Saturday, June 29, 2013

Daikon wrapped rice with diakon greens 大根葉の混ぜご飯

With this dish I I used up all the daikon greens I had left over. The idea came from "Izakaya Hawaii Tokuritei cooking". While the picture in the book showed the rice wrapped in a sheet of diakon, instructions for the presentation were not included in the recipe. So I had to “wing-it”. Since I was in innovation mode I also rearranged the presentation to my preference rather than those shown in the picture. From the picture, in the absence of instructions. I was not sure if the daikon was cooked or raw. In any case here is my version; Daikon green rice wrapped in simmered daikon sheets topped with nori and crispy jako (which was left over from another dish I made at the same time).

The picture below shows what the dish looked like before I put on the toppings.
This is a simple concoction. I mixed blanched and finely chopped daikon greens with dried bonito flakes or "katusobishi" 鰹節 shavings (I used the kind that comes in a small plastic pouch) dressed in soy sauce and sesame oil (to taste, dry bonito flakes do absorb soy sauce).I mixed this with cooked rice in a bowl.
I shaved the Daikon in the manner of "katsura muki" 桂剝き a bit thicker than for thinly julienned "tsuma" つま granish for sashimi (see below). I boiled it for 10 minutes in water with some raw rice then let it cool. I did not further season it (just because I got lazy but I could have simmered in in light colored soy sauce, salt, sugar or mirin). The sheets broke into several pieces when I tried to take them out of the pan. On hindsight either I should have cooked them less or cut the daikon a bit thicker. Using a ring mold, I placed the strips of daikon inside the mold lining the inner surface. I then pressed the seasoned rice into the center and made a tightly packed disk of the rice with the daikon sheets on the periphery. I then gently removed the ring mold. I briefly microwave it just before serving so that the daikon and rice were warm.
The daikon needed some seasoning but overall this dish was good as a “shime” 〆 or ending dish for the evening. The topping also added flavors and textures to the rice. The daikon greens are somewhat like mustard greens and have a very slight sharp (not hot) taste and the combination worked very well.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daikon greens, tofu stir fry 大根葉、豆腐、油揚の炒め物

This is another small dish I made from the daikon greens one evening. This is very simple and quick but a perfect drinking snack.

The amount of ingredients is all arbitrary, but I used enough to make two small servings such as the one seen above.

Daikon greens 大根葉: This was from the same blanched daikon greens I used for several other dishes. I just chopped them up finely to make about 4 tbs.
Tofu 豆腐: I used silken tofu but any tofu will do. I used about 1/4 block. I first wrapped it in a paper towel and microwaved it for about 45 seconds (800KW). This is to remove excess moisture from tofu. I then cut the tofu into small cubes (half an inch).
Abura-age 油揚げ: I thawed a small deep-fried tofu pouch or "koage" 小揚げ in hot water, squeezed out the moisture and halved it and then thinly julienned.
Seasoning: Dark sesame oil (1/2 tbs), soy sauce (1 tsp), mirin (1/2 tsp), sake (1tsp) and Japanese one flavored red pepper flakes ("Ichimi" tougarashi 一味唐辛子).

I placed a small non-stick frying pan on medium flame and put in about 1/2 tbs of dark sesame oil. When the oil got hot I put in the cubes of tofu. I should have kept it moving but I got distracted. As a result, one side stuck to the bottom of the pan (which I eventually worked into the dish by degrazing with sake and mirin). After a few minutes or when the surfaces of the tofu were slightly brown, I added the abura-age and the daikon greens and kept stirring for one more minute. I then added the sake,  mirin and scraped off the whenever brown bits were stuck on the bottom of the pan. I then added the soy sauce and kept stirring until all the liquid was mostly gone. I served the dish in a small bowl and sprinkled with the Japanese tougarashi powder.

This is nothing special but the combination worked well. The subtle but distinctive heat from the Japanese red pepper powder really made this dish perfect with a sip of sake.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Cold tofu topped with daikon greens and crispy Jako 掬い豆腐の大根葉とカリカリじゃこ乗せ

This is another small dish made with daikon greens. This time I happened to have soft tofu,  "Blowing in the wind Jonny" and decided to top the tofu with the daikon greens and dried crispy small fish or "jako" 雑魚, which is a variation on the theme of cold tofu with garnish.

