of effort to prepare them this way.  I broil them in the toaster oven then place them in a Ziploc bag to steam. Once they have cooled I remove the skin and seeds. Despite the work, they are nice to have around because they are flavorful, colorful and when added to a dish can add a nice bright note. I made this dish just to use up some left-over vegetables  (I had green asparagus, some shimeji mushrooms, Campari tomatoes and the prepared mini sweet peppers).   I also added scrambled eggs for additional color. I did not follow any recipe.

I was not sure how I would season this dish when I started making it, Chinese? Italian? I ended up just using salt and pepper and let the vegetable flavors speak for themselves.

I used my wok and everything came together quickly.

5 fresh green asparagus, woody bottoms removed and skin of the bottom half peeled, tips cut across, and the stalk sliced on a bias.
1 small onion, halved and cut in thin strips.
1/3 package of shimeji mushroom, root potion removed and separated.
4 skinned Campari tomatoes, cut into quarters.
1 Jalapeño pepper, seeds and veins removed and finely chopped.
4 prepared mini-sweet peppers (see above), cut into thin strips.
1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes.
1 tbs olive oil
2 eggs (for scrambled eggs, optional).

I heated up the olive oil in a wok and added the red pepper flakes until the oil was hot.
I then added the onion and the Jalapeño pepper and stirred until the onion was slightly brown for 5 minutes, then add the asparagus stems and cooked for another 3 minutes. I added the asparagus tips, the shimeji mushrooms, the sweet peppers and the tomatoes.
I seasoned it with salt and pepper and cooked it for another 3-4 minutes.

The red pepper flakes and the jalapeno pepper gave a mild slow heat. You could taste all the flavors from the vegetables which also gave the dish a slight sweetness. This was a good side dish.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Crab cake sushi クラブケーキちらし寿司

 I made crab cakes, using a recipe I posted some time ago . From one container of crab meat,  I made 5 cakes. We ate two immediately but three were left (see below). This time, I made the crab cake with sautéed onion, shiitake mushroom, jalapeño pepper and fresh dill. I also added Meyer lemon zest (micro-grated), lemon juice and seasoned it with a splash of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper and bound it with panko, dijon mustard and mayonnaise.

Since we had gotten the crab meat to make California roll, my wife suggested we could (sort-of) stick to our original objective by using the crab cakes to make scattered sushi ちらし寿司. Also, we had discovered, on our last trip to Japan, that ingredients such as tuna salad made with mayonnaise work really well with sushi rice. So since the crab cakes included mayo, my wife thought they should work well over the sushi rice. She made fresh rice for the occasion and I made it into sushi rice.  First, I warmed the crab cakes in the toaster oven and the broke them into small chunks on the sushi rice.

Taking the cue from California rolls, I also added cubes of avocado, dressed in lemon juice and a bit of mayonnaise.

Since perilla has started coming out in profusion in our herb garden, I added a chiffonade of perilla 青じそ.

Finally, I topped it with thin strips of nori.

We had this on our day off as an ending "shime" dish. As my wife predicted this was really good. We thought that since it was a shime, the amount of rice may be too much but it tasted so good we couldn't stop and ended up eating the whole thing. As opposed to just using crab meat as is done with classic California roll, using crab cake added more complex flavor dimensions and texture.  For this, we switched to our "Tengumai daiginjo" sake 天狗舞大吟醸酒.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Spinach and mint cake ホウレン草とミントの緑のケーキ

We posted green pancakes made with a combination of spinach and mint and we really liked them. We had some left over spinach that we had to use up. In addition, the mint was growing profusely in our garden. My wife found a recipe for cake made with spinach and she decided to make it. That took care of the spinach. Then she remembered the spinach mint pancakes and decided she would get the mint somewhat under control by substituting some mint for some of the spinach in the recipe. The cake is a bit like green tea cake  in appearance but the taste is completely different--and it is really good.

My wife made icing from cream cheese and honey.

The icing is not too sweet but added a nice taste and texture.

1 cup raw spinach (packed)
1 cup raw mint (packed)
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs. lemon juice
2 cup flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1 block of Philadelphia cream cheese
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and then set aside (#1).  Put the spinach, mint, eggs, vanilla and sugar in a blender and puree. Then with the blender on a slow speed add the olive oil to make an emulsion (#2). Add the spinach/mint mixture to the flour (#3 & #4).  Put into the 9" x 13" inch baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper (to made it easier to get the cake out of the pan when it is done #5.) Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean (#6).

cream the cream cheese in a mixer. Add the honey and the vanilla and continue creaming until it becomes light and fluffy. Slather it on the the cooled cake.

This is a great cake. As with the green pancakes, the mint flavor predominates and is very refreshing. This is not too sweet and we had this even as a breakfast and was great with coffee. Although my wife found another way to use our prolific mint, it is still taking over.