Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tuna ”zuke” bowl 鮪漬け丼

My “emergency” frozen block of yellowfin tuna needs to be consumed every-now-and-then since it does not improve with age in the freezer. Since we harvested myoga, I made a variation on marinated tuna rice bowl 鮪ずけ丼.

I topped it with a onsen egg 温泉卵, nori, perilla and a myoga flower.

Keeping the theme of myoga flower, I made a clear soup with tofu and myoga flower.

Since this was a lunch over the weekend, I used frozen rice to make sushi rice by simply microwaving directly from the freezer and seasoning it with sushi vinegar. I placed strips of nori, perilla, scallion and myoga (not too much) on the rice.

I then placed marinated tuna on the rice (I should have sliced it a bit thinner). This time I marinated the tuna in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin and sake (2:1:1) with the juice from grated ginger and ground sesame seeds (I dry roasted the sesame seeds in a frying pan and then ground coarsely using a Japanese mortar (suribachi). I marinated the tuna over night which is longer than I usually do.

I then placed an onsen egg in the center and more nori and perilla and topped it with a myoga flower (the first picture). Since the myoga flavor is rather strong, you do not want to over do the myoga.  I served the remaining marinade on the side.  For an impromptu tuna zuke donburi, this was quite good and filling. We successfully resisted  having sake.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Myoga flower ミョウガの花

This year we were a bit late in harvesting myoga (myouga) ミョウガ.  The area of our backyard where the myoga is growing is solidly in the domain of mosquitoes and requires some resolve and protective gear on our part to enter their territory without paying inordinate “blood tribute” (literally).  Usually, my wife bravely volunteers for the task but that was slow in coming this year (I do not blame her).  This year, we kept postponing the harvest until my wife pointed out she could see little white flowers surrounding some of the myoga plants (meaning that the myoga, which is best used before it flowers, was moving past its prime). So, one weekend we donned protective clothing and together we harvested the myoga. Of course, my wife is a much better myoga harvester than I am (it is not easy to find the myoga buds that have not yet-flowered since they are buried below the surface of the soil and the soil can be almost hard as rock). Many of the ones we (especially "I") found had already blossomed. In previous years we discarded those. This year, however, my wife advised that once we had suited up and were scrabbling with our noses in the dirt we should retrieve every myoga we could find regardless of its condition and we could sort them out later. As we sorted through our haul we realized that even if the myoga has blossomed, we could eat it as long as the bud was still solid; once the bud becomes "hollow" or soft, it can not be used. Since we usually discarded the myoga with blooms, we never really paid any attention to how the flowers might be used. Although the flowers generally wilt quickly, this year we had more flowers than usual and many of them had just opened so we decided to eat them rather than discard them.

Here I used myoga flower to garnish my cold simmered vegetables. This time the cold veggies included daikon, carrots, renkon (lotus root) and konnyaku (devil's tongue). I garnished it with blanched haricoverts  and myoga flower.

Here are two flowers open from a single bud.

We removed the flowers and washed them in cold water.

The below are "good" myoga before blossoming.

The myoga flowers are usually not available in stores even in Japan since they are very perishable and probably not worth harvesting or selling. The flowers do have a nice ethereal quality. They have a distinctive myoga taste but are very delicate in texture without the somewhat hard or fibrous texture of the buds. They may also be slightly bitter. They can be used as a garnish or just eaten as a part of a salad.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Grilled sanma さんまの塩焼き

During this DC summer, we happened to have a rare low-humidity-not-too-hot couple of days. Since mosquitos on these days were less aggressive, we decided to have sanma 秋刀魚 (Pacific saury) grilled outside. I have pontificated about sanma previously so I will not repeat myself. I got frozen sanma from our Japanese grocery store but I am not sure if this came from Japan or somewhere else. It was still early in the sanma season in Japan (the catch had just started in Hokkaido) and these may not have come from Japan.

In any case, I charred the fish a bit too much. It tasted good, though. I served it with traditional grated daikon. This time I gutted the fish but left the head just for esthetics. I even found a long plate which accommodated sanma in one piece. The plate was made by one of the local artists which we got at one of their yearly sales.

I also grilled Japanese pepper "shishi-tou" 獅子唐芥子 (miraculously none was atomically hot) and fresh shiitake mushroom. I brushed the shiitake with olive oil and after I turned the gill side up, I poured a small mount of soy sauce on just before removing from the grill.

Using lump charcoal and Looft lighter, it is easy and mess free to prepare the fire in our yakitori grill.

Within 15 minutes, fire was ready.

I cleaned and gutted the sanma after thawing. I salted and placed them on a paper-towel lined  aluminum pan and kept them (uncovered) in the refrigerator for several hours before grilling.

