Friday, February 16, 2018

Oatmeal for breakfast オートミールの朝ごはん

I did not like oatmeal for breakfast because, for me, it has a peculiar slimy texture. It is kind of funny for me to say that I do not like a slimy food since many Japanese foods are characterized by their slimy texture which has never deterred me from enjoying them. In any case, it was a cold day and my wife decided to make "a breakfast which sticks to your  ribs. So here we go, oatmeal and cappuccino for breakfast.


Unexpectdly, this was much better than I remembered it. The cinnamon and raisin  flavors were nice and a pat of butter did not hurt. Amazingly, there was no slimy texture to the oatmeal.


I am not sure what made the difference. My wife toasted the oatmeal before making the hot cereal. I wonder whether that made a difference or Quaker oats may have changed the processing to reduce/remove the sliminess. The cappuccino was topped with very stable and creamy froth which was made with a new Nespresso milk  frother.


Ingredients:
1 cup Quaker Oats old fashioned
1 3/4 cups Milk
1/8 Tsp. salt
1 TBS. brown sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 Raisins
several pats of butter

Directions:
Toast the oatmeal in the toaster oven until it is lightly browned and fragrant (picture below). My wife does this because it brings our a nutty flavor that is nice.
Bring milk to a boil. Stir in salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins.
Then add the oatmeal and bring back to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve with a little pat of butter to melt on the top. As an added luxury supply a little pitcher of heated milk (or to be really extravagant cream) to add on top.


Oatmeal for breakfast has been a mainstay for my wife since she was a kid. She didn't even notice it was "slimy" until I pointed it out to her. She served it to my mother and I, "as a treat" many years ago and we both gagged on it. My mother choked it down because she thought it was healthy but I couldn't finish the bowl. My wife tells of the oatmeal that was served at the overnight camp she attended. It came complete with a thick skin that formed as it cooled in the crisp mountain air. The servings were offered "with skin or without". My wife loved the oatmeal and opted for "with skin".

So given this history, I was pleasantly relieved at how good this oatmeal was. I even surprised my wife for going back for a refill. Only problem is that it really "sticks to your ribs" and I was not hungry even by dinner time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Panettone Christmas bread パネトネクリスマスブレッド

Before Christmas,  my wife baked quite a few breads including Italian Christmas Panettone bread. She tried making Panettone last year but because of a time constraint (she baked on Christmas eve!), she made a quick bread version instead of the traditional yeast version. Although the quick bread was excellent in it's own right, she really wanted to make a traditonal yeast Panettone. This time, we had enough time to start with "biga" starter. She had a bit of technical problem but made it before Christmas.




It came out a bit on dark side. Later we learned that when using a paper mold, the temperature and baking time may have to be adjusted (?????? 10F lower and 10 minutes shorter ????). My wife found the original recipe  on line.




Despite the high done exterior the inside was still moist.




Ingredients:
400 grams All-Purpose Flour (divided)
175 grams Cultured Buttermilk, divided
125 grams Egg Yolks (the yolks of about 7 eggs
200 grams dried fruit (I used raisins)
100 grams Bourbon
75 grams walnuts, crushed and toasted
75 grams Sugar
12 grams Salt
10 grams plus a pinch Instant Yeast
150 grams Butter, cold but softened
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon


