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Sushi just right for making at home

Posted on April 17, 2014 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Chirashi sushi is one of the most popular dishes made by a Japanese homecook. Noone really makes nigiri sushi at home - we leave that to the sushi chefs.  This chirashi sushi is vegetarian.  The strips of egg, greeens and the pink ginger bring the message of spring.  (Here is the story about chirashi sushi I wrote for Zester Daily. )

Lilac bush - first bloom -Tehachapi ranch

Posted on April 14, 2014 at 11:55 PM Comments comments (0)

The lilac bush that I planted two years ago are finally starting to put on some clusters of flowers.  The bush is still small, compared to the lilac bushes that I see in front on people's ranch houses in Tehachapi but one day it will get there. I am tempted to cut the flowers and bring them back to LA but I am going to come back and enjoy them in their natural state.

Spring in Tehachapi -Morning walk

Posted on April 13, 2014 at 4:40 PM Comments comments (0)

With Sakai gone to Europe, I came to Tehachapi alone. But Ana and Kurokin keep me company.  Kurokin had been locked up in the ranch house for nearly a week, so sure enough she needed some fresh air.  Ana and I went for our morning walk around the ranch, Kurokin joined us.  The cherries and apple trees are in full bloom.  I feel at home here.

Wooden Boat

Posted on April 11, 2014 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

The night before taking off to his first art show in Germany,  Sakai was in the garage doing woodwork. It turned out he was working on a little wooden boat for Masa, our grandson.  It's Sakai first grandson, my step grandson.  I already met Masa last year but Sakai had not.  Masa is now almost 18 months. The boat rocks if you touch it and is balanced by two metal weights.  I think they are knobs that Sakai recycled. There is what looks to be like a sailor on the top.  It's a balancing act. The boat and the man can be disassembled by a child. I think it's age appropriate.   It's a beautiful work of art.  I always love the pieces Sakai makes for his friends on special occasions.  Meeting Masa will be very special.

Fresh bamboo - Soba Umami Workshop

Posted on April 9, 2014 at 2:15 AM Comments comments (0)


I got my first order of bamboo shoots from Penryn Farms. Last year, I wrote a story about their bamboo shoots in Zester Daily (here is the link). This year's shoots are particularly tender and delicious.  I got so excited, I contacted Penryn Farms' Laurence Hauben and asked her if she would be interested in hosting a soba workshop, using Penryn's spring produce like this bamboo.  She loved the idea.  We are doing the workshop at Laurence's house on April 27 from 11-2pm.  Here are the details. (" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Market Forways).  Penryn farms is up in the foothill of the Sierras. It is a small farm, about 5 acres - but he has a treasure full of citrus trees, pears, persimmons and a bamboo forest. I have never been there but their persimmons and bamboo shoots are superb.  Penryn's bamboo makes me think of my girlhood days in Kamakura - spring bamboo digging with my grandmother.  

California Poppies

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (0)


I love the dessert in the spring, especially when I see the large capets of bright orange poppies spread over the dessert.  I used to call the Poppy Reserve to find out when the poppies were blooming.  We would pack a bento and go see see the blooming fields and enjoy the wild life for an afternoon.  Now that we have a ranch in Tehachapi which is an hour beyond Lancaster, we go by these open fields every week.  During the year, it's just barren but wild flowers bloom in April and May and the sight is breathtakingly beautiful.  Here off of Avenue G in Lancaster, we spotted the poppies.  This year, the poppies are not as prolific as years past because of the drought.  But this patch of land benefited from underground water, perhaps?  The flowers go as far as your eyes can see.  They are so bright and cheerful.  

Snow in Tehachapi

Posted on April 3, 2014 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)


We finally had some rain and snow in March and April. I took this picture yesterday while walking with Ana and feeding the horses on our ranch.  The clouds were moving in.  Ana paused for a moment.  Sorrel, one of the horses, raised his head.  It felt like Ana in an oil painting.  

Bar Tartine - Dashi event

Posted on April 3, 2014 at 1:20 PM Comments comments (0)

We had a few wonderful days with our friend chefs, Nick Balla and Courtney Burns, and her kitchen team at Bar Tartine. I brought in my friend, proprietor of Yagicho-hoten - a shop in Nihonbashi, Tokyo that specializes in naturally dried food products like bonito flakes, seaweeds, beans and mushrooms.   With Mamiko, we did a dashi themed workshop and dinner event at Bar Tartine on March 25.  It was a sold out event, as the last one.  Mamiko and I made onigiri, using Gensenmai - a beautiful organic rice from Niigata, Japan. Mr. Ohno, rice farmer of Joint Farms donated the rice to us for this event.  He practices traditional farming methods, using heirloom koshihikari rice and vegetable composting. We made ongiris with dried kale, bonito flakes, aonori flakes, roasted sesame seeds and made a blend of brown rice and white rice.  I brought my Tiger rice cooker to cook the rice.  Everyone was raving about the onigiri course, which included onigiri, clam, buckwheat and greens miso soup, and brined pickles.  Thanks to our friends at Bar Tartine.  It was a fun experience.