The fire was a bit stronger than I intended and the skin charred rather quickly.

I brushed olive oil and then salted shishi-tou  before grilling.  It took only few minutes on each side to grill.

This was a definitely bonus day for us as we could grill sanma outside.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Bulgur wheat salad バルガーウィートのサラダ

This is one of my wife's grain salads. She made some modification and added edamame. This is a nice salad which can be served as a snack. Bulgur wheat is the hulled kernel of wheat which has been parboiled and then dried. It cooks rather quickly and has a nice texture.

One of her secrets is to roast the bulgur wheat in the toaster oven. It adds a nice roasted flavor.

The dressing is simple. Finely chopped fresh mint really adds a fresh taste.

1 cup Bulgur wheat
1/1/2 cup chicken broth
Walnuts (toasted with the brown skin rubbed off  using a dish towel
Sweet onion (red or Vidalia)
Fresh mint

Rice vinegar/lemon juice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Toast the bulgar wheat in the toaster oven until it turns dark brown and exudes to sweet almost honey like aroma. Remove from the toaster oven and rinse in cold water. (At this point the wheat may be smoking a bit and steam will rise as it is rinsed). Put the chicken broth into a pan and bring to a boil. Add the rinsed bulgar wheat, put on the lid and remove from heat . Let it sit for about 20 minutes. Use a fork to fluff up the grains. If there is some liquid left drain the wheat and let it cool down.
Once the wheat has cooled add the other ingredients basically to taste. For example, add as much mint as tastes good.

This is a very nutty flavorful salad. The toasting adds a bit of sweetness.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Otoshi 3 kinds お通し三種類

These are another example of my otoshi appetizer threesome. Again these were made quickly from mostly leftovers.

The first  one is sort of Italian style octopus, a leftover part toward the tip of the tentacles after using thick portion for sashimi; Cucumber cut into small cubes, black and green olives, dressed in olive oil seasoned with smoked paprika.

The second one is my usual braised burdock root or "Kinpira gobo" 金平牛蒡, which I made the prior weekend.

The last one is leftover cooked salmon (broken into small pieces) dressed in mayo (mixed with Japanese one flavor pepper flakes 一味唐辛子 and light colored soy sauce 薄口醤油 garnished with ikura salmon roe.

Except for the Ikura, all these appetizers will go with either sake or wine. Instead of just one appetizer, having three is more enjoyable.

Friday, August 14, 2015

PA Dutch Wet Bread stuffing

This is another one of my wife's PA dutch dishes triggered by our recent trip to rural Pennsylvania. It is essentially, a hybrid of mashed potato and bread stuffing but it tastes more like mashed potatoes than bread stuffing. When my wife was growing up, she used to eat something called wet bread stuffing served in the school cafeteria as a side dish for lunch. She remembers it as a loaf cut into slices and heated with a gelatinous texture.  Not one of her favorites as a child (it was that gelatinous texture) but as an adult she was curious to try it again. After some searching she found this recipe and though this may be it.

Ingredients (for 8 servings):
2 1⁄4 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 slices white bread, torn into pieces (My wife used Pepperidge Farm flavored bread stuffing about 2 cups). Several of the recipes go into great detail on how to handled the bread such as toasting it, frying it, and other methods to dry it out.
1⁄2 cup diced onion
1⁄2 cup diced celery
Salt and pepper

  1. Saute the onions and celery until the onions are just translucent and soft
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Add potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 15 minutes.
  4. Drain, mash, salt and pepper to taste. Add enough milk and butter to give the mashed potatoes a very creamy texture. They should be a bit more liquid than usual for mashed potatoes because the dried bread soaks up the extra liquid. At this point just the potatoes themselves are good. 
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Lightly grease a 2 quart casserole dish.
  7. In a large bowl, mix together the potatoes, white bread (or flavored stuffing), onion, celery, salt and pepper. (First picture below)
  8. Pour into prepared casserole dish, dot with pads of butter (second picture below) and bake for 1 hour. (Final picture below).
(Mix the seasoned bread stuffing with the mashed potato).

(Fill casserole and dot the surface with butter).

(Bake for one hour at 350F).

