Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sake lees marinated grilled Monk fish アンコウの粕漬け

This is an experiment since I already had prepared sake lees marinade. Sake lees marinated cod was really good. We thought salmon would not be a good choice to marinate since it has a good flavor on its own which we love. I have never tried monk fish marinated in sake lees so I decided to try it. I served it witn green beans which was first blanched and then sautéed in butter. 

I grilled the marinated monk fish in our toaster oven.

Ingredients (for two small servings):
Monk fish, one filet, membrane removed and cut into 1 inch thick medallions
Kasudoko or sake lees marinade

I salted the monk fish medallions and let them sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour uncovered. I then blotted the surface moisture with sheets of paper towel and marinated them in sake lees marinade (#1) for 3 days. I removed the fish and removed the excess marinade (#2). I washed it in cold running water and blotted dry (#3).  

Using our toaster oven under the grilling function, I cooked the fish for 5-6 minutes per side turning once until brown spots appeared and it was cooked through (#4).

This is not bad. Sake lees marinade added its flavor to the monk fish but the consistency of monk fish got really firm. I think a flaky white fish like cod is much better for this treatment.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Egg and avocado tempura 卵とアボカドの天ぷら (1,000th post!)

In the Kansai 関西 area, udon noodles are often topped with or accompanied by interesting tempura such as soft boiled egg tempura 半熟卵の天ぷら or vinegary red ginger slices tempura 紅生姜の天ぷら or chicken tempura 鳥天. Some years ago, when we visited a Kyoto izakaya "Kurakura" 蔵倉, we also had avocado tempura アボカドの天ぷら.  So, I decided to make it an "unusual tempura" evening. I rounded things out by adding sweet potato tempura which is a very "usual" but never boring tempura item.

I only made half the avocado into tempura for two. I served this with green tea salt.

The soft boiled egg tempura had a very runny yolk as seen below. I served the egg with a small amount of rice to absorb the yolk. We also added a bit of soy sauce. 

Ingredients (for 2 small servings):
Soft cooked eggs, two (see below)*
Avocado, thin wedges from half avocado
Sweet potato, two rounds, 1/3 inch thick.

*Soft boiled eggs:
There are a few things to keep in mind about making soft boiled or "cooked" eggs with runny yolks.
1. Use pasteurized eggs, either home pasteurized or Davidson's commercial ones. Although salmonella contamination of eggs in the U.S. appears to be low, it is still a possibility.
2. The best way to make soft "cooked"  eggs is the method from America's test kitchen in which you use a small amount (1/2 inch deep) of boiling water on medium flame, with the eggs directly from the refrigerator placed in the water using tongs, then covered with a lid. For soft cooked eggs, I cooked them for 6 minutes and 30 seconds. I did not believe this method would work initially but it really does! The small amount of water recovers its temperature quickly and the eggs are cooked evenly by steam not by boiling water. The timing doesn't change even if you cook more eggs.
3. I placed the eggs in ice water immediately to stop the cooking and let them cool completely (about 10 minutes).
4. I peeled the eggs and placed them in a sealed container in the refrigerator until I was ready to make the tempura.

Tempura batter:
There are so many different versions I have tried. This time I went simple and used ice cold water and cake flour (without egg and without Vodka). I made it to the consistency of runny cake batter without over mixing.

Frying Oil: 
I used fresh peanut oil heated to 350F.

For the sweet potato I cooked for 2 minutes total time turning once.  For the avocado, I cooked for 1 minute or less turning once. For the soft boiled eggs, I cooked only 20-30 seconds until a light crust was formed (below).

We really liked the tempura eggs. The yolk was warm but runny and surface had a light and crunchy thin crust. The egg tasted great on the rice with a splash of soy sauce. The avocado tempura was also good but the sweet potato could not go wrong.