I thawed  the "jako" blotting out the excess moisture with a paper towel. I then fried it in a small amount of sesame oil (below left) until the jako became crispy (1-2 minutes). I had prepared the daikon greens previously; blanched then shocked in ice water with the moisture wrung out (below right). I chopped the daikon green finely and mixed in a small amount of undiluted concentrated noodle sauce (from the bottle) and a splash of sesame oil.

I scooped the tofu out of the package into a small bowl and topped it with the seasoned daikon greens. I then placed a small mound of crispy "jako" on top. I added a small amount of the noodle sauce around the tofu in the bottom of the bowl.

There is nothing special about this dish but the quality of tofu was rather good with a nice creamy texture and almost peanut-like soy bean flavor. The creaminess of the tofu was in contrast to the pleasant crunchiness of the topping. The sauce and daikon greens gave a burst of crunch and pleasant bitterness.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Miso soup with Daikon and daikon greens 大根と大根葉の味噌汁

When I find daikon 大根 with the greens still attached like this (below), I know the daikon  is very fresh since the greens are the first to go--wilting very quickly. Diakon is usually sold with the greens trimmed off. Not that the greens are anything special, however, when I see the fresh greens still attached, I have to use it somehow since it is rather a rare event.

Since it was lunch time when I came back from the Japanese grocery store and I had to use the greens immediately before they wilted, I decided to use them in miso soup. In addition, I thought the soup would go well with the package of rolled and Inari sushi 太巻き,いなり寿司 I had also found at the store. (I have not seen rolled sushi at the grocery store since the close of "Daruma" so when I saw it at the store we now frequent, I decided to try it).

For two servings of miso soup, I used two stalks of daikon greens and one half inch round of daikon. I finely chopped the greens and briefly blanched them then shocked them in ice water and squeezed out the excess moisture. I sliced the daikon rounds thinly, then julienned (below).
Beside these two items, I also thinly sliced aburaage 油揚げ (half a small or "koage" 小揚げ) which was first defrosted in running hot water and then the moisture squeezed out.

For broth, I could have used granulated "instant" broth but I used a dashi pack (mixture of kelp and bonito flakes). I made more than I needed for the soup and kept the remainder for later use.
I simmered the julienned daikon for 5 minutes in the broth. I put the aburaage, then dissolved in miso using a sieve and spoon specially made for dissolving miso (miso-koshi 味噌濾し) to taste. I then put in the daikon greens and let the soup come to a boil and immediately shut off the flame.
The miso soup was quite good and the Daikon green added nice color.

In addition to usual stuff such as seasoned shiitake and kanpyou, the futomaki contained boiled spinach (no seasoning) and pink and sweet fish flakes called "sakura denbu" 桜田麩. (The pink fish flakes reminded me of the futomaki my mother used to make since they were one of the ingredients she used).The Japanese omelet was made in a very amateurish way. The rice lacked any vinegar taste. Since unlike Daruma this grocery store does not have a kitchen I suspect this was made for the store by someone such as the wife of a Japanese visitor working nearby. Of course, I could have made it   myself but the convenience of buying some for lunch is nice.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Octopus three ways 鮹、三種類

Recently I saw a rather good looking boiled (probably previously frozen and thawed) octopus leg (see the second picture, below) at our Japanese grocery store. So, that evening, I served octopus three ways. I may have been influenced by watching episodes of “Yasuko Kuramoto” 倉本康子 in “Onna sakaba hourouki”  女酒場放浪記 in which she always orders “tako” たこ or octopus if it is available.
1. Deep fried octopus たこの唐揚
The octopus leg I purchased is shown in the picture below, upper left. I cut the middle portion of the leg into sizable chunks or “butsugiri” ぶつ切り and marinated in a sake and soy sauce mixture (1:1 ratio, shown below upper right) for 30 minutes or so in the refrigerator. I removed the octopus pieces from the marinade, blotted them dry with a paper towel and dredged them in potato flour (below, lower left). I then simply deep fried them in hot oil for 4-5 minutes (below, lower right).
I served them with a wedge of lemon. The pieces had a nice crust but they were sort of chewy. I do not mind “chewy” but my wife was not particular fond of this dish.

