Sunday, December 31, 2017

Caviar and blinis キャビアとビリニ

At one time, we were into caviar including "fake" caviar made from kelp and other ingredients. But after all our experimentation, we decided caviar was not worth it. We rather prefer salmon caviar (or "Ikura") and other fish roe. But the occasion called for caviar and champagne this time, so I got Israeli Osetra caviar from a local gourmet grocery store. We decided to make blinis as the caviar delivery system. My wife dug into her recipe box and found this recipe. We tried several blinis recipes when we were in our caviar tasting mode and decided this was the best among them. We used sour cream. (We were not prepared to make creme fraiche) and garnished with chopped chives.

Certainly, the combination of caviar, blinis, sour cream and chive was perfect. We did not have a particularly special champagne and opened Champagne Philippe Prié Brut Tradition which was pretty good.

The below was the entire setup. We even took out our caviar server (on the lower left).

This is the 1 oz (30grams) we got.

The blinis were good but a bit denser than we expected.

3 cup milk, warm to 110 degrees
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites, at room temperature and beaten until stiff
1/4 cup butter, for cooking

In a bowl dissolve the yeast in the milk. Stir in the butter. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Stir in the egg yolks.
Sift together the flours and salt. Slowly stir into the yeast mixture. Mix well.
Fold in the egg whites and mix thoroughly. If necessary add some more milk to get the right "pancake" consistency.
Preheat griddle over medium heat and melt some of the butter. Drop the batter, a tablespoon at a time onto the griddle a couple of inches apart. Cook until the cakes are lightly golden on both sides, about 1 1/2 minutes on each side. Repeat until all the butter and batter are used up. Drain the cakes on paper towels. Sprinkle with the salt and serve warm with caviar and creme fraiche.

As a special treat this was very good. Next time we may add more milk as necessary to get a thinner consistency. Its astounding how fast 1 oz of caviar can disappear!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Angel Biscuits エンジェルビスケット

My wife makes biscuits occasionally. Here, we mean US biscuits which are close to muffins and scones rather than UK biscuits which are basically cookies. She decide to make these angel biscuits one day. She used to make them regularly sometime ago but hasn't made them recently. They are interesting because they use three leavening agents; yeast, baking soda and baking powder.

Ingredients (15 small square biscuits ):
1/2 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 (1/4-oz.) pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup veg shortening (butter)
2 cups butter milk

Dissolve a pinch of sugar in warm water, add yeast and mix well in a small bowl. Let stand until the surface bubbles up (5-10 minutes). If the surface does not bubble after 10 minutes, the yeast may be bad (dead).
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl; cut cold butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender or 2 forks until crumbly.
Add yeast mixture and buttermilk to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; chill at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 3 or 4 times. Gently roll into a 1⁄2-inch-thick square, and fold in half; repeat.
Gently roll to 1⁄2-inch thickness; cut into 2-inch squares (#1 and #3) (We used a knife to cut into squares which eliminated any scraps of the dough that would have to be reworked. You could use biscuit cutter, either round or rectangular).
Bake in preheated oven until golden, 15 to 20 minutes (#4).

We served this as a lunch with an omelet filled with spinach, shiitake mushroom and goat cheese. The biscuits were flaky, light and very satisfying.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Chicken and fresh tomato stew 鶏と新鮮トマトシチュー

This started as a leftover control dish but turned out to be very good.  This started because we had a whole roasted Cornish game hen leftover (cooked in the Weber grill with wood smoke). We had cooked two birds but between the two of us, half a bird was more than enough. So, one was leftover. When I roasted them this time I stuffed a mixture of goat cheese and chopped fresh rosemary between the skin and breast meat. I also stuffed the cavity with garlic, celery, onion, and a sprig of rosemary. So, it was rather good roasted chicken to begin with.  I also had half a small head of cabbage which was getting old. So I decide to make a stew using these two items.

Although I made regular stew with chicken broth first, I added fresh tomato puree with concentrated Japanese noodle sauce, pressed garlic and olive oil (the sauce for cold noodle/spaghetti with prosciutto) and warmed it up briefly. I garnished with EV olive oil and chiffonade of basil.

Cornish game hen, one, smoke roasted in Weber (any fresh chicken parts will do as well). Back bone removed, separated into parts and the breast cut in quarters.
Cabbage, 1/2 head, core removed and cut into large chunks
Onion, one large, cut into large chunks
Celery, several stalks, cut into 2 inch and 1/2 inch buttons (or chopped)
Carrot, 3-4 medium, peeled and cut into large chunks
Olive oil, 2 tbs
Chicken broth, several cups or enough to cover the ingredients. (I used Swanson no fat 1/3 less salt version).
Black pepper to taste (in our case, the chicken surface was well seasoned and I did not add nay salt or pepper).

