Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Seared Tuna salad 炙り鮪のぬたサラダ

Again, this is a continuation of how to enjoy tuna sashimi in different ways.  Mark's book (p80) has a similar more traditional recipe, "Tuna 'Nuta' with Miso Mustard dressing". I make this dish slightly differently. "Nuta" ぬた is a traditional Japanese dish in which raw fish, sea weed, and "wakegi" わけぎ (which is very similar or identical to scallions -green or spring onions- we get in the U.S.)  are dressed in sweet miso mustard sauce "karashi sumiso" からし酢みそ. I made some modifications to this traditional recipe and made it into a salad. I used the "tataki" technique for tuna and cooked the scallions over direct gas flame. This way, the tuna attains a nice firm texture and the scallions become very sweet. You could just boil the scallions as suggested in Mark's book. For added texture, I used grilled "abura-age" 油揚げ or deep fried tofu pouch and everything was set on the top of dressed greens (I used baby arugula here but any leafy greens will do). Of course, if you omit the greens, that will also be just fine with sake.

I used 1/3 "saku" 冊 or block of tuna sashimi (previously frozen) for two servings. After thawing, remove any moisture from the surface and salt both sides. To sear the surface, you could use a frying pan with a bit of oil but I used the traditional Japanese method of a direct gas fire (or charcoal fire). I put two metal skewer, fanned out, through the tuna and held it over the flames until all surfaces were white with small light brown patches but the center was still raw. I plunged the tuna into ice water to cool. I then dried with paper towels and cut into bite size pieces.

I selected thick scallions (3-4) rather than thin ones. Holding the green part, I charred the white part of the scallion over the direct flame until the outer skin blackened. I set them aside until they were cool enough to handle (1-2 minutes). I then removed the root end and outer most blackened layer and cut the white and contiguous green parts into 1/2 inch long segments.

I put one abura-age in a toaster oven and toasted it like I would a slice of bread until surface was brown and crispy (I could have used direct flames as well). I cut it into 1/3 inch strips.

To make "nuta" or "sumiso" sauce (I posted this before); this time I used regular white miso (2 tbs), sugar (2 tbs) and mixed in enough rice vinegar to make a saucy consistency. If the sauce is vinegary enough but still too thick, you could add a bit of 'dashi" or sake. I also added 1/3 tsp of prepared hot Japanese mustard. In Mark's book, this sauce was made with the addition of mirin without sugar (mirin is sweet) and less vinegar which makes the sauce less vinegary but I like a more assertive vinegary taste. Dress all the above ingredients except for the greens with this sauce.

For the baby arugula, I simply dressed with a splash of rice vinegar and good quality olive oil, salt and black pepper.

Just place the greens on the bottom of the plate and make a mound of "nuta" on the top. My wife usually does not like scallions in big pieces but this time because of the method of cooking them they were very soft and sweet and she liked it. Abura-age added a nice crunch and everything came together with the smooth miso sauce. Arugula has nice peppery taste which also added to the overall flavor.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Tuna tartar with cucumber and grape 鮪のタルタル

If tuna sashimi is in good quality, it is best to eat it simply with wasabi and soy sauce. If you like to have tuna sashimi in different ways or the quality of tuna sashimi is not really good (often in my case), you could make something different. I already posted a few variations on this theme.

This particular night, I made tuna tartar, which is a fairly common Western adaptation of tuna sashimi. Again, this is not a recipe per se, you could make many variations on this theme to your liking. I just chop tuna sashimi in small cubes, mix in finely chopped chives, soy say sauce with wasabi dissolved, a dash of good quality olive oil to your taste. If you like, you could use, chopped perilla and/or scallion, tabasco, sesame oil etc for variations.

