Friday, September 30, 2016

Curry filled pocket カレー入りパイポケット

I stopped making a Japanese curry (from a package of curry roux) for some time because my wife took an interest in making more authentic Indian style curries. But, one weekend, I just had a hankering for the taste of classic Japanese curry.  So I made some using a package of "medium hot" curry roux and added chicken thighs, potatoes, carrots and onions, the usual suspects used in a Japanese curry. We ate a few curry dinners but we had some leftovers curry but not enough for another dinner. I mentioned in passing to my wife that another Japanese favorite is a fried bread stuffed with curry or カレーパン. She immediately came up with the idea of stuffing her "baked pocket" with the leftover curry. Here is the end results. The shell is made of a pie crust and baked.

You can't see much but it is filled with curry (she mashed the vegetables, particularly the potatoes to make it thicker in consistency and cut the chicken into smaller pieces so they would fit).

The original curry was made in the classic Japanese way with chicken thigh meat, sauteed onion, potato and carrot with a Japanese medium hot curry roux. She shredded the chicken and mashed vegetables to make more homogenous and thicker sauce (#1).  Using her pocket making gadget, she cut the rounds of pie crust (frozen packaged, thawed and rolled) and filled with the curry stuffinfg using a medium size ice cream scoop (#2). The edges were painted with a mixture of flour and water (sort of edible glue) and the pocket maker closed and pressed (#3) making perfect stuffed pie pockets (#4).

She baked this in a preheated 350F oven for 15 minutes. 

This is a great snack for weekdays when we came back from work and needed something to fill the holes in your stomach quickly. It heats up well in a toaster oven. Although it was a bit spicy, it was very satisfying almost like a comfort food. It also went well with a glass of cab.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Succotash soup with chicken salad サカタッシュ コーンスープ

This is my wife's corn soup made from corncobs. Since we had extra fresh corn and frozen edamame soybean leftover from when we made shrimp balls, we added them to her "corncob" soup and called it "succotash" soup. We had this cold as a weekend lunch (it was a hot day) and served with curry flavored chicken salad with cantaloupe.

This curry flavored chicken salad was served on a bed of baby arugula

 and topping of roasted walnuts. We also had my baguette.

There was a little bit of soup left so the next day, we made some modifications and finished it. We added corn pudding (again leftover) and cream.

This was also served it cold with garnish of soy beans and paprika for color.

Both of these dishes were quite a corn "festival". It's amazing what an intense corn flavor can come from just boiling some corncobs (with the corn removed) in water with onion. Adding the corn kernels back into the corn broth along with the edamame also added to the flavor and made it a very filling dish. The nice corn flavor of  the soup also went well with the sweet corn taste of the corn pudding.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Big eye tuna toro and Ankimo メバチマグロとあん肝の刺身

We got spot prawn from Catalina offshore products. At the same time, we also got frozen bigeye tuna chutoro メバチマグロの中とろ and ankimo あん肝. This was the first time we tried frozen bigeye tuna from Catalina. Interestingly, this turned out to be a cross between ootoro and chutoro. Some portions had sinew separating the meat like some portions of ootoro and with a thin, a bit rough, layer of pure fat (must be from just under the skin). But it tasted really good.

We also got ankimo あん肝 or monkfish liver which was made  into a cylinder, steamed and frozen. This pack appeared to be a bit softer than usual but tasted good.

For this occasion, I thawed a tube of real wasabi and used it with the dish.

For a change, I used a Western-style plate and also served avocado slices as a part of the sashimi. For this sashimi combination, I made three separate sauces. From top Karashi sumiso 芥子酢味噌, mixture of soy sauce and mango chutney (about 1:2 ratio) マンゴーチャツネ醤油, and straight soy sauce.

Karashi sumiso 芥子酢味噌: My usual, mixture of miso, Japanese mustard (from a tube), sugar and rice vinegar. I added a small amount of mirin this time to adjust the consistency (or dashi broth, if you have it handy). This was meant to be used for the tuna in combination with the soy sauce.

