Monday, March 31, 2014

Indian-style Pork "Vindaloo" curry インド風マスタードポークカレー

Although I started cooking again, here is another installment of my wife's Indian-style dishes made while I was out of commission. This one is a bit spicier than her usual but we liked it very much. We garnished it with sautéed half tomato (skinned and seasoned with salt and pepper) and fresh young cilantro which we are growing on the window sill.

She made a few of her own modification; such as the addition of dry roasted mustard seeds and instead of using coconut milk as suggested in the original recipe, she substituted yogurt. This is not because we do not have an easy access to coconut milk but we like the taste of yogurt in this dish. Coconut milk, at least to our taste, adds a sweetness and distinctive "coconut" flavor (I am sure that must be the whole purpose of using coconuts milk). Besides, yogurt is a bit healthier (we hope).

The addition of cilantro leaves (not in the original recipe) really added to the flavor dimensions. My wife added a bit more yogurt to adjust the heat just before serving.

  • 2 Tbs. grainy (grey poupon) mustard
  • 2 Tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 Tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 Tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 2 Tsp. sushi vinegar (the recipe calls for red wine vinegar but sushi vinegar is what we have on hand and I really like its mild taste in dishes.)
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 2 onions cut into half rings
  • 2 cloves garlic finely cut
  • 1 1/2 lb. pork shoulder cut into large cubes
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (the recipe calls for coconut milk but we find it makes the dish too sweet and besides we like to think the yogurt is better for us.)
Put the mustard seeds into a dry frying pan and roast until they turn a slight grey color and start popping. Remove from heat a set aside (#2 in the picture above). Mix the mustard, cumin, turmeric, pepper, salt, and sushi vinegar together in a little dish and set aside (#2). Put the oil in a pan and sauté the onions until they are translucent (#1) and add the garlic (#2) and continue for a few more minutes. Then add the mustard mixture (#2) letting the spices bloom in the hot pan. (they will start to stick to the bottom but don’t panic). Then add the mustard seeds. Turn down the heat and whisk in the yogurt taking up any of the spices that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once everything is incorporated add the meat (#3) and simmer for about 70 minutes or until the meat is fork tender (#4, we do not brown the meat since it does not add much in this type of curry dish).

This appears to be one of my husband’s favorite curries. He asks for it frequently. I thought it would bring him some comfort while his hand healed. This is a nicely assertive curry. The processed mustard fortified with the additional mustard seed and vinegar provides a pleasant contrast to cut the richness of the pork.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Grilled miso marinated yellowtail ハマチの味噌漬け焼き

This is a continuation of our weekend indulgence which started with enjoying our egg custard "chawanmushi". Since I ordered a fairly large amount of yellow tail or hamachi sashimi from Catalina I discovered that there is such a thing as too much good sashimi. I decided to make miso-marinated and grilled Hamachi from one of the fillets. As a accompaniment, I also made simmered daikon, baby red potato and carrot.

After marinading the piece of fish for 10 hours in the refrigerator, I grilled it over a charcoal fire. The surface was nicely charred but the meat was just cooked (I could have under cooked it a bit since this was originally for sashimi).

Initially, I planned to broil this inside in the toaster oven. At my wife's objection (saying even if the kitchen remained odor free, the toaster oven would smell like fish afterwards), however, we decided to cook it outside using a Weber grill and a charcoal fire. By the time I was ready to grill, it had started snowing (this was the start of a large late season nasty snow storm which resulted in significant accumulations by the next day). In any case, rather than placing the fish directly on the grill (risking its sticking and losing the crispy skin) I used two long metal skewers so that the fish filet was suspended over the fire and grill without touching anything. I cooked it less than 3-4 minutes on each side (about 7-8 inch above the hot charcoal fire).

Miso marinade: Since I was out of sweet "Saikyo" miso 西京味噌, I used regular miso (3 tbs), sugar (2 tbs) and mirin (just to loosen the mixture to the right consistency). I also added splashes of Yuzu juice (from the bottle).

I wrapped the hamachi filet in one layer of moistened cheese cloth and placed it in a Ziploc bag and spooned in the miso marinade. I massaged it to make sure all the sides of the fish fillet were covered with the miso. I pressed out any air and sealed the bag. I placed it in the refrigerator for 10 hours before cooking.