Dashi ingredients - The Three Essentials

Posted on March 16, 2014 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Karebushi - Dried Bonito

If there are ten things I love about Japanese food, Katsuobushi would be one of the main reasons.  
It's the essence of Japanese cooking.  WIthout it, Japanese food won't taste very good.
Thanks to the Bonito fish and the artisans who make dried bonito. 
On March 22, I will be doing a Dashi seminar and Dashi/Umami workshop with my friend, owner of Yagicho Honten at JANM.  Check out my website for more information:

Basic Country Bread a la Tartine - Lesson 1

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 7:55 PM Comments comments (0)

After taking Dana Morgan's Tartine bread baking class in Weschester yesterday, I let the dough rest in the fridge overnight and took it out this afternoon to bake it.  One of the things that Chad Robertson, author of Tartine Bread Book repeatedly  advises in his book, is to wear long mitts so as not to burn yourself while handling the bread in the oven.  Boy, was he right! The temperature of the lodge pan gets up to 500F so it is really hot. You hair will sizzle if you are not careful.  I didn't have a lodge pan with a lid so I improvised and used a pan with no cover and a pizza stone.  IMy first attempt at baking a sour dough bread was not too bad.  The crust came out pretty good. Kind of chewy. We added the salt before letting the dough rest yesterday, so our teacher Dana Morgan said we might not get a good rise and that's what probably happened.  No matter how imperct, I loved my first bread.

I remember making a sour dough bread in highschool.  It was so hard, we almost used a hammer to crack it open. But I was proud.  There is a picture of me in one of the family albums holding that sour dough bread. I have to look for it.  This country bread was actually quite normal except the top. It's flat because it got squashed by the shallow pan.  More practice makes perfect.

Fried Rice with Koda Farms's Organic Nirvana Blend Rice

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I met Robin and Ross Koda of Koda Farms at the  Natural Products Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center.  Koda Farms has been making rice for three generations in Northern California.  I love their brown rice but I learned that they are also expanding into the blends - rice with millet, buckwheat, flax, sesame seeds, barley, etc.  The sample Robin gave me had 11 blends.  I cooked the rice in an electric rice cooker.  It came out on the dry side but the leftovers made perfect dried rice.  I sauteed some green oninos, herbs and shimeji mushrooms. (left overs from the Vietnamese spring roll we made last week) and added scrambled eggs and rice.  I was basically trying to clean up my fridge before leaving town tomorrow.  You never know what feast you can put together with left overs.  This fried rice was delicious. All it needed for seasoning was a little gray salt and pepper.

Onigiri with Daikon radish leaves and sesame

Posted on March 8, 2014 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (0)

When it comes to daikon radish, there is no part to throw away.  Even the leaves and stems can turn into a delicious kinpira dish when sauteed with sesame oil, soy,  mirin and red chili pepper.  I served the sauted chopped daikon leaves with rice the night before with koji marinated cod and some koji pickled napa cabbage.  Then with the left over sauteed daikon radish leaves, I made onigiri the next day. It was a delightful afternoon snack.  A sprinkle of sesame and gray salt are the additional seasonings that give this rice ball good flavor.

Anko - Sweet Azuki Bean Paste

Posted on March 4, 2014 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I have been making anko - azuki bean paste all morning.  This is my second batch.  I like the way the mound of paste is forming a peak, like a mini- mountain. That was where I wanted to be.  Still moist but firm enough to hold a form. The first batch came out drier. I cooked it too much, and this can happen very easily if you are not careful.

Anko, Azuki Bean paste, comes in smooth, creamy and coarse texutres. There are also whole bean anko, which leaves the beans entirely intact.  The version I made is semi mashed.  I am planning to make Daifuku, using this anko base.  The anko will rest until they have cooled down. Hope, I don't eat it all before I make Daifuku.  The anko keeps in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for 2-3 months.


360 grams of Azuki beans, washed and soaked overnight

250 grams cane sugar

Pinch of salt

Bring beans and water in a saucepan and cook the beans until the water starts boiling.

Discard water, and pour fresh water in the pan.  Bring to a boil again, and repeat the same step of

discarding the water.  Now start again with filling up the pan of beans with water but this time,

just let the beans barely soak in the water.  Trun heat to medium and cook the beans until they are soft.  Test severa

time for doneness.. If the water exposes, replenish more water.  When the beans are soft enough to smash with your

fingers and they are is no hard core, the beans are ready.

Process the beans in a food processor until they are chopped but not pureed.

Put the bean paste in the pot and add half the sugar. Mix well over high heat. Mix for a few minutes,

then add the rest of the sugar. Be careful not to burn the bean paste.  The paste is done when you can scoop it up,

drop it on a plate and it forms a peak, and stays put.

Use bean paste to sweeten your desserts or eat straight with a spoon or dilute it with water and make a sweet dessert soup.

