Thursday, May 30, 2013

"Saag Tofu" Indian-style tofu 豆腐のインド風ほうれん草ソース

We are not at all familiar with Indian cuisine but my wife likes the "spicy" but not "hot" taste of some Indian-inspired dishes. She started making this Indian-style spinach sauce/curry which must be similar to "saag". This time instead of "Saag paneer" which also contains Indian farm cheese, we made "Saag Tofu". We figured tofu would stand in for the cheese curd.

The amount of tofu is rather arbitrary. Here I used a half block of tofu. I cut the tofu into small cubes and parboiled it before putting it into an oven proof pan. We added "saag", mixed to cover the tofu. We baked it in a 400F oven (toaster oven, convection) for 15 minutes with a lid on the pan. We garnish this with coarsely chopped {roasted and cooled) cashew nuts.

The textured of cheese curd and tofu is obviously different but the tofu and cheese are essentially taste neutral. The crunch of cashew nuts and rather soft tofu makes a nice contrast. The sauce itself has the tastes of lots of spices but is only mildly hot (from Jalopeno pepper). We found this saag to be very versatile and can be used in many untraditional ways. This can be eaten with Indian flat bread (naan etc) but we enjoyed it by itself.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Crispy baked chickpeas カリカリひよこ豆

I saw this recipe on-line and thought this would make a nice snack and also thought this was the kind of thing my wife likes to make. So I suggested it to her one weekend. You could make all kind of variations depending on the spices you use.

Chick peas: 14oz can, drained and rinsed, Olive oil
Spices: Many variations are possible. This time we used red (Cayenne) pepper powder and salt.

First, I drained and rinsed the can of chickpeas in a colander. On a cookie sheet, I placed a sheet of paper towel and spread the chickpeas in a single layer. I then placed another sheet of paper towel on top and rubbed gently to remove the thin transparent skin from the chick peas.  This is the tedious part: while the towel removed the majority of paper-like outer skins, I found I had to remove the remainder individually by hand. I took away the paper towel, added olive oil and coated the chickpeas by rolling them in the oil by hand. I seasoned them with salt, red pepper and baked them in a 400 degree F oven for 30 minutes.

The result was very satisfying. It is somewhat like Wasabi green peas but better. They are light, and crispy. The slow heat of the red pepper catches up with you but in a very pleasant way. This is a nice drinking snack.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Salmon salad on Belgian endive 鮭のサラダのチコリボート

This is another dish used for leftover control. One evening we had salmon. I made this salmon salad the next day from the leftovers. Since I happened to have Belgian endive, I placed the salmon salad on several leaves to make it a small appetizer we could pick up with our fingers.

Salmon: This was leftover from salmon cooked in a frying pan and then finished in the oven. I probably had 3-4 oz. I coarsely crumbled it by hand.

Other vegetables: I had leftover steamed green beans. I cut them into I inch portions (10-12 green beans). I also had a quarter of a ripe avocado. I diced it.

I dressed the above in a mixture of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice.
I served it on the boat of Belgian endive leaves and “floated” the boat on a “sea” of baby arugula as a start dish for the evening.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Japanese-style stuffed omelet with saag インド風ほうれん草ソースいりオムレツ

My wife and I occasionally watch "Sakaba hourouki" 酒場放浪記 on Youtube. Beside the shows with the  host "Rui Yoshida" 吉田類, my wife particularly likes the female model, Yasuko Kuramoto 倉本康子 who occasionally hosts the female version of the show.In one of her shows, she visited an eel kushiyaki 串焼き place and had an unusual omelet stuffed with eel. I suppose it was a variation of a more traditional "Umaki" 鰻巻き (cooked filet of eel wrapped inside a Japanese-style omelet). My wife was impressed with the bright yellow color and homogenous smooth appearance of the omelet. I rose to the challenge by saying that I could make it that way easily. So here is my omelet.

Since I did not have eel handy and this was a weekend breakfast, I substituted the stuffing with my wife's "Saag", pork, shiitake mushroom and cottage cheese.

Stuffing (for one 2 egg omelet):
Onion, one small or half large, finely chopped
Pork, I used leftover barbecued whole pork loin, just cut into small match stick, 3-4 tbs
Shiitake mushroom, Thinly sliced, 6 small or 3 large
Spinach saag,  2-3 tbs
Cottage cheese, 2-3 tbs

I sautéed the onion in olive oil in a small frying pan, seasoned with salt and pepper. When the onion was soft and semi-transparent, I added the mushroom and pork and kept sautéing for 2-3 more minutes. I then added the saag and mixed well. I placed the cottage cheese on the top and kept the pan on "warm" or lowest simmer with the lid on.  The idea of using cottage cheese came from the fact that my wife initially made something similar to "Saag paneer" with home made cheese curd—the cottage cheese substituted for the paneer.

