Saturday, December 29, 2012

Salmon Miso 鮭味噌

This is a quick small dish I made to go with a drink one weekday evening. We had a small amount of grilled salmon left  over from the weekend and I wanted to make sure it was eaten before we forget. This is a perfect small dish which goes well with sake or rice depending on the amount of miso used.

Miso sauce: I mixed miso (1 tbs), mirin (1 tbs), and grated ginger (1/4 tsp) in a small bowl. I also made finely chopped scallion (from 3 stalks) and set it aside.

Salmon:This is leftover grilled salmon (without skin since we ate it all while it was crispy on the night we cooked the salmon). The amount is arbitrary but we had a rather small amount. My wife does not like very small pieces of salmon, so I just crumbled into large chunks.

In a small non-stick frying pan, I added dark roasted sesame oil (1/2 tsp) and sautéed the scallion for 30 seconds and then added the miso mixture. When it was bubbling and started thickening a bit, I added chunks of salmon and mixed to coat all the surfaces and also to warm up the salmon (for 1-2 minutes).
If you increased the amount of the miso sauce, this will be perfect for eating with white rice. My rendition here is good with a drink of sake. This is a very standard flavors of miso, some sweetness and ginger which cannot go wrong.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Monkfish hot pot アンコウ鍋

This is a rather standard Japanese hotpot dish with monkfish. It is perfect for a cold winter’s night. In Japan, you can buy a package of Monkfish for “nabe” . The package usually contains monkfish meat, some with skin attached, bone -for broth-, other innards and the most important item, the liver. In an authentic ankou nabe, at least, the liver must be included. The only Monkfish I can get here, however, is a fillet or the tail meat. In terms of seasoning, for the nabe you can season it with soy sauce or miso. Sometimes people use both soy sauce and miso. This time I decided to make a soy sauce flavored “ankou” nabe.

More about Monkfish: Japanese eat almost all parts of the monkfish with the liver being the most valued and cherished ("ankimo" あん肝). So-called "Seven tools of Monkfish"  or "Nanatsu dogu" 七つ道具 include: 1. liver, 2. tail and ventral fins, 3. gills (!!), 4. ovaries, 5. stomach, 6. skin, and 7. tail meat. By the way, we only eat female monkfish. The male is tiny-winy and not worth considering for food.

Broth: I used a combination of kelp and dashi pack with “iriko” いりこ or “niboshi” 煮,干small dried fish, to make a broth. A combination of kelp and bonito flakes is also good. I started with cold water (about 4 cups) and placed a 2x3 inch rectangle of kelp and one dashi pack and simmered it for 10 minutes before removing them.

I added mirin and soy sauce (1:2 ratio) as I tasted but I could have added either salt or more soy sauce. If you do not like a dark colored sauce you could use a combination of salt and light colored soy sauce or 薄口醤油.

In addition to the fish, you could use whatever vegetables or tofu you like. I used nappa cabbage or “hakusai” 白菜, threads of devil’s tongue* or “shirataki” 白滝 (see below for additional preparation), tofu, fresh shiitake mushrooms and snap peas.

(*"Shirataki" preparation: After removing from the package, I washed it in cold running water and then parboiled it. I drained it before putting into the nabe. This is important since it has a peculiar smell which is not particularly pleasant).

Monkfish: I used a bit less than 1 lb of monkfish fillet. I removed the slimy membrane and cut into large bite size pieces. If you use bone, skin or other parts of the monkfish (especially innards), you may have to pour hot water over the pieces to remove any fishiness but for the tail meat, it was not needed.

Instead of cooking the nabe at  the table, I cooked this nabe on the stove. I added vegetables and devil's tongue threads and put on the lid. After a few minutes, when the vegetables are almost done I added tofu and then the Monkfish. It only takes few minutes for the fish to cook.

I served the nabe in individual bowls with some broth. As condiments, I served small wedges of lemon (since I did not have “yuzu” ゆず), finely chopped scallion, Japanese red pepper flakes or ichimi tougarashi 一味唐辛子. Hot sake may be the usual choice for libation but we had cold sake.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Breakfast Bread pudding パンのプディング

This is another post from my wife’s discovery of some “ancient” recipes written on used computer punch cards and stored forgotten in a Betty Crocker file card recipe box in the basement for at least 25 years. Like the previous one this must be another “Minnesota Hotdish”. Like many such recipes it is designed to feed multitudes at such events as church suppers or firehouse dinners or large family brunches. The amount my wife made represents 1/3 of the total recipe and it made two extremely generous servings. Should you be serving a lot of people just scale it up by a factor of 3.

Ingredients: 5 slices of white bread, 1/3 lb. cheddar cheese (I used smoked cheddar), 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1/3 tsp. salt, 1/3 tsp. dry mustard, 1/8 Tsp paprika, 1/8 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/8 lb. butter melted.

Butter 2 deep ramekins. Toast the bread and then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Layer the ramekins with 1/3 bread, then 1/3 cheese until all the bread and cheese have been distributed. Beat together the eggs and milk and add the seasonings. Slowly pour the mixture over the bread. Pour the melted butter over top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the ramekins from the fridge and bring them to room temperature before baking. Place them in a pan of water (picture on left) and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about an hour or until they puff up, turn brown and a knife inserted comes out clean (picture on right).

