Friday, July 29, 2016

Watermelon ribbon salad スイカのリボンサラダ

This is a variation of my wife's ribbon salad.  We bought a regular size watermelon last weekend. I "processed" it so that it was all cut up and ready to go as fruit to take to work in small containers. But a whole regular sized water melon (as opposed to a mini-water melon) was too much for us to finish in one week. My wife remembered that she used to make a variation on ribbon salad using watermelon.  I served it with cucumber salad and broccoli as one of the small dishes for the evening.

The center layer is "wasabi" flavored cottage cheese.

Red layer
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 lime squeezed
2 3/4 cup watermelon puree
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

White layer
1 envelop gelatin
1/4 cup milk or cream
1 3/4 cup cottage cheese mashed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp salt 
2 limes squeezed
1 tbs wasabi (or to taste) 

Puree the watermelon. Take 1/2 cup of the puree and use it to bloom the gelatin. Heat the bloomed gelatin in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the gelatin to the rest of the puree. Pour half the puree into the bottom of the casserole dish and let it jell in the refrigerator until solid. (Keep the remaining puree at room temperature and it will stay liquid.) 

Mash the cottage cheese. Add the mayo, salt, lime juice. Take some of the cottage cheese mixture, add it to a small bowl and use it to soften the wasabi. The amount of wasabi is basically to taste. I found that the cottage cheese tends to calm it down so I end up putting in a fairly large amount. Once it has been homogenized into the amount in the small bowl add it to the large bowl and stir until it is incorporated. Bloom the gelatin in the milk. Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds until melted. Add to the bowl of cottage cheese. Pour the cottage cheese over the watermelon layer and cool until solid. 

Add the remaining watermelon puree on top of the cottage cheese layer and cool until solidified. 

This is a refreshing summer side dish. The watermelon flavor comes through and goes very well with the cottage cheese layer. The wasabi really makes this dish. Because of the cottage cheese and mayo the wasabi is not "clean out your sinuses" intense.  Instead it adds a nice little bite that goes well with watermelon and adds to the refreshing flavor. Also mayo and wasabi are another surprisingly good flavor combination. This is a good variation for my wife's historic ribbon salad. 

BTW the pureed watermelon served with wasabi cream makes a very nice cold melon soup. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cold pasta with cherry tomato トマトの冷製パスタ

I saw some nice looking cherry tomatoes in a pouch at the grocery store and bought them. Then, I saw this recipe on line and decided to try it as a Sunday lunch. It was an unusually nice weekend and we spent as much time as we could on our deck. This is a wonderful dish and we will make this again. It will become one of our regular dishes especially in the hot summer months.

Although I was sure we had some, I could not find any Angel hair pasta in our pantry (or Capellini) (which was used in the original recipe). So I used Linguine instead. The packaged Prosciutto  from our regular grocery store was not the best quality but it was OK. 

Ingredients: (for 2 servings):
Cherry tomatoes, 1 package (about 10, they were rather large for cherry tomatoes)
Olive oil, 1 tbs (or more depending on your preference).
Garlic, small clove, crashed using a garlic press.
Japanese concentrated (x3) sauce for noodles or "Mentsuyu" めんつゆ,  1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste

Linguini, dried, 1/3 package
Japanese concentrated (x3) sauce for noodles,  1 tsp, to season the noodle.

Fresh basil
Proscuitto, 4 (2 slices per serving).

  1. Skin the cherry tomatoes. I made a shallow "cross" on the stem end and plunged them into boiling water for 5 seconds and then transferred to an ice water bath. When cooled, I removed the skin(#1)
  2. I placed half of the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and Japanese noodle sauce in the mixing container for an immersion blender. I blended until it made an emulsion (#2). I tasted and seasoned with salt and pepper.
  3. I cut the remaining cherry tomatoes into quarters (or halves if they were small) and placed them in the emulsion. I covered the container and placed it in the refrigerator (I did this in the morning).
  4. I cooked the linguine as per the package instructions (12 minutes in salted rapidly boiling water).
  5. I washed the noodles in cold running water and drained.
  6. I placed the noodles in a bowl and added the Japanese noodle sauce, tossed and drained excess sauce. I further blotted excess moisture using paper towels (#3) as per the original recipe (I did this also in the morning, coved it and placed in the refrigerator).
  7. At lunch time, I added the sauce to the noodle, added hand-torn fresh basil leaves and gently tossed and plated it (#4).
  8. I arranged strips of prosciutto, basel, and drizzled on some of our good olive oil.

