Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pumpkin ginger rolls かぼちゃと生姜味ロール

My wife always make some kind of pumpkin-themed food around Halloween. This year, she made these pumpkin ginger rolls.

Since we had a Japanese Kabocha left (the last 1/4 of a whole kabocha), she also included a cube of kabocha in the pumpkin rolls.

For Bread
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs yeast
1 (15 oz. can pumpkin puree)
2 large eggs
4 Tbs. butter melted
1/3 cup mini diced ginger (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

For the cooked pumpkin (kobocha)
Cut the Kabocha in half inch thick slices and microwave in a lided silicon container for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Remove the skin/rind and cut it into half inch cubes (see below).

For the pumpkin bread:

Put pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice in a sauce pan and cook on medium heat stirring constantly until pumpkin pulls away from the sides of the pan and the spices "bloom" (see below).
Let cool then add sugar, salt, eggs and melted butter. Bloom the yeast. Add the wet ingredients to the flour in a kneading mixer. Knead dough for about 2 to 3 minutes until ingredients are blended then let rest for 15 minutes. Continue kneading, adding flour until the dough reaches a workable consistency. If adding ginger and raisins knead them in (we did not add them).

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowel. Turn the dough so it gets coated with the oil. Cover and let rise until it doubles. Punch dough down and turn out onto a floured cutting board. Cut dough into pieces weighing 2 1/4 oz. Add a piece of cooked kobocha pumpkin and form into a bun. Put the buns into a heavily greased baking pan. Cover and let rise again (about 1/2 hour). Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook rolls for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately after they come out of the oven.

These rolls turned out with lots of pumpkin, ginger and pumpkin spice flavors--with cinnamon leading the pack. Because of the pureed  pumpkin, it came out really moist. The inclusion of cooked kabocha added a nice sweet taste and interesting texture. (next time my wife said she would add larger pieces). This may be the best pumpkin bread.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Quince jelly, cream cheese rolls ボケのジェリーとチーズのレバノンボローニャロールアップ

My wife found "Quince" jelly at Whole Foods and it evoked childhood memories, so she had to buy it. It was one of her Father's favorite treats. His parents would buy some on their annual winter trip to Florida and send it to him (it wasn't available in rural PA). It was stashed in a carefully guarded cache and distributed on only the most special of occasions. 

When I was a kid in Japan, our neighbor had a quince tree. The Japanese name for quince is "Boke" ぼけ. I am not sure the origin of the name and may be totally unrelated but "boke" in Japanese may mean to become "senile" or "dumb".  I do remember the quince tree had nice flowers and good looking pear-like fruit but it was totally inedible. I have never seen quince jam or jelly in Japan but I never looked for it. In any case, after tasting the quince jelly, this is what my wife came up with as a snack to go with out red wine. 

Any ham or cheese will probably work but she used sweet Lebanon Bologna*, and cream cheese with quince jelly for this roll up. Sweet Lebanon Bologna has a nice smokey flavor with spices which went well with the combination of cream cheese (neutral taste) and sweet with slight sourness from the quince jelly. It went perfectly with our Cab.

*Lebanon Bologna is nothing to do with the country "Lebanon" but rather Lebanon County in Pennsylvania. The company called "Seltzer" has been making this for many years. My wife grew up eating  this. So, when she found that it was available in our grocery store, we have to stock it at all times. Cream cheese is also from Philadelphia. So, this is sort of paying hommage to her childhood or more aptly "child-food".

Monday, December 4, 2017

Simmered Salmon head 鮭の兜煮

The other day, we were in our regular grocery store and found salmon heads for sale. We have never seen this before. Of course, my wife wanted to try it and asked me to come up with a dish.  Since I am originally from Hokkaido 北海道, she thought I would, of course, know a few recipes for salmon head. I decided to make it like a "Kabuto-ni" 兜煮 of red sea bream. I also added daikon and for color broccoli at the end.

As you can see the head contains quite a good amount of meat but you have to work to get to it.

Ingredients for two servings:
One fresh salmon head (see below).
Pieces of kelp for broth (two 1 inch squares)
Sake, mirin, and soy sauce for seasoning.

Daikon, peeled, cut into one inch round (since the daikon I had was large, I quartered it).
Some green vegetable for color is always nice (I used broccoli).