To make the taste a bit more interesting, I made a sweet vinegar miso sauce with Japanese mustard "karashi sumiso" からし酢みそ in addition. I used "saikyo" miso 西京味噌, which is sweet to begin with. I used 1 tbs of saikyo miso, 1/3 tsp of prepared hot Japanese mustard (in a tube), 1/2 tsp sugar, and added rice vinegar until a nice smooth saucy consistency is reached. I did this in a Japanese mortar "suribachi" すり鉢 and pestle すりこぎ but you could use a small bowl attachment using a food processor or you could just buy a premade "sumiso" sauce. Taste and adjust the degree of sweetness by adding more sugar.

For assembly, I used a ring mold; tuna tartar on the bottom, thinly sliced mini-cucumber next and thinly sliced black sweet seedless grapes (I just happened to have them) on the top with a garnish of salmon roe "ikura" いくら and chives. I drizzled sumiso sauce on the top and around the tartar on the plate. The dish has an interesting combination of texture, and taste. Mixing sumiso sauce will add one more dimension of nutty sweet and sourness. You could use thinly sliced onion, jicama or Asian pear instead or in addition. You could also use the yolk of a quail egg in stead of salmon roe.  We had this with cold sake.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Deep fried stuffed Shiitake mushroom 椎茸の肉詰め揚げ

This is a variation from "Deep fried stuffed peppers" (Mark's book p20). This is also a fairly common dish. Actually, one of the reasons I made this dish is (like Pork meat ball nabe dish) to use up the meat stuffing I made for gyoza. Somehow we did not feel like having gyoza repeated for a few days. In any case, the recipe is rather simple.
For the meat stuffing, you could use any kind of ground meat such as pork, chicken or even beef or a mixture of beef and pork. Here, since I used gyoza stuffing, it is made of pork, minced cabbage, scallion, ginger, garlic and seasoned with soy sauce, mirin and black pepper. You could use just meat but I prefer to lightly season it, at least with salt and pepper. Since this is a type of tempura, you could eat this with a tempura dipping sauce with grated daikon or graded daikon with red pepper "momijo-oroshi" 紅葉おろし as suggested in the recipe in the Mark's book or with a lemon and salt or just with a lemon juice as we did here because the meat stuffing was seasoned.

I used small fresh mushroom (about 2 inch in diameter). Although it is optional, I made a traditional decorative star-shaped cut on the surface of the shiitake mushroom as seen above. Take the meat stuffing and put it against the gill side of the mushroom and make a small mound. The amount of the stuffing depends on the size of the mushroom, I used 1-2 heaping tsp for each mushroom. I used a rather thin tempura batter. I made about 1/3 cup of the batter with 2tsp each of cake flour and potato starch and added cold water (from the refrigerator dispenser) to make the rather loose batter.

I heated peanut oil or vegetable oil in a pan to 375F (or you could use the more imprecise but easy method of judging the oil temperature as I described before). I used green beans as an accompaniment. I snipped both ends of green beans and coated them with batter. I fried the beans for 1 minute. Then, I coated the stuffed shiitake mushrooms with the batter and fried them meat stuffing side down first and after 2-3 minutes flipped them over and fried another 2 minutes on the mushroom side. I drained the stuffed mushrooms on a pepper towel or on a metal grate.

Small Japanese green peppers called "pea-man" ピーマン required in the recipe in Mark;'s book are difficult to get here in the U.S. and certainly, western green peppers are too thick and too strong in flavor for this dish. Especially since my wife does not like green peppers, shiitake mushroom is better choice for us. Shiitake mushroom has a nice meaty texture and we really like this combination.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pork meat ball Hot Pot 豚ミートボール小鍋仕立て

Hot pot dish called "nabe" 鍋 (which means a "pot") or "nabemono" 鍋物 is a family style homey dish in which a large (usually earthen) pot was placed in the middle of a table on a portable gas or electric cooker. One large pot is shared by the diners and the ingredients are cooked on the table as you eat. This type of communal pot dish is not usual in Izakaya (unless it is a small drinking party held in Izakaya) but a small individual or 2-person nabe is served in Izakaya. Types of nabe are numerous depending on the type of broth and main items you put in it. If the broth is not seasoned, it is usually eaten with a dipping sauce such as "ponzu shoyu" sauce and if the broth is seasoned with either miso or soy sauce, it is eaten as is or with some garnish. After most of the ingredients are consumed a well seasoned savory both is left in a pot. Cooked (leftover) rice or noodles can be added to the broth to make the last starch dish of the meal. It is the best dish to be had in a cold windy night.