2. “sumiso-ae” たこの酢味噌和え (below right) and
3. “sashimi” たこの刺身with soy sauce and wasabi (below right).

I posted sumiso-ae previously. I used mostly the tip portion of the octopus cut into small chunks. The dressing is a mixture of saikyou-miso 西京味噌, Japanese hot mustard, rice vinegar or “karashi sumiso” からし酢味噌.

For the sashimi, I used the thickest portion of the leg, cut very thinly diagonally with a wavy pattern (action). Of course, I used freshly thawed “real” wasabi. (They must have changed something with the tube wasabi because the current ones are much easier to squeeze out).
I think this was enough “tako” for one evening. We finally can use our own “perilla” leaves or “aojiso” 青じそ since it is growing profusely in our herb garden now.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Vermilion Snapper baked in miso and butter 鯛のバーター味噌味オーブン焼き

Since the "nitsuke" or simmered vermilion snapper was not a great success, I was pondering what I would do with the second fish. I thought of "papillote" (baked in parchment paper) but the fish was too big for the width of parchment paper I had. So I abandoned that idea. I could just bake or grill it but that was too mundane. So at the last moment, I used aluminum foil to make a pouch and seasoned it with miso and butter as I often cook shimeji or enoki mushrooms on the grill.

I used whatever vegetables were at hand; I used onion, shiitake mushroom, and green asparagus. I first put a long piece of aluminum foil on a large, rimmed cookie sheet (just in case juices spilled out). I made the piece long enough so that after folding it in half it would accommodate the entire length of the fish. I then made a bed of sliced onions (1 small or 1/2 large), asparagus, stem ends removed and skin peeled from the stalk, and sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms (5 large) (#1 below). I then placed the fish on top of the bed of vegetables (#2).
Miso sauce: In a small bowl, I added brown miso (4 tbs), sugar (1 tbs), mirin and sake in 1: 1 ratio until the miso reached a consistency I could smear on the skin of the fish without having it run down the sides. I also added a small amount of soy sauce for no reason. I smeared the miso concoction on the top of the fish and placed thin pats of cold unsalted  butter on top (total of about 2 tbs) (#3 below).
I folded the aluminum foil in half which covered the fish and vegetables loosely leaving enough space for expansion. I crimped the two wider sides and the end to make a tightly sealed pouch and baked it in a preheated 400F convection oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, some of the miso mixture was still clinging to the top of the fish but a nice sauce had developed on the bottom of the pouch with liquid coming from the vegetables and fish (#4). I gently scraped the miso from the skin of the fish and mixed it into the accumulated liquid on the bottom to further expand the sauce.

After placing the fish on a serving plate, I served the vegetables on either side of the fish (the first picture).

This turned out to be a much much better way to cook this fish than the previous method I had used (simmered or "nituske"). After my wife deboned the fish and served the meat and the vegetables on individual plates, I added a small mound of rice on the side and poured the sauce from the bottom of the aluminum foil pouch over the rice and fish.

The fish tasted much richer than it had when cooked the previous way--with sweet (not too sweet) miso flavor. We did not actually taste the butter but it definitely added to the rich flavor and texture to the fish. This was a very satisfying dish.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Simmered whole Vermilion snapper 鯛の煮付け

The food you can make really depends on what is available at the store. We went to a local gourmet grocery store one weekend and found a small red snapper called Vermilion snapper. The fish before cleaning was just the right size; weighing about 1 lb. It also looked really fresh. Upon reflection I thought it also looked really lonely in all its freshness so I bought two. My plan was to use them in separate recipes for two dinners. This was a just the right sized fish for me to present as a whole head-on fish (or "okashira-zuki" 御頭付き). It was a much more manageable size than "sea bream" which I posted before. Since the size and appearance were somewhat similar to "Kinme dai" 金目鯛, I decided to try simmering the whole fish or "nitsuke" 煮付け.

