Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Salmon "Zuke" bowl サーモンのずけ丼

The day after our hanami was cold and rainy so we could not do another day of hanami outside. Since we had to finish up our sashimi salmon, I made a salmon "Zuke" bowl for lunch.

I first sliced the salmon sashimi a bit thinner than I would if I was serving it as sashimi. I then marinated the pieces in a concentrated noodle sauce (from the bottle. I was a bit too lazy to prepare a "Zuke" sauce myself) for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Since salmon is rather oily, it did not absorb the marinade as much as tuna would. I warmed up some frozen rice from our stash in the freezer and dressed it with sushi vinegar for an instant sushi rice. I added the rice to a bowl (this was a baby size), topped it with the marinated slices of salmon. I garnished with sugar snaps (boiled and then cooled in seasoned broth. The recipe is from "Otsumami Yokocho" おつまみ横町 cookbook), thinly sliced green part of scallion and dried nori strips.

As a side, I served cucumber and radish "sunomono" 酢の物 salad.

I also served miso soup (julienne of daikon, "abura-age" deep fried tofu pouch, and scallion). This was a good light lunch for us. Now only half of the salmon sashimi is left.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

World's best cookie 世界一のクッキー

This is probably the very first cookie my wife made after we got married. She sent this cookie to my family in Japan and it was a hit. My mother and niece make this cookie using my wife's recipe. My wife has not made these cookies for a long time but she started to make cookies again recently and decide to go back to where she started. This cookie is called World's Best Cookie.

This is a type of crunchy and crumbly cookie and deserves a name like the "World's Best". Since one of the ingredients is "corn flakes", I was sent to the grocery store to get a box. We have not bought or eaten corn flakes for many years and I was surprised to find that the smallest box I could find was quite large.

Ingredients (#1 picture below, makes over three dozen cookies):
1 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup rolled oats, toasted in the toaster oven
1 cup cornflakes, crushed
1⁄2 cup shredded coconut
1⁄2 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted. If walnuts use cloth to rub off brown outer skin, chopped
3 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy
Stir in egg, oil, vanilla.
Combine flour, baking soda and salt.
Combine with egg mixture until well blended.
Stir in the rest of the ingredients.Place on a parchment paper on ungreased cookie sheet into balls the size of walnuts using an ice cream scoop (#2) and flatten with a fork in criss cross pattern (#3).
Bake for 12 to 18 minutes.
Cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes before removing (#4).

I am sure over indulging on cookies these days but with coffee or tea, this cookie really hits the spot. I am taking a few to work with me so that I can have a snack in the afternoon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Hanami 2018 花見 2018

Because of a recent Nor'easter, the 30 year old cherry tree  which was the main focus of hanami celebrations in our backyard because it formed a wide canopy of blossoms over the deck, was totally destroyed just when the buds were getting ready to bloom. Although some of the cuttings we brought inside did bloom the tree itself was a "goner". We had to replace it but the replacement was a young "Yoshino" 染井吉野 cherry tree only 6 feet tall. Luckily further back in the yard we have a cherry tree that we estimate must be over 50 years old. Even though it suffered some minor injuries from the nor'easter it rescued Hanami with its full bloom on a Saturday in April. It was very warm, even hot in mid-day on our deck particularly because we lost the shading canopy of the destroyed cherry tree. Nonetheless thanks to the old tree we still enjoyed "Hanami" 花見.

We decide to defrost a package of salmon for sashimi which we bought for the New Year but did not eat. It was a rather large piece of salmon. Since this was Hanami, I served salmon sashimi in a colorful way with ripe avocado garnished with thin slices of radish and cucumber.

The salmon was quit good and went well with the slices of avocado. Both had a nice melt-in-your-mouth texture. We had this with regular wasabi and soysauce.

This was followed with Japanese "dashimaki" 出汁巻 omelet with dried "aonori" 青のりseaweed (upper left), blanched baby "Bok Choi" "ohitashi" お浸しwith dried bonito flakes (upper right) and cold simmered daikon round with ginger miso with Yuzu zest.

We have been making variations of dashimaki using cooked and chopped baby kale and chicken broth but this time, I went traditional with a Japanese broth and dried "aonori" seaweed.