We had our first snow of the season in the DC area few days ago and it has been rather cold which prompted me to make this spur-of-the-moment nabe dish using whatever was available. I happened to have extra kelp broth from the night I made the "warm tofu with pork miso sauce". Also, I had stuffing for pork gyoza which I made the night before. So I used these leftovers and made this nabe dish. Instead of a large nabe, I used a small nabe pot usually used to make "nabeyaki Udon" 鍋焼きうどん- a Japanese noodle dish which is cooked and served in a individual pot. I am sure I can post that recipe in near future. The amount is perfect for my wife and I.

For broth, I used kelp broth and seasoned it with sake, mirin, and soy sauce (sorry, all eye-balled and then tasted for further adjustment, no precise amount here). When the broth was hot I used a small ice cream scoop and dropped small balls of the pork mixture for gyoza into the broth. Other ingredients I used were nappa cabbage 白菜 (cut into 2 inch wide pieces), firm tofu 豆腐, daikon 大根 (cut in 1/3 inch-thick, half moon shaped; put diakon in first while the broth is being heated), fresh Shiitake mushrooms 椎茸, and scallion 葱 (cut into 1 inch pieces). I cooked this in the kitchen rather than on the table. This was served in a small bowl with a sprinkling of  Japanese 7 flavored pepper powder 七味唐辛子.

After we finished this dish, I took the nabe back to the kitchen and added cooked rice (as usual frozen one, you could defrost first), added thinly cut napa cabbage (soft green part which I reserved). I added a bit more water since the broth has reduced a bit. Cooked 10 minutes in low heat until the rice was cooked and a "porridge' consistency was achieved. I adjusted the seasoning by adding salt or soy sauce (I used salt). I beat one egg and mixed it into the porridge. I put the lid back on and took the pot off the flame. I waited 5 minutes and then served the porridge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Fried rice 炒飯

This is another popular Sino-Japanese dish and perfect for ending your Izakaya feast. Like fried noodle "yakisoba"焼きそば, I make this dish with leftovers such as frozen rice and whatever vegetables and/or proteins are available. There is no real recipes per-se and there are as many variations as numbers of people who cook this dish. We are not fried rice aficionados, but, I know that some people are really into this dish and many "secrets" have been discussed. Some people appear to like having the rice grains separated and suggest mixing a beaten egg into cold cooked rice before frying. I tried this method but I do not particularly like the end result. I only make sure that the rice does not get too greasy (through judicial use of oil and cooking on very hot wok or frying pan) and is well seasoned (I add a small amount of soy sauce along the perimeter of the hot pan at the end).
The night I made this dish, as a protein, I used thinly sliced pork spare ribs which were briefly (10 minutes) marinated in 2 parts soy sauce, 1 part sake and 1 part mirin with 1/4 tsp of grated ginger root. The vegetables I used were fresh shiitake mushrooms (4-5 medium, sliced), snow peas (10-15 pods), finely chopped onion (1/2 medium), and thinly sliced garlic (1 fat clove). I put 2 tsp of peanut oil in a non-stick frying pan and fried the garlic slices on low-medium heat until the garlic slices  brown slightly (do not burn, it will get bitter). Take them out leaving garlic infused oil in the pan and set aside the garlic chips (I use them later as a garnish). I increased the heat, added onion, meat (strained of the marinade) and stir fried until the meat was cooked. I added shiitake mushrooms and snow peas, sauted until they were cooked (about 2 minutes). Season with salt and pepper and remove from the pan and set aside.

