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Tororo Kombu Soup with Umeboshi

Posted on November 28, 2009 at 12:08 PM Comments comments (4)


Tororo Kombu, sliced negi and umeboshi

Yesterday, I was still feeling full from the Thanksgiving feast.  Since there are no leftovers except for the one reject apple pie that stayed home, I am almost back to my regular eating pattern.  I made a tororo kombu soup for breakfast this morning.  The combination of the slightly vinegary taste of tororo kombu and the salty umeboshi has a calming effect on the tummy.  It was delicious.


Tororo Kombu Soup with Umeboshi

RECIPE:

31/2 cups Dashi or Vegetarian Dashi
4 small umeboshi, pitted and minced, about 3 1/2 teaspoons 
3 tbls sliced negi or scallions
4 tbls tororo kombu
3 tbls sake
1 tbls mirin
1 tsp soysauce

Remove the pit and mince the umeboshi.  The citric acid
in umeboshi helps digestion.

The tororo is one fine lumpy mass of kombu so cut and separate it into bite size pieces.  
In a saucepan, bring dashi over medium heat.  Add the sake, mirin, and soysauce.  Simmer for a couple of minutes.  Turn of heat and add the tororo kombu, minced umeboshi and sliced negi or scallions.  Gently mix the soup a couple times to incorporate  all the ingredients.  The soup is slimy but amazingly good. (yes, it looks like I scooped algae out of a pond!)  Serve it in small bowls.   


Tororo kombu in its hydrated form.


Tofu Nabe - Yudofu - Hot Pot Workshop Part II

Posted on November 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)


My grandmother's donabe

Nabe or Nabe-mono means "food cooked in a pot". It is a soupy Japanese dish eaten especially during the cold weather.  Even though my apple tree thinks spring is already here and is giving off blooms,  I think we are about to enter winter.  So it's perfect nabe season, and it couldn't not have been more timely to do the two Japanese hot pot Nabe workshops last weekend. To those who participated, I hope you enjoyed the workshop, and will incorporate nabe into your repetoire of dishes.  A few people could not make it for baby matters and other emergencies.  One couple couldn't find my house. They were driving up and down the alley way looking for the house but gave up and went to work instead (on a Sunday!)  I am so sorry that happened.  I will do a make up class after Thanksgiving.  


  November 14 Workshop


Thanks to Tortoise for their support, especially Keiko Shinomoto for sending me e-mails from Tokyo to make sure I had everything I needed for the workshop. To Naoko Moore for helping and sharing her knowledge in hot pot cooking; Marissa Roth for taking the beautiful pictures; and Jason Moore for volunteering in the kitchen. What a team!



TALKING ABOUT NABE



Nabe begins with a good dashi.  Dried Kombu
seaweed hydrating in water.

I began the Nabe workshop by telling the story of my grandmother's clay pot -donabe (see above picture).  At about age fifty three (roughly my age), my grandmother became a widow and lived mostly alone in Kamakura.  Many of her one-person meals were cooked in this small donabe.  The underside of her donabe is pitch black from the years of use.  I found her old donabe when I went to visit her house after she had passed away at the age of 102. The donabe was cracked in places, and ready to be put into the trash bin. I rescued the donabe, brought it back to the U.S., cooked some porridge in it to seal the cracks. It was at this hot pot work shop that I used my grandmother's restored donabe for the first time to demonstrate the tofu nabe - Yudofu. It was one of her favorite dishes. She would make yudofu her entire meal but if I was visiting her, the nabe was served as an appetizer, and she would get sashimi from the fishmonger.  I felt Grandmother's spirit near me during the workshop.




Yudofu - I love the simplicity of this tofu nabe.  Kyoto is its birthplace. Tofu is the main ingredient of this nabe and dried kombu seaweed is used to make the broth, dashi.  Other ingredients such as daikon, napa cabbage can join the pot, but the one I demonstrated was just tofu.  I like to make Yudofu with artisinal tofu, which can be found in a few places in Los Angeles. My favorite one is  Meiji Tofu, which you can find at Granada Market on Sawtelle in West Los Angeles.  Get their Silken tofu.  The basic broth is made with Kombu seaweed, which is full of umami - savoriness and thus, makes a good nabe starter.  We usually don't eat the kombu in the Yudofu but you can slice it up later and munch on it.  It's good fiber. Have it with a little miso.  Enjoy the heated tofu with the condiments.  



Set a piece of dried Konbu into the pot of water. Let stand for
30 minutes to extract the Kombu's umami, savory flavor.


Gently put the tofu on top of the kombu.


Serve the heated tofu with grated ginger, sliced scallions,  dried bonito flakes and soysauce.


RECIPE FOR YUDOFU
Serves 4 as an appetizer 

1 piece of Kombu seaweed, about 6 inches long
6 -8  cups water 
2 packages of silken tofu, preferrably artisinal like Meiji Tofu
6 oz daikon radish, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, about 2.5 inches long (optional)

Daikon makes a nice match with Tofu.