This was not exactly the dish she remembered from her childhood. For one thing, there was no gelatinous texture and it was very good. The bread stuffing completely amalgamated with the potatoes. The flavored stuffing really made the dish savory. It was like mashed potatoes but different. It must have been a great way for PA Dutch cooks to use stale bread and leftover mashed potatoes. The first day, it didn't hold together and we spooned it onto the plate as shown in the picture above but a few days later it could be sliced. My wife is still curious about the concoction she ate as a kid but from her descriptions of it, I'm glad this was not it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

PA Dutch Crumb Cake クラムケーキ

Recently we visited rural Pennsylvania where my wife grew up. The trip was very nostalgic for her. One of the highlights was stopping at two regional grocery stores; Henning's and Landis. When she was a girl they were just small country stores which have grown a lot larger. (Henning's boasts 57,000 square feet). She was beside herself standing in front of the deli department stocked with all the Pennsylvania Dutch goodies such as beet pickled eggs, chow chows of all types, multiple types of scrapple. I had to remind her that  there was only so much room in the car. The real piece de resistance was the stop at Landis. Every Christmas she mail orders shoofly pie and funny cake from them. There, she stood confronted with shelf after shelf of shoofly pie, funny cake, apple sauce cake, apies pie, hard tac cake and others.  They even offered free samples with a small cup of coffee!! She couldn't resist and loaded up. Despite the mother load she brought back with her, she was inspired to make some PA Dutch dishes. This is one of them called "Crumb cake". It is not too sweet, and is very moist with interesting rough texture. I really like this cake. (Like many Pa Dutch baked goods although it is a cake it is made in a pie pan).

The name "Crumb" comes from the fact the whole cake; both top and bottom are made from "Crumbs".


3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup butter
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract


Sift together flour, baking power, salt, sugar and soda.
Using a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the mixture has the consistency of course meal or small peas. (These are the crumbs for which the cake is named. )
Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of this mixture and set aside.
Combine the eggs, milk and extracts and stir into the remainder of the dry ingredients and blend. (First picture below)
Pour into 2 well-buttered 10-inch pie pans.
Brush the top of the dough w/ butter and sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture. (Middle picture below)
Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until cake is done. (Last picture).

(Pie pan filled with wet and  dry "Crumbs" mixture).

(After reserved dry "Crumbs" were put on).

(After baked at 350F for 30 minutes).

The cake is mildly sweet with a lovely moist texture. The combined flavors of the brown sugar, vanilla and almond is very distinctive but delightfully mild. The cake went so well with our espresso. The cake is so easy to make. We'll be seeing this one again.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

G Sake on the rocks G 酒 オンザロック

When we were at Izakaya Kurakura 蔵倉 in Kyoto recently, we had "Icebreaker" summer sake on the rocks which gave us the idea to taste G sake on the rocks. We posted G sake Joy and G sake Fifty in 2013. While they were good, we were not wild about these sakes (we liked the original G sake) and thought they were a bit too assertive/savory in taste with cloying sweetness (this tendency was more pronounced in "Fifty"). As a result several bottles of G sake have stayed in the refrigerator untouched. Since they were a rather assertive undiluted genshu with higher alcohol content (18% alcohol), we thought they may taste better on the rocks like Icebreaker sake.

We first tried G sake (2013 version) on the rocks.

The glass came from Kitaichi glass 北市グラス in Otaru 小樽. While we were in Japan, we noticed some of the Japanese tumblers were made of incredibly thin glass. We learned that since incandescent light bulbs are becoming a thing of the past in Japan, the same technology used to make light bulbs is being used to make very thin-walled glass tumblers. The ones we bought have little dimples on the sides making them easier to grasp. We tasted G sake "Joy" on the rocks in these tumblers accompanied with deep fried small sweet fish or "ayu".

A few days later, we tried G sake "Fifty" (2013 version) on the rocks. The major difference between "Joy" and "Fifty" is the degree to which the rice has been polished; 40 and 50% (of outer kernel removed), respectively.

This time we had octopus sashimi and raw ocutopus in wasabi yuzu dressing (in the square container,  from a frozen package). I also served matchsticks of nagaimo in vinegar dressing garnished with dried "aonori".

We liked G sake "Joy" on the rocks. The cloying sweetness was much less and the slight dilution and icy temperature made the G sake taste crisp and better.  G sake "Fifty" got much better than tasting it straight but the cloying sweetness broke through even on the rocks. Certainly, we can drink it much more easily on the rocks than straight. In conclusion, it is a good idea to have G sake on the rocks in hot summer. The assertive tastes of G sakes are actually perfect for on the rocks. We much prefer G sake "joy" over "fifty". We have not tried the most recent brews, however.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Octopus 2 ways たこのお通し2種類

Again these two appetizers using boiled octopus leg are not new. But these were what we had one evening.