 Clean the pan and add a tsp of peanut oil with a dash of dark sesame oil on high heat. When the oil is almost smoking add about one cup of thawed frozen rice (leftover rice works much better since the grains separate easily) and stir until the rice is coated with oil and the grains are separated (2-3 minutes). Lightly (be aware of an additive effect of seasoning) season with salt and pepper. Add the meat/vegetable mixture back into the pan and keep stirring and flipping until well mixed. At the end, pour a small amount (about 1 tsp) of soy sauce on the inner edge of the hot frying pan so that the soy sauce gets fragrant before reaching the rice, stir or flip to mix well, and plate the fried rice. I prefer to make scrambled eggs separately. Garnish the fried rice with scrambled eggs, thinly sliced vinegared ginger root, "aonori" sea weed, and the garlic chips.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spaghetti casserole with goat cheese スパゲッティキャセロール

Sometimes, you have to make something using whatever ingredients are available.  We had cooked spaghetti leftover from serving our vegetarian guests two night ago (which was also a moment of "have to make something vegetarian" for them), leftover marinara sauce I made the other day for my pizza. As you may recall, my wife is not particularly wild about spaghetti pasta. I needed to make something for a bottle of red wine we just opened (Mollydooker 2008 The Maitre D', Cabernet Sauvignon"). I had fresh goat cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese and fresh basel (all leftover from the pizza night). So I came up with this starter dish (with helpful suggestions from my wife).

I cut the spaghetti into short pieces so that it was easier to eat and mixed with the marinara sauce. I mixed in crumbled goat cheese. On the bottom of a ramekin or small gratin dish, I added a small amount of olive oil to coat the bottom. I added the spaghetti mixture, placed two to three slices of fresh mozzarella cheese on the top and baked in a 450 degree F toaster oven for 10 minutes. I grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, sprinkled with salt and cracked black pepper, drizzled a good quality EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), garnished with of fresh basel. With Mollydooker cab, this was not bad. Although my wife still said, "I am not crazy about the spaghetti pasta". Oh, well.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Warm Tofu with Pork-Miso sauce 肉味噌豆腐

Sweet miso sauce with added meat is rather common Japanese sauce. Mark's book has a recipe of simmered daikon ("Furofuki" daikon ふろふき大根) with pork miso sauce (p20), althouhg more traditional "furofuki" daikon (which I posted before) is with just citrus-miso sauce. This time I had a good silken tofu from Kyou-zen-an 京禅庵, I decided make this tofu dish.

First, to warm up the tofu, I made a kelp broth (1x2 rectangle of dried kelp in 3 cups of cold water, when it comes to a simmer, I added 2-3 tbs of sake, 1 tsp of salt and just a drop of soy sauce not to color the broth. Although the kelp is necessary, you do not need any seasoning.  (This is just to warm tofu). Place cubes (about 2x2 inches) of tofu in the broth and simmer to warm (5-10 minutes). Do not boil.

To make the pork-miso sauce, first saute finely chopped scallion (2 tbs), ginger (1/2 tsp),  garlic (one small clove) in 1-2 tsp of vegetable oil. When these are soft and fragrant, add ground or hand-chopped pork (about 4 tbs), stir until the pork is cooked. Add 2 tsp of red miso, 2 tbs of mirin (I did not use sugar). Stir until nice saucy consistency is reached. If it is too thick, add the kelp broth to loosen the sauce. If you prefer the sauce to be bit sweeter add sugar.