Digression alert: I am not sure about the English name for "Kinme dai" but "Splendid Alfonsino" appears to be the corresponding English name. Although the Japanese name bears "dai", (which is the same as "tai" only changing the "T" to "D" sound when making a compound word), they are not related to "tai" 鯛 or "sea bream". Kinme dai are deep water fish with large eyes (Japanese name means “golden eye” red snapper). They are suited for “sashimi” and "nitsuke" with firmer and oiler meat than red snapper but I have never seen this fish in markets in the US.

I had the fish monger scale and gut the fish. Japanese generally keep the fins on for decorative purposes but I forgot to tell the fish monger not to remove them so as you can see in the picture they are gone. After I did a little bit of touch-up cleaning and scaling, I made cross cuts on the skin on both sides to prevent the skin from rupturing during cooking (below #1).

Simmering broth: I soaked a 5 inch square of kelp (not the eating kind but the broth making kind) in about 2 cups of water.  After 30 minutes of soaking, the kelp was soft and pliable. I placed the kelp on the bottom of the square Pyrex pan (which just accommodated the fish diagonally) to prevent from the fish skin from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It also added a "umami" flavor to the broth.  I put the kelp-soaking water (2 cups), soy sauce (4 tbs), sake (2 tbs), mirin (2 tbs) and sugar (2 tbs) in a separate pan and let it come to a gentle boil for few minutes to let the tastes amalgamate and the alcohol to evaporate.  I poured it  in the Pyrex dish with slices of fresh ginger and placed the fish and precooked daikon (see "Daikon" below) (#1 in the picture below).

I placed my favorite "pink" silicon otoshi-buta 落とし蓋 (#2) on top and put the glass lid on (#3). So, this was a cross between simmering and steaming. After 15 minutes of gentle simmering, I turned the lid slightly askew to reduce the simmering liquid. After a total of 30 minutes, the simmering liquid had reduced in half. I turned the flame up a little, and spooned the simmering liquid over the fish repeatedly for 5 minutes to further season the fish and reducing the simmering liquid (#4).

Daikon: I also cooked daikon. I peeled and cut the daikon into 1 inch-thick rounds. I halved it into half moons. As a short-cut method, I placed the daikon in a microwaveable silicon container with a little bit of water on the bottom and microwaved it for a few minutes or until it became soft (do not over zap, it will become dry). I just placed the half moon daikon in the same pot as the fish turning once during the cooking.

As you can see in the first picture, I served the whole fish with the daikon and very finely julienned fresh ginger root or "ito shouga" 糸生姜 (soaked in water with the moisture wrung out) as a garnish.

The dish looked nice (even without the fins) but in terms of the taste and texture, it was a bit of a disappointment.  The meat was soft (too soft) and lacked good flavor despite the simmering liquid and ginger. As usual. my wife was the de-boning expert serving up the meat.  At the end of the meal, my wife readily acceded to my request for the eyes (gelatinous stuff behind the eyes are what I am going for) in exchange she got the "cheek" meat (she made it clear she thought she got the better end of the deal).  But otherwise the head was kind of too small to be worthwhile. Since we got two fish, I will try another cooking method on the other.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Red seedless grape soup 赤ぶどうのスープ

We like grapes but the quality is sometimes hit or miss. The other day my wife informed me that the recent batch of seedless red grapes I had brought home had very tough skins. When my wife “processes” fresh fruits she donates the culls (damaged or slightly bad) to the resident wildlife (mostly squirrels and birds). Soon after my wife made her pronouncement concerning the quality of the grapes I went out to the patio where she was feeding the culls to the squirrels. The patio was littered with what appeared to be grape skins. When I asked her why, she said that she had already told me the skins were tough and apparently the squirrels agreed with her. They had peeled and discarded the skins before eating the grapes!  So what do you do when you have a big batch of grapes with skins so tough not even the squirrels will eat them skin on? My wife decided to salvage the situation by making “red grape soup”. I was not looking when she made it so here she goes.