After tasting this dish I remember why I asked for the recipe. I liked it then and I like it now. My husband kept asking, “This is good but how much bacon did you use?” None. “But I am getting the taste and texture of bacon.” Turns out the texture came from the lovely crisp bread and the smoky “bacon” taste from the smoked cheddar I used. This is a brunch classic which I will be making again.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Steamed marinated duck breast 合鴨の蒸し煮

This is a Japanese way of cooking duck breast and the recipe is based on one I saw on line. This takes some effort since it has to be browned in a frying pan, steamed in marinade and then allowed to rest in the marinade overnight before it can be served. The end result, however, is rather good and the multiple steps worthwhile. This dish will go with sake, beer or wine, maybe sagiovese or syrah but cab saub will be also good.

Duck breast: I had a rather large duck breast. As usual, I scored the skin in criss-cross fashion to expose the underlying fat for rendering. I rubbed salt and pepper sparingly on the skin and meat side.

Initial cooking: I placed the duck in a dry frying pan on medium-low heat with the skin side down. As the fat rendered, I mopped it up using paper towels. After 6-8 minutes, the skin was nicely browned and quite a good amount of fat was rendered. I flipped the breast over and browned other side for just 1-2 minutes.

Marinade: While waiting for the duck breast to brown, I prepared the marinade. In a small sauce pan, I added sake, mirin, and soy sauce in the ratio of 2:2:1 (I made about 1 cup of the mixture) but you may want to adjust the taste of the mixture to your liking in terms of sweet and saltiness by adjusting mirin and soy sauce). I then heated the marinade until came just to the boil. I poured the hot marinade into a deep soup bowl large enough to hold the duck breast comfortably. I  put the duck breast in the bowl with the marinade turning it once to coat all the surfaces.

Steaming: I used an electric wok for steaming. I placed the soup bowl with the duck breast and marinade in the wok with continuous steam for 8 minutes, flipped the duck and steamed another 8 minutes (total of 16 minutes). As you can see, after removing the duck, the surface of the marinade showed a good amount of rendered duck fat (which should to be removed, see below).

I am not sure this is necessary but I hung the duck breast over the sink with a metal skewer through one end and let the blood and fat drip down (picture below) as it cooled to the room temperature.

My wife was somewhat horrified with this step. She said I was losing one of the best ingredients to make a rich sauce. She was alluding to the “duck press” with which French extracted the very last drop of blood from duck carcasses by crushing the bones using the resulting extract for a sauce. I just said, I was following the recipe and that this may be to reduce the gaminess. To which, she retorted “Why would you want to do that. If you do not like a gamey flavor, what’s the point of eating duck?” (I suspect she has a penchant for gamey flavored meats).

Meanwhile, I put the marinade in a sealable plastic container in which the duck breast can snuggly fit. I placed the marinade (without duck in it)  in the refrigerator to cool. After 1-2 hours, the fat was congealed on the surface, I removed most of the fat and placed the now cooled down duck breast in the marinade. I let it marinade 24 hours in the refrigerator before serving.

When I sliced the duck breast the next evening, it was homogeneously rosy pink. Since it was nicely seasoned I did not add any sauce or the marinade but served it with just a dab of Japanese hot mustard.

This was remarkably good. Even the fatty layer developed flavor and unctuous texture reminiscent of well-cooked pork belly. Although it takes some time to prepare, this can be cooked ahead of time and is perfect for a small appetizer with a drink. Maybe next time I will try adding the drained liquid into a sauce.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cheese ball チーズボール

This is a recipe from a very dear friend who passed away this fall after a short but intense battle with cancer. She had been a friend of the family for many years and every Christmas, she made these cheese balls which she served at holiday dinners and gave as gifts. Over time they came to symbolize the holidays and festive fun. As a tribute to her, In her absence, and to reignite the joy she contributed to the holidays we decided to try making a batch ourselves.

Ingredients: 1 lb cream cheese, 1 lb Wisconsin Pride Cheese Whiz (WisPride Aged Cheddar) , 1 lb blue cheese, 3 garlic cloves crushed, 3tbs Worcestershire sauce, toasted walnuts or pecans (This will make a bit over 6 cheese balls).

Bring cheeses to room temperature (this will make mixing a lot easier). All the cheeses eventually have to be creamed together in the mixer. I found the blue cheese was the hardest to cream and actually stayed in small pieces as shown in the bottom picture. For this reason I suggest starting with the blue cheese by putting it in a mixer and mixing until it is creamed. Then add the other ingredients and mix until fully incorporated. I then rolled small handfuls into a ball and put them on a parchment covered cookie sheet in the refrigerator until they firmed up a bit. Then I rolled them in the chopped toasted nuts. The nuts actually helped stabilize the cheese into a round shape.

These were a remarkable facsimile of the famous cheese balls our friend used to make. While making them it was fun remembering all the good times we had together while eating them. Since her son and daughter are also trying their hand at making these cheese balls we are planning a cheese ball tasting to see who did the best justice to “mom’s” recipe.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Scallop braised on touban grill 帆立の陶板焼き

Touban 陶板 means a ceramic plate, which I used previously to cook matsutake. It has a shallow ceramic plate base and you can use it to grill, or since it comes with a ceramic dome with steam hole in it you can grill/steam.

Compared to a cast iron or metal pan, ceramic plate somehow conveys heat more gently and evenly. Touban can be used on the table top for cook-as-you-eat dinners. I decided to cook shiitake mushroom and fresh diver scallops using touban.

While I could have cooked and served this at the table I cooked it on the stove and then served on plates as shown above.

Scallops: These were large diver scallops. For two appetizer-size servings, I used 4 scallops cut into two discs (total of 8 discs). Reducing the thickness allowed it to cook more quickly and evenly.

Shiitake mushrooms: I used two rather large meaty fresh shiitake mushrooms. I removed the stems and made decorative star-shaped cuts but this is optional.