Condiments:
1 negi or 3 scallions, sliced thinly
Dried bonito flakes (fine shavings)
Shichimi pepper
Soysauce 


From top: hydrated kombu seaweed, dried bonito flakes (fine shavings) Grated ginger, soysauce and dried kombu seaweed.   They brighten and give flavor to the bland tofu.


HOW TO MAKE YUDOFU:

Slice the negi or scallions thinly and soak them in water for about 10 minutes. Drain water and wring lightly.  Serve in a bowl.  

Put the dried kombu seaweed and the soaking water in the pot, and let the Kombu hydrate for 30 minutes.

Cut the tofu into 8 squares.  Serve the tofu on a plate.

Peel the daikon radish and cut it into 2.5 inch long matchsticks.  Serve the daikon matchsticks on a plate.

Bring the tofu and daikon matchsticks to the table.  

Bring the pot  to the table and set it on the portable burner.  Turn on the heat and boil over medium heat. Bring heat down to low, uncover the pot, and gently put the tofu and daikon matchsticks into the pot. Leave it in until the tofu is warmed through, between 4-5 minutes.  Do not over cook the tofu.

Scoop out the heated tofu and daikon radish matchsticks, and serve in individuall bowls with the condiments of your choice: dried bonito flakes, sliced scallions, shichimi pepper, negi and soysauce.

Table top cooking: Use only half the amount of tofu and daikon radishes or the amount that will be eaten in one round. Reserve the other half for the second round.  Every person should have a spoon to scoop out the tofu.








Ganmodoki - Tofu Fritters with Yuzu

Posted on November 7, 2009 at 5:07 AM Comments comments (1)




We are approaching  yuzu season. This aromatic citrus is a bit pricy at about $1 or $2 for a tiny fruit, and at the moment, I can only find green unripe yuzus.The ripe yellow, mini-grapefruit shape beauties should come out soon though.  You can still use the green Yuzus in the same way as the yellow ones. A little zest adds lovely fragrance to the food, and to the hand that holds it. Yuzu is a nice brightener for gammadoki, tofu fritters. Gammodoki is a tofu based, vegetarian fritter.


  

Yuzu




These fritters are fried at a low temperature of 250 degrees F. If you deep fry it in higher temperatures, it will brown faster but you will end up with cold tofu inside so keep an eye on the thermometer.  To this tofu mixture, I added edamame and shitake mushroom, which gives the bland tofu a lot more flavor. Other possible fillings are chopped carrots, ginko nuts, lotus root, hijiki seaweed, black sesame seeds, chopeed shrimp, squid, octopus.  Make sure these vegetables and seafood don't exceed forty percent of tofu, or it will not hold together in the oil very well.  Gamodoki's other name is Hiryozu, Flying Dragon's head, and as in its name, I find the best way to eat it is piping hot with soysauce and yuzu or lemon; it makes a nice appetizer. Ganmodoki is a popuar ingredient in braised dishes and  Nabe, Japanese Hot Pots. Prepare the ganmodoki a few days ahead of time, and have them ready to throw in your hot pot!  And don't forget the yuzu.  You can add yuzu rinds into the hot pot or enjoy the cooked hot pot ingredients with a squeeze of yuzu. 


RECIPE 

Serves 4 - about 12 tofu balls


1 firm tofu, about 14 oz

1 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg 

1/2 cup edamame, shelled

4 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped

4 cups of vegetable oil for deep frying

 

Garnish - Yuzu wedges (if you can't find yuzu, use lemon or lime)

2 teaspoons of grated ginger 

Soysauce for the table.


 Wrap tofu with a clean cloth or paper towels and put it on a cutting board. Place another cutting board or plate on top of the tofu to press out the water, about 20 minutes.  Put tofu, egg, salt and flour in the food processor.  Process to make a paste. Add the edamame and shitake mushrooms.


In a cast iron pan, heat oil to 250-275F.   With slightly wet or oiled (use vegetable oil) hands, make tofu balls the size of a golf balls. The oil or water prevents the tofu mixture from sticking to your hands.  You should be able to make about a dozen. Slowly drop the tofu balls into the heated oil.  Deep fry the tofu balls slowly until they are golden.  Drain well on paper towels or newspaper. Serve them with yuzu or lemon weges, grated ginger and Soysauce on the side.  



Wrap the tofu in a clean cloth or paper towels.  Place a cutting

on top to press out water. 


Deep fry the tofu balls at around 250F-275F until golden.

Do not put too many balls in the oil. 


Remove excess oil with newspaper or paper towels


Serve with yuzu wedges, grated ginger and soy sauce.


Shimeji mushrooms and Tofu Miso Soup

Posted on November 6, 2009 at 5:13 AM Comments comments (0)





With so much going on around the house, my routine breakfast was interrupted for awhile.