This is a very simple recipe. I put the grapes in a sauce pan with several spoonfuls of sugar (no water) and turned the heat on low. I cooked them until the juice came out and they were soft. Then I put the mixture through a sieve.

This turned out much better than either of us expected. It was surprisingly good warm and even better cold. It has some thickness to it and is more like grape puree than grape juice, jelly or jam. It had a very refreshing grape taste. For rescuing inedible grapes, this is a good solution…sorry squirrels.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Yuzu Japanese restaurant 柚子 日本料理店

I always have my radar up for any new (particularly Japanese) restaurant, that opens near us. I noticed a Washington Post article about a Japanese restaurant that opened about 1 month ago ("soft" opening) in our neck-of-the-woods. Judging from the WP article and the restaurant's website, I decided this was a place we had to try particularly since they have omakase ($80 and up). So one evening we signed up and tried it out.

The restaurant is much larger than you would expect from outside.
We were seated at the counter (Chef's table) which can accommodate 4 comfortably or 6 extremely good friends. The interior is nicely decorated with framed Japanese washcloths or "tenugui" 手ぬぐい along one wall.  (Washcloths is really an understatement because the Japanese have raised these humble household items to an art form--with nicely done colorful prints and whimsical subjects). The counter appeared to be a very impressive brand new solid slab of walnut wood.
We were greeted by a smiling Chef Yoshihisa "Yoshi" Ota (above). After a few dishes and drinks, we asked how he deiced to open this restaurant. He said, it was a long story that would take days to tell but he gave us the “cliff notes”  (truncated)  version. As a young sushi chef, he worked in Sushi Den in New York. After returning to Japan, he had an exclusive small Japanese restaurant in Ginza for 10 years. When "Kushi" Izakaya  was planning to open in DC he was contacted to be a chef there. Remembering his stint in New York, he wanted to come back to the US to serve "real" Japanese dishes to Americans and took the position as head Chef for Kushi. Fast forward a few more years and another stint at Sushi-ko in Chevy Chase, he realized his dream and opened his own restaurant Yuzu. He wanted a small restaurant where he would serve guests who appreciated and enjoyed real Japanese food. He thought about opening his restaurant in New York but there are so many Japanese restaurants in New York. Besides, he and his family had lived here for several years and developed an attachment to Bethesda. So he decided to open this restaurant here.

When faced with the selection of libations, we had to realize the hard fact that in Montgomery county, where this restaurant is located, the county controls the sale of alcohol. This makes it very challenging to stock good sake/liquors since the restaurateur has to go through the county liquor stores/board with all its rules and regulations rather than just purchasing through any wholesalers as is done in DC for example. Although Yuzu obtained the liquor license almost 1 month ago, Yoshi was disappointed that things were coming in very slowly and their sake list was rather small. We chose "Haiku" 俳句 which used to be our house sake. Slightly yeasty but still a rather agreeable sake.

Our course started with sunomono 酢の物 with “midorizu” 緑酢 (meaning “green vinegar” which is a vinegar dressing with grated Japanese cucumber) dressed thinly sliced conch and crab. Conch can be often too chewy but this was very nicely prepared. Next was flounder ヒラメ thinly sliced "Usuzukuri" 薄造り(below left). Other dishes included a simmered dish or "Nimono" 煮物 with homemade "Ganmodoki"  雁擬き with bamboo shoot and pork belly, vegetables dressed in tofu-sesame dressing or "shira-ae" 白和え (below right). All nicely done.

Although the order is not exact, another dish of deep fried "Kasago" カサゴ or scorpion fish in a broth with mushrooms (below) was also very nice.

At this point, we were really enjoying the dinner and I stopped taking pictures (I am not as dedicated as other food bloggers). We had a small sweet vinegar picked vegetables as a "hashi yasume" 箸休め meaning "to rest the chop sticks". This was very refreshing; not too vinegary and not too sweet.