I first heated up the touban on medium-low flame for 3-4 minutes until it got hot and melted a small pat of sweet butter (1 tsp). When it melted and was slightly browning I started cooking the shiitake. When I turned over the shiitake after 1 minute of cooking, I placed the scallops on the grill (left on the picture below).  I grilled one side for 30-40 seconds and then turned them over and grilled another 30-40 seconds. I then added sake (1 tsp) and let it steam for 10-15 seconds with the lid on. I removed the lid and added a dash of soy sauce (less than 1 tsp) and let it cook for another 30 seconds (left on the picture below). I turned the scallops so that the sauce coated both side. I just added cooked green beans in the last 10-15 seconds to warm them up.

The combination of brown butter, sake, and soy sauce is always an easy winner. The scallops exuded more juice than I expected. I served this on the small plate (2nd picture) and poured some of the sauce over it. I knew my wife likes this type of sauce, so I served the extra in a small dipping bowl.

The shiitake mushroom was great, almost meaty in taste. The scallops were perfectly cooked (We hate over cooked rubbery scallops; something we occasionally encounter at restaurants). My wife served small squares of toasted bread to soak up any sauce/juice from this dish. Cold sake was what we had with this.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baby clam "Minnesotan hotdish" 子ハマグリのミネソタ風キャセロール

Recently we cleaned out the basement and my wife found an old box of “Betty Crocker” recipe cards. This was the first cookbook she ever owned. She subscribed to the cookbook and every month she would get a packet of recipe cards which she could store in the  large plastic box they provided for the purpose. In about a year she had the whole cookbook of cards. Over time she stuffed other recipes cut out of newspapers or received from friends into the box. Eventually she moved to more sophisticated recipe books and the box sat gathering dust for at least 25 years. The eclectic collection of newspaper or hand written recipes from friends were by far the most interesting.

This recipe was written in a very careful hand on a used computer punch card (which gives you an idea of how old it is). My wife didn’t remember the dish but the fact she asked for it from a friend indicates that at one time she really liked it. So we decided to make it. As the dish started to take shape we realized that it had to be a “Minnesota hotdish”.  The additional fact that, my wife had a friend from the midwest who was a computer specialist working on a mainframe computer that used punch cards cinched the identification.

The recipe starts with the unlikely combination of 20 coarsely crushed soda crackers soaked in 1 1/2 cup milk for 20 minutes. In another bowl, mix 3 well-beaten eggs, 1tbs grated onion, the entire contents of a can of baby (or chopped) clams (10 oz can, liquid and all), 1/4 cup melted butter and salt and pepper to taste. After the crackers have soaked add them to the egg mixture. Pour the mixture into a greased 13x9x2 inch pan. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 1 hour.

This comes out like a clam quiche without the crust. The soda crackers completely disappear. It has a very pleasant clam-y taste. It has to be a classic hotdish--easy to make, complete with canned ingredients. Maybe this, unbeknown to us, is a classic “long lost” hotdish favorite. Despite its oddity, I really kinda like this dish. I can see why I asked my friend for the recipe. My husband, however, remains a bit skeptical due to the unusual combination of ingredients. I can see potential here however—sorry hubbie you may be seeing this again in other mutations.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pennsylvania Dutch Gingerbread  ジンジャーブレッド

This is another one of wife's quick breads. I only helped by mixing together the dry and wet ingredients (since my wife tends to make a large batch of this bread then freezes it for future use). This PA Dutch gingerbread is very moist and flavorful. We mostly eat it as a breakfast bread. Since I am not wild about the taste of molasses my wife adjusts the flavoring to my preference by using “light molasses” (as it is called in the old Pa Dutch cookbooks). This is a half and half mixture of molasses and corn syrup which tones down the molasses flavor. The original recipe, of course, calls for all molasses (no corn syrup) referred to as just “molasses” in the recipes. If you like an intense molasses taste go with the original specification.

This recipe comes from a cookbook called “the Dutch Peoples Cookbook” Which was published in the early 1960’s. But I think many of the recipes are reprints of much older ones. When I make this I quadruple the recipe which are the amounts shown in the pictures—you can relax, a single amount does not require the 8 eggs shown here.

Single amount recipe: 3 cups flour, 1tsp. baking soda, 2tsp. ground cinnamon, 2 tsp. ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg, 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs well beaten, 1 cup light molasses (1/2 cup molasses plus 1/2 cup corn syrup) (or regular molasses if you like the taste). 1/4 cup boiling water, 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk. (Diversion alert: When old PA Dutch recipes call for “sour milk” they do not mean milk that has been left to go bad but rather milk to which an acid has been added. For example, instructions for sour milk read: “put 1 tbs. vinegar or lemon juice into a cup measure and fill the remainder with milk”. This is a good substitute to keep in mind if you don’t have buttermilk.)