I often found myself eating just a piece of toast and that was it for breakfast.  It's so much healthier to start the day with a bowl of miso soup.  I made it this morning with shimeji mushrooms and tofu.  I have some Negi, Japanese scallions, left over from the soba workshop.  I still picture  Akila Inouye slicing the Negi in mid-air.  The flavor of those uncrushed sliced negi was truely amazing.  



Akila's cut negi, soaking in water


RECIPE:

Serves 4


3 1/2 cups Vegan Dashi or Dashi

3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons Mugi, Koji, white or red miso or a combination of any two

1 package shimeji mushrooms, ends removed (about a cup)

1/2 square of soft tofu,


 

Bring the Dashi to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Put the tofu into the dashi.  Break it up with a ladle.  Add the mushrooms  and simmer 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. Turn off heat.

 

Pour the soup into individual bowls.


Serve immediately.

 

Optional: You can also add chopped hydrated maitake mushrooms you used to make the vegan dashi.

 


Vegan Miso Soup with Heirloom Tomato, Wakame and Tofu

Posted on October 19, 2009 at 12:51 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a lot going on outside this morning.  Our Oxacan gardner, Eddie, and Sakai are sanding and painting the patio. I am happy that the patio is finally getting a make-over but boy, is it noisy. I still practiced my morning ritual  of making soup, using for the first time, my homemade dried Maitake mushrooms to make a vegetarian dashi.  I could have discarded the mushrooms after making it but they were too precious. I chopped the mushrooms up and put them in the miso soup for additional texture. They are chewy and tasty but some people might find them on the rubbery side. The same texture can be said about kombu seaweed, which was used to make this vegan dashi. I sliced it up and ate that too.  It's a great source of fiber and minerals.  


RECIPE:

3 1/2 cups Vegan Dashi or Dashi 

3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons Mugi, Koji, white or red miso or a combination of any two

1 tomato, cut in quarters, and then slice each quarter crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces

2 tsp wakame seaweed, hydrated and cut into bite size pieces

1/2 square of soft tofu, cut into 1/4 inch squares


 

Bring the Dashi to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.  Add the hydrated wakame seaweed, tomatoes and tofu and simmer 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. Turn off heat.


 

Pour the soup into individual bowls.

 

Serve immediately.


Optional: You can also add chopped hydrated maitake mushrooms you used to make the vegan dashi. 


Miso Soup with Corn, Napa Cabbage and Spinach

Posted on October 18, 2009 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)


I hear from my friends in New York that it's like December weather over there.  Here in LA, we are back to summer again. I bought some corn from a local farmer who told me that corn is still good.  I didn't eat much corn this summer but the two times that I ate it, they were fantastic. Corn is delicious in miso soup.  I shucked a whole corn and put it in the breakfast miso soup with some spinach and napa cabbage.  I had two servings. 

   
   Still in season?

 


RECIPE

Serves 4

3 1/2 cups Dashi (see BASICS for Dashi broth recipe) or Dried Maitake Mushroom Dashi (here is the link for the recipe)

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

1 corn, shucked

3 spinach leaves, sliced thinly, 1/4 inch thick

2 napa cabbage leaves, sliced thinly, 1/4 inch thick

2 green onions, sliced thinly


 

Bring the Dashi and the diced potatoes to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and add the corn and napa cabbage until they are tender, about 2 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 spinach and Simmer for 1 minute. Turn off heat.

Pour the soup into individual bowls.


 

Sprinkle each bowl with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.







Satsuma-imo -Fall Miso Soup with Sweet Potato

Posted on October 17, 2009 at 5:14 AM Comments comments (1)

Satsuma-imo, washed and ready
Satuma-imo!  Satuma-Age.  I am cooking lots of things from Kyushu, the Southern Island of Japan. Didn't plan it that way.  Just happened to find a box full of Satsuma-sweet potatoes at the entrance of Nijiya Market and had to get some.  They are similar to sweet potatos but milder in flavor.  Yaki-imo, roasted satsuma potatoes, is a popular street food in Japan.  I don't  make soup with sweet potatoes that often but I wanted to celebrate their arrival.  It's a hearty soup.  I was so full this morning, I skipped lunch.





I cut the sweet potato into 1/4 inch dices

 

 

RECIPE:

 

MISO SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO AND TOFU

Serves 4


 

3 1/2 cups Dashi (see BASICS for Dashi broth recipe) or Maitake Mushroom Dashi (Vegan) 

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

1/2 satsuma potato or sweet potato, cut in quarters, and then slice each quarter crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces (about 1.5 cups) 

1 square of soft tofu

2 green onions, sliced thinly


 

Bring the Dashi and the diced potatoes to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 4 minutes.  


n 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 Simmer for 1 minute. Turn off heat.

Pour the soup into individual bowls.


 

Sprinkle each bowl with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.