Since it was rather hot, I served the simmered daikon  cold.  It was first boiled with grains of rice and then simmered in kelp broth) with a ginger Yuzu miso sauce (finely chopped ginger, mirin, sake and sesame oil and Yuzu zest). I should have done a better job cutting the chives I used for garnish.

You cannot see well but blanched baby bok choi with dried bonito "Katsuo bush" flakes and soy sauce.

We were glad we could still do hanami in our back yard. The Grand Daddy old tree, while not as spectacular as the one we lost, went a long way to filling the void. Unfortunately, the next day was rainy, windy and cold so it was an only one day hanami this year except for the mini-hanami or the unexpected early hanami we had when the cuttings of now-demised cherry tree bloomed.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Nabe cooked on an induction cooker, IH 適応土鍋で鱈ちり

Some years ago, when we remodeled our kitchen, and were exiled to cook in the basement for the duration of the construction, we got a tabletop induction cooker.  We also had a butane canister gas table top cooker from our days in California. Although we used it for Nabe and Sukiyaki dishes, the gas cooker and the canisters were almost 30 years old and we were worried about their integrity.  Despite their age, they seemed to work fine but we did not buy extra gas canisters after we used them up.  Although our Sukiyaki pot was cast iron and compatible with induction cooking, we could not use our Japanese "Donabe 土鍋" earthen pots. So I just cooked our nabe dishes on the regular gas range and served them at the table which is not as much fun as tabletop cooking.

Induction cookers are much more popular in Japan than in the U.S. and are called "induction heaters" or "IH" for short.  As a result,  IH-compatible "donabes" have been available in Japan for some time.  Although I wanted to purchase one, as far as I know,  it is expensive to ship to the U.S. even if the Japanese companies would be willing to ship it.  Then, I came across Kinto store where they sell rather modern design Japanese table- and kitchenware. One of these items is an IH compatible Nabe (it came in two colors - black or white and two sizes - 40 and 82oz).

Instead of traditional earthenware, this is made of a much less porous heat-resistant porcelain with a special induction compatible plate embedded on the bottom. It comes with a steamer insert as well. It was reasonably priced and above a certain price break-point, shipping was free. I bought a small nabe (40oz) with some other items (so shipping was free). It is not a traditional design but we like the modern and clean line. This nabe can be used on gas, electric heating element, induction or in the oven. So, I took out our old induction cooker and decided to make "Cod and vegetable nabe" or "Tarachiri" 鱈ちり鍋 on the table. I would have used edible chrysanthemum or shun-giku 春菊  as a green if it had been available but I could not get it.  So, I used a small bunch of whole spinach. I also added scallion, fresh shiitake 椎茸 and hen-of-the-wood 舞茸 mushrooms, nappa cabbage 白菜 and tofu 豆腐.

 I got some black cod filets with the skin removed.  If the skin had not been removed (but hopefully cleaned and scaled, which is not always the case, here, when the skin is left on the fish) it would have helped hold the the fish meat together better and added a different texture and flavor. I salted the filets a few hours prior to cooking and kept them in the refrigerator uncovered before cutting them into chunks.

As condiments, I prepared thinly sliced scallions and grated daikon with Japanese red pepper (the daikon turned out to be too spicy for us).

For a change, we cooked and ate this in our sunroom. The pictures were not really good since it was getting dark and the lighting was quite dim by the time we had this.

Traditionally, the cooking liquid is just kelp broth without seasoning and the cooked food is served with "ponzu" dipping sauce and the garnish.  I made a minor deviation and made the broth with kelp and dried bonito flakes and added sake, mirin and a small amount of "usukuchi" light colored soy sauce. I first put in the vegetables and tofu and when they were almost done, I added the cod.

We used Ponzu sauce (from the bottle). As I mentioned the grated daikon was too spicy even without the red pepper flakes. We really enjoyed the tabletop cooking. There is something very comforting about the steam rising from the pot, the soft sound of the the liquid bubbling and lovely cooking smells. We ate much more than we thought we would. In Japan, the end of this nabe dish would include adding noodles or rice to the remaining broth, which, by the end of the dinner, would have built up some very nice flavors from the vegetables and fish or whatever ingredients were cooked in the pot. This broth was exquisite; very complex and slightly sweet from the veggies. Although it was really good we were too full for more than a few sips to taste let alone adding noodles or rice. Instead, the next day, we added rice to the leftover broth and whatever was left in the pot and made rice porridge with the addition of eggs as a lunch. With that we felt we had done justice to the nabe.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Refrigerator dried chicken thigh 冷蔵庫で乾燥の鳥腿