Omelet: I used two brown eggs, well-beaten. I did not seasoned the eggs because of the rather assertively flavored stuffing I was using.

There are many different ways to make omelet. For a stuffed omelet, I generally use the method I learned by watching omelets being made at one of the restaurants we used to visit in Los Angeles many years ago when we lived there. The restaurant specialized in brunch especially omelets. Using a spatula, I raise the side of the omelet after the egg on the bottom is set and let the uncooked egg mixture flow under the cooked egg. I repeat this on all four quadrants until I reached the desired doneness of the omelet. An omelet made in this style has a large soft curd.
The secret to making a Japanese style yellow smooth omelet is to beat the eggs well (if so preferred, you could add more yolk to the mixture to enhance the bright yellow color) and use a very low heat with the lid on the pan. It takes longer to cook this way but the result is as you can see here—there is no curd and the egg is homogeneous in texture. The same technique is used to make "golden thread egg" or "kinshi-ran 金糸卵".

After cooking the egg for 5-6 minutes or until the surface of the omelet was just barely dry, I mixed the cottage cheese into the remaining ingredients and placed in the middle of the omelet. Holding the plate in my left hand and the frying pan in my right hand, I slid the omelet onto the plate using the edge of the frying pan, to overlay the remaining omelet over the stuffing (see the first picture).

I do not think if this is a "better" omelet but it has a nice look.
By the way, I took this picture for the blog as though the whole omelet was for one person but, we shared this omelet. The saag is spicy but not too hot and the smoky flavor of the pork still came through. The cottage cheese had a very neutral taste but added a nice texture.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Roast pork wrapped mashed potatoマシュポテトの豚肉巻き

This is another small dish I made one evening from leftovers. We had barbequed whole pork loin on the weekend. It was seasoned with a mixture of smoked Spanish paprika, cumin, black pepper, salt  with a small amount of cinnamon and cloves.  We used this roast pork for several dinners and sandwiches. I also made a stew out of it and still a small amount remained. When we roasted the pork we also roasted potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. We removed the skins while the potatoes were still hot, mashed them, seasoned with soy sauce, cream and butter.  A small amount of the potatoes also remained.

I just sliced the roast pork and used the slices to wrap a small cylinder of mashed potato. In a frying pan I added a small amount of olive oil and placed the rolls with the overwrapping side down. I cooked them on a low flame until they were heated through. (Since everything was pre-cooked, I just needed to warm up the pork rolls). 

While the rolls were cooking my wife asked me in pleased surprise “You’re cooking bacon?” They really smelled like bacon—there was no doubt they were from the “pork family”. I served this with cucumber salad (thinly sliced cucumber, salted, kneaded with the excess moisture rung out and dressed with a mixture of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and cracked black pepper). I put some “Tonkatsu” sauce on the pork and also added a small dab of Japanese hot mustard on the side.
For just leftover control, this is a nice small dish perfect for a start.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Grilled trout and fava beans 鱒の塩焼きと焼きそら豆

This is a continuation of the grill-out-side-while-mosquitos-are-not-out moment. I have posted grilled trout before. I have an excuse for posting this again because this was boned and butter flied trout and we used the “Yakitori” rather than the Weber grill. I prefer bone-in trout but only butter flied trout was available. I just salted it and grilled it in its simplest way.
One of the problems with trout prepared this way is that fishmongers usually do not scale them. Since we like to eat the skin, I scaled the skin. But once it was butter flied and deboned, it is more difficult to scale. In any case, I scaled it and put two long metal skewers through. The reason for this is seen below. I put the tip (where the fish head is) of the skewers into the grate so that most of the fish was floating over the grate. I did this to prevent the skin from sticking to the grate. Once the skin is cooked, it can be placed directly on the grate without worrying about sticking (above).
It is not photographed but I also grilled eggplant. Since this is the season for fresh fava beans, I also grilled fava beans (soramame 空豆) in pods (see below) and served with a small mound of Kosher salt We removed the beans from the outer skins and peeled off the inner skins before dipping into the salt. .
I served the trout with grated daikon and soy sauce. I took few pictures but they do not look very neat and am not showing them. It has been a long time since we had either the trout or fava beans. Nothing beats trout cooked over a charcoal fire. The fava bean were tender and sweet. The mosquitoes don’t know what they are missing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Grilled shrimp with Yuzu-kosho marinade 海老の串焼き柚子胡椒風味

Since the mosquito-free period is limited, we are doing outside grilling as often as we can. This is one of those times. For a change, we grilled skewered shrimp. To make it interesting I made a marinade which contains yuzu-koshou 柚子胡椒.