 

 



Miso Soup with Broccoli and Wakame Seaweed

Posted on October 15, 2009 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (3)


 


Did you eat your broccoli today?  Whenever I go away on business, I come back to find a nearly empty fridge at home, except for the vegetable compartment. There is always broccoli that keeps Sakai company. It's a good choice. This flowery green vegetable is a dependable food, packed with vitamins and dietary fiber and it is inexpensive in America.  I say this because the last time I priced a broccoli in Tokyo, I was shocked to find that a "single" broccoli branch can cost as much as $7.  I wanted to make broccoli soup for my Dad but I made pumpkin soup instead.  


At home in California, I feel grateful that I can eat broccoli whenever I want. I like to eat broccoli steamed, with a little sesame oil and soy sauce.  Sometimes, I make a whole meal out of it.  Today, I thought it would be nice to use it in my breakfast soup with wakame seaweed.  Wakame, like broccoli, is loaded with rich nutrients, especially minerals.   Wakame is not as common as broccoli in America but it will be sooner or later. I can vouch for that.



Here is a beautiful broccoli.  You can eat almost every part of it.



I separated the flowers from the stem.



I cut up the stem into small pieces and used them for the soup, too.


I hydrated some cut-wakame seaweed.  It only takes a few

minutes to hydrate into more than triple its original size.


RECIPE


Serves 4

 

RECIPE:

 

Miso Soup with Broccoli and Wakame seaweed


 

3 1/2 cups Dashi (see BASICS for Dashi broth recipe) or Dried Maitake Mushroom Dashi (Here is the link for recipe)

3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons Mugi, Koji, white or red miso or a combination of any two

1 tomato, cut in quarters, and then slice each quarter crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces

2 stalks of broccoli, stems cut into small pieces, 1/4 inch thick and flowers separated into bite-size pieces or smaller

2 Tbls wakame seaweed, hydrated and cut into bite size pieces


 

Bring the Dashi to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the cut and hydrated wakame seaweed.


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. Turn off heat.


Pour the soup into individual bowls.

 


Serve immediately.

 


Heirloom Tomato and Tofu Miso Soup

Posted on October 14, 2009 at 12:16 PM Comments comments (0)




Rain at last!  The rain was tapping so hard on the skylight window, it woke me up in the middle of the night.  I got up to make tea. I cleared up the dishes in the dish rack.  I didn't feel like going back to sleep so I started cooking. I  made dashi. Sounds a bit crazy but it is actually nice to work in the kitchen when everyone is sleeping and all you hear is the rain. My mother was worse than me. She used to bake pies in the middle of the night. This morning, I was all set to go with fresh dashi for my miso soup.  The last of my heirloom tomato made the rainy morning cheerful.  





RECIPE:


Miso Soup with Tomato and Tofu


 

 

3 1/2 cups Dashi (see BASICS for Dashi broth recipe) or Dried Maitake Mushroom Dashi (here is the link for recipe)

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

1 tomato, cut in quarters, and then slice each quarter crosswise into 1/2-inch thick pieces

1/2 square of soft tofu

2 green onions, sliced thinly


 

Bring the Dashi toa boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.

 

 

 

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 Tomato and Tofu and Simmer for 1 minute. Turn off heat.

Pour the soup into individual bowls.


 

Sprinkle each bowl with chopped green onion. Serve immediately.















Japanese Breakfast - I Stand for Goodness

Posted on October 11, 2009 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)



I am curious about what people eat for breakfast.  We got to talking about it with my Japanese friends Taku and Keiko the other night. They moved from Japan six years ago and live in Venice Beach. What's interesting is that when it comes to breakfast, Taku wants his bowl of rice, the Japanese way. Rice everyday? I asked him. "Yes, rice everyday. Not bread."  His wife Keiko, on the other hand, prefers a bowl of cereal, the American way.  Not rice. Not bread.  She comes from three generations of a cereal-loving modern Japanese family. Me? I am not big on cereal. They sit in the box and go stale. What about rice? I am partial to having rice for breakfast but I don' eat it as much as I used to when I was a child. My mother often made a wokful of fried rice during the morning rush to feed five children.  I can picture us coming down into the bright lemon yellow Pasadena kitchen and find my mother standing in front of her Kenmore stove dumping Green Giant's frozen vegetable mix and dehydrated onions into the day old rice to jazz up the flavor.  She served the fried rice in plastic Melmac ware that matched the color of the kitchen and the frozen vegetables. What I remember most about her breakfast fried rice was not so much the flavor but the texture of these still frozen squares of carrots and peas.  My teeth would always tingle when I bit into them.


In my adult life, I rarely use Green Giant frozen food in my cooking, even though they say it stands for goodness. I make miso soup and bread for breakfast and my family is happy.  If I do a full on Japanese breakfast of miso soup, steamed rice, grilled salmon, fermented soybean, natto, nori seaweed and pickles, my family is very happy.  I made miso soup this morning, with enoki mushrooms and tofu. We had some natural comb honey, a souvenir from North Carolina, and good butter to spread on the toasted baguette. It was all good. I kind of miss my mother's breakfast fried rice and the tingling sensation I got from eating those green -snappin' fresh, kitchen-sliced to taste the best veggies but what matters most, my mother would agree, is to eat a solid breakfast.  