1. Place the diakon in a pan with cold water and a pinch of raw rice and simmer for 30 minutes, remove the daikon and set aside. 
2. Clean the salmon head, first wash it throughly under cold running water, and remove any scales, gills or unidentifiable soft brown stuff attached and removed the "Kama" or frontal fin parts (on the left below) and halve the head using a heavy chef's knife (see 2nd picture below).
3. In a large pan, bring enough water to submerge the head to boiling. Blanch the head parts in the boiling water for 30 seconds and then wash them in cold running  water in a colander.

Just for information, the famous Hokkaido "Hizu" 氷頭 is made from the cartilage in the nose of the salmon (seen below) by freezing it. In its frozen state the cartilage can be shaved into thin pieces and then dressed in vinegar. 

4. After blotting the moisture from the surface, I generously salted both sides and placed it in the refrigerator for several hours without a cover. Some juice came out, as expected and I washed it again in cold running water.

5. In a pan large enough to hold the salmon pieces and daikon comfortably, add water (including the water used to hydrate the kelp) to cover. Add  the hydrated kelp and bring the water to a gentle boil. If any scum appears on the surface, remove it and add sake, mirin, and soy sauce (I did not measure as usual but about 1:1:2 ratio). During the cooking I added soy sauce in two more stages after tasting.
6. Simmer for several hours (I ended up cooking it for 6 hours) with an otoshibuta. 5 minutes before serving, I added florets of broccoli.

Since the salmon has a strong flavor, I didn't need to season it strongly. Because I cooked it for a long time, many of the small bones were soft and could be eaten. It was a bit of work, but the head had a lot of tasty meat. This was an ultimate comfort food; a hot, steaming bowl of flavorful. I, of course, especially like the gelatinous tissue behind the eye balls. My wife gladly donated her share to me. The daikon pieces absorbed a nice broth flavor and were nicely tender. Although, it is lots of preparation, this was quite nice and different from our regular salmon dishes.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Pumpkin salad かぼちゃサラダ

Since we enjoyed some nice pumpkin dishes while we were in Japan this time, when my wife found a Japanese kabocha pumpkin (or squash) at Whole Foods store, we had to get one. I made my ususal simmered pumpkin and potage but still half of the pumpkin was left. So, I made this pumpkin salad from the quarter of the pumpkin.

One evening, I served this as a part of the opening appetizers. From left to right, pumpkin salad, asparagus and Campari tomato with roasted sesame vinegar dressing and mackerel simmered in miso  with green beans.

The asparagus was boiled and the Campari tomatoes were skinned. The dressing is the same one I used for figs.

This is my usual and favorite miso simmered mackerel. I added boiled green beans for color.

1/4 Japanese "Kabocha" squash, guts removed, cut into 1/2 inch slices.
1/4 cup raisin.
2 tbs Mayonnaise 
2tbs Greek yogurt (my wife strained plain yogurt)
cream and soy sauce (optional)

I placed the kabocha slices in a lidded silicon container and microwaved for about 4-5 minutes or until cooked. While it was hot, I removed the skin and mashed the kabocha, added the raisons, mayonnaise and greek yogurt and mixed.

This was nicely sweet (without any sugar) from the kabocha itself and from the raisons. My wife liked to add a bit of soy sauce and cream to this which I agree. It was a nice small dish which can be used as a side or as an apettizer.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Natto stuffed Tofu pouch納豆詰め油揚焼

Initially, I thought I did not post this item.  Since a search of my blog did not yield anything. But it turns out I posted this item many years ago (2009)  It was one dish among several I served that time.  Grilled deep fried tofu pouch or "Yaki abura-age" 焼き油揚 is a rather common Japanese appetizer or breakfast item. It can be eaten with soy sauce or stuffed with various items, melting cheese being one of the most common items(Kitusne Raclett)). I thawed a small package of natto without thinking about how I would serve it and came up with this rather easy solution.

Natto is a difficult food item for Westerners to approach and even some Japanese shy away from it. It took some time and effort before my wife could enjoy (tolerate?) natto. The secret is to mix it well (in my case, using a special Natto mixing tool). Mixing it well with air, appears to reduce the smell and stickiness.

After cooking, I cut it diagonally showing natto inside.