Mango chutney soy sauce マンゴーチャツネ醤油: This is a variation of orange marmalade soy sauce I usually make for ankimo.  Since I had mango chutney, I used that to make a similar flavor profile of sweet and salty sauce for the ankimo. It worked very well. My wife actually thought this was better then the sauce I make with marmalade.

Of course, for the slices of avocado, wasabi and soy sauce are the best combination. This was a nice small sashimi plate for a weekend evening with our house sake "mu". The big eye tuna sashimi was way better than our back-up yellowfin tuna sashimi.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Potato balls for Harvest moon じゃがチーズもち

There are certain things in nature that my wife particularly likes; among them, are rainbows and bright Moons. Every time conditions are right to form a rainbow i.e. the sun comes out while it is still raining, she goes out to look for one. If she sees one she takes the time to admire it until it disappears. In the evening, if the sky is clear, she is on the look out for the shine of the Moon. So, when she learned about "Chu-shu-no-meigetsu" 中秋の名月 and the round shaped food that goes with "Tsuki-mi" 月見 or moon gazing, it was a done deal. Tsuki-mi took its place on our calendar. I suppose, making "Tsukimi dango" 月見団子 is most traditional but it is not particularly interesting to me (it is a sweetened rice flour dumpling--not one of my favorites). So when I saw this mashed potato ball recipe with cheese, there was no question that this was the one I would make. The picture below was taken before frying. I just wanted to make the correct 15 ball pyramid (3x3 base, 2x2 middle and two on the top) indicative of "ju-go ya*" 十五夜 meaning 15th night in a month before one potentially exploded while being fried.

*The moon that is the focus of tsuki-mi is the full moon before the fall equinox. In the U.S. that moon is called the harvest moon. According to the lunar calendar the 15th day after the new moon would be the full moon. Thus, "ju-go ya" means a full moon but using the Gregorian calendar, obviously, the 15th day of the month may not be the full moon. This year, the full moon before the equinox occurred on the 15-16th night in September. We could not see the moon, however, because of the clouds.

The original recipe was to deep fry the potato balls but I sauteed some, which were served immediately, in butter with a bit of soy sauce poured on top at the end.

Mashed potato, melting cheese, butter and soy sauce is a combination that cannot go wrong in my experience. 

This is inside of the ball showing the melting cheese--yum. I used smoked Gouda. I poured hot melted butter over the baby arugula.

Potatoes, 3 medium.
Potato starch. 2-3 tbs
Melting cheese (I used smoked gouda), cut into small cubes

  1. Boil the potatoes with skin-on on salted water until cooked.
  2. Remove the skin and mash them. 
  3. Add the potato starch and salt, mix well until elastic dough forms
  4. Using a small ice cream scoop, I portioned out the mashed potato (#1). (requires at least 15 to make a appropriate presentation. I made 20 just in case a few broke during the cooking).
  5. I encased a cube of cheese (#2) with the mashed potato and rolled it into balls between my palms. (#3). 
  6. I kept these potato balls in a sealed container in the refrigerator until I cooked and served them (#4).

The original recipe suggested either deep frying or baking them.  I thought if I fried them they would just taste like potato croquettes with cheese in the middle so I decided to sautee them in melted butter.  I kept the balls moving in the pan so that all the surfaces were cooked and browned. At the very end, I added a light colored soy sauce and kept moving the pan until all the surface was coated.

Certainly, this was rather good. The molten cheese center was too hot initially but cooled down quickly. Although the Harvest moon was hidden behind clouds, we enjoyed this "Tsukimi" food or moon-gazing food.

P.S. The next evening, we tried baking the potato balls. The cheese melted and seeped out leaving a hollow potato shell in a puddle of melted cheese. Sauteing would be the preferred method of cooking. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"Aji" Jack mackerel sashimi 3 ways 鯵の刺身3種類

It is most difficult to find the equivalent English names for fish named in Japanese. For example, the fish called "Aji" 鯵 アジ in Japanese is a member of the Mackerel family but whether the English equivalent name should be "Jack mackerel" or " horse mackerel" is unclear. In any case, I found a package of frozen "Aji" filets  tucked away in our freezer.  I must have bought it at our Japanese grocery store some time ago but I do not remember when. The package was also labeled in English as "Wild jack mackerel" (see #4 in the last composite picture below). Since such fish (or other things for that matter) do not improve spending lengthy time in the freezer, I decided to use it immediately. This package of aji was already prepared; filleted with skin removed. I thought of making a fry 鯵のフライ but this aji was rather small I decided to serve it as sashimi in three ways on one weekend.