I learned from my own trial and error that drying salmon fillets in the refrigerator for a few days, after salting, before cooking, made for a wonderful crispy skin and flavor. The drying also reduced the messy splatter when the salmon was cooked. I have been doing this for some time when we have salmon. Recently, I read the same technique could be used to dry chicken thighs in the refrigerator before cooking. I thought, 'why didn't I think of  this myself since I had been doing the same thing with salmon?' So, we tried it. I dried the chicken thighs for two days and cooked them in a frying pan and served them with spaetzle my wife had made and green beans sautéed in butter.

Certainly, it is easier to get crispy skin.

Ingredients :
4 chicken thighs, deboned, thickest portion cut open to make even thickness, salted and dried for 2 days in the refrigerator uncovered with skin side up. The picture below shows what they looked like after drying 2 days in the refrigerator.

In a non-stick frying pan, I started cooking the skin side down first. I placed a slightly smaller iron skillet (the bottom covered with aluminum foil) on the top to weigh them down on medium low flame. The heat rendered the fat after a few minutes. I mopped up the excess fat with paper towels and continued cooking until the skin was crispy. (This is necessary otherwise the fat steams the skin and it will get soggy not crisp.)
I turned the thighs over and finished cooking on the other side.

This results in pretty good chicken with crispy skin but the effect is not as good as with salmon. I can get similarly crispy skin using the weighing-down method without the drying. Also, drying concentrates the "chicken" flavor of the meat. This strong chicken flavor is an individual preference and we did not particularly like it. So, the idea sounded really good and while the results are great with salmon they were not worth the effort for chicken in our opinion.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Butter dip biscuits バーター漬けビスケット

It was a snow day, so my wife was at home and when I came home, she had made cookies and this biscuit which is essentially bread fried in butter in the oven. It has a nice crunchy crust and nice buttery flavor. It may not extremely healthy for you but it certainly tasted good.

1/3 cup butter
2 1/4 cups flour plus more for work surface
1 tbs. sugar
1 tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl, then add the milk. Stir slowly with a fork until the dough just clings together.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface gently knead about 10 times then roll out to an 8 X 12 inch rectangle about 1/2 inch thick. (Word of advice: make sure the dough is slightly smaller than the pan in which it will be baked). cut the dough in half lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 16 equal strips.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the butter in a 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Let it melt in the oven then remove from the oven. Working with one strip at a time, use both hands to pick it up and dip it into the melted butter in the pan, coating both sides. Arrange all the strips close together in the pan as you go. Bake (middle rack) for 20 to 22 minutes until golden brown.

1) Add 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese to the dry ingredients
2) Add 1/2 a clove of minced garlic to the butter before it melts in the oven.
3) Sprinkle sweet paprika, celery seed or garlic salt over the butter dips before baking.
4) Add 12 cup minced chives or parsley to the flour mixture.

Baking doesn't get any easier than this. These are a cross between cookie/short bread and biscuit. They have a very nice crunchy crust and soft interior. They have a rich buttery slightly sweet flavor. The suggested variations look very good too--we'll have to try them.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Spaetzle with tongue stew シュペッツレとタンシチュー

When I made beef tongue stew, I mentioned to my wife in passing that spaetzle (Spätzle) may go well with it. So, one day when I was at work and she was home, she made spaetzle. But she did not have the right tool to physically form the spaetzle. She ended up cutting the corner off a Ziploc bag and dropped the batter into the boiling broth by cutting the lump of dough extruded from the bag into the broth, but it made a rather clumsy large spaetzle that looked more like gnocchi. Although it tasted good, the shape and size were not quite right. Recognizing that I was on the receiving end of a good thing I got her an appropriate spaetzle maker in the hope of encouraging the production of more spaetzle. This is her second attempt and the spaetzle came out much better.

I sautéed the spaetzle with butter and finely chopped parsley to accompany the tongue stew. After a few days in the refrigerator and reheated, the stew was better and the spaetzle went so well with it.

This is the contraption I got for my wife.