RECIPE


Miso Soup with Tofu and Enoki Mushrooms


Serves 4


3 1/2 cups Dashi(here is the link) or Dried Maitake Mushrooms Dashi (here is the link to the vegan recipe)

3 1/2 to 4 tbls koji, white or red miso

6 oz soft tofu, drained

1/2 pack enoki mushrooms, ends trimmed

3 green onions, chopped thinly


Bring the Dashi to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.  


In a small bowl, dissolve 31/2 tablespoons of the miso paste in a few tablespoons of the warm Dashi.  Add the mixture to the suacepan. Taste and add more miso paste, Dashi or water, depending on how strong the soup tastes.


Add the tofu to the soup.  Break up the tofu in the saucepan.  Add the enoki mushrooms. Pour the soup into individual bowls.


Sprinkle each bowl with chopped green onion.  Serve immediately.  






 


Taking flight with Ginger - Sunomono

Posted on October 5, 2009 at 6:53 PM Comments comments (0)




When one of my films premiered in Tokyo a few years ago, my friend Yumiko whom I have known since I was 13 years old gave me this handmade grater in the shape of a crane as a present.  In Japan, the crane, along with the turtle, is the symbol of longevity and good luck. At first I regarded this grater as something to admire and not as a tool for my kitchen. I kept it in the original box and it sat in my closet next to the jewelry box, as if waiting for its turn to be worn one day.  But no, that's not what this metal crane was born to do. I finally let the bird out of the box the other day and put it to use in my kitchen. This tin plated copper crane works very well as a grater, especially with ginger. If you look at the surface of the grater, you can see its rows of sharp teeth.  They are individually cut by hand.  Unlike the plastic and stainless steel graters that I have, this artisinal grater makes a smoother and creamier grated ginger.  The grater is also lovely to look at so you can bring it right to the table. Today, I made a wakame and cucumber sunomo with grated ginger.   


Cucumbers soaking in salt water


Wakame and Cucumber Sunomono 


RECIPE


Serves 4


1 medium European cucumber or 2 persian cucumbers, peeled and sliced thinly, 1/8 inch thick pieces

2 tbls dried and cut wakame seaweed, reconstituted in water

1 tsp peeled and grated ginger

1 tsp salt


Rice Vinegar Dressing

3 tbls rice vinegar

1 tbls Yuzu or any citrus juice (lime, orange, lemon)

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tbls soy sauce

3 tbls dashi (here is the link) or Dried Maitake Mushroom dashi (here is the link to the vegan recipe)




Dried wakame can be found in cut size pieces or larger

pieces which you will have to cut up. 





In water, Wakame is back to its happy self.


Make the vinegar dressing by combing the vinegar, soysauce, sugar, citrus juice and dashi. You can make the dashi 2-3 days in advance and use the dashi for making Miso Soup if you like.


Reconstitute the dried wakame in a bowl of water.  It will expand to about triple in size.This will take about 2 - 5 minutes, depending on the size of the seaweed.  If you have uncut wakame seaweed, cut them in 1/2 inch pieces before you dehydrate them.  Squeeze out excess water and set aside. (Note: You don't want to let the wakame dry out so if you are not planning to make the sunomo right away, leave the wakame in the bowl of water and keep it in the fridge for up to a couple hours.)


Peel and slice the cucumbers into 1/8 inch thick pieces.  Rub 1 teaspoon of salt and transfer the salted cucumbers to a bowl. Fill with enough water to cover.  Let stand in the brine for 5-10 minutes in the fridge.  Drain water and squeeze out excess water.


When you are ready to serve the sunomono, take the wakame out of the water and squeeze out excess water.  Combine wakame and cucumbers in a serving bowl.  Toss together.  Make a nice mound.  Season with the vinegar dressing and garnish with grated ginger. Serve immediately.


Additonal garnish: You can sprinkle roasted sesame seeds if you like.






Homemade Fast Food- Onigiri Rice Ball

Posted on October 1, 2009 at 1:13 PM Comments comments (0)






Okay so it's October 1.  Opening day of Sakai's art Exhibition.  Eddie, Sakai's assistant arrived at 730am to wash the last stone sculpture and stone bases for the show.  I drove out to rent-a-wreck to return the truck. Sakai has been burning the midnight oil for the last three days.  The brochures and posters have been printed.  Having an art show is exciting and nerve racking at the same time. Sakae calls from Portland to wish his Dad good luck.  I can only hope for the best turn out and response. 




Last night was fast food night and this morning is the same too. That means rice balls for most Japanese people.  You can grab it like a sandwhich and run.  The stuffing can be anything from grilled salmon such left overs from last night to seasoned ground meat or grilled tarako- cod roe.  There is a little rice left over to make one rice ball this morning so I decide to make one and stuff it with a pickled plum -umeboshi.  There is an old Japanese saying - A pickled plum a day keeps the doctor away.  