This was a unqualified success. The sauce was wonderful. It had a very light but refreshingly intense tomato flavor. It was great probably because the cherry tomatoes were very ripe and good. The linguini actually worked well. My wife thought this was a Japanese udon noodle (thin Inaniwa kind 稲庭うどん). It had some al dente texture remaining but worked nicely. The Japanese noodle sauce was not recognizable as such but definitely added a je ne sais quoi flavor to the sauce and noodles ("Kakushi-aji" 隠し味 or hidden taste). The addition of prosciutto was also good. Although the prosciutto was not of the best quality, its saltiness really contrasted with the sweet and slightly sour taste of the sauce. Overall, we enjoyed this dish. It is perfect for a hot summer day lunch while lounging on the deck.

P.S. Since this was a really good dish, I made it a few days later with angel hair pasta and Campari tomato. Instead of hand-torn basil, I made a chiffonade which I thought would mix in better.

I even made a rose of prosciutto.

Angel hair past (capellini) appears to hold more sauce since the total surface area is larger than linguini for the same amount of pasta. We liked both.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Canned Mackerel canapé サバのアメリカ版缶詰のカナッペ

We tend to think canned food can last forever but apparently that is not the case. All canned goods have an expiration date. Although even when past its expiration date, canned food may still be quite good. When I see that the can is several years past its expiration date, however, I throw it out. I found several cans of sardines and anchovies in our pantry which fell into this category.  So the next time I was at the grocery store, I bought some replacement cans, one of which was canned mackerel in olive oil. Japanese canned mackerel サバ缶 is usual bone-in, cut cross-wise or "dou-giri" 胴切, it is either cooked in water or seasoned with miso or soy sauce. Either way, the bone is soft - probably pressure cooked - and can be eaten. The one I bought was boneless fillets packed in oil by "bumble bee tuna" company. I decided to use it to make a small canapé.

On the "everything flat bread", I smeared a mixture of our favorite Spanish olive oil and my wife's strained yogurt (Greek yogurt) with chopped fresh dill. I seasoned it with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. I then placed a skinned and sliced Campari tomato on top. Finally, I topped the stack with the filet of mackerel. 

This was rather good. The mackerel was neutral tasting. Despite being canned in olive oil it was not oily and the usual strong favor was not prominent. The Greek yogurt with olive oil is as good or better than sour cream (our home made creme fraiche could have been better, though).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Avocado Tofu アボカド豆腐

We usually keep some avocados on hand. I buy the greenest and hardest avocados I can find and let them ripen on the counter top. The reason I buy only unripened avocados is because already ripened avocados from grocery store look like they have been used as hockey pucks; they are usually extremely blemished with brown soft spots that need to be cut out. Often, the only thing that can be done is to "euthanize" the poor things. For this reason they are not even worth buying. I let the rock-hard ones I buy ripen for a few days on the counter in the kitchen. When they start to ripen I move them to the refrigerator. That way, I have a steady supply of avocados all week. I usually slice them and put it in the sandwiches we take to work. I often make leftover avocados into guacamole. This weekend I made one into guacamole but still had one left. I happened to come across this recipe which was originally from the blog by a Japanese woman who lives in France. This looked interesting. Since my wife (and I)  are into gelatin based dishes, I made this avocado tofu.

Since we have not yet harvested new myoga from our backyard, I garnished this with my home-made pickled myoga みょうがの甘酢漬け (from the last year season), wasabi and perilla. For sauce, I just repurposed the broth from my summer cold simmered vegetables.

The below was servings for light lunch over the weekend, I noticed dark color just on the surface despite I used a small amount of lemon juice which was not in the original recipe. All avocado containing dishes discolor after exposure to oxygen. At least this dish did not turn into the non-appetizing brown color that the exposed surface of avocado often will take.