P.S. We started our blog in September 2009. This post is the 1,000th post. We are not sure how much longer we can continue but we had fun coming up with the recipes and writing about them. It has also proved to be a useful personal diary of the various meals we made and the many special occasions on which we enjoyed them.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hot cross buns ホットクロスバンズ

Every year, my wife bakes some kind of hot cross buns as Easter approaches. Among the several she's baked over the years, this one is the best so far. This is based on a recipe from King Arthur Flour. She is also into "Seasonal" decorations and, besides a collection of numerous Easter eggs and "bunnies", she also recently got two sets of Easter plates and her hot cross buns were served on one of the "bunny" plates.

According to my wife, this is her favorite bunny plate. I will let my wife take over. 

Ingredients (18 rolls):

- 1/4 cup rum
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup cherry infused craisins
- 1/2 cup pomegranate infused craisins 
- 1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
- 3 large eggs, 1 separated
- 6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast (one packet) 
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed (we used regular sugar and 1 tbs of molasses)
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- zest of 2 lemons
- 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus more as needed)

For glaze: (I forgot to put the glaze on)
- 1 large egg white, reserved from above
- 1 tablespoon milk

For icing:
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 4 teaspoons milk, or enough to make a thick, pipeable icing

1) Generously grease a large pyrex pan  (10" square pan or 9" x 13").

2) Mix the rum with the dried fruit and raisins, cover and microwave briefly, just until the fruit and liquid are very warm. Set aside to cool to room temperature. (By-the-way I did not intend to use so many crasins but the labeling on the package was a bit confusing. In large red letters it said "cherry" and "pomegranate" and in much smaller dark blue letters "crasins". I thought I was adding dried cherries and dried pomegranates--but the crasins worked out). 

3) I put 4 cups of all purpose flour in the bowl of the mixer added the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and baking powder and stirred to mix into the flour. With the mixer running I added the proofed yeast (proofed in 1/4 cup warm water with some sugar added and dissolved), and milk (with lemon zest added) until blended . Then I added the two eggs and one yolk one at a time until blended (#1). At this point the dough was quite sticky. So like any other type of bread I started adding flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough could hold its shape even though it was still quite sticky. Then I added the butter a little at a time in pats and blended into the dough as it kneaded on the hook. When I reached what I thought was the right consistency I let it knead for 7 minutes. Then I started adding the fruit and let it knead an additional 3 minutes. (I have found that it is easier to let any butter and fruit added to a bread recipe to be kneaded into the bread in the mixer with the dough hook than tring to do it by hand). Picture #2 shows what the dough looked like when it came out of the mixer. I hand kneaded it a few times until the surface became smooth (#3). I put it into a bowl that had been warmed with hot water and dried. I added some vegetable oil and coated the dough so it wouldn't dry out while rising. 

4) I let the dough rise for about 1 hour, covered. It didn't completely double in size but it was quite puffy (#4).

5) I divided the dough into balls 3 ounces each and put them in the prepared pan (#5).

6) I let the buns rise for about 1 hour, or until they were touching one another and preheated the oven to 375°F.

7) Although I forgot to do this, whisk together the reserved egg white and milk, and brush it over the buns. (I think the buns are ok even without the glaze). 

8) Bake the buns for 18 to 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove from the oven, and transfer to a rack immediately to cool (#6).

9) Before serving and after the buns have cooled I mixed together the icing ingredients, and piped the icing in a cross on top of each bun.

These were extremely good. They had a rich soft texture and lots of flavor from the spices, rum and fruit. I do have to say that with all those good flavors I really didn't notice the lemon zest and may leave it out next time.  While in general I don't like icing because it is too sweet, the icing in this case added a nice flavor dimension that otherwise would have been missed. I think this will become our go-to hot cross bun recipe in future years. It is really a treat to wake up to these buns slightly warmed with a cup of cappuccino --especially when served on an Easter bunny plate. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Nagaimo and natto fry 長芋と納豆の落とし揚げ

I saw this recipe on line.  It looked like a perfect drinking snack. Since I had both natto 納豆 and nagaimo 長芋 in the fridge, I decided to try it. I served it with a sprinkle of Kosher salt and wedges of lemon.

This was a qualified success. However, we would much prefer natto tempra with perilla leaves 納豆と大葉の天ぷら. 