From left to right on the bottom row are "namerou" 鯵のなめろう, "goma-mabushi"  鯵のごままぶし, and "sunomono" 酢の物.

"Aji-no-namerou" 鯵のなめろう or "chopped aji seasoned with miso" is a very common way of preparing mackerel. I have posted a similar dish using low-quality tuna.

"Aji-no-gomamabushi" 鯵のごままぶし or "aji covered with ground roasted white sesame" was inspired by the recipe I saw on line.

"aji-no-sunomono" 鯵の酢の物 or "aji and cucumber in vinegar dressing" is also a classic dish. The addition of ginger root is also common to counter the sometimes strong flavor of the fish.

The aji was frozen and vacuum packed (#1). It was filleted with skin removed. I have to assume it was first salted and prepared in the usual manner of "San-mai oroshi" 三枚おろし(three pages preparation consisting of two fillets and a layer containing a backbone).  After I removed the fillets from the package, I washed them in cold filtered water, dried them with a paper towel. I then placed the them between the sheets of paper towel on the cutting board. I sprinkled sushi vinegar so that the paper towels were saturated with the vinegar (became transparent, #2). I let it sit for 10 minutes.  This technique is called "sujime" 酢じめ which is commonly done for blue skinned fish to preserve and reduce any "fishy" smell and taste. The fresher the fish the less amount of "sujime" is needed. This one was not too bad and I only vinegared it for 10 minutes. After that, I removed the center line of the fillets which contained small bones to make 20 small half fillets. I divided these into three portions (I apportioned two extra half fillets to the "namerou" since I knew this dish would be good).

Aji-no-sunomono 鯵の酢の物 
  1. I cut the aji filets into small bite sized pieces.
  2. I prepared "nihaizu" 二杯酢 by mixing rice vinegar, light colored soy sauce and dashi broth (3:2:2 ratio but the ratio can be modified based on your taste).
  3. As an additional item, I made "jabara" 蛇腹 cut cucumber, which was first salted, let to stand for 5 minutes then excess moisture squeezed out.  I dressed it with sushi vinegar (from the bottle) and set it aside until I assembled the dish. (I could have added wakame seaweed but I did not).
  4. I also prepared "hari-shouga" 針生姜 as a garnish. By first removing the skin from ginger root, thinly sliced, and then julienned (#5) and soaked in water (#6) to make it less strong. The longer you soak the ginger root and the more frequently you change the water the less potent the ginger becomes. You have to taste and decide when to stop. I strained the ginger using a fine nylon strainer and squeezed out the excess water using a paper towel.
  5. I assembled the dish in a small bowl, first putting in the cucumber (excess sushi vinegar squeezed out), then the aji. I poured the "nihaizu" around and topped with "hari-shouga" ginger (picture above).
Aji-no-goma-mabushi 鯵のごままぶし
  1. I cut the aji filet into a bite sized pieces and sprinkled enough soy sauce to coat all the surface and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, I dry roasted the white sesame seeds (about 2 tbs) until fragrant and just starting to turn color. I tipped the seeds into a Japanese mortar or suribachi すり鉢 and let it cool a bit.
  3. Using a pestle or surikogi すりこぎ, I ground it into coarse powder.
  4. I place the marinated aji  in a bowl and coated the all surfaces with the sesame powder and served (picture above).
Aji-no-namerou 鯵のなめろう
  1. I coarsely chopped the aji.
  2. I finely chopped chives (or scallion), perilla leaves, and miso (amount is arbitrary but you could taste during the preparation and add more) and mixed with the aji while chopping with the knife.
  3. For a change, I added a bit of mirin to make the mixture loose and added some sweetness.
  4. I did not add ginger since I had ginger in the other dish.
  5. I placed decorative perilla leaves on top as garnish and served in a small bowl (picture above).
This was a wonderful combination to have with cold sake. We like the namerou best, followed by one covered with sesame seeds. The sunomono was good but, among the three, it had the least impact. The problem is that we can consume a quite a lot of sake with dishes as good as these three.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Cold pasta with smoked salmon and tomato トマトと燻製サーモンの冷製パスタ

This is a variation of cold pasta with tomato. We really liked this dish and tried to make it again on one hot and humid weekend.  We already had cooked thin Udon noodles and we had Campari tomato but we did not have prosciutto. My wife suggested we substitute smoked salmon.  