Of course, we also had tuna and hamachi sashimi. Since the "Premium" uni was a bit soft, I placed it in a tiny bowl garnished with nori and chopped perilla aojiso 青じそ and splashed on some Yuzu juice (from the bottle).

Everything was quite good. The simmered daikon was very soft and flavorful (I cooked it first in water with several raw rice grains for 30 minutes and then simmered it in kelp dashi seasoned with salt, light colored soy sauce and mirin for another 30 minutes). The grilled miso-marinated hamachi was moist with a lovely oiliness. The miso marinade added a nutty sweetness. We started with our house sake "Mu" 無 and switched to "Dassai 50" 獺祭50. Both sakes were good but we still like "Mu" best.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Savory Japanese egg custard with eggs, eggs, and more eggs ウズラの卵,ウニ,イクラ、カマスの卵のせ茶碗蒸し

Finally my right hand is out of the cast. While the recovery is slow, the strength is coming back and I started cooking again. (my wife was more than happy to turn over the set of cooking knives and all that they entail). To celebrate the fact that I can once again hold a knife and cut sashimi, I ordered blue fine tuna, yellow tail (hamachi) sashimi, and uni from Catalina. In addition, we had some left over caviar from Fine Caviar. We decided to indulge and make a few dishes that would go well with sake. The first one was a Japanese savory (not sweet) egg custard (Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸し) which contained boiled quail eggs and was topped with salmon eggs and golden pike eggs (caviar) and uni.

The chawanmush was served at room temperature (so as not to “cook” the caviar) and garnished with chopped chive and my usual "real" wasabi.

I made the chawanmushi in the same way as before. I mixed 3 eggs (about 150ml) and 450ml of kelp dashi broth seasoned with light-colored soy sauce or usukuchi shoyu 薄口醤油, salt, and mirin みりん. I poured this through a fine-meshed strainer into individual small bowls. Since I was planning to top it with uni and salmon roe, I did not put in any meat or shrimp but just Ginko nuts (銀杏), (from a can), chopped scallion, and fresh shiitake mushroom (sliced) and boiled quail eggs (ウズラの卵, cut in half, from a can) as seen below.

The amount of egg mixture made 6 small containers (actually soba dipping cups). I steamed them rather slowly using an electric wok for 30 minutes until the custard was set. I removed them from the steamer covered them loosely with a paper towel, and let them cool to room temperature. Except for the two we planned to eat in a few hours, I covered the rest with plastic wrap and move them to the refrigerator for future enjoyment.

This is just a variation on the theme of chawanmushi. The uni was not one of the best (Catalina only had "Premium" but "Gold" is the best). Although the flavor of the uni was good, the consistency was much softer and it had slightly slimy texture. Nonetheless the dish was adequately decadent. It was very good. We mixed up all the eggs and the egg custard and enjoyed the symphony of eggs.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

American Sturgeon caviar and home-made Creme Fraiche アメリカ産のキャビアと自家製クレムフレッシュ

The last time we got American sturgeon caviar from Catalina, it was such a small amount we had to send out for additional “relief” supplies. Finally they arrived and are shown below.

The above tin is 2oz (57grams) of American sturgeon caviar from "Fine caviar". Compared to what I previously got from Catalina Offshore products (0.35oz or 10grams!!), the price for 2oz tin is nearly identical to the 0.35oz tin and the quality is equally as good (at least to us). Keep in mind the amount is almost 6 times more for about the same price! This is indeed a good size tin for the two of us to enjoy some caviar. We defrosted several of the blinis we made before and enjoyed the caviar with home-made creme fraiche. Previously we could not get creme fraiche* so we substituted sour cream*. This time we were not going to let a small obstacle such as no creme fraiche at the grocery store stop us. So we made our own(see below). We also added chopped chives as garnish. Finally, we could sit down and savor the joy of caviar to its fullest extent—mission accomplished.

Since we were ordering the caviar, we also got "Golden Pike" caviar.

To be honest, we prefer Japanese "Tobiko" トビコ or "Masago" まさご roe (flying fish and capelin roe, respectively) over this golden pike roe. This roe has a slight slimy texture and not much flavor bedside some fishiness.

We also got "Ikura" イクラ (salmon roe) in a small jar from the same source but it looked slightly cloudy. Again we prefer the Japanese-style ikura we get from Catalina or the Japanese grocery store.