Directions:
For the Biga:
The night before you plan to bake, combine 200 grams of flour, 125 grams of buttermilk, and a small pinch of yeast in a medium bowl with your hands until all of the flour and yeast are hydrated and no clumps remain. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours. The biga should double in size. (This biga comes out very dry next year my wife said she might try adding a bit more liquid.)(My wife left it for a day and overnight until it doubled in size).
At least a day before you plan to bake, combine the dried fruit (raisins), bourbon and lemon zest. Allow to sit, covered, at room temperature overnight until the fruit absorbs the alcohol. Shake periodically to make sure the fruit hydrates evenly (#1 in picture below).
Place the remaining 200 grams flour, all of the biga, the egg yolks, the remaining 50 grams buttermilk, and the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix on low speed until the dough is fully incorporated and smooth. About 4 minutes.
  1. When the initial mix has come fully together into a smooth ball, add the salt and sugar. Continue mixing on slow speed until the dough is once again smooth, about 4 minutes (#2).
  2. When the dough has once again come together, turn the mixer to medium-high speed and knead until the dough forms a slightly stiff, but stretchy and elastic ball, about 4 minutes.
  3. Return the mixer to slow speed and add the butter in small pieces. Mix until butter is fully incorporated into dough, scraping down the sides of the work bowl with a spatula as necessary. When the butter is fully incorporated, the dough should feel looser, and stretchier than before, but not greasy. About 10 minutes. If the dough continues to feel greasy but you can't see any pieces of butter in the bowl, allow dough to continue to mix on slow speed until the oily feel has fully dissipated, up to 5 minutes longer.
  4. With the butter is fully incorporated, drain any excess liquid from the dried fruit. Add the cherries and toasted hazelnuts to the dough. Mix on low speed until dough re-forms into a coherent ball with dried fruit and nuts evenly distributed throughout. 
  5. Using a dough spatula, transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, shape into a ball, and place the ball seam-side down into the panettone mold. The ball of dough should fill somewhere between a quarter and a third of the mold.
  6. Beat egg well and brush over the top of the panettone. Lightly but securely cover your filled panettone mold with plastic wrap. Allow to proof in a warm, slightly humid place until the dough fills the mold roughly 2/3 high, 10 to 12 hours (#3).
  7. 1 hour before you plan to bake, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (325°F for a convection oven). When the panettone is appropriately risen, apply a second coat of egg wash, place it on a rimmed baking sheet, and place in oven.
  8. Bake the panettone until the top is a deep, golden brown, and a pastry tester or knife pushed into the center comes out clean, approximately 45 minutes, rotating the loaf midway through the bake (#4).
  9. When done, allow to cool for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Stored in a plastic bag, the panettone will stay moist and fresh for at least 4 days. 



The Panettone was very good. It had a fairly dense but moist texture. The bourbon flavor of the dried fruit really came through and was a very nice addition. 


This was a weekend bake-a-thon. In addition to the panettone (upper right), my wife baked stollen (left), English muffin loaves (upper center), and white bread loaves (lower right) and I baked focaccia (lower center).




After tasting the home made panettone, we decided see how the taste of the homemake bread compared to the taste of two commercial panettone brands. Both came from Amazon.
The first one is called "Granducale" Panettone Classico.




The second is called Madi Gran Panettone.




Both were quite good. The below is the Madi brand. Very uniform fine texture with nice citric taste from candied orange rind.




This is Granducale brand. This one had occasional large holes and had a slightly more moist consistency.




We felt both the commercial brands were equally good with a very slightest edge going to the Grandducale. They were also fairly similar in flavor to the homemade one although the homemade one was considerably denser. Now, given how complicated it is to make our own Panettone we have to ask, it is worth to bake Panettone ourselves?

Saturday, February 10, 2018

porridge with nagaimo 長芋お粥

My family never had a tradition of eating "Nanakusa-gayu" 七草がゆ or "seven herb porridge" which is usually eaten on January 7th. I am not sure of its history or reasons for it but in Japan, a package of 7 herbs for this dish appears in the market when the date nears. I made this porridge after we ran out of osechi and other dishes I made for the New Year. This is a rather interesting recipe which came from Buddhist monk Nishikawa 西川和尚. This porridge contains both grated and cubes of nagaimo 長芋. I made a slight modification and added baby water cress and topped with aomori powder and the meat of pickled plum. I served it with Mackerel simmered in miso sauce サバの味噌煮, red wine simmered chicken liver 鶏レーバーの赤ワイン煮 and simmered Japanese "kabocha" squash カボチャの煮物 for one weekend lunch.