Sift together the first 6 ingredients and set aside (picture 1). Mix together the molasses, corn syrup (or just molasses if you are not using light molasses) and the boiling water until they are completely blended and set aside (the measuring cup with the spatula in it in picture 2).  Cream the butter until fluffy (picture 3) and then begin adding the sugar, eggs and molasses mixture shown in picture 2 starting with the sugar (bowl on the left). When it has been incorporated and is fluffy add the eggs one at a time and beat until the mixture is fluffy. Slowly add the molasses mixture. At this point it will look like the mixture has “broken” but don’t worry all is well. Alternatively add the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the butter-egg mixture. (This is where my husband helps because when you are making 4 times the recipe it requires some muscle to mix it together). Pour the batter, which will be very runny, into a well greased (bottom only) 13x9x2 in pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This is without a doubt the best gingerbread I have ever eaten. It is moist, full of cinnamon, ginger, molasses flavor with a pleasingly dense texture. I served it with port stewed dried figs as shown in the picture and that is a great combination. I usually make this in the fall and it has become one of our seasonal dishes. I make it in large batches because small batches don’t last long.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Persimmon salad 柿のサラダ

Persimmon or “kaki” 柿 is a quintessential autumn fruit of Japan. Persimmon are not particularly popular in the U.S. mostly because the varieties available may be inedible if not completely ripe—supremely unpleasantly puckering in the mouth. Well, you have to know the type of persimmon and how to avoid the astringent puckering taste (tannin). In contrast, persimmon in Japan are lusciously sweet. Fortunately, the sweeter varieties are appearing in the market in the United States. In any case using sweet persimmons, I made a quick salad one evening by also using leftover blackened Brussels sprouts from Thanksgiving.


I just sliced American mini-cucumber, blackened (baked)  Brussels sprouts and dressed with mayonnaise and seasoned with salt and black pepper. I placed the salad on the bed of baby arugula. I think you could do “shira-ae” 白和え using tofu as a dressing (tofu, sesame paste, light colored soy sauce).

Because of the nice sweetness of persimmons and different textures of persimmon (firm but soft), cucumber (crispy and refreshing) and Brussels sprout (soft) but also sweet in its own way, this was a nice salad to start.

Digression alert: A few words about persimmon. Persimmon contain a large amount of tannin (the same substance that develops in red wine). Depending on the type of persimmon and its ripeness, it could be astringent or it could be wonderfully sweet. Many Americans do not know this and often end up biting into a totally inedible astringent persimmon and never to try it again. My wife fell into this category.

When I was growing up, there are many kinds of persimmon including some with big stones (seeds) inside and some which puckered your mouth called “shibugaki” 渋柿 but, in my more recent memory, all the persimmon were sweet or “amagaki” 甘柿 with no seeds or stones. This must have been because of the selection of cultivars with only the seedless sweet variety being sold. Other ways to remove the tannin from persimmon is by drying them called “Hoshigaki” 干し柿.  I used to eat this often as a kid. Another way is soaking them in alcohol or “tarugaki” 樽柿. I read also that placing them in carbon dioxide also removes tannin, which was reportedly done on a  large industrial scale.
In any case, at least in our area, at some gourmet grocery stores, you can get persimmon and I see two different kinds being sold.

Here is one kind called “Hachiya” 蜂谷. This one has a pointed end and is classified as “Shibugaki” 渋柿 or astringent persimmons. This  means that if you eat this before the meat of fruit become soft and pudding-like, it will pucker your mouth in a big way—”like the mouth of a tightly pulled drawstring purse” according to my wife. I let it sit on the counter for almost 2 weeks before we ate it. As you can see on the right, the meat of the fruit became soft and semi-transparent. This type has a nice sweetness and the fruit melts in your mouth with nice soft pudding-like texture.

Persimmon Hachiya

Here is another type called “Jiro” 次郎. This is square in shape with a flat bottom. This is classified as “amagaki” 甘柿 or sweet persimmon. As long as it is ripe, you do not have to wait until the meat becomes soft. As you can see on the right, the appearance of the meat of this persimmon is quite different from the previous one and the fruit is still firm yet it is not astringent. This is the one I used in the salad.

Persimmon, Hacchin

Once you know these tips about enjoying persimmons, it is one of the most wonderful fruits you can have. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of people in the U.S. enjoy persimmon. On second thought maybe that is good thing; more for those of us who know what to do to enjoy them.

Finally, here is a famous Haiku of Shiki Masaoka 正岡子規 about autumn, the temple bell and persimmon.


I am not going to translate this but Roger Pulvers did this for us in the article in Japan times (9/20/2010).
As lovely and evocative as that is (referring to his friend Natsume’s autumnal haiku), Masaoka went one better than his friend with what has become one of the most well-known haiku in Japan, set at Horyuji Temple in Nara:

"Eat a persimmon / And the bell will toll / At Horyuji."

The tolling of the temple bell is a potent symbol, going back 1,000 years and resonant of the transience of life.”

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Home made tofu from store-bought soy milk 市販豆乳から自家製豆腐

The quality of tofu we can buy in the U.S. is variable. Some of the soft tofu (Japanese brand) we can get at the  Japanese grocery store is not bad at all. Our surrogate Izakaya “Tako Grill” makes a excellent “sukui-dofu” or un-pressed tofu. But I am not satisfied with “momen-dofu” 木綿豆腐 or firm tofu, either from the regular grocery store or from the Japanese grocery store. For this reason, I wanted to make tofu at home but the amount of effort and time made me hesitate to undertake this project.

Recently, while I was browsing through the new cook book called “Japanese farm food” by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, I came across a recipe for home-made tofu and it rekindled my interest in making  tofu. Since this book had a list of Japanese food/cooking tool suppliers, I promptly ordered the tofu press box and nigari にがり coagulant (magnesium chloride). Then, I procrastinated for some time.
Finally I made my first attempt which was a qualified success

Here is my very first home made tofu served as “hiya-yakko” 冷や奴.


Soy milk: Almost all recipes I can find start from scratch, i.e., making soy milk from dried soy beans. As a matter of fact, the place I ordered my tofu box mainly sells an automated soy milk maker. Before embarking on making soy milk myself, I decided to use store-bought organic unflavored non-sweetened soy milk. I could not find any specific recipes if store-bought soy milk can be used in tofu making. So nothing to loose, I decided to try it on my own. I used half a gallon (2 quarts or nearly 1.9L) as you can see below (#5).