There isn't much of a recipe for making Onigiri.  You just need steamed rice.  Use short or medium grain rice.  The fresher the rice, the tastier. The rice balls I made last night were great because the rice was steaming hot and fresh. This morning I am working with day old rice but it is still good.  You will need some salt, a pickled plum and a crispy sheet of nori seaweed to wrap the rice ball. Use about 3/4 cup of rice for each rice ball.




Fresh steamed rice tastess the best but mine is the leftover from

last night.  I want to use it up.  Have also a bowl of salt water, using

about a teaspoon of salt to 3 cups of water.  This is for wetting

your hands while you make the rice ball.


First wash your hands.  Dip you hands in the bowl of salted

water to keep it a little wet so the rice doesn't stick to your

hands while molding the rice ball.  Put a dab of salt to season

the rice ball (about 1/4 tsp).  Too much water on your hands

will make the rice ball soggy so don't over do it.



I put a pickled plum in the center of the rice ball.

Make sure you remove the pit from the pickled plum.


Using both palms and fingers, hold the rice and mold it into a

triangle. You can make a round rice ball if the triangle is too

difficult. But it really isn't.  Cup the pointed corners with your fingers

and press down to make the mountain shape.  Then turn the 

rice ball and repeat until all three corners have a nice peak.

A snow covered Mt. Fuji.



This is a small Onigiri.  I used 1/4 sheet of the nori and

cut it into smaller pieces to wrap it. You can sprinkle

the Onigiri with roasted sesame seeds or Furikake, if you like.

This onigiri is too small for the sculptors. 

So I eat it.  So good!  


Nothing can be Everything

Posted on September 28, 2009 at 6:58 PM Comments comments (0)





Sakai has been going back and forth between Santa Monica and downtown LA, making art deliveries to the gallery. There are four more days left to the show.  We are passed the intense period. Last week it felt like a volcano was erupting right in our backyard.  This week it feels more like the calm before the storm. One more sculpture to go. Sakai is finishing up a huge wall piece.




I make lunch - just for myself.  I go for plain steamed broccolinis. Sometimes it is nice to eat vegetables with nothing on it.  Nothing can be everything.  





Dried Shitake and Kombu Dashi - Vegan broth

Posted on September 28, 2009 at 12:32 PM Comments comments (0)






DRIED SHITAKE MUSHROOMS AND KOMBU DASHI

Makes 8 cups


This will keep five days in the refrigerator, so you can make it the night before. This Dashi can be used to miso soup, nabe, chawanmushi, and to season a variety of dishes.

Dashi stays fresh for 3-4 days in the fridge.


2 pieces dashi kombu (6 inches long)

8 cups water

8 dried shitake mushrooms (Donko)


In a large bowl, combine the dried shitake mushrooms and water. Let it stand in the refrigerator overnight. Add the kombu seaweed to the mushroom liquid thirty minutes, or until ithe Kombu hydrates. Remove the mushrooms and the kombu. Discard or use for other puposes. 


Optional method: For a stronger flavor, put the soaking ingredients into a saucepan.  Cook the ingredients over medium heat.  Just before the water boils, remove the kombu.  Let the mushrooms cook for another 3 minutes over simmering heat.   Strain liquid.


Note: The hydrated kombu and mushrooms can be sliced and eaten with soysauce or

made into a pickle (Tsukudani).


Dried Maitake Mushroom Dashi - Vegan Broth

Posted on September 26, 2009 at 12:24 PM Comments comments (0)



The Maitake mushrooms dried very nicely in the sun.  It took two days to shrivel up. I made this vegan dashi, using the dried shitake mushrooms, dried Kombu seaweed, water and a little sake.  It is very fragrant and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare it.  You can use this dashi in the place of fish based dashi.   
RECIPIE:

Makes 31/2 cups of vegan broth

1 handful of dried Maitake mushrooms (separated and ends trimmed)
1 dried Kombu, about 2-inches long
4 cups water
1 tsp sake

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until the water begins to boil. Turn to a simmer and let  the mushrooms and kombu cook for 10 minutes.  Strain and discard the mushrooms and kombu or sliced them up and put them in your soup or eat them as a snack.





Drying Maitake Mushrooms - Santa Monica

Posted on September 25, 2009 at 4:51 PM Comments comments (0)




We are still having good beach weather in Southern California, with temperatures in the high 80s, even 90s.  My neighbor Ellen had a big party last night that went late but she didn't  miss her Sunday walk with me on the Santa Monica boardwalk. People were on the beach, soaking in the sun, playing volleyball, jogging,rollerblading, etc. When I got home, I had lots of things I wanted to do; one of them was dehydrating mushrooms.


Dehydrating vegetables intensifies their flavor, alter, and often improve their texture. Like dried Shitake mushrooms, dried Maitake mushrooms make a great vegan broth. I decided to make some for my breakfast miso soup.  More miso soup?  You bet.  I am on a breakfast miso soup roll.