This is a rather simple recipe. Instead of using a totally vegetarian broth (i.e. kelp broth), I used a combination of kelp and bonito flakes for the broth. 




Ingredients (for two small servings):
3/4 cup of cooked rice (we microwaved frozen cooked rice to thaw it )
Nagaimo, 5 inch pieces, peeled, 1/3 grated and 2/3 cut into small cubes
1 cup of Japanese broth
Baby water cress, stems removed, an arbitrary amount
Dried aomori and umeboshi pickled plum meat finely chopped for garnish

Directions:
Add the cooked rice to a pan and add the broth, mix and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the grated nagaimo, mix and simmer another 2-3 minutes.
Add the cubed nagaimo, add the water cress, season with the salt and cook 1-2 more minutes (do not over cook the nagaimo cubes).
Serve hot with the garnish of the Aonori, pickled plum and fresh water cress leaves.

The simmered Japanese "kabocha" pumpkin was prepared as before.




So were the mackerel and chicken liver.




The graded nagaimo added to the volume and, of course, added a unique texture to the porridge. The combination of grated texture with the nice crunch of the cubes of nagaimo was unique. This is very gentle soothing dish for your stomach.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Scallop curry in a pouch レトルト帆立カレー

Japanese are quite fond of curry. It was said the original Japanese curry was first served on Japanese Navy ships and is based on English modifications to Indian curry. Now, in Japan, many curry restaurants have proliferated including ones serving very authentic regional curries such as those in India, Thailand, and Nepal in addition to Japanese style curry. Japanese have three choices if they want to eat curry at home; 1. make it from scratch using authentic methods and spices, 2. Use commercial "curry roux" which is readly available and 3. or heat up Curry-in-a-pouch which is called "retoruto-kare" レトルトカレー.  Food-in-a-pouch or "retort pouch" / "retortable pouch" was initially developed by the US military to replace canned or bottled food, reduce the weight and waste and also to make a meal-ready-to-eat (MRE) that could be heated quickly. It was also used during space travel. In the US, food-in-a-retort pouch did not become very popular among the general populace, perhaps, because of the widespread use of frozen food. But, in Japan,  curry-in-a-pouch has been extremely popular. One servings of curry comes in a pouch and the price ranges for $1 to $10 encompassing mass-produced cheap varieties to high-end varieties with a restaurant's or hotel's name attached to it. In recent years, another category of curry-in-pouch called "gotouchi kare" ご当地カレー is getting popular. There are even specialized websites from which you can buy quite interesting varieties of "locale-specific" or "Gotouchi" curry. We recently ate one such example which was sent to us as part of my mother's New Year "care" package. This one was scallop curry from Hokkaido. I added shrimp, blanched green beans and broccoli. Of course, I also served Japanese curry condiments "rakyo" ラッキョウ and "fukishin-zuke" 福神漬け.




The curry contained a goodly number of scallops which were nice and tender but I am not sure it added anything substantial to the curry. The curry roux was moderately hot and had nice flavors and texture. My wife added yogurt to dampen the heat (and also because she just likes yogurt in her curry.)




This seafood curry in a pouch came from "Sato suisan" 佐藤水産 or Sato seafood in Sapporo.  I found out that, beside selling Hokkaido seafood products, this company also runs seafood restaurants with one located near the opening of Ishikari river 石狩川 called "Old River" restaurant. This curry is supposedly from this restaurant using fresh Hokkaido vegetables and seafood (two varieties of seafood curry are available;  scallop 帆立 or sea whelk  ツブ) without animal fat or meat.




As per the directions on the back of he package, I boiled the pouch in water for 5 minutes. They also recommend adding cooked (sautéed in butter) vegetables.




I thawed uncooked shell-on shrimp, cleaned and sautéed them in butter with blanched green beans and broccoli seasoned with salt and pepper.