*Creme fraiche vs sour cream:
We like creme fraiche over sour cream (both are commercial products) because the creme fraiche has a more delicate taste and better texture. We thought creme fraiche and sour cream both were heavy cream with lactobacillus fermentation and did not know the difference. It appears that commercially-made sour cream may not be "fermented" at all but made with the addition of thickening agents and acids to heavy cream. We also learned that when adding to a sauce, sour cream breaks easily but creme fraiche does not. We have yet to test this statement in practice.

In any case, we knew it was supposedly easy to make creme fraiche at home and discovered that it was indeed easy.

How to make creme fraiche or (home-made or real) sour cream:
We added buttermilk (2 tbs) to cream (1 cup) and let it sit on the counter at room temperature for 1-2 days in a loosely covered sealable container (the time will depend on the temperature—it was fairly cold when we made it). After the desired thickness was reached, mix well, seal the container and refrigerate. That is it. We tried it with "light" (fat 18-30%) cream as well as "Heavy whipping" (fat 36%) cream. Both worked well but we probably liked the one made with light cream because it had a lighter taste and mouth feel. Instead of buttermilk, we could have used yogurt. But we have not tried that method yet. Our homemade creme fraiche is very good--better than the creme fraiche or sour cream we bought at the store. Come to think of it after this we won’t be buying any more at the store.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Blini with sour cream and scrambled eggs

This is continuation of the blini-caviar saga. What is blini but a humble buckwheat pancake? What is caviar but a form of egg? When are pancakes eaten but for breakfast? Hence we came up with the scrambled egg, sour cream breakfast blini. In retrospect, we could have added crumbled crispy bacon to add a bit more saltiness but that would probably have made it too deadly.
We just layered the blinis with sour cream and then soft scrambled egg, sprinkled some salt and garnished with young shoots of Italian parsley we are growing on the window sill.
With scrambled eggs, the flavor combination is quite different. It is, nonetheless, a perfect breakfast which goes well with our first cup of cappuccino made with our home expresso machine (We do also roast green coffee beans at home).

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Blini with sour cream and olive ビリニのサワークリムとオリーブ乗せ

After our recent “mini bite” of American Sturgeon caviar from Catalina, we found ourselves with nearly 3 dozen leftover blinis. While the experience evoked a strong desire to rush out and procure some more caviar to go with the blinis that was not possible. As an alternative my wife came up with the idea a “vegetarian” caviar made from black (oil cured) and green olive tepanade. You may wonder, as I did, what the thought connection was here but she explained that she was building on the taste combination of blini, sour cream and saltiness that is characteristic of caviar and blinis. In the past, we have had "fake" or "vegetarian" caviar* which was not too bad so we decided to try it.

I simply chopped up a mixture of green and black oil cured olives after removing the stones. As we did with the caviar, we heated up the blini and let it cool a little to prevent the sour cream from melting. Then I layered the sour cream (creme fraiche would have been better. Home-made creme fraiche is for another post) and added the olives.

This turned out to be really good. If it is not exactly like real caviar it is at least reminiscent of it. The saltiness and flavor of the olives really goes well with the blini and sour cream. We tried this with sake and it went remarkably well.

*Many years ago, a company in Glendale, CA made vegetarian caviar (from seaweed, I think) and we got it a few times but the company went out of business. I have seen "vegetarian" caviar advertised on some caviar selling websites. It appears to be same or a very similar item. We may try this in the near future.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Caviar on Blini キャビアとビリニパンケーキ

When I order sashimi from Catalina Offshore Products, I try to make the purchase worth more than the shipping. It is usually not difficult especially if I add a few trays of uni. The last time, however, they were out of uni. As a new item, they did have American sturgeon caviar (farm raised in California) and I ordered it.

To make the caviar experience authentic, we served the caviar with sour cream on blini pancakes which we made for the occasion.