This was good. It was a bit spicy but had a nice citrus flavor from the "Yuzu".

Marinade: I mixed yuzu-koshou (from a tube, 2 tsp), soy sauce (2 tbs) and mirin (1 tbs).
I brushed this several times on the both side of the skewered shrimp (above picture) and let it sit for 30 minutes.

I cooked on a medium charcoal fire turning several times and also brushing on the marinade (above). Doneness is somewhat difficult to tell but the best way is to remove one from the end and cut into it to make sure everything is opaque (Even that was difficult since it was getting dark).
In any case, this was a nice appetizer for the evening.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Broccolini in the style of "Nanohana" ブロッコリニの菜の花風おひたし

When Spring comes, many Japanese dishes reflect the season. One of those, in my mind, is "Nanohana" 菜の花. Although this plant is mainly cultivated for oil ("natane abura" 菜種油), similar to rapeseed oil, Japanese enjoy eating the young just-about-to-blossom buds as a symbol of Spring. It has a slightly bitter taste. Although rapeseed is widely cultivated in the West,  I have never seen "flowering buds" being offered for food.*

* Digression alert: My wife was shocked to learn Japanese eat the rapeseed plant because it was her understanding the plant, seed and oil were considered toxic to humans and livestock. She said that was probably why I had not seen flowering buds in the grocery store. I was sure "Nanohana" is related to rapeseed and has been eaten in Japan with no ill effect for quite some time so I decided to do some research.
Turns out, rapeseed contains glucosinolates which gives it a bitter taste and, in high doses, is toxic. The seeds of rapeseed apparently contain a higher level of glucosinolates than the leaves and buds. In addition cattle that were fed rapeseed meal (residue left over after the seeds were crushed for oil) didn't appreciate the taste, changed their feeding habits and lost weight further leading to the perception that it was toxic. Many vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts, however, also contain small amounts of the same substance which is the source of bitterness in their taste. Rapeseed also contains erucic acid. Between the glucosinolates and erucic acid, rapeseed was not considered suitable for human consumption or cattle feed in Canada, US and the European Union until the 1970's when the Canadians came up with a rapeseed cultivar low in toxin and acid called CANOLA (CANadian seed Oil Low-Acidity). There is now a rapeseed cultivar (rapeseed 00) which has much lower erucic acid and glucosinolates and is considered fit for human consumption.
Japanese "Nanohana"  may have its roots in ancient varieties of rapeseed which came to Japan from China centuries ago. It originated from west asian and northern european varieties that grew as weeds in barley fields. Also, since the leaves, which are eaten in nanohana contain lower concentration of glucosinolates it would be more acceptable for human consumption in Asia than in Europe where primarily the more toxic seed was use for oil production. Japan produced its own low glucosinolates and erucic acid cultivars as well as cultivars that are more suited as edible vegetables than for oil production. Nonetheless the vast majority of currently grown varietals in Japan are imported from the West. That was probably more than you ever wanted to know about the rapeseed plant.

As far as I can tell, we have two possible substitutes for Nanohana; one is broccolini and the other is broccoli rabe. Broccoli rabe, which is also called "Rapini" has a more assertive "bitterness" than "Nanohana" and broccolini, although similar in form and texture, has a very neutral taste and lacks the bitterness. I think, Rapini may be closer to Nanohana because of the bitterness. I have no idea which of these substitutes is more closely related to "Nanohana" taxonomically.

 I made two small dishes; one from broccolini (below) and broccoli rabe (the second picture below, two separate evenings) to represent spring.

Broccolini: I used only the top portion with flowering buds. The long stalks are edible but tend to be a bit hard. I boiled it in salted water for 4-5 minutes or until the thickest part of the stems were cooked but still crunchy. I shocked it in ice cold water to stop the cooking and maintain the fresh green color.
Broccoli rabe: Similar to broccolini in terms of the preparation. I removed the larger stems and leaves especailly the ones that started turning yellow. I blanched it in the same manner as the broccolini including  shocking in ice cold water.

