Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Corn Buttermilk bread コーンバターミルクブレッド

Right now, it is peak local corn and blueberry season. Occasionally we get fresh local corn. The quality can be hit or miss but this week we found some decent fresh corn. My wife decided to incorporate the fresh corn in her baking and made this corn buttermilk bread.

Beside using cornmeal, she added fresh corn on the top.

The fresh corn stayed on the top and didn't sink to the bottom of the batter.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup white sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1 Tsp salt
2/3 vegetable oil
1/3 cup butter melted
2 Tbs. honey
4 eggs beaten
2 1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup of fresh uncooked corn cut off the cob

Preheat oven to 350F and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
Picture #1 shows the ingredients. In a bowl combine the vegetable oil, melted butter, honey, beaten eggs and buttermilk (#2).
In a separate bowl stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt(#3).
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened (#4).
Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the fresh corn kernels on top(#5).
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes until the top of the cornbread starts to brown and show cracks (#6)

This bread has nice fresh corn flavors and a lovely moist texture. The fresh corn kernels got a bit chewy. Next time, my wife said, she will mix the corn kernels into the batter.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Chicken livers simmered in red wine 鶏レバーの赤ワイン煮

Although chicken livers may not be a very healthy food, both my wife and I like them. So sometimes we buy a small plastic tub full of chicken livers when it is available at the local grocery store. I was thinking of making a re-match of country pate with pork and chicken liver but when I examined the livers, they were pretty good quality without any broken pieces. I changed my mind and decided to make "Yakitori" style with my tare sauce 鶏レバーの焼き鳥. I made this dish from the livers that remained after I made the yakitori. It looks very dark almost black and reminded us of whole truffles, but the inside was still the color of liver. I added freshly ground black pepper just before serving.

The white specks on the surface is ground pepper.

230 grams (0.5 lb) fresh chicken livers, cleaned, soaked in cold water, cut into bite size.
130 ml red wine (I used Tempranillo since I happened have an already open bottle)
1 tbs Mirin
1 tbs Soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp ginger, finely julienned

In a sauce pan, add all simmering liquid ingredients and let it come to a simmer.
In a large amount of boiling water, add the livers and wait until the water comes to a boil again. Remove the livers and place them in the simmering liquid (see below).

Cook/reduce the liquid to a small amount 30 minutes or more (see below).

I did not add freshly ground black pepper while cooking but added it just before serving. I served this dish cold next day with a glass of red wine. This liver had very pleasing dense texture; almost pate-like with some sweetness and nice red wine/tannin flavors. It went perfectly well with a good sturdy red wine. We both really liked this dish.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Fresh Corn Risotto 新鮮トウモロコシリソト

This risotto was my wife's idea. I just made it. We were heavily indulging in fresh corn since it was local fresh corn season. We enjoyed corn souffle, corn rice, corn pudding, and corn "cob" soup. We posted all previously. So, my wife suggested we make corn risotto using leftover corn rice and corn "cob" broth. We also added fresh corn kernels to make sure all the corn flavors were concentrated in this dish. I suggested adding jalapeno pepper or parsley (mostly for color), but my wife vetoed the suggestion; she wanted "pure" corn flavors. We did not even use shallots or onion.

So, it does look a bit monochromatic but this is the ultimate fresh corn experience.

About one cup Corn rice made from fresh corn kernels and corn "cob" broth.
Corn "cob" broth, as needed (probably close to 1 cup).
Fresh corn kernels, about half a cup
Butter, unsalted, 1 tbs
Salt to taste

Since our leftover corn rice was frozen, we thawed it by microwaving for 30-45 seconds.
In a non-stick frying pan, I melted the butter and cooked the rice and fresh corn kernels until coated.
I added the corn broth in increments as I stirred until each addition of the liquid got absorbed.
I repeated this until I reached the desired creamy consistency.
I added a few more pats of butter and seasoned it with Kosher salt.

This is indeed the ultimate corn experience. It was a very comforting dish with lots of fresh corn flavors. I thought that we had made too much and there would be left-overs...but it did not happen. Both my wife and I were members of the "clean plate" club. This was the perfect dish to finish the evening.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Appetizer snacks 4 kinds酒の肴4種類

We have been enjoying Izakaya food as appetizers but I have not posted them since I have not made anything new for a while. Although nothing shown here was new, this was the starting lineup one evening . From left to right are Spanish mackerel simmered in miso sauce 鯖の味噌煮, cold silken tofu cube 冷奴 and cold simmered Japanese eggplant and shishi tougrashi 茄子とシシトウの揚げ浸し. Since we harvested myouga 茗荷 from our backyard a few weeks ago and made sweet vinegar pickled myouga 茗荷の甘酢ずけ, I used it to garnish the tofu and eggplant dishes.