Ingredients (for two small appetizers):

2 small deep fried tofu pouches (abura-age) for Inari sushi or a rectangular one cut into two.
One package of natto
1 stalk chopped scallion 
1 perilla leaf (optional, finely julienned)
Soy sauce and Japanese mustard (or use  packages came with the natto).

If using frozen aura-age, thaw and then pour hot water over the tofu pouches to remove any excess oil, pat dry with a paper towel. If not easily opened, roll it with a rolling pin and open the pouch trying not to tear it.

Prepare the natto by mixing with the scallion, soy sauce and mustard. The more you mix the less oder and stickiness it will have. Stuff the pouch with the natto and close the opening using a tooth pick (see below). You could grill this in a toaster oven but this time I cooked it in a frying pan (below) until both sides were nicely browned and the natto was hot.

While it is hot, pour on some soy sauce and serve. This is still natto and may not appeal to everybody but we enjoyed it with cold sake. You need a bit of sake as a chaser after enjoying this dish. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Pork belly with spicy sauce 茹で豚のピリ辛ソース

We were served this dish at our friend's home while we were in Japan. It is a pork belly dish but quite different from my usual "Kakuni" 角煮. The hostess graciously shared the recipe with me and I made this dish.  The key is the spicy sauce. Without it, the pork is rather bland.

Compared to Kakuni, not much fat gets rendered out. The piquant sauce (mine turned out much spicer than we had in Japan) really makes the dish.

This is much simpler and easier to make compared to Kakuni. I made some changes to the original recipe for the sauce.

About 1lb pork belly.
Several slices of ginger
Several stalks of scallion
Sake 1tbs

For sauce
4tbs of roasted sesame oil
4tbs soy sauce
2 dried Japanese hot peppers, seed removed and chopped
1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 stalks of scallion finely chopped

1. In a large pan, boil water and dunk the block of pork belly for 30 seconds, pull it out and wash it in cold running water.
2. Replace the water in the pan with fresh water and add the slices of ginger, the scallion, and the sake. Submerge the pork belly in the water and let it come to a boil and then turned down the heat to simmer (see below).
3. Remove the scum that will form on the surface of the water as it simmers and cook it for one hour.
4. Let it cool down in the cooking liquid to room temperature.

For the sauce:
In a small sauce pan, heat the sesame oil and add the red pepper, scallion, ginger and garlic. When fragrant, add soy sauce. When it comes to boil, cut the flame and let it cool to room temperature.

To serve, slice the pork belly and add the sauce.

This is a good pork belly dish. The red meat portion gets a bit dry but overall, it is nice and unctuous. Eating the meat alone, it is rather bland but the sauce really makes it. My sauce was much more spicy than the one we had in Japan. My wife usually does not like overly spicy sauce/food but she liked the sauce. It is sort of a variation of "Ra-yu" ラー油. We kept the meat in the cooking liquid in the refrigerator. After, slicing, I briefly micro waved it (20 seconds) to take off the chill. It was as good reheated as when just cooked. The sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Seared Tuna with soy sauce and Balsamic vinegar レアマグロステーキのバルサミコ醤油ソース

This was an on-the-fly recipe I came up with one evening. We had our usual frozen yellow fin tuna block thawed. Although I have made quite a few dishes designed to make this low-quality tuna sashimi palatable, I was pressed with time and came up with this quick dish. 

This is "shimo-furi" 霜降りor very rare tuna steak with the surface seared in with a small amount of oil in a frying pan. I made a sauce which was mixture of aged balsamic vinegar and soy sauce in the same pan.

This was not bad and went well with the red wine (I am sure it was California cab) rather well.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Enoki and shiitake mushrooms in miso butter sauce えのきと椎茸の味噌バーター

This is a variation of what I posted some years ago. For some reason, our regular grocery store stopped carrying shiitake mushrooms.  So, when we were at Whole Foods, I got enoki and shiitake mushrooms. I made this small dish to go with wine.

Some sweetness from mirin and nutty miso mixed with butter is a good combination.

This dish goes well with wine or sake.

I made this in an aluminum foil pouch in our toaster oven. So, the clean up was easy.

1 package of enoki mushroom, root portion cut off and separated.
2-3 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stem removed and caps cut into thin strips.
2 scallions, finely chopped.
1 tbs of mirin
1 tbs of miso
1 tsp of butter

In the center of a sheet of aluminum foil place the butter, scallion, mushrooms and fold to make a pouch. Before sealing, add the mirin and miso. Pinch the opening to close.
Place it in 350F toaster oven  for 30 minutes.
Open the pouch and mix the miso and liquid to make sauce and serve.