2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup AP flour
1/2 water (add more to adjust the consistency to loose pancake batter).
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Grating of nutmeg (#1)

In a large sautéed pan, boil the water and add bay leaves and add salt to taste.
Place the spaetzle cutter over the pan, pour the batter into the hopper on top (#3).
Move the hopper back and froth and let the batter drip down into the boiling water (#4).
When the spaetzle floated up on the surface (#5), let it cook for another 30 seconds.
Scoop them up using a slotted spoon (#6)
Dain and then coat them with light olive oil to prevent from sticking together (#7 and 8).

The combination of the tongue stew and spaeztle really works well. The spaetzle had a mild bay leaf flavor. Also this is a proof that you need the right tool for the right job. It was well worth it to supply the appropriate tool to make a dish like this.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Beef tongue sandwich 牛タンのサンドイッチ

This is an attempt at recreating the beef tongue sandwiches of my wife's childhood. She wanted one made exactly how she remembered . So we made it very simple. No fancy items such as lettuce or cheese. Just mayonnaise and mustard on pumpernickel. I added skinned Campari tomato and my cucumber onion salad on the side. This was lunch on the weekend.

I sliced a mid-portion of the tongue thinly and made several over lapping layers. I did not put on the second layer of bread for the picture to show the tongue meat.

This wife was very satisfied with this sandwich. She said this was exactly how she remembered the tongue lunch meat from the local PA dutch grocery store. The meat was very tender (due to marbling with fat) and flavorful. I have to admit this was a very good sandwich.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Miso flavored silken tofu with green beans 味噌味の豆腐とインゲン

At our Japanese grocery store, I bought this silken tofu called "Sincere silken tofu, just right firmness" 誠実の絹 from "Otokomae tofu" 男前豆腐. This is made from Hokkaido soybeans called "Pride of snow" or "Yukihomare" ユキホマレ. Since I am originally from Hokkaido, I am partial to a product like this. Since good tofu is impossible to get at the regular grocery store (the tofu we get there is pretty bad by Japanese standards but I still make some dishes from it). In any case, I had this tofu from the Japanese grocery store for a few days in the refrigerator. I thought about what kind of dish I could make to enjoy this good tofu. Cold cubes (hiyayakko 冷や奴), warm cubes in kelp broth (yudoufu 湯豆腐) or tofu miso soup (tofu-no-misoshiru 豆腐の味噌汁) came to mind but I ended up making this impromptu tofu and green bean dish with ground pork and miso. This happened because I had blanched green beans and hand chopped pork which was a by-product of when I prepared bone-in pork shoulder for pork roast. It is remotely similar to "mapo tofu" but this is not spicy at all which suites my wife better.

The quality of green beans is really hit or miss but these were especially good. They had a nice firmness and crunch but were not tough at all.

Since the flavor was very gentle, I added Japanese red pepper flakes (iccimi tougarashi 一味唐辛子) to add some zing.

Ingredients (this made 6 small servings):
Silken tofu (320 gram), Cut into cubes
2 tbs white miso
3 tbs sake and mirin
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp vegetable oil (or dark sesame oil for stronger flavor)
Ground pork (amount arbitrary but I probably used about 100 grams)
1/2 tsp Ginger root, skinned and finely chopped
Blanched green beans, cut in half, about 10

In a frying pan, add the oil and when heated, add ginger and then the pork.
Stir until the pork changes color
Add the miso, sake, mirin and soy sauce. Dissolve the miso and stir until the sauce comes to a boil.
Add the tofu and gently toss until the tofu gets warm and the sauce gets somewhat thick
Taste and add more soy sauce or salt if needed.
Serve warm with a sprinkle of Japanese red pepper flakes.

The tofu was really good. The flavoring was very gentle and really highlighted the texture and taste of the tofu. This is a good first drinking snack of the evening. The leftovers warmed up nicely in the microwave oven (requires only short time 20 seconds for two small serving together in our 600W microwave oven).

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Beef Tongue stew 牛タンシチュー

Using the bottom portion of boiled beef tongue (called "tanshita" たん下) I prepared this beef tongue stew. I looked through Japanese recipes and came up with this stew. In Japan, beef tongue stew or "tan-shichu" タンシチュー is one of the dishes for "Yoshoku" 洋食 or "Western-style Japanese cuisine". It is rather popular. I happened to have blanched rapini on hand. I thought the slightly bitter taste would go well with the stew so I added it to the dish. To re-enforce the beef tongue theme to the meal, I also added a slice of the middle portion of boiled tongue (called "tan-naka" たん中), briefly sautéed in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.