This was the sort of two course light lunch and I served avocado tofu as a first dish which was followed by lobster bisque with crab meat. This time, I thawed a tube of real wasabi. Compared to common imitation wasabi (made from horseradish), the real wasabi made a big difference, I garnished it with tobiko, thinly sliced scallion.

I also added a small leaf of perilla. For sauce, I used concentrated noodle sauce straight. This tasted better with very good bonito dashi flavor.

One avocado, stone and skin removed, cut into small cubes (Original avocado weighed 225grams)(#1).
Half silken tofu* (250g) (#2)
Cream 1tbs
Lemon juice 1tsp
Powdered gelatin (I envelope, about 6 grams) and cold 3 tbs water.

*This is US made by "Nasoya". It is silken tofu and is quite good but mostly being sold for making "smoothies" (#2).

In the  plastic container for my emersion blender, I added avocado, cream, and lemon juice (thinking this may prevent discoloration),  I added the tofu and blended using my emersion blender (#3). I bloomed the gelatin in cold water in a small pyrex ramekin. I microwave it for 30 seconds until dissolved and mixed into the avocado-tofu  mixture. I lined a small disposable loaf pan with a plastic wrap and poured in the mixture and let it set for several hours. 

This is a very luxurious dish. It has an amazingly smooth texture and nice avocado flavor that goes well with wasabi and soy sauce based sauce.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Blueberry bread with cornmeal コーンミール入りブルーベリーパン

Although blueberries in the U.S. are available almost all year round because they are being imported from South America, there is still something special about the seasonality of local blueberries which are only available in early summer. In our grocery store, good, sweet and cheap blueberries have arrived. I got 4 packages and my wife decided to make blueberry bread. We posted blueberry bread previously but this one is slightly different and this is mostly for our record. Since we forgot to set aside some fresh blueberries for garnish, I used cherries instead (they are also in season locally).

This is a quick bread and cornmeal is also added which gives it slightly different texture and taste.

4 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups blueberries
3 cups buttermilk
9 Tbs. butter melted
The zest from 3 lemons
3 large eggs
3 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line the bottom of a baking dish with parchment, first greasing the dish with butter then the top of the paper after it has been placed in the dish. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together. then add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix until blended. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish #1. add the blueberries on top and use your fingers to tamp them into the dough # 2 (this keeps them from sinking to the bottom).

Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees then lower the temperature to 350 and bake another 20 minutes until golden brown and a tester comes out clean #3 and #4. 

According to my wife, this recipe is a bit easier to make than  the original blueberry bread. The texture is a bit courser than the original but the taste of cornmeal comes through and is very pleasant. Also the lemon rind adds a hint of citrus flavor. This is very good and perfect breakfast bread and a symbol of summer.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pulpo al ajillo タコのアヒージョ

This was a dish I made quickly one evening. Although I make "Gambas al ajillo" often, using octopus was a first for me. I happened to have a boiled octopus leg from our Japanese grocery store. I served it as sashimi with California spot prawns the previous evening. My thoughts went thusly; since we already opened a bottle of Cab this evening, my usual miso-vinegar dressing (sumiso-ae 酢味噌和え酢味噌和え) may not work. In addition, I baked baguette that morning. Looking at the line-up of red wine, octopus, and baguette; the only thing I could reasonably make was "Pulpo al ajillo". I did not follow any recipe, I just winged it. As usual, I cooked it my "antique" Corningware. (It was new when I bought it but I just recently discovered it is now considered antique...I don't even want to think about what that means. Nonetheless this is a good vessel to use for this dish).

I use a good amount of fruity EVOO with slices of garlic and red pepper flakes on low heat.

It takes some time before the edges of the garlic slices to brown. I quickly took out the garlic slices (I just used my dexterity with a pair of Japanese cooking chopsticks) and set it aside. I then added slices of the octopus leg (I sliced the tip length wise).

I seasoned it with salt and pepper and added finely chopped parsley. Even off the heat, the olive oil kept boiling for a few minutes. I served this with thin slices of my freshly baked baguette. Yes this was very good. The bread mopped up the wonderful garlic olive oil sauce. The octopus was chewy but tender.