12 years a Slave - Congratulations Chiwetel

Posted on March 3, 2014 at 1:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I didn't realize that the lead actor of 12 Years a Slave was Chiwetel who came to my soba workshop.  This was particularly a fun one.  Congratulations to the beautiful film.  Good job.  Eat more soba.

Rain of Diamonds

Posted on March 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Rain of diamonds
Brown leaf glistens
Mother's tears

Raining in Los Angeles

Posted on March 1, 2014 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

It's been pouring for two days.  How we needed this! It's coming down again, as I write.  Rain or shine,  Kinchan stays put in her cozy place.  Occasionally, she gets up to observe the rain. That's plenty of exercise for a 16 year old cat.

Good Snack: Brown Rice Onigiri with Pickled Plums

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 4:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I got a new rice cooker from my new friends at Tiger Rice Cooker.  They told me that this particular rice cooker has several layers of insulation, made of ceramic, which keep the heat intact while the rice is cooking. It is supposed to be great for cooking brown rice, which is slightly more challenging than milled rice.  I must say my brown rice came out pretty good. I still need to adjust the water level.  I always soak my brown rice overnight to let the grains absorb the water. Water levels differ from rice to rice so adjustments are always part of the process.  For this onigiri, I used Koda Farms Kokuho brown rice, which is an heirloom type that is grown in Northern California. 

I like to eat brown rice, fresh, as Onigiri. The filling, usually umeboshi - pickled plums. So simple and good. 

Dashi and Miso Soup

Posted on January 24, 2014 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (0)



When I think about the basic building block of Japanese cuisine, it all boils down to Dashi.  Here is a dashi story I wrote for Zester Daily.

Breakfast Miso Soup

Posted on December 7, 2013 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (3)

In our family, breakfast is not complete without miso soup.  My son likes to dip his toast in miso soup, which is something I have never seen Japanese people do, but he says it's good.

My own mother never made miso soup for breakfast, even though it is part of a traditional breakfast in Japan. But when we moved to the US in the 70s, she yearned for good miso.  One day, she cooked a pot full of soybeans and blended them to make a mushy white paste, to which she added salt and koji, a miso starter made from fermented rice, and created a huge mess in the kitchen.

The resulting miso was kept it in a lidded clay jar in the cool and dark corner of the garage to ferment for years. I used to sneak in there and stick in my finger  to lick the thick, grainy paste that looked like mud. Later, when I was much older, I realized I was snacking on a healthy protein, minerals and vitamin-rich live food. 

Miso comes in various shades of white and red varieties. Red (aka) miso like sendai and haccho are dark brown in color, and robust in flavor. Miso can be made by mixing fermented rice, koji, salt and grains, including barley, wheat, and legumes like fava beans and azuki beans.  White (shiro) miso pastes like saikyo are yellow in color, lighter and sweeter than red miso paste, and made primarily of koji. My miso soup is hearty.  I like to have a variety of vegetables from the land and sea. You can experiment with different types of miso. Some are saltier than the others, so when making miso soup, always taste the soup and make adjustments.  I always keep a variety in the fridge and some fermenting in the garage. I let my whim dictate which miso to use for my breakfast miso soup.


Miso Soup With Fava Beans, Zucchini and Tofu


3 1/2 cups Dashi 

3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons Mugi, Koji, white or red miso

1/4 cup, cooked and shelled fava beans

1/4 block -tofu, diced in to 1/4 -1/2 squares

1/2 zucchini, sliced thinly, 1/8 inch thick

1 scallion, sliced thinly, 1/8 inch thick

Bring the Dashi and the turnip o a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and add the zucchini for a couple of minutes.

In a small bowl, dissolve 3 1/2 tablespoons of the miso paste in a few tablespoons of the warm Dashi. Add the mixture to the saucepan. Taste and add more miso paste, Dashi or water, depending on how strong the soup tastes.

Add the tofu and fava beans and simmer for 1 minute. Turn off heat.

Pour the soup into individual bowls. Garnish with sliced scallions.

Serve immediately.



Regarding my pantry

Posted on December 7, 2013 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (0)

As a child, I used to love looking inside my grandmother's pale green kitchen cabinet of seasonings and utencils.  It was an old cabinet that my mother tried to get rid of, but my grandmother rescued it,  and put it in her kitchen to store food.  My brother stuck war plane stickers on the glass.  Grandmother had everything she needed in that cabinet.  It was like a treasure box.  My pantry is not in one place like hers. I keep my salt, pepper, sugar and soysauce on my kitchen counter.  The bottled staples like soy sauce, sake, mirin (sweet rice), and rice vinegar, and the oils, are on the shelf next to the range. The dried staples - bonito flakes, seaweeds, noodles, and beans fit snugly in one of my kitchen drawers. At least everything is within reach, except my aromatic fermented nuka pickles and miso, which I keep in the garage.  All my grains and flour are kept in the fridge or freezer, year round to ensure freshness.