It appears, that it is customary in Japan to make lines of cream on the surface for this stew before serving so I followed suit as shown below.

Adding rapini was my idea.

Nice thick stew with very tender chunks of tongue is extremely satisfying.

We like tongue slices cooked this way much better than tongue sliced and grilled in the Japanese way. The tongue was so tender and flavorful. I served a slice of tongue in another dish with my cucumber onion salad and Campari tomato.

Deep posterior portion of prepared beef tongue (tan-shita), cut into 1 inch cubes
One large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
Three ribs of celery, cut into small cubes
Two cloves of garlic, skin removed and finely chopped
Four Campari tomatoes, skinned, cut into quarters (or two small tomatoes).
Three medium carrots, peeled and cut into small cubes
Two bay leaves
2 tbs olive oil
3 tbs AP flour
1 cup dry red wine
1-2  cup reserved boiling liquid from preparing the tongue, solids removed
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Cream for garnish

Blanched rapini (optional)

Add the olive oil to a pot and sauté the onion, garlic, and celery for several minutes, add the carrot and keep stirring for another minute or two.
Add the flour and mix until the flour coats the vegetables and the flour coating the bottom of the pan becomes slightly brown.
Add the red wine and the boiling liquid from preparing the tongue.
Add the tomato and bay leaves and keep stirring until the flour amalgamates.
Add the beef tongue and simmer for 30-40 minutes (#1).
Remove the cubes of tongue and set aside (#3)
Remove the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend the vegetables and the liquid (#2). If it is too thick, add more liquid to the appropriate consistency.
Add back the tongue and simmer for 30 minutes (#4).
Taste and seasoned it with salt and pepper.
Garnished with the blanched rapini (optional) and drizzle cream on the top.

OMG this stew was something else--very flavorful! The tongue was very tender but did not disintegrate. The stew had a very unique and pleasant texture. The flavor was rich, unctuous, full of umami.  This was so good there is no way it could be good for you.

My wife mentioned that the cold cut tongue she remembered was square in shape. We realized that if you slice the mid portion of the tongue, it is indeed square. The sautéed tongue was also very tender and excellent. My wife was more than quite satisfied with both tongue dishes; especially the stew. Now she wants to have this as a sandwich--with mayo and mustard on pumpernickel.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Beef tongue 牛タン

Beef tongue is not a very popular food in the U.S. It is more popular in Europe, South America including Mexico ("Lengua"). It is also much more popular in Japan where it is served thinly sliced and grilled. This dish called "Gyuu-tan" 牛タン is famous in the city of Sendai 仙台 located in northern Japan. My wife having grown up in PA dutch country, said she really liked the beef tongue she ate as a child, served as cold cuts particularly in sandwiches. Her favorite was tongue lunch meat that came from the local Ma&Pa grocery store down the street. She just remembers it as a sort of square shaped loaf that was a very tender and tasty meat.

Several years ago while we were in Sendai, we had the famous local delicacy grilled "Gyuu-tan" 牛タンの塩焼き which was served with "Ox-tail soup" or "te-ru su-pu" テールスープ. The meat was kind of chewy. My wife said it was nothing like what she had growing up and we did not like it. I have seen beef tongue from time to time at our regular grocery store. (Based on the labeling I'm assuming it is directed toward the "latino" clientele). I mentioned it to my wife and she was enthusiastic to get it so that we could recreate the beef tongue she remembered as a kid. The other day, I found a rather small tongue and got it. The below is sort of taste test. This appears to be very close to what she remebered.

This is basic preparation and other dishes can be made from this.

Whole beef tongue (#1), washed well and bottom fat removed (#2).
One medium onion, coarsely cut up
2 bay leaves
Several whole black pepper corns

In a duch oven, add enough water to cover the tongue
Add the onion, bay leaves and pepper corns and boil gently for several hours (#3).
Take it out and let it cool for few minutes (#4)
Using a tong or fingers peel off the skin (#4 and #5). It comes off rather easily.
I sliced it thinly for the taste test (#6).
After testing, I separated the bottom of the tongue (which has more fat and other structures) for stew and the tongue proper for sandwiches.