After this, we went into a "sushi" course. All were good especially the fatty salmon "aburi" 炙り. Anago アナゴ was also memorable with a nice sweet and tangy sauce. Marinated "tuna" or “zuke” and regular "tuna" were served one after the other for comparison. Sea scallop was fresh. It tasted sweet and buttery. Shime-saba しめ鯖 was also excellent. Ama-ebi (done half-and-half with wasabi and yuzu koshou) was also good. I may have missed few more items. Chef Yoshi served us rolls of tuna (or salmon, I am not sure) and Japanese pickled daikon “takuwan” 沢庵 as "shime" 〆 or "ending" item for the sushi course with a very nice and hot miso soup with red snapper (meat and jaw bone in it) in  a good briny broth.

In terms of special seasonings, Chef used a real fresh “wasabi daikon” rhizome from Japan grated on the traditional shark-skin grater adding a nice fresh wasabi taste to the dishes. As for the name sake, a large fresh yellow yuzu, again from Japan, and yuzu-koshou 柚子胡椒 were used effectively in sushi and other dishes.

As a desert, "mizu youkan" 水羊羹 with, we think, a maple syrup-based sauce, which is a nice American twist for this traditional summer-time Japanese sweet. At this point, we were quite full.

This post was not meant as a review of the restaurant but rather our first impression of Yuzu. The restaurant is still in a "preview" or "soft" opening phase. Yoshi told us that he would like to do the "Grand" opening soon. As a result, the restaurant and staff were still "ironing out some of the kinks." For example, the front door kept locking and wait staff continually had to rush to let in customers who were vainly pulling on the door to get in (not good for business if the customers are locked out). Early in the evening when the restaurant was rather empty, everything went OK but as the tables started filling up, we could see that things got a bit frantic especially for the chef who prepared sushi and sashimi orders for the tables as well as taking care of us at the counter. His attention was drawn in so many different directions .

The omakase course was quite good. The sashimi was fresh and the chef did many different treatments to extract the best out of them but nothing was unexpected or spectacular.  We understand the chef had to balance the quality and cost. We were a bit concerned that the restaurant seemed too large for the present contingent of wait staff and, particularly, for one chef, no matter how talented, to pay attention to all the details. We sincerely hope this restaurant will succeed. We look forward to seeing a few sous chefs, and an expanded sake list on our next visit. We will be back.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Pea soup with fresh tarragon グリーンピース スープ タラゴン風味

Although fresh produce is generally better than frozen, we have one exception to this rule and that is green peas (English peas). In general frozen peas are harvested when the sugar content is at its peak then quickly processed and frozen. We tried many "fresh" green peas in pods including those from roadside stands but they tend to be starchy because the sugar quickly reverts back to starch after the peas are harvested. Among the frozen green peas, my wife insists on using Hanover brand "petite peas".  In this case, I have to agree. Since French tarragon was nicely growing in our spring herb garden, I was tasked to find "Hanover" frozen "petit peas", which, I am happy to report was completed successfully. (No they did not pay us for this endorsement...maybe they should.) My wife made this pea soup with tarragon a dish that represents spring at its finest.
Green peas: My wife used two bags (16 oz each) of frozen Hanover brand “petite” green peas. She simply put the frozen peas in a colander and ran warm tap water over them for few minutes until they were thawed. (These peas are so tender, boiling them would be a travesty.)
Onion: Finely chopped, one large
Chicken broth: low-sodium non-fat Swanson chicken broth, 48oz
French tarragon: Leaves removed and finely chopped, about 1-2 tbs

In a pan, she added olive oil and sautéed the onion until soft and semitransparent (for 5 minutes). She added the thawed green peas and added chicken broth and simmered for 10-15 minutes. Using an emersion blender (a.k.a. Motor boat), she blended the soup. We could have put this through a sieve but to make it smoother, but this time, we went for a more “rustic” soup and did not removed the “solids”.
She mixed in the French tarragon and seasoned it with a bit more salt.

This is a good soup warm or cold. We added a bit of cream and garnished it with a sprig of tarragon. The nice yellow green color was indeed the color of spring and early summer. The soup is sweet from the natural sweetness of the green peas. The tarragon adds a subtle bright note. Next day, we ate the soup cold which was also good. Depending on your preference, you could adjust the thickness by adding milk or cream.