Maitake means Dancing Mushrooms in Japanese.  They are as beautiful and elegant as its name and prized in Japan and China for its medicinal properties.  I love their earthy fragrance, and the nutty and smoky flavors.  I use fresh Maitake mushrooms in my mushroom donabe rice recipe but for my vegan miso soup, I infuse the dried mushrooms to make the broth.


I am leaving these Maitake mushrooms in the sun for 2-3 days, until they are completely dry and flakey. I hope to get another sunny day, otherwise, these guys will go moldy on me and I will have to wait until next summer.  But who knows, LA might be in for an endless summer.


Day 2

Footballs- Inari sushi

Posted on September 25, 2009 at 2:10 AM Comments comments (4)

The only people I know who call Inari sushi Footballs are my Japanese-American friends. When I first heard it called that way,  I laughed.  I didn't understand anything about the game because I had just moved from Japan but I knew what a football looked like and I could see the resemblance.  In Japan, we call Inari zushi Oinari-san, with an honorific "o" and "san" at the beginning and end.  It's because Inari also happens to be the Japanese mythological God of fertility.  It turns out that this God has a fox servant who loves deep fried tofu.


Don't ask me how a fox acquired a taste for such food but if you visit a shrine or temple in Japan where Inari is worshipped, you will sometimes find an Inari sushi or a piece of deep fried Tofu hanging in a place as an offering to Inari and the fox. I hear Buddhist monks don't encourage this practice but worshipers do it.  Now God Inari, the Fox and the Sushi share the same name: Oinari-san. 


In the last ten years, Inari sushi has become very popular in the US.  If there is a market that sells sushi, I usually find Inari along with California and Spicy tuna rolls.  But I never buy them.  I find store made Inaris terribly sugary and the sushi rice is often dry from sitting in the refrigerated display.  I know the health department imposes certain rules but sushi should never go in the fridge.  Inaris should be eaten right away when they are plumpy and juicy.


Inaris are easy to make at home. Kids love them.  When my son Sakae was in highschool, I would make a large plate of inaris as an afternoon snack  He would bring a half a dozen of his waterpolo team mates ( big guys) over and within minutes, all the inaris would disappear along with everything else in the fridge. 


Marking an inari is like stuffing a pillow with feathers.  Same theory applies. Try to get the stuffing to reach the corners but don't over stuff.  Start by stuffing the seasoned tofu pouches with plain sushi rice. When you get comfortable making inaris, you can try mixing plain sushi rice with vegetables.  If braising vegetables like I did in this recipe is too much work, you can shred raw carrots or slice up some cucumbers, rub them with a little salt, squeeze out the excess water and put them in the sushi rice.  Be creative.

 

RECIPIES


FOOTBALLS WITH PLAIN SUSHI RICE - Junior Varsity

What you need to make Footballs - Inaris are two things: Seasoned Tofu Pouches and Sushi Rice. 


Serves 4


SEASONED TOFU POUCHES:

16 Deep fried tofu pieces (Four pieces in a package. See picture.) - In Japanese deep fried tofu is called Age or Abura age 

1 1/2 cups Dashi (here is the link) or Dried Maitake mushrooms dashi (here is the link for the vegan recipe)

3 1/2 Tbls Sugar

1 1/2 Tbls Mirin

3 Tbls Soy sauce


 

This Oagesan brand contains 4 inari pouches.


Deep fried tofu pouches are sold in either small or large pieces. The small ones are the size of one Inari pouch.  If they are large, slice them crosswise in half and you have two Inari pouches.  Blanch the pouches in hot water to remove the excess oil before seasoning them.  Drain well.



 

Cook the blanched tofu pouches in dashi, sugar, mirin and soy sauce over low heat until the deep fried tofu pouches absorb most of the broth.  Remove from heat.  Store in a tupperware.  



The inaris will absorb most of the seasoned broth.  You want

the inaris to have some broth left in them so they come out

moist when you eat them

 

SUSHI RICE:

(makes enough rice to stuff 16 inari sushi)

1 3/4 cups short or medium grain white rice

1 3/4 cups water

2 inch piece dried konbu seaweed (optional)


Vinegared dressing for Rice:

4 Tbls rice vinegar

2 1/2 Tbls sugar

2/3 tsp salt

 

Rinse the rice and drain.  Cook the rice with the measured water and a piece of

dried konbu seaweed in the rice cooker or in a pot.  Follow manufacturer's instructions

for steaming rice.  Discard the seaweed. 


When the rice is cooked, transfer it to a large bowl.  Add the vinegared dressing by pouring it evenly all over the rice.  Cut the vinegar into the rice with a rice paddle or wooden spatula. Toss gently.  Make sure the vinegar is incorporated into the rice evenly.  