 It is interesting to know that, when I searched for a similar recipe while writing this post, I only found recipes in Spanish. When I searched this in Japanese as "タコのアヒージョ", there were many recipes in Japanese. In addition, I found many Japanese variations. In any case, this was a perfect dish for the evening. The only problem is because of the bread this dish was quite filling.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Spot prawn from Catalina カリフォルニア ボタン海老 

We have not gotten anything from Catalina offshore products for a long time but it is California spot prawn season and we got these prawns along with frozen big eye tuna 中トロメバチマグロ and ankimo あん肝. Spot prawn is more like "botan-ebi" ボタンえび than "ama-ebi' 甘エビ and tends to be larger. The closest to Japanese ama-ebi is pink shrimp from Alaska and New England. We did get Alaskan pink shrimp a few times for sashimi from a Japanese-run company in Alaska, it came head removed and the freshness was not great. We see pink shrimp from Maine in our grocery store when it is in season but we never see it fresh enough to serve as sashimi. Even boiled, pink shrimp is quite good. In any case, we are not very fond of eating large spot prawn as sashimi. In the past we made ceviche out of it. I chose the smallest 6 and served it as sashimi for the evening we received them. I also served cucumber cups with tobiko トビコ and moromi-miso もろみ味噌.

For this occasion I thawed real wasabi. I also served octopus. This was quite good and we enjoyed it with cold sake.

I served the larger shrimp as tempura. Although these were not the largest ones the head was sill too tough and we had to remove the outer shell before eating. The prawn itself was very good. I served it with perilla tempura with green tea salt.

The next evening, I made a fry from the largest prawns. After the head and shell were removed, I de-veined (actually removed the intestine) from a tiny slit in the back with a tooth pick (actually not much to remove).  I made multiple shallow cuts on the belly side (ventral surface) to prevent it from curling up. As per usual, I  dredged in flower, dipped in egg water and  breaded in panko crumbs. I also deep fried the head. 

The prawn was very succulent and much better than "frozen and thawed" shrimp. I made an instant tartar sauce with store-bought mayo, finely chopped butter pickles with an addition of the pickling liquid.

Although I fried the head long time starting with low temperature and finished with regular 350F, the outer shell was still too hard. We removed it and only ate the center. The larger prawn is much better cooked than raw. We really enjoyed it. I also made broth from the remaining heads and shells which I am going to make some kind of soup.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Pork and shrimp teriyaki burger エビ入り豚肉照り焼きバーガー

This was just a leftover-control dish but it tasted good. When I made "Fried bamboo shoot stuffed with pork and shrimp",  I prepared much more stuffing than I could use. Using this stuffing, I made this "burger" as a drinking snack.

I served this with green beans (which were already blanched, I just warmed them up in the same pan in which I made these burgers). I also served bomboo shoot "Tosa-ni" 筍の土佐煮. These made nice starting dishes for the evening.

Ingredients: (For two small burgers)
Ground pork, 40g (I hand chopped pork butt).
Shrimp, 60g (I used frozen, thawed and chopped finely until it had a paste like consistency)
Scallion, one, white part, finely chopped.
Ginger root, finely chopped (to taste)
Salt, to taste
Soy sauce, 1/2 tsp
Sake, 1/2 tsp
White pepper, to taste

I mixed together the above ingredients and formed the mixture into two identical patties. I cooked the burger in a small non-stick frying pan with light olive oil. I cooked about 2 minute or until browned and then turned over and cooked another one minute or until that side was nicely browned. I then added soy sauce (1 tbs) and mirin (1 tbs) and kept the pan moving and turning the burgers a few times. When the sauce evaporated enough to form a viscous sauce, I cut the flame. After I placed the burgers on the plates, I poured the sauce over them. I sprinkled on some "Sansho" 山椒 powder.

Because of the addition of shrimp, the consistency of the burger was quite different from a just meat burger. It had a more elastic texture (In Japanese, it is called "puripuri" プリプリ). The shrimp also added a slight sweetness. My instant teriyaki sauce went well. Sansho also added its unique flavor. This was a well-balanced first dish of the evening.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cold Tofu with olive, olive oil and Balsamic vinegar 冷奴のオリーブオイル、バルサミコ酢かけ

This is not necessarily blog-worthy but good to have for our record. I had a this creamy tofu with intense soy bean flavor from Otokomae 男前豆腐.  I modified toppings of this cold tofu dish so it would go well with red wine.