We shared one pouch between the two of us and put it over rice  (pre-cooked frozen rice microwaved to thaw). The scallop was tender and the roux had nice heat, texture, and flavors albeit not particularly special. (My wife thought it tasted very similar to the curry I make with Japanese curry roux, although this curry doesn't include any animal products but the roux does). Certainly this is a very convenient  way to  enjoy curry at home. 


My mothers package also included the "whelk" curry in-a-pouch which tasted very similar to the scallop curry but with the inclusion of "rubber tire" chewy whelk. My wife "graciously" passed all the welk she could find in her dish to me--even the one she had been unsuccessfully chewing on for awhile. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Focaccia bread フォッカッチア

This is a variation of my focaccia bread. Although this is a bit too thick to make sandwiches, it is much better as eating bread dipped in olive oil.




We like this particular Spanish olive oil. It has quite robust flavors. We recently got a newer pressing (for 2017).




This is not a recipe but a note to myself for future reference. I made this bread to reuse (rescue) the sponge (or starter or biga) my wife was attempting to make for her Panettone bread.  My wife started the "biga" as per the recipe she found on line (200 grams or 1 3/4 cup of flour, 125 grams or a bit more than 1/2 cup of buttermilk, a small pinch of yeast, mixed together and let to stand at room temperature for 12-16 hours or until the volume doubles). 


It looked quite dry for sponge and she was afraid she had not followed the recipe precisely. So she prepared another batch which also looked quite dry for sponge. In any case, she did make Panettone using the second sponge which was successful. So, we had the first sponge left over. Rather than throwing it out, I decided  I would make a focaccia bread using this sponge.  Since the sponge was rather dry, I added more water and kneaded and left it in a Ziplock bag for several more hours (it was made 2 days ago). It started looking more like sponge. Since the sponge had 1 3/4 cup of flour, I added 2 more cups of bread flour, one package of yeast (proofed in a small amount of lukewarm water with a pinch of sugar) and about 1 cup of water (I added a bit more until a proper dough formed). I kneaded it in a mixer with a dough hook for 10 minutes.


I decide to let it rise three times. I finished kneading by hand to make a tight ball. In a large bowl, I added a small amount of olive oil and placed in the dough ball and turned to coat. I covered it with a plastic wrap and towel and let it rise for 1 hour or until the volume doubled. I punched it down and let it rise for the second time. After the volume doubled again, I punched it down and let it rest for 10 minutes on the board (to relax the gluten). Then, I spread the dough onto a 1/4 sheet non-stick baking sheet. I let it rise for the 3rd and last time for 30 minutes. I then, pressed the dough with my finger tips to make multiple indents. I brushed on chopped fresh rosemary soaked in olive oil and scatted oil cured black olive (after the stones were removed) and pushed them into the dough (see below).




I  baked it at a lower temperature than usual, at 350F for 30 minutes.




The focaccia came out less crusty and much thicker and bread-like in the center. This was one of the items in our bake-a-thon shown below. One weekend, we made Stollen (far left), English muffin bread (Upper middle), Panetonne (Upper right), White bread (Lower right) and my focaccia (center). 




You may have notice both edges of the focaccia were already cut off for the tasting. We really liked the texture and flavor of the focaccia made this way. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Sea Urchin from Maruhide with squid sashimi 丸秀の雲丹とイカの刺身

Between Christmas and New Year, we got "uni" sea urchin from Maruhide 丸秀 in Los Angeles, again. We think this is the best place to get quality uni in the U.S. They sell two kinds of uni; one is conventional (treated with potassium alum or myouban 明礬) to maintain the shape and firmness, the other is soaked in 3% salt water (salinity of sea water). The vast majority of uni available, which comes in a tray, is myouban-treated. Done properly, you do not tase the myoban but sometimes, they use an excessive amount and the uni can taste bitter. We got both versions from Maruhide and both are excellent. The one packed in salt water may not last as long as alum-treated one and starts to lose its shape quickly.