At one time, in the past, we were curious to find out what all the hype was about caviar. So we had several caviar tasting parties with our good friends to try different kinds. As a legacy of those good times we had the special caviar serving dish shown below. It was given to us by our fellow tasters and was quietly tarnishing in the cupboard since it has been quite some time since we used it. My wife found it, polished it up and used it to serve the caviar.IMG_1473

As you can see in the picture, unfortunately, the amount of the caviar was ridiculously minuscule. Yes, the entire contents of the package are on display there at the bottom of the serving dish. I should have checked the specifications more carefully. I don’t know what I expected (probably something closer to an ounce) but it certainly not just the 10 grams (0.35oz) we received. This is by far the smallest tin of caviar I have ever seen. For a similar or slightly higher price per unit, we could have gotten genuine Russian Beluga.


In any case, to make the blini, I followed the recipe by Emeril Lagasse. I am familiar with the method of using both yeast and baking powder to leaven bread but his recipe used yeast and then whipped egg whites. As usual, my wife made the batter following the recipe and I cooked the pancakes (with my left hand since I was still recovering from my surgery on my right hand).

1 package (1/4-ounce) dry active yeast
3 cups milk, warm to 110 degrees F
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, at room temperature and beaten until stiff
1/4 cup butter, for cooking

The only modification we made to the original recipe was to let the dry yeast proof. We did this by adding it to a small amount of  warm (110F) water with a pinch of sugar, letting it stand undisturbed for 10 minutes to make sure it was vigorously bubbling. Then we added the mixture to the milk and butter mixture, mixed in the egg yolks, flour, and folded in the stiff-peak whipped egg whites. I checked the consistency and added more water to make the batter loose enough to spread as shown below into just over 2 inch pancakes. (I found that I usually have to adjust the consistency of pancake batter to get it right, regardless of the recipe I use).


After 1 to 1 and half minutes on medium low heat, I flipped the pancakes and cooked them for another minute.

For libation, we opened a good California sparkling wine Mumm Napa "DVX" 2001. This is a good clear sparkling wine with some depth; green apple, melon and hint of yeast or bread-like flavor and fine bubbles. (The other picture shows the caviar package).

DVX and caviar

Although the taste of the American sturgeon caviar was very good and went perfectly with the blini, sour cream and the sparkling wine, it was a cruel tease. There was only enough for 4 very small servings if we stretched it. That was just enough to ignite our dormant appetite for caviar. My wife immediately pronounced that we had to go get some more. Since the blini batter made close to 3 dozen pancakes foraging for more caviar seems justified. The additional supplies, however, will have to come from some other source.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Indian-style potato soup with green peas インド風グリーンピーズとジャガイモのスープ

This is another one of my wife's Indian-style cooking but she added green peas deviating from the original recipe. The below is when we served this cold with small slices of Jalapeño pepper and freshly cracked black pepper. This is very nice soup either warm or cold. Once it is cold, the spices get muted but still a very nice soup for summer. I asked my wife to take over.

4 potatoes peeled and cubed
2 medium onions chopped
Chicken stock to cover potatoes and onions
¾ inch slice of ginger
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
5 tbs. chopped cilantro
1/2 fresh jalapeno
Bag of frozen Hanover petite peas
¾ tsp salt
1 tbs. lemon juice

I sautéed the onions until they became translucent. I added the coriander and cumin and heated them until they became fragrant (i.e. until the flavors bloomed—this is my favorite part of Indian cooking the lovely smell of the spices as they come alive). Then I added the potatoes, ginger, and chicken juice. I simmered until the potatoes became soft. I took out the slice of ginger and discarded it. I put the soup mixture in a blender and added the cilantro and jalapeño and whirred until mixture became smooth. I then put the pureed mixture back into the sauce pan and added the frozen peas and heated until they thawed. I added the lemon juice at the end and thinned the mixture with milk to taste. (the original recipe adds the peas and blends them along with the onions and potatoes. I decided the put the peas in whole after pureeing the potato onion mixture to retain texture.)

This was a very flavorful and satisfying soup. The peas added a nice crunch with a little burst of sweetness.

Friday, March 7, 2014

“Nagaimo” marinated in garlic soy sauce 長芋のニンニク醤油漬け

I made this marinated Nagaimo 長芋 dish before my hand surgery and forgot to post it. I saw this recipe on the Internet (in Japanese). I made it and placed it in the refrigerator and promptly forgot it (old age). So this had been marinating for at least 4 days which made it a bit strong but it was quite a nice dish with sake or even white rice.


I followed the recipe but substituted "shochu" 焼酎 for white rum.