For fresh tomato sauce (Puree all using an immersion blender)
Skinned and quartered Campari tomato, 3-4
Garlic, 2-3 cloves, pressed through a garlic press
Concentrated Japanese noodle sauce, 2-3tbs
Light olive oil, 2-3 tbs

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and sautéed onion, celery, cabbage until the cabbage is wilted.
Add the chicken parts and the carrot, cover it with the chicken broth.
Simmer it for 1 hour or so.(I let it cooled down at this point).

Put the serving amount (for two dinner servings in our case) in a sauce pan. Add an even distribution of the chicken and vegetables for the two servings with some broth and heat it up.
Add the fresh tomato sauce and warm up but do not boil.
Check the taste and if needed season with Kosher salt
Garnish with the basil and a good olive oil (second time I used lemon-infused oil with a good result).

This is a really surprisingly good stew. The fresh tomato sauce really made the difference. It added an additional dimension of depth that did not exist in the stew without the sauce. The lemon-infused olive oil also did a good job. This is very fresh tasting stew. With a piece of bread, this is a complete meal.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Baked puff pastry with cheese filling チーズ詰めパイ

This is based on a recipe from WP called "Khachapuri Penovani". My wife is always on the look out for small dish which can be served as snack with a glass of wine. In her style of cooking she often takes the recipe as "advisory" and can't resist making changes. This dish came out substantially different from the original recipe; it is more like quiche. She also added spinach and jalapeno.

Since we had spinach prepared for another dish (green pancakes), she also added it.

For cheese filling
Feta cheese, one 8 oz block
Mozzarella cheese, 6oz whole milk
Ricotta cheese, 10oz whole milk
1 jalapeno finely chopped (or to taste, if more heat is wanted)
3 large eggs
Cooked spinach, finely chopped (optional, arbitrary amount)

Sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed (#1) (original recipe calls for two sheets, which makes the cheese filling thinner).

On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out the puff pastry (#1).
Mix the ingredients for the filling and mix and spread over the half of the puff pastry (#2).
Fold over the puff pastry and crimp  the edges to seal (#3).
Using the parchment paper, move it on the rimmed baking sheet.
Dock the puff pastry with the tines of a fork (#4).
Bake it in preheated 425F oven for 35 minutes or until golden (#5)
Let it cool on a rack (#6).

This heats up well in a toaster oven and a perfect small snack to start the evening with a glass of red wine. The cheese combination was rather mild but the jalapeno gives it a little kick. It's very tasty.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Green Pancakes 緑のパンケーキ

We like pancakes. My wife collects pancake recipes. Usually, she puts the batter together and I cook the pancakes. This is an interesting and visually stunning pancake. The original recipe came from Washington Post. This was topped with a mixture of fresh goat cheese and Greek yogurt.

The green color is from spinach and mint. The flavor of mint prevails.

Ingredients (from WP)
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 large eggs, separated into whites and yolks
2 cups whole milk
7 ounces fresh spinach (we cooked spinach without adding water until wilted). Squeeze out as much moisture as possible
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves with stems (1/2 ounce; use tender leaves and stems; avoid using dark, tough stems)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
Olive oil
1/2 cup fresh goat cheese, for serving (we used a mixture of goat cheese and Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup strawberry preserves, for serving (we did not use this)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds, for serving (we did not have this).

Stir together the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
Beat the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl, until they form stiff peaks.
Combine the egg yolks, milk, spinach and mint in a blender and process until fully incorporated (#1)
Pour that mixture and the melted butter into the flour mixture and stir well. Gently fold in the egg whites (all at once) (#2).
Coat a small nonstick skillet lightly with the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat (#3).
Scoop up 1/2 cup of the batter with a ladle and pour into the center of the skillet.
Cook until browned in spots on the bottom side and bubbles have formed around the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.
Use a spatula (and wrist action) to flip the pancake to cook the second side.  (#4). Repeat to use all the batter
Serve right away, topped with goat cheese (savory) and/or with strawberry preserves (sweet). Top with pumpkin seeds. (we used a mixture of goat cheese and Greek yogurt).

This is an amazingly good pancake. The green color is rather stunning. The flavor was very good, although we do not particularly taste spinach, mint flavor is quite nice. The texture was also pleasantly moist. We do not think the topping is not particularly needed. Perfect breakfast with Cappuccino.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Two Pizzas; Baby artichoke with goat cheese and Margherita ピザ2種類

I make a pizza every-now-and-then from scratch (dough and sauce). I do not go fancy in terms of the cheeses, dough, and tomato sauce and use a regular oven with a pizza stone (on "intense heat" setting at 470F). It takes only 5-6 minutes for the pizzas to bake. We really like it (so do our friends). For sure, they are much better than the ones from a chain pizzeria. Since I made baby artichokes braised in olive oil and lemon juice a few days prior, I made artichoke pizza with oil cured black olive and three cheeses (smoked mozzarella, double Gloucester, fresh-not aged-goat cheese).