Place warm tofu in a bowl, pour over the pork-miso sauce. Garnish with lime zests (I used a micrograter) and a wedge of lime. Squeeze lime juice and enjoy (for silken tofu, even if you are a chopstick jedi, you definitely need a spoon).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Deep fried egg plant in broth なすの揚げ浸し

Deep fried eggplant in Dashi Marinade  なすの揚げ浸し
(Based on the recipe in Mark's book p64)

This is one of the classic Japanese dishes--"Age-bitashi" 揚げ浸し meaning "fried and soaked". It is a very common Japanese cooking technique in which the ingredient is first deep fried and, while it is hot, soaked in a seasoned broth (aside from the usual soy sauce flavor, sometimes with added vinegar and/or hot pepper). Mark's book has this dish (p64), I only substituted green beans for the small Japanese green peppers "shishito" since I did not have "shishito". In the U.S., the types of eggplant "nasubi" 茄子 available are quite different from those in Japan. So called American eggplant "bei-nasu" 米茄子 is good for baked dishes such as eggplant parmesan or moussaka but not for this dish. I use a smaller eggplant with a thiner skin. Chinese or Japanese (elongated light or dark purple), or small Italian eggplants work best.

Here I used a medium-sized light purple striped eggplant called "graffiti" eggplant. In any case, I cut the eggplant into 1x1 inch size pieces and then made shallow criss-crossing scores on the skin (hatch marks). This makes the skin more palatable and allows the broth to soak in better. I sprinkled the pieces with a small amount of salt and placed them in a colander for 15 minute. I then wiped the surface with paper towels to remove the salt and moisture. Meanwhile, I trimmed both ends of the green beans (10-15 or whatever amount) and wiped the surface dry with a paper towel.

I made the broth from a commercial concentrated noodle broth in a bottle but, of course, you could make this from scratch according to the recipe in Mark's book. I diluted the concentrate to taste (slightly stronger than that for broth for noodles, i.e., for the x2 concentrate, I diluted to x1.5) with cold water and then warmed it up and set aside in a flat sealable container.

I heated the peanut oil in a pan to about 340F (170C). I made sure both green beans and eggplant were dry (using paper towels) to prevent spattering when they were put into the hot oil. I fried the green beans first for 1 minute and put them on a paper towel to drain and the put them in the broth. Next, I fried the eggplant. Skin side down first then turned them over several times for 4-5 minutes until the meat of the eggplant becomes slightly brown and cooked through. I drained the eggplant on a paper towel and placed them in a colander. I poured hot water over them to remove excess oil. Then, I put the eggplant in the broth with the green beans. I let it cool down to room temperature and then put  into the refrigerator. It is best to leave it for at least 30 minutes or overnight before serving.

This dish has subtle flavors but the eggplant is very rich and has a nice soft texture. This is a very nice dish with sake.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pork spare ribs baked in barbecue sauce ポークスペアリブ バーベキューソース

This is a good ol' American version of pork spare ribs. Instead of marinating in soy flavored marinade and baking as was done in the "soy-flavoured spare ribs" or Japanese style spare ribs 和風スペアリブ (Mark's book p92), this one is baked in a sweet and sour, ketchup based sauce. Cooking in liquid makes the meat much more tender as opposed to dry baking. We sort of like this version better and, as we served it, it can definitely pass as Izakaya food.

This dish was made by my wife, I only helped by chopping up onions and holding the oven door. It is based on a recipe in the American Classic "Joy of Cooking." We used 4 good sized bone-in pork spare ribs. For the sauce; A piece of bacon (half strip) was cooked to crisp and set aside. Two medium onions were coarsely diced and sauteed in a small amount of the bacon drippings until soft and caramerized (15-20 minutes). One cup of ketchup was added to the pan and cooked, scraping the bits left behind from cooking the bacon and onions, until the sugar in the ketchup was caramelized (the color will change from red to more dull brownish color). We learned this trick from Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet. Combine, the onion, the slice of bacon crumbled and the ketchup in a sauce pan with a mixture of rice vinegar (2 tbs), water (1/2 cup), lemon (1/4 cup), paprika powder (1/2 tsp), Worcestershire sauce ( 1 tbs), salt (1 tsp), brown sugar (1 tbs) and mustard (1 tbs.) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile parboil the spareribs for about 5 minutes in a seperate saucepan. Remove the parboiled spare ribs from the hot water and put them in an oven safe baking dish so they fit snugly. Pour the sauce over the ribs to cover. Loosely cover the dish with aluminum foil (do not seal). Place it in a 450F oven for 15 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and reduce the temperature to 350 F and continue cooking for 1 hour or longer until the meat becomes very tender and the surface browns. I suppose this colud easily be adapted to be cooked in a slow cooker as well.