Dressing: I had several choices; mustard soy sauce (karashi-zouuyu 辛子醤油) and sesame soy sauce (goma-shouuyu 胡麻醤油). Another choice is "ohitashi" お浸し meaning to "soak".  For this preparatio,  the vegetables are "soaked" in a mixture of dashi, soy sauce and mirin in 8-6:1:1 ratio for  5-10 minutes before serving
For the broccolini, I used mustard soy sauce. I put prepared Japanese hot mustard or neri-garashi 練り芥子 (1/4 tsp or to taste) in a small Suribachi すり鉢 or a Japanese mortar and added sugar (1/4 tsp). I added soy sauce in small increments as I mixed the mustard paste, sugar and soy sauce together using a pestle. I tasted it as I went until the combined sweetness and hot mustard taste was appropriate (about 1 tbs of soy sauce or slightly more).
For the broccoli rabe, I decided not to use any of the choices listed above and instead made an altogether different dressing. My wife had roasted walnuts for another dish and there were some leftover. So I decided to make a walnut soy sauce dressing. I ground about 2 tbs of roasted walnuts (dark skin removed by rubbing in paper towel) in a Suribachi Japanese mortar. When the walnuts released oil and became a bit pasty, I added sugar (1/4 tsp) and soy sauce (2-3 tbs). I also added mirin (1 tbs).
I simply dressed the blanched broccolini with  the mustard soy sauce and garnished with roasted white sesame seeds. I dressed the broccoli rabe with the walnut soy sauce and garnished with coarsely chopped toasted walnuts as shown below.

This is a nice small dish to start the evening. It is nice enough substitute for nanohana. The broccolini lacks the distinctive slightly bitter taste which is characteristic of "Nanohana" and broccoli rabe is closest to Nanohana.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Beef "Yakitori" 牛肉ステーキの焼き鳥

Spring is the best season in the Washington DC area. In addition to all the beautiful flowers and cool sunny weather there are no mosquitoes. This enables us to have a barbecue outside without become a meal ourselves for these pesky insects. During this mosquito free interlude we really enjoy sitting outside and doing “Yakitori” style cooking. This is one such occasion. We did not plan to do Yakitori but it was such a nice sunny day and when we checked the fridge we saw we had some ingredients that could be grilled so we did it on a whim. Instead of the usual chicken or pork, we grilled New York strip steak and also cooked mushrooms two ways.
We have this yakitori grill from Japan which was purchased from a New York company “Korin 光琳.  Given the ingredients I had, I knew I would not be grilling for a long time so I put just enough lump charcoal in the chimney starter to cover the bottom 1/3 of the grill (below left). Since it is still early spring, it gets a bit chilly when the sun goes down, so we wheeled out the infra-red outside heater which was very effective in keeping us warm and providing a golden ambient light while we cooked (below right).
Rather than grilling steak in usual way i.e. as one big piece, I trimmed the fat cap and cut it into cubes and skewered them (below, left). I seasoned it with salt and pepper. This was one American size serving of New York strip steak but perfect for two of us.
I also had a box of assorted shimeji (both white and brown) as well as Royal trumpet mushrooms). I cooked the shimeji mushroom with miso and butter with the addition of sliced onion in an aluminum foil pouch as before (below right).
I just tore the trumpet mushroom in half lengthwise, coated with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and put on a skewer. I grilled the pouch of mushrooms in miso, steak cubes, and royal trumpet mushrooms. As you can see all the trees were pushing new-growth leaves (below, right upper).
Once the beef, royal trumpet mushrooms (above, left) and shimeji with miso and butter in a packet (above, right) were done all I needed to do was to make grilled rice balls (below). I used the leftover miso sauce on the bottom of the mushroom packet which worked very well. As I mentioned before, this is the best way to make the perfect grilled rice ball. All the surfaces had a nice savory crust. This can only be accomplished by slow patient cooking on a hot charcoal fire.
Japanese often grill beef in small pieces such as in “Yakiniku” 焼肉 or “Dice” steak or “Saikoro steak” さいころステーキ in which cubes of steak are grilled. What I made is a sort of hybrid between them. The cubes increase the ratio of caramelized surface crust to tender meat inside. I think this gives the meat more flavor and dimension than when it is cooked as one large piece. The cubes were small enough that we (at least I)  could use only chop sticks to eat them. Although this was US prime not “Wagyu”, this was quite good.