I heated up the soy milk to 180F stirring occasionally to prevent scorching (I measured the temperature using an instant read digital thermometer). As soon as the temp has reached, I cut off the flame #1).

: I dissolved 1 tsp of nigari (magnesium chloride) in 1 cup of warm water and stirred it into the soy milk. Since I stirred several times, it made a very fine curd. This is the area I have to experiment with and improve further.

Tofu box
: The tofu box has a removable bottom with slots and the box has several side weeping holes. I set the bottom and side and lined the box with the cloth that came with it. The entire box was set up in a square metal basket which spanned the edges of the sink (so that there would be no chance of back wash). After 10 minutes or so when the curds were fully developed, I poured the curds and whey into the box (#2). I skimmed off any bubbles that formed on the surface.

As the excess whey dripped down and the level was 1/2 inch below the edge, I folded the excess cloth over the curd (#3). I then placed the top plate (#4).


As a weight, I used the empty carton of soy milk (#5) filled with water and placed in the center of the top plate (#6).


I left the weight for 30-40 minutes. I slipped the still-cloth-wrapped tofu into water (I used our reverse-osmosis filtered water) and unwrapped it under water(below, after I cut it into two). It is not as firm or as solid as I wished but it held its shape.


I cut the tofu into smaller blocks under water and served it as you see in the first picture with a garish of chopped scallion, bonito flakes, and thin strips of nori sea weed. I added a small dab of real wasabi and poured undiluted kelp dashi noodle sauce (2x concentrated from the bottle).


The taste was pretty good—the slightly peanut taste of a legume. It was not as silky in texture as commercial silken tofu but not as grainy or firm as firm tofu. It did not have any off smell/taste which are common among US-made tofu. It could have stronger soybean flavor but this is quite good for my first attempt especially from store bought soy milk.

I read later that, to make a good tofu, soy milk needs to have higher protein than one in the store-bought one (I assume 3-4%  but I am not sure this is correct). It is certain, however, that tofu can be made from store bought soy milk. I may try some more times with store bought soy milk (I have some idea of increasing the protein content) before venturing into making my own soy milk.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baked curry flavored cauliflower カレー味焼きカリフラワー

We saw a recipe called “Buffalo wing cauliflower” posted on an internet “recipe site”. Essentially, it was crispy hot (spicy) baked cauliflower. But that recipe did not work well. It called for a kind of batter to coat the cauliflower florets then the florets were to be baked so the crust would get crispy. After the florets were removed from the oven they were to be coated with a mixture of melted butter and hot sauce. Somehow the batter did not work (at all). It was soggy and it made the cauliflower soggy instead of crispy. (did anyone actually try making this dish before posting it)? The idea of spicy nuggets of cauliflower sounded good however, so my wife suggested I try making baked cauliflower like I make my curry flavored wings and I agreed to try it.


I could have used an oven, either toaster oven or regular oven, but we were doing chicken thighs and wings on the Weber grill and decided to baked this in the grill before I cooked the chicken. (Later I tried with the 400F convection toaster oven for 10-13 minutes which worked well).

The recipe is very simple. I first separated the cauliflower into small florets. I then coated the surface of the florets with olive oil using my hands to toss and coat well.

For seasoning I used 4-6:1 ratio of flours and curry powder (I used “sweet” curry powder) mixture. I placed it in a gallon-size Ziploc bag and coated the florets (I forgot to add salt here and sprinkled it after it was cooked).


I placed this in a Weber Grill (I set it up for in-direct heat with the hot coal placed only half of the bottom. I placed the cauliflower on the cool side (indirect heat), put the lid (both lower and upper vents open) for 10 minutes (or 400 F oven for 10-13 minutes). We tasted it and felt it was slightly underdone and might need 5 more minutes. But after baking 5 more minutes, we found it was a bit overdone.

In any case, this is a very nice way to eat cauliflower and is a perfect appetizer while waiting for the chicken to cook. The curry was not too hot. The florets had a slight crunch from the combination coating of oil and flour. Our only regret was that they were too soft (over cooked). We must stop cooking when the cauliflower is still a bit underdone since it keeps cooking after removing from the heat. We had this with a dipping sauce of Greek yogurt flavored with blue cheese dressing (our effort to cut excess fat). This works very well since the flavor of the blue cheese dressing permeated the yogurt, and the blue cheese flavor went very well with the curried cauliflower.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Autumnal kara-age with chestnuts and ginkonuts 秋の栗と銀杏のから揚げ

Since I am running out of dishes to make with North American chestnuts, this is my last attempt this fall. Here is "kakiage" かき揚げ with the essences of autumn; ginkonuts 銀杏 and chestnuts 栗.


Although it is possible to harvest ginko fruits (which nobody here does except some dedicate Japanese expats), clean off the smelly skin, broil and crack open to produce ginkonuts, but it is too smelly and messy work for even for me. I tried it on a very small scale once in the past but that was more than enough for one lifetime. In the center of the kakiage shown in the above picture is a chestnut surrounded by three small yellow ginkonuts (out of a can).


I used whatever vegetables were available. They included: onion (thinly sliced) and carrot (julienned). The amount is all arbitrary. I first put the vegetables in a bowl and added a pinch of salt and enough cake flour to coat the vegetables and let it sit for a few minutes. The moisture came out of the vegetables and moistened the flour which makes it easier to fry the veggies crispy. This “undercoat” of flour means the batter will coat the vegetables better. I added a bit more flour and cold seltzer water and mixed to make a rather thin runny batter.