Nagaimo, skinned and cut in half lengthwise, and placed it in a ziploc bag (The amount is arbitrary).

Marinade: Garlic, thinly sliced (1 clove), dried Japanese red pepper, seeded and sliced (1, or red pepper flakes), soy sauce (3 tbs), rice vinegar (1/2 tbs), shochu (or white rum)(1/2 tbs) and dried kelp (about 1 inch square).

Pour the marinade into the Ziploc bag with the Nagaimo and remove as much air from the bag as possible so the nagaimo is completely bathed in the marinade.

I served this as a small drinking snack and also added the marinated kelp thinly julienned on the side. This is good with a nice crunchy texture. Because of the garlic, and length of time it was marinated it was rather strong. We would have preferred a shorter marinating time but as it is, it may be a good accompaniment with a white rice.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Indian-style chicken in a cilantro, spinach, and mustard sauce インド風鶏肉のマスタードソース

This is another one of my wife’s Indian-inspired chicken dishes. The recipe came from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Quick & Easy Indian Cooking”. We made some modifications especially instead of using whole spices such as whole cardamom pods, and sticks of cinnamon, we used the spices ground. The original recipe states that the whole spices are not to be eaten but once they are incorporated in the dish, they essentially disappear and we were a bit leery of swallowing them or chipping a tooth by crunching into them by mistake. In other recipes, we removed the whole spices after frying in oil but using the ground counter parts appear easier. We are sure this will be frowned upon. I asked my wife to take over from here.
Chicken: We used thigh, 4 (about 2 and half lb) deboned, skinned and cut into large bit size.
Vegetable oil,  1/4 cup
3 bay leaves
Ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp
Ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp
Ground cloves, 1/4 tsp
Red pepper flakes, to taste
(Ground cayenne pepper, black pepper in original recipe, but we did not add these because we thought it would make the dish too hot).
Salt, 1 tsp
Whole grain Dijon Mustard, 3 tbs
Yogurt, 6 tbs
Jalapeno pepper, 2, seeded and deveined (or leave them for hotter taste), finely chopped
Ginger, 2 tbs finly chopped
Raisin, 1/4 cup
Cilantro, fresh leaves, chopped, 2tbs
Spinach, 1 package (10 oz), steamed and chopped coarsely.

In a large skillet or frying pan, add the vegetable oil and bloom herbs and spices including the bay leaves, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, red pepper flakes and salt. Once the spices were fragrant, I removed the bay leaves and added the jalapeno pepper, and then whole grain mustard. I added yogurt, 1 tablespoonful at a time and mixing well after each addition to develop the sauce. I added the spinach and the chicken (without browning as per my husband suggestion that it only make the oil splatter but does not add much in terms of the flavor). I put on a lid and simmered it for 30 minutes. I finished by adding the raisins and cilantro. The sauce became rather thick.

This is again very flavorful with layers of the many spices and cilantro but not too spicy hot and went perfectly well with cooked rice. We noticed, though, many spices such as cumin, cardamom, cloves are similar among many Indian dishes.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Indian-spiced deviled eggs インド風味のデビルドエッグ

This is another one of my wife's Indian-style dish. This may be my wife's modification to make deviled eggs and the original recipe might be somewhat different. Our good friend who passed away recently, used to make wonderful deviled eggs which prompted my wife to make her own deviled eggs and also bought a special plate for deviled eggs. Although it is rather old fashioned appetizer, I heard, it is making a comeback with new twists. So, this is her contribution to this trend; Indian-spiced deviled eggs". Here is one serving with my usual tomato flower.

Here is a dozen (or 6 whole eggs) on a serving platter.

Close up of the stuffing.

After I made poached eggs in spicy cream sauce. I had a lot of sauce left over. It was so good I had no intention of not using it. In addition, it had become very thick. Since the original recipe used it with eggs I got the idea of making “indian style” deviled eggs. I boiled up 6 eggs and cut them in half. I removed the yolks and mashed them with a fork. Then I added the sauce to the egg yolks until I achieved a consistence in which was thick enough to hold its shape when I put the mixture in the cooked egg whites. I used a small scoop to make the yolk mixture into a ball that fit into the cooked egg white.

This was a delicious variation on an old-tried-and-true favorite. It was interestingly spicy with many layers of flavor.