Just to change the appearance, I garnished the top with a chiffonade of basil and strips of smoked salmon and freshly cracked black pepper.

I also added a bit of the Spanish olive oil we really like,

The sauce was prepared as I posted before. Instead of pasta, we used thin Japanese Udon noodle (this was "sanuki" udon 讃岐うどん). This combination worked well. The saltiness of prosciutto is probably a better combination but this variation is no slouch. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Succotash サカッタシュ

We thought we already posted "succotash" but found out we did not. So, this is our version of succotash. This must be an archetypical American food which may have originated with native Americans (at least the name is from "sohquttahhash" in Narragansett language meaning "broken corn kernels"). Traditionally, lima beans are used in addition to corn,  but I used "edamame" 枝豆  soybeans. (digression alert: My wife commented that she was glad I substituted the edamame for the lima beans. She mentioned that lima bean succotash was a staple of childhood summer dinners and she remembered the tedium of carefully separating the corn, which she liked, from the lima beans, which she did not like. The alternative was suffering through the starchy large lima beans at the expense of enjoying the sweet corn.)

There are so many variations of this dish and I did not follow any particular recipe.  This could be a vegetable side dish for meat but it can also be served as a small snack like I did here.

Corn kernels, corn on the cob briefly boiled in salted water and kernels removed using a knife (see second picture below).
Edamame soybeans, shelled and frozen, briefly boiled in salted water and drained (see the third picture below).
Tomato, skinned and diced
Onion, finely chopped
Garlic, finely chopped
Bacon, one strip
Salt and pepper to taste
(The amounts are all arbitrary)

In a frying pan, I cooked a strip of bacon on low heat until the fat rendered and the bacon became crispy. I took out the bacon and kept it on a plate lined with a paper towel.  I left the bacon drippings in the pan and added the onion and garlic and sautéed them until cooked (a few minutes). I added the corn, edamame, and tomato and cooked them for few minutes stirring. I added the crumbled bacon and seasoned it with salt and pepper.

Cooked in bacon drippings with onion and garlic, this tasted pretty good. Although I only used one strip of bacon, the bacon flavor permeated the dish. We much prefer the soybeans rather than lima beans (even if they are small) which are usually used in this dish. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Strawberries and Tuna with Wasabi Dressing イチゴとマグロのわさび和え

I came across a very interesting recipe using raw tuna and strawberries. I just could not imagine how this combination would taste and wanted to try it. Unfortunately, the strawberries I can get around here are not of the caliber available in Japan and the tuna I can get is frozen yellowfin tuna. In addition, nanohana 菜の花 or rape blossom cannot be had in US and I had to substitute broccolini. So, at best, this was a variation on the original recipes but this is the best I could do with ingredients available to me. I can only imagine whether the original tasted better.  

At least, visually it appears similar to the original recipe.

Tuna, half block, (I used my usual frozen yellowfin tuna), cut into 5mm cubes (#1)
Strawberries, 5-6 (or about the same amount as the tuna), cut into 5mm cubes (#2)
Broccolini, one bundle, only top portion, blanched in salted water and then shocked in ice water (#3), using a knife to remove the buds (#4).
Salt 1/6 tsp
For Sauce
Sesame paste, white, 1 tbs
Wasabi (I used real wasabi) 1 tsp
Mirin 1 tbs
Soy sauce 1 tbs
For seasoning broccolini buds 
Japanese noodle sauce, concentrated (x3)