On a large spoon or wooden (flat) spatula (or  Japanese "Hera" へら), I placed the mixture and chestnuts (previously boiled and both outer skin and inner skin removed) as shown below.


I slipped the mixture into hot oil (175-180C or 350F). I used peanut oil. I fried them for 4-5 minutes until brown and crispy (my oil was a bit too hot).


The vegetables turned out to be a bit too brown but the crust was very light and crispy and deep frying makes the onions, ginko nuts and chestnuts very sweet. They have a nice texture as well. We had this with my usual green tea salt. Any left overs can be heated up nicely in a toaster oven. To reheat them in a toaster over, however, you need a metal grate over a cookie sheet since excess oil will drip down. This is another winning combination. You can’t go wrong with deep fried onions, a combination of sweet carrot and nuts.

Friday, November 23, 2012

RGPB (Really Good Pumpkin Bread) パンプキンブレッド

Again, this is something my wife made. This recipe came from America's test kitchen. I have to say this is one of the best quick breads I ever tasted. It is moist, flavorful with the crunch of nuts and sweet crumbs on the top. You can eat this any time of the day. It is sweet enough to be even a dessert (at least for us but probably not for most Americans). I asked my wife to take over this post.

This bread consists of two parts: the topping and the bread itself. The secret of this recipe is to cook the pumpkin puree to caramelize slightly and remove the “canned” taste.

Topping: 5 Tbs. packed light brown sugar,1Tbs. all purpose flour, 1Tbs. unsalted butter softened, 1 Tsp. ground cinnamon, 1/8 Tsp. salt. I used my fingers to mix all the ingredients together until the mixture resembled coarse sand.

Bread: 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 1/2 Tsp baking powder, 1/2 Tsp. baking soda, 1 15 oz. can of unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1tsp. salt, 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 ground nutmeg, 1/8 ground cloves, 1cup granulated sugar, 1 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 4 oz. cream cheese cut into pieces, 4 large eggs, 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1 cup walnuts toasted and chopped.
I mixed the flour, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl and set it aside. I combined the pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves in a large sauce pan and cooked continuously until it turned brown and reduced by about half (picture 1 below). I removed the pan from the heat and stirred in the sugars, oil and cream cheese. I mixed it until everything was incorporated and homogeneous. I whisked together the eggs and buttermilk and added it to the pumpkin mixture (picture 2). (This step requires some care not to curdle the eggs so either let the mixture cool down or temper the eggs a bit before adding.)  I poured the cooled pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture to form a batter. I folded the walnuts into the batter. I poured the mixture into two greased loaf pans and sprinkled the topping mixture on top of the loaves. I cooked the loaves in a 350 degree oven for about 45 or 50 minutes or until a skewer came out clean. Just after cooking, this loaf is very tender so I let it rest in the pan for about 20 minutes before I attempted to remove it (picture 3). I waited until it was completely cool before slicing is (picture 4).

This bread is quite good. It is very tender and has lots of flavor. The nuts add a nice counterpoint to the rich soft texture of the bread. The topping adds an additional texture component and a nice sweet crunch. The bread would be really good even without the topping. We will be making this again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

PD Noodle Mac and Cheese variation マック アンド チーズ ヴァリエーション

We had leftover barbecued chicken from the weekend, leftover Pennsylvania Dutch noodle (egg noodle) and this was a leftover control dish. This is similar to my Mac and cheese with some variations.

The below will make a 9 inch casserole.

Sauce: This is a type of Morney sauce (or Béchamel sauce with cheese). I try to make Béchamel with the least amount of fat possible. To do this I start with finely chopped onions before adding the flour. Because the flour coats the surface of the chopped onion, it will make a smooth Béchamel without much fat.

I sautéed 1 medium finely chopped onion in a frying pan (2 tbs of light olive oil instead of butter) and seasoned it with salt. I then added shiitake mushroom (optional 3 big ones, stem removed and finely chopped). After mushrooms were softened, I added flour (3 tbs) stirring until dry flour was no longer visible and the pieces of vegetable were coated with flour. I added cold 1% (instead of cream or 4%) milk at once (about 1 cup and add more later). I stirred the mixture with a silicon spatula until the sauce thickened. Since cheeses will be added and the noodles may absorb moisture, I wanted this sauce to be rather runny. I added more milk until the desired consistency was attained. I seasoned it with salt, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg (we like lots of freshly grated nutmeg).

Cheese: We added two cheeses; sharp Cheddar (1/2 cup grated) and Gruyere cheese (1/2 cup grated). If the sauce became too thick, you can add more milk to loosen it.

Chicken: This is optional but one of the reason for this dish was to use the leftover barbecued chicken. I used about 1/2 cup of cooked and shredded chicken which was mixed into the sauce. Since the chicken was hot smoked, it added a nice smoky flavor.

Noodles: This was Pennsylvania Dutch noodle (wide noodle) cooked. I added about a cup to the chicken cheese mixture. I placed the sauce mixture with noodles into the casserole and placed it in a 400F preheated convection (toaster) oven for 15-20 minutes or until the surface started showing brown spots. I grated Riggiano Palmigiano cheese and chopped parsley on the top. I let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

This was a quite wonderful “comfort” dish for leftover control. Often Cheddar cheese cooked too long becomes "chalky" but the addition of Gruyere and the rather loose sauce appeared to prevent this from happening. The nutmeg and smoky chicken added nice flavor. I could have added bread crumbs on the top to make crunchy surface but even without it this was a fine dish.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nagaimo and mushroom cheese casserole 長芋とエリンギのチーズ焼き

More than a week or so ago, I bought nagaimo 長芋 from the Japanese grocery store. I did not finish it and the edges were getting discolored and I needed to make something from it. I remembered the recipe I saw previously and decided to make this dish. The original recipe uses clamshell mushrooms or shimeji しめじ mushroom but I did not have one. Instead I used royal trumpet mushroom which is very similar to eryingi (popular in Japan). This is a Western-Japanese fusion casserole dish consisting of bacon, nagaimo, onion, mushroom which are first sautéed and then baked with the cheese on the top. The ingredient below made two of the small casserole or ramekin as you see below.