The fresh Spanish mackerel came from Whole Foods.

You can have so many garnish variations for cold tofu cubes. This time I used perilla leaves, pickled myouga and chives with wasabi. After the picture, we added soy sauce.

This eggplant dish is usually deep fried first and then simmered in broth. I sautéed the eggplant in light olive oil, instead. Since I had Japanese "shishito" green pepper, I also cooked it in the same manner. I garnished it with pickled myouga and threads of ginger root.

Here is another view with a better look at the eggplant. The skin is scored so it is easy to eat. Even the myouga has the back cut into strips for easy eating.

The 4th snack was my regular "teiban" 定番 pork belly simmered in soy sauce and sugar 豚の角煮. The pork belly also came from Whole Foods. This time, I bought almost 3 lbs. Although I did not change the way I cooked it, this batch came out extremely well. Even the red meat layers were extremely tender and not dry at all. Making a bit larger quantity is more efficient in terms of my effort and we can enjoy this dish longer.

This was served warm (microwaved) with green beans (previously blanched) and a dab of Japanese mustard.

I think we had our house sake Daiginjo sake "Mu" 大吟醸 ”無” with the first three dishes and then switched to Cabernet for the pork (I don't remember which red wine we had). This was a mighty good start of the evening.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hasselback potato with flat iron steak ハッセルバックポテト

One weekend, my wife assumed my usual duty of foraging for food and went to the grocery store in my place. She came back with, among other things, a bag of Russet potatoes and a flat iron steak. Another "meat and potato" dinner was inevitable. Since my wife had just recently made crispy roasted potatoes, we wanted to try something different and decided to make "Hasselback" potatoes.

They came out nice. A whole potato, however, is more than we could handle, so we shared one. This was cooked in olive oil and bacon drippings.

Since we had not made this dish before, I consulted several recipes on line and came up with this one.

Russet potato (we cooked two at a time)
Olive oil and bacon dripping (optional)
Salt and pepper
Herbs of your choice (may be rosemary), we used parsley in the end.

To open up the leaves of potato, it appears the secret is to cut off the bottom (#1).
Placing two chop sticks (disposable) one front and one in back of the potato, I cut 1/4 inch multiple slices without cutting completely through the potato (apparently gadgets to cut Hasselback potatoes are available). I used the small cut piece as a small pillow (#3).
I brushed olive oil between the leaves of potatoes and seasoned it with salt and pepper.
I baked it for 1 hour at 425 F in a convection oven (we used our toaster oven on convection mode).
I basted the potatoes a few times. The last 30 minutes I based the potatoes with bacon drippings (#3 and 4).
I garnished it with chopped parsley.

For the flat iron steak, I seasoned with with salt and pepper, slices of garlic and fresh rosemary (see below) and let it warm up to room temperature for 1 hour. I removed the garlic slices before cooking the steak in a frying pan to medium rare doneness.

The meat and potatoes were good but the Hasselback potato is mostly for show. It tasted like a good potato. The flat iron steak was good with rosemary and garlic flavors.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hamburger steak Japanese style ハンバーグ

Hamburgers are the archetypical American food and they are popular in Japan too. I am not sure when was the last time we had hamburgers, probably 30 or so years ago. Hamburgers in Japan can be authentic American or a Japanese modification (again, I admit we have not tried hamburgers in Japan). For one thing, hamburg or ハンバーグor 煮込みハンバーグ is served without buns and with demi-glace sauce.  In the US, the equivalent would be "Salisbury steak".

I ended up making this dish one day. The reason I made this was because I found, to my surprise I have purchased two tail portions of filet mignon when I thought I had purchased a beef roast. One weekend I was looking for meat to barbecue. For some reason, the grocery store was out of the type of pork roast I wanted and I did not feel like doing a chicken again. Although we usually do not do roast beef, it appeared that beef was inevitable that weekend. Then, I found a small roast, just about the right size. It was labeled "tenderloin roast" which was about twice the diameter size of a filet mignon. I have never seen this type of roast before and decided to try it (mistake!).

I usually re-truss these meats once I get them home since I do not trust "plastic truss". When I removed the truss on this "supposed" tenderloin roast, it turned out to be the tail portions of two filet mignon put together to look like one piece of meat. Since these pieces are very thin, they are generally not used for fillet mignon steaks; they are generally a less than optimal part of the cut. (a bit of a cheating punt dear local grocery store!!) (We won't be buying that again).

I certainly did not want to cook this as a trussed "roast" medium rare since the inner portion of the meat was facing outside increasing the possibility of contamination. So, I decided to make just regular filet mignon steaks the best I could out of the thicker portion of the tails. But the tail portions were too small to be cooked as steak so I decided to hand chop the pieces into ground beef and make "hamburg" in a Japanese style (sort of).