Natto, 1 pack, frozen, thawed, with a liquid seasoning pack and mustard
Nagaimo, 100g grated
Aomori, 1/4 tsp
Flour 2 tbs

Oil for frying.

1. I placed the natto, nagaimo, and all the flavoring packs that came with the natto in a bowl.
2. I added dried aonori and flour.
3. Mixed them well.
4. Placed the batter on a spoon and dropped it into the hot oil. I fried it until the surface was crispy and  brown.

I probably should have put more flour in this dish. It was a bit difficult to fry. I had to fold it while deep drying to make it come together. I may have over cooked it as well. The result was very light and crunchy without much substance. The natto was not sticky and had a rather assertive flavor. My assessment may not be fair to this recipe since I may not have made it properly. Nonetheless we probably much prefer natto tempra with perilla leaves.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Asparagus and onion sauté with Camembert アスパラと玉ねぎのカマンベール炒め

I saw this recipe on line.  I happened to have all the ingredients including peeled and blanched asparagus and decided to try it. We had this with our usual red wine.

Camembert cheese completely melted forming the sauce leaving behind a few rinds for a burst of flavor.

Ingredients (for 2 small serving):
Onion, Sweet, one medium cut into small half moon wedges.
Asparagus, 8-10, woody bottom removed, bottom half peeled and blanched in salted water for few minutes. Cut in half.
Camembert cheese, 50grams (I may have used more), with rind left on cut into small wedges.
Olive oil 1tsp
Soy sauce, light colored, or "Usukuchi" 1tsp
Black pepper

Saute the onion in a small amount of olive oil for a few minutes until soft, add the asparagus and saute a few more minutes. Then add the cheese and light colored soy sauce. When the cheese melts, it is done. Season generously with freshly cracked black pepper.

We had this with Numanthia Termes 2012 (Tempranillo). The 2012 vintage did not get as high a score as the prior vintages but RP=90 is not too bad. This has been our favorite everyday wine from Toro, Spain. This wine cut through the richness of this dish. I think I may have to reduce either the amount of olive oil I use to saute the onion or the amount of camembert cheese next time; it was a bit oily. The soy sauce and camembert cheese are a really good combination, though. Finally,  the addition of freshly ground black pepper made this dish.

P.S. We had several bottles of this wine. Some came from an on-line wine store and some came form a local wine shop. We opened a bottle one evening and it had a strange nose, almost chemical, but not "corked" smell. The taste was also terrible,  thin and acidic and no fruits. For comparison, we opened another bottle of Termes which was good. We have to conclude that although it was not corked, the previous bottle was poorly handled/stored (not by us). We don't know which store this particular bottle came from. We ended up pouring the bottle out; our "Sink God" drank well that night.  Unfortunately, we occasionally have similar experiences with other wines.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Take-out Sushi omakase from Tako Grill お任せテイクアウト寿司

This was Saturday and I realized I left my credit card at Tako Grill when we visited earlier in the week. I was working that Saturday and stopped by at Tako Grill on the way home to pick up the credit card. We would have gone to Tako Grill for the evening enjoyment using the credit card incident as an excuse but, since I was still working and could not drink, we decide to have take-out sushi.  We just cannot enjoy sashimi or other goodies without sake. Both Sushi Chefs, Jose and Santos, were there behind the counter. So, instead of choosing from the menu, I left it up to them. They know what we like. The below was what we got. The California rolls were made with real lump crab meat not imitation with additional tobiko as we always order. It was even garnished with an orchid flower.

Maine uni, sea urchin in Gunkan-maki 軍艦巻き. Not as creamy as California uni but it was fresh and tasty.

The chu-toro 中トロ (big eye tuna, メバチマグロ) was excellent. Below the chu-toro is Japanese "tai" 鯛 red snapper topped with moniji-oroshi (grated daikon with red pepper).

Sweet shrimp or ama-ebi 甘エビ is one of our favorites. This one could have come from either Maine or Canada. Below the sweet shrimp is eel.

Fresh ma-saba 真鯖, which was fileted for this sushi and we got 4 pieces.

They also gave us small salad.