This is a quick comforting dish with nice texture and the flavors of enoki (with a texture almost like noodles) and shiitake (meaty and earthy) mixed with butter and miso tastes. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mackerel simmered in miso on new crane plate サバの味噌煮

The purpose of this post is to show our new acquisitions from Japan. These items are from Kyoto. I served mackerel simmered in miso.

This plate depicts a Tancho crane 丹頂鶴 famous in Hokkaido with red head and black wing tips. This one came from Kawazen touki 河善陶器 in Nishiki market 錦市場, Kyoto 京都.

We also got hashi-oki 箸置きor chop stick rests. These came from a small store called "Gallary Chihata" ギャラリーちはた in Arashiyama 嵐山, Kyoto, which is on the main street to the famous bridge called "Togetsu-kyo" 渡月橋 on Katsura river 桂川. We got four of these all depicting vegetables (Artist name was associated with these but we lost the information).

At the same store, we also bought two sake cups of "Kiyomizu-yaki" 清水焼 which is the kiln in Kyoto.

One appears to depict some flowering tree but we are not sure what it is.

The other one depicts iris.

It is always nice to have these new cups and plates from Japan. Even the same sake and food taste better.

Monday, November 13, 2017

steamed fig in sesame sauce 蒸しイチジクの胡麻酢あえ

This is the second attempt at figs in sesame sauce. This time, I removed the skin and steamed them instead of grilling them. This one came out very similar to what we had in Japan.

Steaming does not soften the figs but adds some texture and a subtle difference in taste.

The sauce was the same sauce I used for the grilled version.

Ingredients (2 small servings):
2 mission figs, stem removed and skin removed (see below)

For sesame dressing sauce.
2 tbs white sesame seeds
2 tbs white sesame paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sake
1/2 tsp soys sauce

1. Steam the skinned figs for 7 minutes (see below).

For the sauce:
1. In a small dry frying pan, add the sesame seeds and roast until slightly brown and fragrant.
2. Put the roasted sesame in a Japanese suribachi すり鉢 and grind them until oil comes out and they are evenly ground.
3. Add white sesame paste(nerigoma 練り胡麻), sugar, rice vinegar, sake, and soy sauce and mix well. Adjust the consistency and taste by adding more vinegar/sake or sauce. 

This is much better than the previous version (skin on and grilled). It has a nice gentle flavor and texture which goes well with the dressing. This dish goes best with sake.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Grilled fig in sesame dressing イチジクの胡麻酢和え 

We usually do not go to expensive restaurants when we visit Japan. We end up in Izakayas or similar establishments. Only a few exceptions occur when we dine with our Japanese friends. Most of our hosts would take us to more formal restaurants than an Izakaya. We really liked one appetizer dish we had in such a Japanese "ryoutei" 料亭 in Niigata 新潟. It was figs dressed in sesame, vinegar dressing. After coming back, I looked up recipes and tried to make a similar dish. This is the first try,

I used nice ripe mission fig.

This was good but not exactly the same as the dish we had in Japan. The one we had in Japan, appeared to have no skin.

Ingredients (for two small servings):
2 ripe mission figs
Sugar to coat the figs.

for sesame dressing:
2 tbs white sesame seeds
2 tbs white sesame paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sake
1/2 tsp soys sauce

For figs.
1. Cut the stem of the figs, cut into quarters. Roll the skin side in sugar to coat.
2. In toaster oven, toast the figs until sugar melts and starts bubbling (see below).
3. Take them out and let them cool down.

For sesame dressing:
1. In a small dry frying pan, add the sesame seeds and roast the sesame until slightly brown and fragrant.
2. Put the roasted sesame in a Japanese suribachi すり鉢 and grind them until oil comes out and they are evenly ground.
3. Add white sesame paste(nerigoma 練り胡麻), sugar, rice vinegar, sake, and soy sauce and mix well. Adjust the consistency and taste by adding more vinegar/sake or or sauce. 
4. Dress the figs and serve.

This is not bad but the skin on the figs did not particularly go well. It was a little tough and distracting from the over all texture of the dish. I will try a different version. 