I served it on a bed of baby water cress.

Toppings included, sliced almond-stuffed green olive,  "yukari" ゆかり(red-shiso flakes/salt), aonori 青のりwith our favorite Spanish olive oil and syrupy balsamic vinegar. 

This dish went well with the red wine we were having. The watercress added a slight bitterness. The combination of Western and Japanese ingredients worked surprisingly well.  This is certainly a variation of cold tofu toppings I should remember.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Miso soup panna cotta 味噌汁のパンナコッタ

My wife came up with the idea of making miso soup in a solid form. (This was a natural progression from the various other panna cottas she has made recently. Also this is what happens when she is turned loose with gelatin; she was well-known in the past for her various "gelatin" concoctions). The idea appealed to me because I like to have miso soup with any meal (even breakfast). My wife on the other hand does not like having soup in the evening. So, if we could come up with a dish which had the taste of miso soup but was not liquid it would be a win-win for both my wife and myself.  This recipe was my first attempt. I intended to recreate miso soup with potato, onion, and wakame seaweed ワカメ、ジャガイモと玉ねぎの味噌汁. The reason I choose this particular combination of ingredients is a long story.*

*Digression alert: When my late-brother and I were small (probably I was a just in 1st grade), my late-father was home but my mother was out (probably attending a PTA meeting or something). My father almost never cooked but when 4 pm came around, he suggested "we must be hungry" and decided to cook something for us (in retrospect, I suspect he was the one who was hungry and could not wait my mother to come home). In any case, he made rice (using an electric rice cooker) and miso soup made of potato, onion, and wakame seaweed. When my mother arrived back home with some ready-made side dishes for supper, she was mighty miffed to find us finishing up a supper of rice and soup. But somehow, the taste of this miso soup remains a favorite for me.

The picture below shows the miso soup panna cotta, which included potato and onion, served with cucumber, wakame seaweed, and red radish as garnish. To make it interesting I included unflavored soy milk and silken tofu (the white squares).

I decided to add "sumiso" 酢味噌 (miso, rice vinegar and sugar) sauce as well.

I also put sumiso sauce on the top of the panna cotta.

The panna cotta had a smooth texture and a gentle miso flavor. We could taste the sweetness of the onion but the addition of soy milk may have made it taste a bit vague or muted. The sumiso sauce also overwhelmed the dish. So, next day, I served the panna cotta simply with wakame seaweed and thinly sliced scallion.

This tasted better and closer to the original miso soup taste but there is room for improvement.

Ingredients (about 2 servings):
1 cup Dried fish and kelp broth (from bashi pack).
1 cup unflavored soy milk
1 large white potato, peeled and cut into a dice.
1 large onion, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup wakame seaweed (I used "raw" salt preserved one).
2 tbs Miso
2 envelopes of unflavored powdered gelatin
1/3 silken tofu

1. I cooked the potato in the broth until soft (15 minutes) and added onion and cooked another 5 minutes (left in the picture below). 
2. I dissolved the miso. I added more as I tasted. I needed to season it rather strongly since it would be diluted by the addition of soy milk.
3. I added the miso soup into a blender and pureed it smooth.
4. Meanwhile, I put soy milk in a pan, sprinkled unflavored powdered gelatin (two envelopes) on the surface to bloom. I gently heated up and dissolved the gelatin using a wire whisk (right in the picture below). I combined the miso soup and soy milk  with the dissolved gelatin.

5. I placed small cubes of tofu in the bottom of a small ramekin and poured the mixture on top.
6. I refrigerated until set.
7. Like the other  panna cotta dishes we made,  it will come out without any problem by running the thin blade of a knife around the perimeter and introducing air to the bottom of the ramekin. 

The two serving variations above were certainly "edible" but we were not satisfied. My wife suggested leaving out the soy milk. She also suggested serving the potato around the panna cotta rather than pureed in it. I will certainly incorporate her suggestions.  I am now on a mission to make the perfect miso soup panna cotta.