 This is what I came up with. I served it as a small ending dish one evening with the gnocchi my wife made earlier and sautéed asparagus.

Pre-made demi-glace in a jar is not as easily available in US as compared to Japan for some reason, so I made my quick sauce instead.

Ingredients (for two):
Two tails of filet mignon, hand chopped
One medium onion, finely diced
two-three shiitake mushroom, bottom of the stems cut off, torn longitudinally in think strips and cut across in small pieces and the caps cut into small pieces.
Freshly ground nutmeg, salt and pepper
Olive oil for sateing

For sauce:
1 cup Ruby port wine, reduced in half
Ketchup 2 tbs
Tonkatsu sauce 2 tbs
Mustard 1tsp

Sautee the onion and mushroom in olive oil until cooked, season with salt and pepper and let it cool to room temperature. Mix the above with the beef and make oval disks. Cook in the frying pan with olive oil turn once for the donees you like.

For sauce:
Mix reduced port wine, ketchup, tonkatus sauce and mustard and cook until the sauce heated up and attained saucy consistency.

For a impromptu hamburger steak, this was quite edible. The sauce was not demi-glace but good enough and the hamburger came out very delicate and nice. Of course, the shiitake mushroom really added "umami" flavor. The gnocchi my wife made was a perfect accompaniment as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Calamari salad カラマリサラダ

I like squid and octopus. So, when I see squid at the grocery store, I tend to buy it without thinking about what I will make from it. The kind of squid we can get here is small, pre-cleaned, and previously frozen. In the past, I have posted so many ways I cook squid. This time, I bought 1 lb. I made half my usual way sautéed squid with celery and cucumber イカと胡瓜、セロリの炒めのもの. The next day, I asked my wife how she would like to have the remaining boiled squid. I offered two selections: one was Japanese style with cucumber and wakame seaweed dressed in karashi-miso sauce イカとワカメの酢味噌和え, the other was  some kind of salad in Western-style (details not specified since I had no idea what I would do at the time I made the offer). She, of course, opted for the salad. 

So, I just whipped this up without any recipe using what I had available on hand.

I had just bought oil-cured black olives so I threw them in as well.

Ingredients (for two servings):
1/2 lb squid, cleaned, The tubes cut into 1/2 inch wide rings and the tentacles cut into two.
1 American mini-cucumber, quartered and seeds removed, and cut into small cubes
6 Oil-cured black olives, stone removed
Fresh basil, cut into chiffonade
Baby arugula, skinned Campari tomato
Lemon juice from one lemon
Olive oil, 1-2 tbs
Salt and pepper

Boil squid 30 seconds in boiling water with salt and sake added, drain, let cool, then refrigerate until serving (up to one day)
In a bowl, add the squid, cucumber, basil, lemon juice and olive oil and mix. Season with pepper and salt
I served the calamari on a bed of baby arugula leaves (stems removed). I topped the salad with black olives and added a side of sliced Campari tomato. I then sprinkled the salad with our favorite Spanish olive oil.

Since it was a rather hot and humid day, for a change, we enjoyed chilled (a bit unusual) white Rioja called Fernandez Gomez Seleccion Familia White Rioja 2015. It is a blend of Viura 70%, Grenache White 20%, Malvasia 10% and was aged in barrels for 6 months with its lees. We never had white Rioja before. This is rather a pleasant white with some peaches and apricots and a hint of vanilla. We could also sense slight oak and crisp acidity. This went perfectly with this calamari salad.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Gnocchi ニョキ

When we barbecue chicken, we often bake potatoes. Since we had fairly large Russet potatoes, my wife just wrapped them in aluminum foil and we put them into the Weber next to the chicken. By the time the chicken was done (about 1 hour and 15-30 minutes), the potatoes were perfectly cooked. She made them to mashed potatoes with a Japanese touch i.e. liberal applications of soy sauce and butter. We love the crispy skin of barbecued chicken particularly when it just comes out of the Weber.  So, we immediately started snacking by making small rolls of mashed potatoes sprinkled with chopped chives wrapped in the crispy skin of the barbecued chicken. By the time we were ready to carve the chicken, we had mostly finished the dinner standing up eating the potato rolls with our fingers. In any case, my wife made gnocchi from the leftover mashed potatoes a few days later. As an ending dish of the evening, I served gnocchi with sage butter, meatballs I made that day and asparagus.

This gnocchi was more like sautéed in sage butter rather than swimming in sage brown butter. Although we grow sage in our herb garden, we used dried sage this time.

I made the meatballs from the trimmings of pork tenderloin. This time, I made my marinara sauce from skinned and diced Campari tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes.