This was simply boiled but the meat had a very nice soft texture and the flavor from the black pepper I used came through strongly. My wife said this is very close to what she remembered. She commented that if you could have beef tongue like this why would you eat the stuff served in Sendai?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Octopus and avocado salad たことアボカドのサラダ

When we buy a boiled leg of octopus, it takes at least 3 separate sittings for us to finish it. So, beside the usual sashimi, I usually come up with a few variations. Since we had a ripe avocado, I decided to make something similar to tuna and avocado cubes. I garnished this with chiffonade of perilla.

I used both slices and small chunks of the octopus to finish up the remaining octopus leg.

For the tuna and avocado dish, I used minced garlic and dark sesame oil, for this I used finely diced red onion and olive oil, instead. I was aiming for a more gentle tasting dressing.

Ingredients (2 servings):
Boiled octopus leg, cut thinly as well as in small chunks, amount arbitrary but I used about the half of the leg.
Ripe avocado, half, skin and some removed and cut into small cubes
Red or sweet onion, half, small, finely diced

For dressing:
1/2 tbs light olive oil
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tbs rice vinegar or Yuzu juice

For garnish
2 perilla leaves, cut into thin chiffonade

I mixed the ingredients for the dressing.
Mixed the octopus, avocado, onion and the dressing.
Garnish with the perilla.

This was a good salad. Since octopus does not have a strong flavor, I toned down the dressing and replaced the garlic with red onion which worked well. This was a good drinking snack and also we finished the boiled octopus leg in time before it went bad.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Unexpected early Hanami 予定外の早めの花見

A Nor'Easter (winter hurricane) tore through our area recently. Winds gusted in the range of 40 to 60 MPH. My wife was standing in the kitchen making a cup of coffee when a branch the size of a small tree split off our neighbor's white pine and crashed into our 30 plus year old cherry tree splintering the trunk in half. My wife who observed the whole thing said the branch did not fall but flew into our tree--it was airborne. The cherry tree died heroically. I would like to think it gave its life to narrowly divert the white pine from crashing directly into our house causing even more damage. Nonetheless this was very heartbreaking. Later in the day our neighbor's 60 foot Leland cypress joined it's collegue by crashing into our backyard taking out our back fence which like the cherry tree gave its life to keep the massive tree from hitting the house with even greater velocity than it did. At the end of the day; death toll--3 huge trees and a backyard so full of dead trees it was almost impossible to move in it.

We tried to see if we could save the cherry tree--it was such an important part of our backyard. It was central to out yearly hanami and shaded the deck from the sun in summer. But it was too severely damaged. We had no choice but to take it down and replace it with a 6 foot tall "young sprout". This was particularly sad because the tree would have bloomed in only a few weeks. We gathered up some branches and placed the cuttings in vases with the hope that some would bloom and they did.

These blooms were a much earlier hanami than we were expecting.

Since this was the last Hanami for this cherry tree, in its honor, we decide to do an unexpected early hanami. I quickly put together six kinds of otoshi dishes for the occasion. They were octopus sashimi タコの刺身 (upper left), cube of silken tofu with garnish of perilla and salmon "Ikura" roe or "hiyayakko" 冷奴 (upper center) and store-bought "Chinese-style" squid  salad (イカの中華風サラダ). On the plate (all heated up in the toaster oven) were store-bought fish cake, spicy tofu cubes, and chicken liver simmered in wine.

In addition, we had just recently received a very thin "usuhari" うすはり glass sake carafe and sake cups from Japan sold by ”Sake-talk"  through Amazon. Several years ago when we visited Japan, we got "usuhari" tumblers and we really like these thin glass vessels. In any case, we opened American brew Shochikubai Yamadanishki Daijinjou and poured it into the carafe.

It was a bit sad to see the remaining few twigs blooming in one last gasp of this valiant tree. We still have two cherry trees in our backyard which were there when we moved in. When they bloom in a few weeks it will provide some solice for the loss our beautiful tree. We will raise a cup of sake to its memory (and maybe pour a cup at the base of the young tree we planted as a replacement, just for good luck).

Update: My wife got the idea that we might be able to root some of twigs we salvaged from the downed cherry tree. We got some rooting medium and set up 5 pots (shown below) in the hope one of them would form roots. We know it is a "long shot" but how sentimentally satisfying it would be to propagate another tree from one of the twigs...we would have to name it Phoenix.