Nagaimo: I had 3 inch piece of nagaimo. I peeled it and removed any discolored ends, cut it in half length wise and then sliced it into half circles (about 1/3 inch thick).

Royal trumpet mushroom: Starting from the stem-side I tore it into 4-6 long, thin pieces (I used 4 large mushrooms).

Onion: I halved and then sliced onions (one small).

Bacon: I cut one strip of bacon into half-inch size.

Cheese: I used smoked mozzarella cheese. I  sliced it into thin (1/4 inch) slices, 2 per ramekin.
I first put the bacon into a dry frying pan on medium low head and rendered the bacon fat and made the bacon brown and crispy (5-7 minutes). Since the amount of the fat was not enough, I also added olive oil (1 tsp) and sautéed the onion for several minutes and then the mushroom. I seasoned it with salt and black pepper. I then added the slices of nagaimo and sautéed for several minutes and seasoned it again. I divided the mixture into two small ramekins and placed the slices of cheese on the top. On hi-broil, I melted the cheese in a toaster oven (2-3 minutes). I garnished I with chopped chives.
The above picture shows nagaimo slices.
Here is the royal trumpet mushroom.

This is a Ok dish but not great. Although cooking (especially grilling) usually reduces the sliminess of nagaimo, that did not happen in this dish. Although the nagaimo had a nice crunchy texture, it was way too slimy and as a result not great. On the positive side, I satisfied my curiosity about this dish, used up leftover mushrooms and nagaimo and made one new post.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Southern cheese grits soufflé チーズグリッツスフレ

This is another Southern grits dish my wife made. We had this as an ending dish one evening but this is also a perfect breakfast item. It is a kind of soufflé with grits as a stabilizer. It is quite good but we (I) burned our/my tongue(s) since the ramekins retained heat so well. If you are going to try this recipe, I suggest to let it cool for 10 minutes or so before tasting.

I have to ask my wife to fill in the recipe.

The amount below made 4 small ramekins like seen here (about 3 inch in diameter).

Grits:I made a batch of grits according to the recipe on the box. Basically it was 1 cup of milk, and a pinch of salt. I brought the milk just to the boil and stirred in 3 table spoons of grits. I brought it back to the boil then reduced to simmer and cooked for 5 minutes.

Grits “soufflé”: I preheated the toaster oven to 325 degrees then generously greased 4 individual ramekins (about 3 inch diameter). We had some leftover garlic chips. (a sliced garlic clove slowly sautéed in olive oil until it starts to brown, then quickly removed before it starts to burn). I cut the chips into small pieces and added them with 1/4 cup milk and 4 Tbs. butter and a cup of grated cheddar cheese to the cooked grits. I then took 2 eggs and slowly tempered them by adding spoonfuls of the hot grit mixture to the eggs and stirring. I added the tempered eggs to the rest of the grits mixture. I poured the mixture into the ramekins and put into the preheated toaster oven and cooked them for about 30 minutes.

The final dish was beautiful. The grits puffed up just like a soufflé. This is a a very satisfying dish. The garlic chips add a nice mellow garlic flavor that can’t go wrong with the combination of garlic and cheddar cheese. The texture is almost like a very firm pudding with a gritty texture (from the grits of course). I think it would also be good made with polenta. My husband found it good too but in his hurry to taste it really burned his tongue. Next time we will let it cool for a while. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Savory French toast with hot sauce ホットソース入りフレンチトースト

While we we vacationing in Hilton Head, I made French toast one morning. Since we did not have maple syrup. I just made it with a mixture of eggs and cream, seasoned with salt rather than making it sweet. My wife really liked the non-sweet French toast and came up with the idea of “savory” french toast. After coming home, she made this dish one weekend as a breakfast.
Bread: We used two thick slices of store-bought semolina loaf.
Egg mixture: For two slices like above, we used two whole eggs, cream (2 tbs), Sriracha hot sauce (to your taste) and salt (1/4 tsp).

In a shallow pan, which was just large enough to accommodate two slices of bread, we place the bread slices and poured over the egg mixture. Turning once, to coat. Then we placed it in the refrigerator over night so that the bread could totally absorb the egg mixture.

Next morning, I fried the bread in melted butter in a frying pan until both sides were browned and finished it in a 350F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the center of the bread was cooked.