  1. I sprinkled salt over the tuna cubes, mixed and let it stand as I prepared the other items.
  2. Although this was not in the original recipe, I seasoned the broccolini buds with a small amount of mentsuyu 麺つゆ, Japanese noodle sauce, mixed well and then squeezed out the excess sauce (#4).
  3. I mixed the strawberries and tuna cubes.
  4. Using a round mold, I first packed a layer of tuna-strawberry mixture (#5).
  5. I then layered the broccolini, packed tight using the back of a spoon (#6).
  6. I mixed, the sesame paste, wasabi, mirin, and soy sauce in a Japanese mortar "suribachi" and mixed it well. I added more wasabi after I tasted it.
  7. I poured the sauce around the mold, garnished the top with slices of strawberry and carefully removed the mold.
Strawberries and tuna are indeed an interesting and good combination. If both the strawberries and tuna were better quality, this could have been spectacular. The sauce was good but had a predominantly sesame flavor and the wasabi was not very forthcoming. I may change the proportion of the ingredients in the sauce if I make this dish again.  But this dish was still very good and unique. We had cold sake with this, which went very well,  but I wonder if chilled champagne might have been a better pairing. We'll just have to make this again to see. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Blueberry bread with pecan ピーカンナッツ入りブルーベリーパン

This is a continuation of my wife's quest of  blueberry bread/muffins. This time, the major addition is a layer of pecans on the bottom which formed an almost fried in the butter pecan crust. Certainly. this is a good bread but we wondered if it might not be good to just mix all the pecans directly into the batter.

The pecan layer is on the bottom and is nicely crunchy with a pecan flavor.

3 cups pecans
3 cups blueberries
6 cups whole wheat or AP flour (I used AP)
2 1/2 cups sugar
8 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter melted
2/3 cup Greek yogurt
1 1//2 cup milk
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the inside of two loaf pans with butter and evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup of pecans over the bottom of the pans. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the wet ingredients in a bowl. Combine the dry and wet ingredients. Add remaining pecans and blueberries. Spread into prepared pans. Cook in oven for 25 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (The original recipe said to cook for 75 to 90 minutes which would have been way too long). 

This bread is very good. It has a very moist consistency and the blueberries give a nice fresh burst of blueberry flavor. The pecan crust is also very nice. 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Beef Donburi 牛丼もどき

Sometimes the standard portion of beef you will get in the US can be rather large, either at a restaurant or at a market. I bought a good sized NY strip steak the other day. It was almost 1 pound and I was told by the butcher that was considered one portion! I thought one portion would be enough for the two of us but we ended up using it in three additional dishes (aside from enjoying it as a steak on the first day). This was the third dish I made from the steak. I did not follow any recipe. This is a cross between beef donburi or gyu-don 牛丼 and roast beef donburi ローストビーフ丼. Instead of a raw egg, I topped it with a soft poached egg. I added fresh corn and spinach since I happened to have them available. 

The yolk was almost totally runny but the egg white was cooked (Of course I used pasteurized eggs from Davidoson).

Again, I did not measure anything so this is not a recipe. I started with Japanese dashi broth (Bonito and kelp), added mirin, sugar and soy sauce to make a rather strong sweet and salty simmering liquid. I added thinly sliced onion and let it cook until the onion was translucent. I added fresh corn kernels (leftover from making shrimp balls) and spinach and cooked it until the spinach wilted (about 1 minute). At this point, the simmering sauce was a bit reduced too much so I added a small amount of hot water (from my InstaHot) and re-tasted it. 

I sliced the NY strip streak thinly which was cooked medium rare. I placed on the top of the cooked vegetables and placed the lid and let it sit for 1 minutes to warm it up (not to cook). I placed the vegetables with the simmering liquid (it was just right amount of two servings) on the top of warm rice (I used microwaved previously frozen rice for this) as seen in above picture.

I covered the surface with warmed steak slices. Meanwhile I poached eggs (using pasteurized Davidson eggs) and top each donburi. We broke the yolk and let it mingle with sauce and meat. This dish was not roast beef don (which is usually served with Japanese style onion sauce) and flavor is more similar to gyu-don. This was our lunch on our off day and we thoroughly enjoyed it.