I should leave my credit card more often at Tako Grill to make excuses to have extra visits. (My wife claims if I want to eat sushi take out I can just go get it; I don't have to leave my credit card as an excuse.)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spring salad with broccolini and scrambled egg 春の菜の花風サラダ

We are having record warm temperature in our area. Some of the cherry trees are starting to turn pink and ready to bloom.  They are predicting the cherry blossoms along the tidal basin will be at their peak the last week of March. To me  rapeseed plant or nano-hana 菜の花 is one of the classic spring vegetables. As I posted before, the substitutes we can get here are either broccolini or rapini. The weekend before I prepared broccolini (quickly blanched) and made this yellow and  green salad on one of the subsequent weekdays. I thought the bright yellow of the eggs and deep green of the broccolini would be very spring-like.

For dressing, I made sesame mayonnaise.

Since I had ripe tomatoes I also added some wedges to make this spring salad.

Ingredients (for two servings):
Broccolini, 8 stalks, only flower ends, quickly blanched in salted boiling water and cooled.
Eggs, two large
Cream, 1-2 tbs
Tomato, one medium, skinned and cut into small wedges.

For Dressing:
Mayonnaise, 1tbs
White sesame seeds, 1 tbs, dry roasted in a frying pan and them ground using a Japanese pestle and mortar or suribachi すり鉢.
Light colored soy sauce, about 1 tsp

I placed the broccolini and wedges of tomato in a bowl. I mixed the eggs and cream and beat well and scrambled with a bit of butter. I made sure the eggs were just cooked and fluffy. I seasoned with salt and added to the bowl. I topped with the dressing.

Freshly roasted and ground sesame really made the difference in the taste of the dressing.  Although broccolini does not have the bitterness of nano-hana, it is very close visually. This was a very colorful spring like salad perfect for the warm evening we were having.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Shrimp-stuffed squid エビ詰めいか

I saw cleaned squid in our regular grocery store and bought it (this is my weakness, I like squid). It was a bit marginal with a fishy smell and needed to be prepared quickly. I pondered what to make and decided to stuff the squid tubes with shrimp. This idea came from shrimp gyouza 餃子 and shumai 焼売 dumplings. I have posted stuffed squid dishes before (ones stuffed with chicken meat, rice and crab meat). I could have sauteed the stuffed squid but decided to simmer it in broth. I served this on a bed of water cress.

I served this once cold and it kept its shape fairly well even when sliced. When I served it warm it was a bit more difficult to slice and the stuffing was a bit softer but it tasted better warm. The water cress had a nice fresh bitter taste which was refreshing.

Tubes of squid, small, cleaned, 6
Shrimp, about ten large, frozen (or fresh if you have it) (#1)
Sweet onion, small, finely chopped (#1)
Ginger root, grated, 1/2 tsp
Potato starch, 1-2 tbs

For simmering broth: (#4)
Chicken broth, enough to cover the squid (I used my usual Swanson no fat reduced salt).
Bay leaves, 3
Ginger, 3 thin slices
Black pepper corns, whole, 4-5
Light colored soy sauce, about 1 tbs (to taste)

1. I thawed the frozen shrimp in running water. I salted it rather severely and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. I washed and dried the shrimp (#1).
2. I cut half of the shrimp into small chunks and chopped the other half finely until it became a sticky paste (#2). This "paste" serves to bind the chunks of shrimp. I could have added ground chicken as a binder instead.
3  I mixed the shrimp, onion, ginger, potato starch.
4. Using a small spoon, I stuffed the tubes of squid and closed the end with a toothpick (#5). Take care to not over stuff them; the stuffing will expand while cooking and they may explode if you do. (#5).
5. I mixed the broth, ginger slices, pepper corns, and bay leaves. I laced the stuffed squid in the broth and gently simmered with the lid on for 30 - 40 minutes (#4).

This can be served immediately, reheated in the broth or served even cold.