The first one is sort of octopus carpaccio (Carpaccio de pulpo). I posted a similar item in the past. I first made zigzag lines of good fruity olive oil on the plate and then criss-crossed with lines of syrupy aged balsamic vinegar. I scattered Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Since I had a leftover fennel bulb which was used for making chicken paillard, I first thinly sliced fennel using a Japanese mandolin Benriner and placed them as a base. I thinly sliced  boiled octopus leg and placed in one layer on the  top. I added a few slices of fennel, thin slices of cucumber and scattered oil cured back olives (after removing the stone). I finished with lines of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, Kosher salt and black pepper. Fennel added anis-like  flavor and oil cured olive gave a burst of saltiness. This combination was quite good.

Using the tips of the octopus leg, I also made a small Japanese style salad with karashi-su-miso 芥子酢味噌 dressing. I just cut the tips into small bite size chunks. I sliced cucumber, salted it and squeezed out the moisture. I then took salt preserved (not dry) Wakame sea weed, washed it to remove the salt and soaked in water for a few minutes then cut into small pieces. The dressing is a mixture of white (sweet "Saikyo" 西京味噌) miso, rice vinegar, Japanese mustard and sugar.

Because of the acidity in the dishes, sake was the best choice although the first Carpaccio dish could go with wine. These were good starters with cold sake.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Deep fried Ayu ”sweet fish" 稚鮎の唐揚げ

"Ayu" 鮎 is a small river/lake fish and appears to have a special place in Kyoto cuisine 京料理  and the minds of people living in Kyoto. Many years ago we had the honor of dining at "Tankuma" たん熊 in Kyoto. This was not a "walk-up-to-the-door-and-automatically-be-seated" affair. It was the result of wheels within wheels and contacts of contacts. At that time, our sushi chef "Hajime" who worked at, now long closed, Mikado Japanese Restaurant at Tenleytown in DC,  had a friend, who was one of the chefs at Tankuma and had been sent to temporarily work at the Japanese embassy in Washington.  Based on Hajime's personal recommendation, we were given entre to Tankuma on our next trip to Kyoto. Hajime's friend seated us at a private counter (rather than a room) where we were attended by the careful ministrations of two chefs. We were served an incredible course of Kyoto cuisine. Inevitably, one of the dishes was grilled Ayu on pine needles 鮎の松葉焼.  My wife, in her usual style, meticulously cleaned the meat off the bone leaving behind the head and a pristine skeleton. The chefs were impressed with her chopsticks dexterity.  They took the perfect skeleton, deep fried it and re-introduced it as "bone senbei" 骨せんべい.

We have enjoyed ayu on many occasions since then but always grilled. I have never really understood what all the hoopla was about. It struck me as a rather humdrum little white meat fish. Recently, I saw a blog post about small deep fried ayu or "kara-gage" 唐揚げ.  We've never eaten it that way so I was curious about how it would taste. Then, this weekend, I saw fresh small ayu from Japan in the Japanese grocery store. They were fresh (not frozen) and directly from Japan (#1 in the composite below). They had clear eyes and looked good to me. I have never seen ayu sold here and bought it (this was the only package left). Since they were rather small or "Chiayu" 稚鮎, I decided to try "kara-age".

I probably put too much potato starch on the fish but this was good. I served this with our coleslaw and a wedge of lemon.

The major decision point was whether to leave or remove the innards. Traditionally, like Sanma さんま or Pacific saury, the innards of ayu are left in and eaten. For sanma (frozen), I usually remove them. I decided to leave the innards especially since they were small ayu and if my wife did not like it she could always remove the meat and leave them behind.

I washed the fish and, using a filet knife, removed the slimy mucus on the surface and small scales but did not removed the innards or fins (see below composite #2). I dried the surface and salted with Kosher salt. I let it sit in the refrigerator on a paper towel lined plate without a cover for several hours (see below and the composite #3), Kosher salt crystal melted and drew out some moisture.

I dried the surface with a paper towel and dredged with potato starch or katakuriko 片栗粉 (#4). I heated vegetable oil to 160C (320F) and deep fried the fish (#5) for 5 minutes one each side (#6). I removed the fish on a paper towel line plate and turned up the heat until the oil temperature went up to 175C (350F) and re-fried the fish for 2 minutes on each side.

ayu karaage composit

Taking the clue from Icebreaker summer sake, I served "G" sake on the rocks.

We squeezed on the lemon and ate all of the ayu; starting with the head through to the crispy tail innards and all.  Now I understand what all the hoopla is about. This was very good. The meat melted in the mouth like butter and the bones gave a nice little crunch. The innards imparted a pleasant slight bitterness.  So after we finished, nothing was left on the plates. My wife asked if I could go back to the store tomorrow to get some more. (No, as I said, that was the last pack). Since the ayu is related to smelt, this way of cooking produced similar good results. The G sake on the rocks went very well and this will be a subject of another post.