16 oz. of mashed potatoes
4 oz. of AP flour
1 egg
1 tsp. salt

Press the mashed potatoes through a sieve. Add the flour and gently mix with a fork. Add the egg and salt and again gently mix with a fork until everything comes together into a dough.
Gently roll into 1/2 inch diameter logs. Cut into the desired size.
The pieces can be rolled on the back of a fork to make ridges to better hold the sauce but that didn't work out so well so our pieces generally didn't have any ridges.
Boil for a few minutes in salted water until they float to the surface. Then remove from the water and put into the sauce. 

This was really very good. They had a lovely light texture and the potato taste really came through. These were so easy to make and were so good they will definitely appear on the menu again. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Savory Bread pudding 甘くないブッレドプディング

Bread pudding is a classic way to use up stale bread. Sweet bread pudding is most commonly served with caramel sauce as a dessert.  My wife saw a recipe for savory bread pudding in a Williams-Sonoma catalog. We like savory variations on usually sweet dishes. She made this with some significant modifications especially since we did not have any stale bread and none of our home made bread lasts long enough to become stale. My wife used Pepperidge farm bread stuffing leftover from last Xmas instead. We tasted it when it was baked but did not take a picture. So, a few days later, we pan fried the pudding and served it with skinned Campari tomato (seasoned with Kosher salt and spicy Spanish olive oil), fried eggs with runny yolk, cold cauliflower and broccoli. This was a lunch one weekend.

The pudding, eggs, and broccoli were heated up in the same frying pan. I first melted the butter on medium flame and started with the bread pudding (just to warm it up and give it a slight crust), when I turned it over, I added blanched broccoli and eggs. I put on the lid and cooked it for 30 seconds and let it stand for 1 minute with a lid on which made perfect fried eggs (of course, I used Pasteurized eggs).

We liked the bread pudding served this way better than immediately when it came out of the oven.

1/4 bag of Pepperidge Farm herb stuffing
2 strips of bacon (#2)
2 small onions diced (#1)
olive oil, as needed
3 shitake mushrooms diced including stem (#1)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup (7 g) fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (#1)
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt
3 large eggs
1  cups (480 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (240 ml) cream
1/4 cup (25 g) grated Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C).
Butter a small baking dish (we used one that was 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 ).
Prepare the onions, mushrooms and parsley (#1).
In a fry pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp (#2). Transfer to a large bowl. Add the onion to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until caramelized, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the onions to the bowl with the bacon.
Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté. Transfer the mushrooms to the bowl and let cool. Add the Parmesan, parsley, thyme and salt to the cooked mushroom mixture and mix well.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and cream until well blended. Pour over the mushroom mixture and stir to combine  (#3). Gently mix in the bread stuffing.
Carefully pour the bread mixture into the prepared baking dish.  (If you have extra, fill a buttered ramekin and make an additional tiny bread pudding.) Scatter the Gruyère evenly over the pudding and grind a light dusting of pepper on top.
Bake until the custard is no longer runny but still a bit wobbly in the center, 40 minutes to 1 hour (and about 25 minutes for a ramekin) (#4).
It will continue to cook as it sits before serving. Serve the bread pudding hot or at room temperature. Any leftovers can be stored, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and reheated, covered with aluminum foil, in a 350°F (180°C) oven.

With all the cheese, bacon and cream this is a rather rich dish. We found only a small piece at a time was plenty. Nonetheless it is a nice dish. Cutting it into small slabs and frying it in melted butter made it more interesting by adding a slight crust. Next time, we may use "stale" bread instead of bread stuffing but probably not our home baked bread.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Marinated Bonito bowl with poached egg カツオのツケ丼温玉のせ

This was a lunch we had one weekend some time ago. At our Japanese grocery store, we can get a package of frozen Katsuo-no-Tataki 鰹のタタキ or Bonito sashimi that has been precooked on the surface using a flame fueled by straw. This is the typical way of preparing bonito.  This piece of bonito was marinated over night. I made a small donburi or rice bowl and served it with scallion and wakame sea weed miso soup ワカメとネギの味噌汁 and "asazuke" 浅漬け pickled (salted) cucumber and daikon.

I topped the marinated bonito slices with blanched broccolini and poached egg with runny yolk (I used Pasteurized eggs).

For this dish, I quickly mixed soy sauce, mirin and sake in 2:1:1 ratio and marinated the bonito tataki slices and kept it in the refrigerator until lunch time the next day.

This was a very satisfying lunch. "Zuke" ずけ or the marinating process added flavors as well as changes the texture of the raw fish. Marinated tuna マグロのずけ being most popular. The combination of sushi rice, marinated bonito and warm runny egg yolk went very well indeed and felt like a "comfort" food.