This has a classic sweet and sour flavor which goes well with pork. For libation, sake and beer will go well. Even red wines such as Australian Shiraz or Argentinean Malbec will be a good match. We had Ave Malbec Premium 2007 from Argentina with this and was wonderful.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Soy-flavoured Spare Ribs 和風スペアリブ

Soy-flavoured Spare Ribs 和風スペアリブ (Mark's book p92)

This is from Mark's book p92. Again, this is not a quite traditional Izakaya fare but this is a type of dish that goes perfectly well with sake or beer or even wine. I followed the recipe fairly closely but the marinade is sort of standard. Remove bones from pork spare ribs and also remove fat if too much fat is attached. The marinade consists 2 tbs each of sake and mirin and 3 tbs of soy sauce with grated ginger root (1/2 tbs) and pressed or finely chopped garlic (one clove). (The recipe in Mark's book also adds 1/4 sliced onion and dark sesame oil). Marinate the meat in a zip-lock bag for at least 6 hours or overnight (I did overnight). Place the meat in the baking pan with a grate and bake it in a 350F oven for a total of 30 minutes.

It is not bad but we are not sure if this is the best way to cook pork spare ribs. It has nice sweet, soy sauce and ginger flavors; however, although there is good amount of fat, the meat is a bit dry and the fat appears not to be adequately rendered. We sort of like American ways of cooking such as long baking in a liquid/sauce or more traditional barbecue. We may post the way my wife cooks pork spare ribs in the near future. In any case, we enjoyed this with California Bordeaux blend, Burgess Cellars "Ilona" Howell Mountain Red  2003. Rich pork tastes went very well with this wine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Kabocha hors d'oeuvres three ways カボチャのオードブル三種類

I found a rather good looking Japanese winter squash "kobocha" being sold as a "butter cup" squash in a near-by grocery store. I do not think this is a "butter cup" squash since the "cup" on the blossom end is not present but I do think this is a Japanse "Kabocha". In any case, I could not resist buying one. So I ended up with a rather large amount of kabocha. After I made my usual simmered kabocha かぼちゃの煮物 and pottage かぼちゃのポタージュ, I still had at least 1/3 of the kabocha left. I thought about making kabocha tempra etc but settled on these three quick dishes.

Kabocha and oninon with red miso sauce かぼちゃとタマネギのしぎ焼き

I was supposed to make this dish using a small Italian eggplant that I thought I had in the refrigerator. "Shigi-yaki" usually uses an eggplant braised in a sweet red miso sauce. I thought I would use Kabocha to accompany the eggplant--the kabocha should not have been the main ingredients of "shigi-yaki" dish. But as I was cutting the egg plant, it became obvious that this one had had a better day and I had to discard it. So, out of necessity, I came up with this dish. The sauce is a mixture of 1 part red miso, 1 part mirin, one part sugar and Japanese seven flavored pepper powder 七味唐辛子. This time, I used sake as well (instead of 1 part mirin, I used a mixture of sake and mirin) to make this dish not too sweet. I sauteed thinly cut (1/4 inch) kabocha pieces in light olive oil until slightly brown on both sides. I put the lid on the pan, turned down the heat and cooked for 4-5 minutes or until the kabocha is soft. I then added one onioun thinly sliced ( the proportion of onion to Kabocha is arbitrary) for few more minutes until soft. Then I added enough mixed sauce to coat all the ingredients. I braised until the sauce thickened and coated the ingredients. Although, this dish was not how I planned it initially, it turned out OK. Nutty sweet miso sauce was a good match to kabocha. We had this with a good everyday California Cab, Ghost pine 2007.  It was bit surprising that sweet miso and kabocha flavors go very well with red wine.