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Shiitake risotto with lamb chops 椎茸リソトとラムチョップ

My wife likes lamb. I got a rack of lamb from New Zealand. I asked how she would like it cooked. She suggested I separate the rack into individual lamb chops rather than cooking it as a rack. That way each chop would be individually cooked to the same doneness. For a side, since we had just gotten some shiitake mushrooms (which are getting increasingly difficult to find) we decided to make "shiitake risotto". So we just made "shiitake risotto" or what is actually a cross between shiitake "Okayu" おかゆ porridge and risotto.

I cleaned up some of the excess fat and separated the rack into lamb chops. I simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  We also served skinned Campari tomato (seasoned with Kosher salt and Spanish olive oil) and blanched green beans sautéed in butter.

The lamb chops were first seared in the frying pan and fished in a 350F oven for 3-4 minutes for medium. 

We came up with this risotto recipe on the fly.

1 cup of cooked rice (we used rice we cooked and then frozen in small portions. We thawed it by microwaving for about 30 seconds)(My mom introduced us to this method of left over rice control. It keeps well, cooked rice is always available and it comes out perfectly when lightly microwaved).
3-4 Fresh shiitake mushroom (caps sliced into strips, the stems with bottom removed, torn length-wise in thin strips and then cross cut into small pieces)
2-3 tbs sake
3 cup Japanese dashi (#2) (I made this using a dashi pack with bonito and kelp)
2 tbs butter (unsalted)
1 tsp light colored soy sauce
salt, additional pats of butter
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese 

Sautee shiitake mushroom (Chopped up stem first and then caps) in melted butter (#1)
Meanwhile prepare the dashi and keep it warm (#2)
Add thawed rice and sautee (#3)
Add the sake and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Add warm dashi in increments and stir until desired consistency is attained.
Season with light colored soy sauce and salt (#4)
Add a few pats of butter to finish (#5)
Meanwhile sear the both sides of the lamb chops (#6) and finish in a 350F oven for 3 minutes.
We decided to add grated Parmigiano cheese to the risotto.

The risotto was very good. Nice strong shiitake flavor was the major flavor with a background of Japanese dashi and soy sauce. The butter and cheese went amazingly well. The lamb chops were a bit gamy (lamb-ey) but my wife liked the flavor. (She claims that is what lamb is all about). It was done medium with some pink left. This was satisfying ending dish for the evening. 

For this, we opened really good Virginia red called RdV Rendezvous 2013 (by the best Virginia red wines we ever tasted). Rendezvous is sort of right bank equivalent and another red called "Lost mountain" is the left bank equivalent. These reds are in the same league as top Napa and Bordeaux red wines. We heard about this in Washington Post article. We visited the Vineyard and we are impressed. I think this requires a separate post.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Pumpkin Yogurt パンプキンヨーグルト

Since Halloween is approaching, it is "pumpkin" season and my wife is into pumpkin dishes. Digression alert: apparently pumpkin flavor has become extremely popular. It is appearing in everything from coffee to dog food (really?).  Not be left behind by any trend, my wife was inspired to make this dish. She prepared canned pumpkin puree with pumpkin spices and mixed into plain yogurt. She decided to add finely chopped Japanese apple pear.  Here the addition of Japanese apple pear really worked well. I should have done a better presentation for the picture but this is how we take yogurt to work every day for breakfast; in small plastic containers. From my perspective, while it is very unique, it was also very seasonal and surprisingly good .

One of the secrets my wife uses for her pumpkin recipes is to heat up the puree with the spices mixed in. This gets rid of the "canned" taste in the puree, evaporates some of the water content, concentrates the pumpkin flavor and blooms the spices.

One 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 cup sugar
Japanese pear finely diced
1 1/2, 32 oz. containers of plane yogurt (we use Dannon) (come to think of it we eat a lot of yogurt)

Put the puree and spices in a sauce pan. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until the puree thickens, pulls away from the sides and the spices become nicely fragrant. Let cool. 
Add the yogurt and sugar. Mix well add the diced apple pear. 

This pumpkin yogurt gets better with time as all the flavors meld together. The asian pear exudes sweet juice that adds nicely to the pumpkin flavor.  It also adds a pleasant crunch. This is quite a unique yogurt and the addition of juicy crispy Japanese pear really worked.