I finished with grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

The goat cheese and garlic infused olive oil (1-2 cloves of garlic, through a garlic press, mixed in 2-3 tbs of olive oil) which I paint the pizza dough before baking, really makes this pizza. It is a perfect match to my home-made baby artichoke hearts. I used home-made frozen pizza dough I made some time ago. Compared to freshly prepared dough, this pizza came out cracker-like consistency (rather than bread-y), almost like one I occasionally make with Italian "00" flour.

At the same time, I made a variation of pizza Margherita with smoked mozzarella and black olives. I put the cheese on first and then the sauce to prevent the dough from getting soggy.

I added fresh basil and graded parmesan after the pizza was out of the oven but did not take a picture. I made the tomato sauce from skinned Campari tomatoes, onion and garlic. Compared to using canned plum tomatoes, the sauce came out much less acidic.

We had this as a weekend lunch. We had to resist the lure of drinking red wine with this lunch. But the leftover (we each ate three 1/8 wedges each which leaves ten 1/8 slices) are great snacks for weekdays when we come home. It heats up nicely in the toaster oven and we can have a glass of red wine with it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Baby artichokes braised in olive oil and lemon juice ベィビィアーチチョーク

While we lived in California, we developed a taste for artichokes. Whoever decided the giant thistle buds could be eaten must have been really hungry and other edible items must have been really scarce. We have posted few artichoke dishes including baby artichokes. In any case, it is very unusual to see good fresh artichokes in D.C. area and baby artichokes are rarer. My wife found a package of baby artichokes from California at Whole Foods on one of our visits there. This was a week after getting marinated baby artichoke hearts from the bulk self-serve counter at the same store which were essentially not edible. They were inedible because the fibrous inner petals were not adequately removed and when we bit into them it was like getting poked in the mouth with a pin. It was worse than fish bones. We ended up throwing out the entire batch. So, I was given the challenge to make better baby artichokes. Again, I proposed deep fried baby artichoke (Roman Jewish style) but as before, my wife declined. I was to  recreate baby artichokes marinated in olive oil, which we usually get commercially in a jar. Not being one to shy away from a challenge, after looking through a few recipes on line, this is what I came up with.

I served this as a small appetizer which goes with wine. I added oil cured black olives.

The below is a package of baby artichokes we got. It was not the best and some are too small and some had the inner petals all discolored to black but many were still good.

For marinade (see #1 below):
4tbs olive oil
4tbs water
juice of one lemon
1/2 tsp Kosher salt and 1/4 fresh ground black pepper

1 package (2lb) of baby artichokes (#2);

For preparing baby artichokes. (80% will be wasted through the preparation).
1. Wash the surface of the artichokes under running water with a brush.
2. Remove hard green outer petals until tender pale yellow inner petals appear. Cut off the stem and top 1/3  and peel off the bottom (where green outer petals were attached) and cut in half. (You need to be very aggressive in removing any green or fibrous petals, otherwise no matter how long you cook, it remains fibrous. The baby artichokes of this size have not yet developed the chokes, so you need not to worry about them).
3.  Immediately place the prepared baby artichokes in the marinade and coat the surface to prevent discoloration (#3).
4. Place the marinade and artichokes in a frying pan with the cut side down (#4) with a lid.
5. As the marinade evaporates, the cut surface browns, turn them over (#5) and continue to cook.
6. If the liquid evaporate too much, add a few tablespoonfuls of water and keep braising. You may have to add water few more time or until the bottom is soft and throughly cooked  and sauce forms (#6).
7. Taste and if needed season with more Kosher salt and black pepper.

When I tasted it warm, I thought it was too sour from the lemon juice. But the next day after being kept in the refrigerator, it had mellowed out and was perfect. This was infinitely better than store bought or even the ones in a jar. After eating these it will be hard to go back to the other kind. They went beautifully with red wine. We used to make pizza using marinated baby artichokes. I have to make one with this.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Pumpkin ginger rolls かぼちゃと生姜味ロール

My wife always makes 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 tsp 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
Finely diced ginger to tast (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

For the cooked pumpkin (kobocha)
Cut the Kabocha in half inch thick slices and microwave in a lidded 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 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 our 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 raisins.
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 raisins, 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 appetizer.