Broiled Kabocha with Raclette cheese かぼちゃとラクレットチーズ
Broiled Kabocha with Parmegian cheese and panko かぼちゃとパルメザンチーズ

These are also a spur-of-the-moment type dish. I cut the kabocha into slices 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick, 2-3 inch wide and sauteed them similarly to the previous dish until soft. (I suppose one can do this step in a microwave oven.) It needed to cook a bit longer than the "shigi-yaki" dish since the pieces were thicker. (I did this when I made the first dish) and set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Just before serving, I put these kabocha pieces on a cookie sheet (small one which fits into my toaster oven); Some were topped with slices of raclette cheese (left two) and others (right three) were topped with a mixture of panko (mixed with bit of good oilve oil) and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about half and half) and baked in the 450F toaster oven for few minutes until the raclette cheese melts and Panko-Parmesian becomes golden brown.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fried Ramen noodle 焼きそば

Yakisoba 焼きそば is another regular "teibann" 定番 dish in Izakaya. There must be as many variations as numbers of people who make this dish. I make many variations myself depending on what is available in my refrigerator or freezer. This time, I found the last of several packages of frozen ramen noodle from "Nishiyama seimen" 西山製麺 that I had bought some time ago. Since I am originally from Sapporo, I am partial to their noodles. They make good ramen noodles either dry or "raw" 生ラーメン (frozen).

I just boiled them for 3-4 minutes or until the noodles are cooked but still firm (al dente). Meanwhile, I chopped cabbage (2-3 leaves), onion (one small), carrot (one small), garlic (one clove), and separated oyster mushroom or "maikake" 舞茸 (which I happened to have). I also happened to have a leftover poached chicken breast with black vinegar sauce. (You could use any type of meat or sea food, shrimp, fish etc, either raw or cooked, or you do not have to use any meat.) I just sliced and cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. In a frying pan, heat 1tbs of peanut oil with a splash of dark sesame oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, cabbage, and carrot and saute. Season with salt and back pepper. When these are soft, add garlic and mushroom, saute another minute and add 1-2 tbs of sake or water and keep sauteing until water evaporates (2 or so more minutes). Add about 1 tbs (adjust the amount depends on how reduced or salty the sauce is) of reduced black vinegar soy sauce (of course you could use a store-bought "Yakisoba" sauce or use Worcestershire sauce、tonkatsu sauce, soy sauce in any proportion). Add the cooked ramen noodle and saute. If needed, add more sauce and/or water to complete cooking. The final product should have almost no liquid left. Plate the yakisoba and garnish with thinly cut vinegared young ginger root (same one you have at sushibar), "aonori" 青のり powder, and white sesame seeds.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Daikon green and tofu pouch stir fry 大根葉と油揚の炒め物

Daikon 大根 is a popular Japanse root vegetable and widely available in the U.S. but I usually am not able to get daikon greens becase they are often removed before the daikon is sold. It is similar to how most carrots are sold here. But, recently, I happened to find a whole daikon with its greens attached in a near-by Japanese grocery store. Rather than discarding the greens, I made this dish based on a childhood memory. It is a kind of "collard greens with bacon" type dish in the Japanese style. Certainly, this one can be served as a condiment for rice or as is with your sake.
I used one large frozen tofu pouch "abura-age" or "aburage" 油揚 for all the daikon greens from one medium sized daikon. I placed the aburage in a colander and ran hot water over it to thaw as well as to remove excess oil. I squeezed out the moisture and cut it into small strips (approximately 1x1/4 inch) and set aside. Meanwhile, I chopped the daikon greens from one medium (about 10 inch long) daikon including stems into small pieces. In a frying pan, I added 1 tbs of peanut oil and a dash of dark sesame oil. Add the daikon greens and sauté until wilted, add the strips of abrage and keep sautéing for another minute. Add 2tbs of sake and 2tsp of mirin and 1tbs of soy sauce. Keep sautéing until almost all the liquid is gone. As a rice condiment, you may want to add more soy sauce to make it a bit saltier. If you like it a bit sweeter add more mirin. Remove from heat and sprinkle white sesame. You could use cabbage or other green vegetables instead of daikon greens. This is a perfect "tuskidashi" 突き出し or "otoshi" お通し dish.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Squid sashimi with mountain potato and fermented soy beans 長芋のイカ納豆