We grated Parmigiano-Riggiano cheese on the top. This turned out pretty well. It is a slightly hot (egg and cream tamed the heat from the hot sauce) but savory French toast. The bread was crunchy on the outside but moist (almost like bread pudding) on the inside. We actually prefer this to the more traditional sweet French toast. We also enjoyed the leftover French toast as a drinking snack by cutting it into  bite-sized cubes and toasting it before serving. My wife says the success of this dish opens wide vistas of possibility for variations on this theme…oops!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baked egg on Indian-style spinach オーブン卵とほうれん草カレー

We gave up "baking" eggs such as "oeuf cocotte".  Eggs never cook properly ending up with overcooked yolks and under cooked whites. So, we usually substitute "baking" eggs with poached eggs. Then we came across the article and recipe on perfectly "baked" eggs in a paper copy of Cook Illustrated by America's test kitchen. They tested many different ways of baking eggs They listed a spinach florentine recipe with baked egg. Instead of making spinach Florentine, we used my wife's Indian style spinach without cheese curds.
The picture above shows perfectly cooked egg white and still runny egg yolk. So their method of baking eggs really works!
My wife garnished this with small chunks of Reggiano Pamigiano cheese and fresh basil leaves.
The secret of success is that the item that goes under the egg has to have a certain around of moisture to produce steam during cooking (such as this dish or florentine). It also has to support the egg white and yolk in the proper way. So, my wife made the circular indentations as you see above. The center crater will hold up the egg yolk. In addition, you need to bake the base first so it is piping hot before placing the egg on top. This allows the white to cook first while the yolk is insulated by the spinach mixture and cooks more slowly

We preheated our convection toaster oven to 400F and placed the ramekins with the spinach sauce in a glass pyrex baking dish and cooked ifor 10 minutes before placing the egg on the top. We then continued baking for 10 more minutes. After removing from the oven we garnished with chunks of parmesan and fresh basil. We had this as a breakfast with toast of my wife's home baked white bread and freshly brewed Cappuccino (we home roast green beans and use Italian-made espresso machine, I may be able to post about our coffee when my inventory of the Izakaya dishes are low).

P.S. Later, we also tried this using spinach florentine which was also very good and the eggs were baked perfectly.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Vegetable chips 野菜チップス

This is not something we made but we thought was rather unique and worth reporting. We also think (perhaps wishfully?), that it is also a rather healthy snack to have while imbibing wine. While vacationing in Hilton Head, we visited a gourmet grocery store there called "Fresh Market". It is a large grocery store chain and we learned one store recently open near our home. In any case, they have the largest selection of bulk "snacks" we have ever seen. These vegetables (whole and chips) were among the many snacks offered. I am not sure if they are deep fried or dried but judging from amount of fat and the taste, these are not simply deep fried as many vegetable chips are but tasted too good to be just air dried.


Being in the South, we should not have been surprised at seeing the dried okra--that southern stand-by and favorite (lower left). We just had to try it. It was pretty good as were the green beans (right). Both retained their shape and nice green color, although totally dry and desiccated. Both had a nice fresh green taste. Although the dried okura is not as slimy as the fresh ones, even dried, there is some residual sliminess particularly as it moistens with the saliva in your mouth. Other selections included regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrot, Kobacha pumpkin and some items we could not identify. We were kinda hoping that these snacks, eaten while drinking some wine, would count this a USDA recommended daily serving of vegetables (NOT!).

Friday, November 2, 2012

Poached starch-coated chicken breast 鶏水晶の刺身風

I saw this recipe on line and decided to try it. The idea of this dish is to coat pieces of chicken breast with potato starch before poaching it, which creates a transparent slippery surface and also keeps the meat moist. This type of preparation is apparently called “quartz crystal” 水晶 to be poetic.

This was served cold with sliced cucumber, hydrated sea weed (wakame 若布) and julienned daikon seasoned with ponzu ポン酢 sauce. I also added yuzu-koshou 柚子胡椒 and the meat of pickled plum or umeboshi 梅干, which was finely chopped into a paste or “bainiku” 梅肉.
I followed the original recipe closely.

Chicken breast: I used one bone-less, skin-less chicken breast for two small servings as seen above. It was cut along the long axis first and them sliced thin (1/4 inch). Using the back of my knife, I pounded the meat in one direction and then turned the meat 90 degrees and repeated the process. I did this on both sides of meat to tenderize. I placed the meat in a small bowl and added light-colored soy sauce (1 tsp), salt (1/4 tsp), grated ginger (1/4 tsp) and potato starch (1 tbs). Using my fingers, I mixed everything well.

Poaching: I deviated somewhat here. Instead of water, I used chicken broth (my usual reduced salt non-fat Swanson chicken broth). In a frying pan, I poured chicken broth about 1 inch deep. After it came to a boil, I turned the heat down and gently poached the seasoned chicken. I only poached it for 2-3 minutes or until the meat was cooked. I did not poach as long as the original recipe suggested (10 minutes). I immediately dunked the poached meat into ice water until it was completely cooled down. Then, I drained it.
I made a mound of sliced cucumber (as usual,thinly sliced, salted and the moisture squeezed out), hydrated wakame sea weed (excess moisture wrung out), finely julienned daikon. All were dressed in ponzu (soy) sauce. I then arranged the poached and cooled chicken around in a circle.

This is quite a nice small dish perfect for cold sake. The chicken was tender and moist. Some may not like the slippery (slimy) texture on the surface. We coated the pieces with plum meat or yuzu koshou and dipped it in additional ponzu sauce. Certainly this could be our “Teiban” 定番 or regular home Izakaya dish.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cold Udon noodle salad 糸うどんのサラダ

This is another cold thin udon dish. In this case. This was a lunch.  We had more vegetables than noodles but although you can’t see them, they are there under the vegetables in this picture.

Vegetables: I used whatever was available. I used cucumber (American mini-cucumber, sliced into long ribbons for s change), carrot (likewise cut into thin ribbons), Vidalia onion, sake steamed chicken breast, hydrated wakame わかめ sea weed.

Dressing: I used ponzu shouyu ポン酢醤油 sauce (from the bottle) with a dash of dark sesame oil.

Especially if you already have cold udon, this is a very quick dish for lunch or ending or “shime” 締め dish. By cutting the veggies lengthwise they are similar in dimension to the noodles. And believe-it-or-not they have a slightly different consistency and taste than if they were cut the usual way.