I served the myouban-treated uni on the top of perilla leaves and squid sashimi. This is emulating our favorite way to eat uni at Tako Grill (see below).




Since we did not have appropriate squid sashimi, I used a package of precut frozen squid sashimi from the Japanese grocery store.




This uni was alum treated but we did not taste any bitterness and the combination of perilla, squid and uni is indeed our favorite way to eat uni.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Roast beef bowl ローストビーフ丼

I made this dish as a lunch after Christmas since we made a large rib roast and had leftovers. In Japan, "Beef bowl" or "Gyudon" is a popular fast food.  One example is "Yoshino-ya"  made of braised thinly sliced beef and onion in a soy sauce based broth  (with other "secret" ingredients) placed over a bowl of rice. While braised beef is fairly common roast beef is not. Roast beef bowl, however, is also getting more popular in Japan. Some appears excessive in terms of the amount of meat they put on the rice. I made a much tamer version. I thinly sliced the rib roast choosing the medium rare part. This is a small bowl and I served it with miso soup.




The Japanese version is often topped with an egg (either raw or onsen-tamago) but I topped this with thinly sliced cucumber, sweet onion and blanched green asparagus.




The miso soup was made of scallion, aura-age and tofu.




For the sauce, I just mixed soy sauce, mirin and prepared horseradish.




This was a just perfect lunch for us. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Cornish hen for Thanksgiving, Rib roast for Christmas クリスマスリブロースト

We have given up cooking holiday Turkey for some time. Since Turkey meat is dry and rather tasteless and  produces a large amount of leftovers, we would rather have chickens. As a matter of fact, for this year's Thanksgiving, we barbecued cornish game hens. 




For us, half a cornish hen is more than enough.




For Christmas, we cooked a rib roast which is something unusual for us. We did it because prime rib or rib roasts were very reasonably priced at our grocery store. We barbecued it in our Weber with a light hot smoke cooked to medium rare. My wife made "broccoli stuffing balls" and mashed potato with cream cheese and chives. 




This was the rib roast before cooking. It was over 5 lbs with ribs attached. I removed the excess fat and seasoned it with onion salt, garlic powder, fresh rosemary from our front garden (finely chopped), Kosher salt and black pepper.




I had a bit of difficulty keeping the inside temperature in the Weber kettle below 400F but managed to keep it below 400F for most of the time the meat cooked. I took the roast out when the internal temperature reached 120F.




After resting in for 20 minutes, I sliced it.




Since this was a rare dish for us on a rare occasion, we throughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Jako braised with Japanese ”sansho" pepper bowl じゃこの有馬煮丼

Sushi taro osechi box inlcudes "Jako" braised with Japanese sansho pepper じゃこの有馬煮 every year. "Jako" is a very young and small sardine or anchovy, boiled and then dried. Many small fish are a symbol of prosperity and a traditional dish for osechi. It was braised with the fruit of the Japanese "Sansho" pepper tree 実山椒. The name "Arima-ni" 有馬煮 came from a spa resort called "Arima hot spring 有馬温泉" near Kobe 神戸.  In the past, inns in Arima served dishes to their guests using the fruit of wild sansho trees which were abundant in the near-by Rokkou mountain (六甲山).  Japanese pepper from the Rokkou mountain is called  Arima sansho "有馬山椒" which supposedly has distinctive flavors different from sanshos from other regions in Japan. 


It is a bit difficult to serve this dish as it is, so I decided to make a rice bowl or "donburi" 丼 from it with the other items that remained in the osechi box. I served this as a lunch with miso soup and daikon namasu 大根なます which I made. 




I made sushi rice from microwaved frozen rice. I used "Jako",  shrimp (only one left the osechi box, I peeled and cut into half for two bowls), "kazunoko" herring roe, ikura and New Year's omelet rolls.




Although a bit hidden, Jako is the main topping. We put a bit of soy sauce on the other items.