This has an intense shrimp flavor which is more than the squid flavor. Because of the gentle long simmering, the squid was very tender. I could  have used Japanese dashi broth but I got a bit lazy after spending some time stuffing the squid and found an already opened box of Swanson chicken broth in the refrigerator and used it for this dish. The Japanese/Western hybrid simmering liquid worked well. This dish is quite neutral in flavor and will go with any drinks including wine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Toriten 鳥天

This is a dish I did not grow up with. It is essentially tempura using chicken instead of fish. It apparently was started as a local cuisine in Ooita prefecture 大分県 in the southern most island of Kyushu 九州. In the neighboring island of Shikoku 四国 and the Kansai 関西 region (Oosaka 大阪 being at its center), it is often served with udon noodles. I bought bone-in split chicken breast over the weekend. I removed the bones and tenderloins. We ate the tenderloins as an appetizer (grilled with my usual perilla and picked plum) but the breast meat remained marinated in sake (for preserving) in the refrigerator. The next weekend, the chicken was still good and I made this dish.   I think it is usually served with some kind of sauce such as ponzu sauce, tartar sauce or as a topping for udon noodles with broth called "Toriten Udon" 鳥天うどん. Here, I simply served it with wedges of lemon and green tea salt.

Although this is breast meat, it came out quite moist inside. 

Since this is not a dish I am very familiar with, I consulted a few recipes on line. Apparently different parts of the chicken can be used for this dish.  It is essentially tempura with chicken meat but I combined the good parts of several recipes and came up with the following.

Chicken breast, two halves, skin and bone off.
Marinade (sake, chicken broth -from a box Swanson broth - 1 tbs each, 1 tsp of potato starch, 1/2 tsp of grated ginger and a pinch of salt)
Tempura batter (cake flour, one egg and the same amount of cold water - I used reverse osmosis filtered water from the refrigerator,  and 2 tbs Vodka)
Peanut oil for frying.

1. I cut the chicken breasts into bite size slicing across the grain of the meat. I then pounded the slices flat using a meat tenderizer with an irregular surface. I marinated the chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag, after massaging the chicken pieces and pressing out as much air as possible. I let it marinate for a few hours (at least 30 minutes) in the refrigerator. This treatment keeps the moisture in the meat and adds flavor.

2. I heated the oil to 350F. 

3. I drained the marinade from the chicken pieces and blotted the surface using sheets of paper towel.

4. To make the tempura batter, I mixed the egg, and Vodka - alcohol prevents gluten from forming. I added cake flour - again, cake flour has least amount of gluten. I could have also added potato starch which has no gluten. I mixed being careful not to over mix. I added flour and/or water to adjust the consistency to resemble runny pancake batter).

5. I dipped the chicken pieces in the batter, shook off the excess and fried until golden and crispy turning once, less than 1 minutes total.

6. I drained the excess oil and served hot.

This was a very nice dish. Despite using breast meat, it came out very moist and succulent. The crust could have been lighter and crisper but the moisture from the meat made the crust soft if not soggy. To be honest, I like kara-age with a coating of potato starch better but this is a new dish and I got one post out of it.

P.S. The next day, I heated up the leftovers in the toaster oven and the crust became nicely crispy, although the meat got a bit drier.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Cold tofu with scallion miso and green tea salt ネギ味噌載せ特濃ケンちゃん豆腐

This is not even post worthy but tasted really good. When I checked the cold case in our Japanese grocery store, this particular tofu drew my attention and I bought it (three small containers are attached together as one package). This is one of the variations of tofu from "Otokomae tofu" 男前豆腐 from Kyoto 京都 called "Toku-no Ken-chan" 特濃ケンちゃん.  This is very soft tofu with extra high protein content (toku- no means extra-thick). It showed topping suggestion on the package.

Although I did not follow the suggestions from the package, I came up with this toppings based on what I had at hand. It was topped with green tea salt, negi-miso (ネギ味噌 scallion miso), perilla and small cubes (concasse) of fresh tomato (skinned and seeded).

Negi-miso: One scallion finely chopped, 1 tbs miso, 1tbs mirin, 1/2 tbs sugar, 2 tbs ground white sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp soy sauce).