Japanese appear to like slimy food. Often, Japanese recipes call for not just one but a multiple of slimy ingredients in one dish. This dish called for squid sashimi, mountain yam or "naga-imo" 長芋, and fermented soybean "natto" 納豆. All have a rather slimy texture. This dish probably qualifies to appear on the "Bizarre food" TV show. In any case, I saw this recipe on line. I happened to have all the ingredients and decided to make this dish. 

Squid sashimi was the pre-made frozen kind you find in a freezer case at a Japanese grocery store. I am sure it is treated with something before being frozen. I used one package (probably two servings) and one package of Natto 納豆. Natto is a difficult food to like especially for Westerners. Even among Japanese, some love it and some hate it. I already mentioned how my wife started enjoying natto. ("enjoy" may not be a right word, may be "tolerate" is a better choice.) Here, I used "hikiwari" natto 挽き割り納豆 in which whole soybeans are finely chopped. I used the same precautions I use to prepared natto with my special natto stirrer, which I also mentioned before. I just prepare the natto using the mustard and sauce that came with the natto package. The last ingredient was a mountain yam or "naga imo" (I mentioned several times in the past postings). I used a 2 inch long, 3 inch across (approximate) piece, peeled the skin, and cut into 1/2 inch wide sticks. I placed these in a zip-lock plastic bag and added 1-2 tbs of sushi vinegar. Do not seal the opening completely and hold the opening up (to prevent the bag from rupturing and the contents from spilling out in the next step), pound the naga-imo with a fist or a small rolling pin so that part of it remains chunky and part of it is mashed. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. I added wasabi and a concentrated (x2) noodle sauce that comes in a bottle (or you could make it yourself) or use just a straight soy sauce to adjust the seasoning. Garish with chopped scallion and perilla leaves.

It was indeed very slimy but the natto did not have a strong smell. I sort of liked it and even my wife finished the dish and she said she did not dislike it (delicately put). Since all the ingredients are slimy, it sort of worked. The only drink that goes with this dish appears to be sake.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tomato and Mozzarella cheese salad トマトとマッツレラチーズのサラダ

This is a very simple dish which can be made quickly and goes well with wine or whatever you happened to be drinking. Commercially grown tomatoes in the U.S. is not great especially when they are out of the season. The best tomatoes are definitely those that are homegrown either in your backyard or your friend's backyard during hot summer days. We used to grow tomatoes in our backyard but the trees have gotten taller every year and our backyard has been getting progressively shadier and shadier. We gave up growing tomatoes for some time. Hydroponically grown tomatoes are usually tasteless and not worth buying. Recently, Campari tomatoes became available in our grocery stores. This variety is a bit larger than cherry tomatoes and tastes much better than any other out-of-the-season tomatoes available in the grocery store. I am not sure Campari tomatoes are similar to so-called fruit tomatoes "フルーツトマト" in Japan. In any case, decent tomatoes are a "must" for this dish. I used smoked fresh mozzarella cheese here but fresh plain mozzarella is also fine.

This is a variation of a more common layered salad of tomatoes, basil, and Mozzarella cheese, "Insalata Caprese". In this version, I finely chop onion or shallot and mix in a good quality olive oil, salt, black pepper and dash of balsamic vinegar and dress cubes of mozzarella cheese and quarters of tomatoes (skin removed, either by peeling the skin with a knife as I did here or blanching very briefly) and garnish with chiffonade of fresh basil. Key to this dish is good quality ingredients including the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.