This was a really good lunch. The very distinctive flavor of Sansho was very nice. We really enjoyed  this dish.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Japanese sweet potato rolls さつま芋ロール

My wife found Japanese sweet potato (satsuma-imo) at Whole Foods and had to get them. We like these kind of sweet potatoes because they have firmer flesh than U.S. yams and are very sweet. We made a few of our usual dishes from them. One is cooking them in the Weber grill when we grill chicken. Simply, wash, prick all over with a fork (so they don't explode while cooking), wrap them in aluminum foil and stick them in the Weber at the same time the chicken is put in. By the time, the chicken is done the potato is also done. We grilled 4 sweet potatoes this way one weekend. We ate some of the sweet potato with the chicken for dinner. The next day, my wife made these sweet potato rolls with the leftovers. Although the rolls are based on a recipe she found, as my wife was making these rolls she realized she had lots of extra sweet potato. Since she is particularly fond of rolls with surprise fillings she decided to put the extra sweet potato into the center of the the roll as shown. It turned out to be quite successful.




Although she did not add any sugar to the sweet potato filling, it is really sweet and reminded me of "white anko paste" or "shiro-an" 白あん made of white beans grown in Hokkaido.




Ingredients:
8 ounces sweet potato. The sweet potato is divided 1/2 cup for the bread and about 2 cups to use as filling in the bread)
4 1/2 teaspoons (two 1/4-ounce packets) active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour, plus more for the work surface
Oil, for greasing the proofing bowl.


Directions:
We cooked 3 Japanese sweet potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil in the Weber grill when we barbequed chicken one weekend. Let cool, then peeled and thoroughly mashed in a food mill so it is smooth. You should have 1/2 cup of flesh.

Combine the yeast with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer; proof for 5 minutes.  Add 2 eggs and beat on low speed, then add the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar, the butter and salt. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes (no need to scrape down the bowl), then add the sweet potato and beat for about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the flour at a time, beating to form a slightly stiff dough that has pulled away from the sides of the bowl; add flour as needed.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface; knead for 2 to 3 minutes. When it is smooth and springy, shape it into a ball. Use oil to lightly grease the inside of a large bowl, then place the dough in it, turning it to coat evenly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap; let the dough rest for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size. The dough will be ready when you can push 2 fingers into it and the indentations remain.

Punch down the dough. Cut into pieces weighing about 2 oz. each. Flatten the dough (#1) and put a small scoop of the extra, sweet potato (#2) in the middle (#3). Pinch the dough around the sweet potato ball and form into a roll (#4). Place in a greased baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap; let the rolls rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in size. Cook in a preheated oven of 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until golden.




These rolls were wonderful. Very light with a lovely mild sweetness. The center of sweet potato was a really good addition. It was soft and also sweet.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Grilled mochi New Year's day 4 lunch 焼きチーズ餅

Using bento-boxes to serve New Year's dishes was good idea and I pushed this idea further for the 4th New Year's day lunch. I used a small square stackable "Juubako" 重箱 box (4 1/4 inches, or 11 cm square) which we used in the past to serve candies and small sweets. I thought the small size would be perfect for lunch.




We started making grilled cheese mochi few years ago. Once we started, this became my wife's favorite way to eat mochi. This time, I put grilled cheese on both the top and bottom instead of just one side. I also served small sheets of "nori" dried sea weed to wrap the mochi.




Most of these items were what I made.




Salmon kelp roll, chicken patty with fig and gorgonzola, red and white New Year fish cakes stuffed with guacamole I made and ikura (the guacamole stuffed fish cake was really good), poached chicken tenderloin dressed in wasabi soy sauce, date-maki, thinly sliced rib roast with horseradish soy sauce, Russian marinated salmon, my version of tataki gobo with sesame dressing, french-cut green beans with sesame-mayo and spicy tofu cubes. Although the box is small, it took quite few items to fill it.




We again used smoked mozzarella cheese which grills very nicely making crispy "wings".




This was a perfect lunch.