Green tea salt: Mix kosher salt and maccha 抹茶 green tea powder (about 2:1 ratio). This can be kept in a small sealed container in freezer for a long time.

I first sprinkled on the green tea salt. I then placed the megi-miso and tomato concasse, and finely chopped perilla leaves over the salt.

The consistency of this tofu is like thick cream or egg custard and has intense soybean flavor which almost tasted like peanuts. The combination of toppings and this tofu was really good. This will go with any drinks even with red wine.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Sanma rolls two kinds サンマ巻き揚げ2種類

I found 2 frozen pacific saury or sanma サンマ in the freezer which I bought a few months ago. Since they do not improve with prolonged freezing and the weather is not conducive to grilling outside, I decided to make something different. Since I already made sanma fry, I looked for other recipes. These are based on the recipes I saw on line. Both dishes are made from filets of sanma, rolled and deep fried. I made some modifications, of course. In the picture below, the left is cheese filled with scallion miso and perilla, breaded and fried. The one on the right is filled with pickled plum paste or "bainiku" 梅肉 and perilla. It was coated with potato starch and deep fried like kara-age 唐揚げ.  Initially I was debating which dish to make and was leaning toward the pickled plum since it seemed simpler and I was afraid the cheese would melt and run out of the other one.  When I described the recipes to my wife she said, "live on the wild side; go for the cheese". So I decided to compromise and make both; if worse came to worse at least the pickled plum one would probably come out ok.

Since the inside of the roll with cheese, could not be seen, I sliced off the bottom to display the center of melting cheese, a green layer of perilla and dark brown line of the scallion miso below. 

I thawed two sanma and filleted them or "sanmai ni orosu" 三枚におろす in Japanese culinary parlance as I posted before. I then cut one filet into two making 8 pieces.

I lightly salted both sides and let them rest in the refrigerator for 1 hour or so. I divided half of them into the two kinds of sanma rolls.

Sanma rolls with perilla and picked plum paste:
I smeared picked plum paste on the meat side, cut perilla in half and laid it on the top and rolled it and then place a toothpick to secure. I dredge in potato starch and deep fried it in 350F peanut oil for 3-4 minutes turning frequently (below).

I drained the excess oil, removed the toothpicks (first using a turning motion to free the toothpick from the meat and then pulled to remove).

Sanma roll fry with scallion miso and perilla:

Scallion miso: Mixed finely chopped scallion (one), miso (1tbs), mirin (1tbs), sugar (1tsp), ground white sesame (1 tbs) or sesame paste or both.

I smeared the scallion miso on the meat side, cut the perilla leaves in half and laid them over the miso and placed on a small button of cheese (I used smoked gouda) and rolled. I secured the roll with a toothpick. I dredged the roll in flour, egg water and panko bread crumbs (I made sure both ends were sealed) and deep fried in 350F oil for 4-5 minutes turning frequently.

I drained the excess oil and removed the tooth picks.

The original recipe used only potato starch for this but I was afraid the cheese would melt and ooze out. So, I made this a "fry". The other one was supposed to be a "fry" but I only used potato starch since there was nothing to melt and come out from inside the rolls.

In any case, both were good but a bit fishy and strong tasting (that may have had more to do with the original quality of the fish rather than the style of preparation). The melted smoked cheese went very well with the miso. The scallion miso and pickled plum paste gave the roll a very distinctive salty taste but we still prefer simple grilled saury the best.

We served the rolls with coleslaw and sake. For 20 some years,  our favorite sake cups were red and blue ("meoto" 夫婦 husband and wife) cut crystal cold sake cups (by Hoya).  One day we took them out to use them and found that, somehow, the blue one was damaged and couldn't be used any more. Somehow using the red one alone just didn't seem right. It was a bit of a loss and we sorely missed them. Recently, however, my wife found some substitutes on eBay and "surprised" me with them.

These were made by Kagami crystal and are a pretty close substitute to the ones we had before. If anything, we like these glasses even better. They have a graceful shape, are well weighted on the bottom and the rim is pleasingly thin. Somehow they really added to our enjoyment of the fried fish rolls.