Slit one side of the seasoned pouch.  "Gently" squeeze some of the broth and open the pouch using your fingers.  Don't squeeze too much of the broth out and be careful not to tear the pouch.  If you do, chop it up and put it into the sushi rice or eat it!  You should be able to put 1/3 cup or more sushi rice in each pouch. Close the pouch so the rice doesn't spill out. Fold one end on top of the other to seal and then the pouch over to the other side so the seal is at the bottom. That will hold the pouch together.  Makes 16 footballs.


GARNISH:

4 Tbls roasted sesame seeds

Sushi Ginger Recipe  (here is the link)





FOOTBALLS WITH VEGETABLE SUSHI RICE - Varsity

Serves 4

To the plain Sushi rice (recipe above), add the seasoned chopped seasoned vegetables. Make the vegetables before you cook the sushi rice.  You can do this a couple days in advance and keep the vegetables in the fridge. 

Braised Carrot and burdock 

1 medium carrot

1/2 burdock

1 Tbls vegetable oil

1 Tbls sugar

2/3 Tbls soy sauce


Peel the carrot and burdock and cut them into 1/8 inch cubes.

Heat oil in a frying pan and saute the cut vegetables over medium heat. Add sugar and soysauce and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Set aside.





Braised Shitake mushrooms (here is the link) should be made in advance.

Slice The braised mushrooms and then chop finely.



Combine the chopped braised Shitake, Burdock and Carrots and mix them into the sushi rice. If there is too much juice in the vegetables, squeeze out excess before mixing them into the sushi rice.  


Be careful not to mash the rice while mixing in the vegetables.. A rice paddle works best.  The one in the picture is not a good example.  A rice paddle has a flat surface which works much better when mixing cooked rice.


I added a couple of tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds. 


Now the pouches are ready to be stuffed.  Slit one side of the pouch. Gently squeeze out excess broth and open the pouch gently.  Careful not to tear the pouch.  You should be able to put 1/3 cup or more rice in each pouch.  Close the pouch so the rice doesn't spill out.  Fold one end on top of the other to seal and then the pouch over to the other side so
the seal is at the bottom.  That will hold the pouch together. 



The pouches will seal themselves with the weight of the rice inside.  These are ready to be served.



Sakai's assistant helps himself to the footballs.  He ate nine in one day.  He teaches kickboxing.  I am sure he can eat more if I let him.


MENU SUGGESTIONS: Inaris, Vinegared Cucumber and Wakame Sunomono, Vinegared Ginger, Miso Soup

Braised Shitake mushrooms - Basics

Posted on September 24, 2009 at 4:10 PM Comments comments (0)



I always keep a jar of dried shitake mushrooms around.  Braised, they make a nice condiment for noodles, Inari (here is the link) and Chirashi -sushi.  You can slice them up or use whole.

 


RECIPE


6 Dried Shitake mushrooms, reconstituted in water

6 Tbls Shitake mushroom water (from soaking)

2 Tbls Sugar

1 1/2 Tbls Soy Suace

 

Reconstitute the dried shitake mushrooms in a bowl of water.  After 30 minutes, the mushrooms will hydrate and look full. They look gorgeous.   Trim stems and discard.  


 


In a small saucepan, combine Shitake mushrooms, shitake mushroom water, sugar, soysauce and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat.  


  


Keeps in the fridge for about a week. 



Finely chopped braised shitake mushrooms on the

left side of the dish.  The right side is braised burdock and

carrots.  They will be used for making inari  

or chirahsi sushi.



Chestnut Rice - A Fall Dish

Posted on September 21, 2009 at 8:38 PM Comments comments (0)





I missed Ana's afternoon walk yesterday. I was mailing out the announcements for Sakai's art show and my friends in Echo Park invited me over for dinner, so I had to leave early.  Ana gets two walks a day. Sakai gets up no later than 6 am (This sculptor works like a farmer.) walks Ana, eats a hearty breakfast and goes to his studio. With all the pounding that's been going on in the studio, however, by early afternoon, Ana needs a break from the sculptor's garden.  That's when she comes to me with a tennis ball in her mouth to remind me it's time to go outside and play. I still have to finish peeling the chestnuts for the rice I am making and answer a few e-mails.  Ana waits patiently in the patio.  Her ears perk up when I call her name.   


These California grown Chestnuts are one of the signs that fall is finally coming. Chestnuts are easier to peel when they are fresh. I slit a cross in the shell and briefly boil them in salt water for about 5 minutes.  After they have cooled down a bit, I peel off the hard shell, then the bark like skin and get to the bright yellow meat.  It takes me about 20 minutes to peel 15 chestnuts.  I am going to make the chestnut rice in a donabe rice cooker but first the walk.   








RECIPE

Serves 6


15 Chestnuts in their shell

1 tsp salt for soaking the chestnuts

2 cups Short grain white rice

3 Tbls Sweet rice

2 inch piece Konbu seaweed (optional)

1 Tsp salt

1 Tsp light color soy sauce 

2 1/4 cups of water 

1-2 Tbls roasted sesame seeds 


Equipment: Donabe rice cooker or Electric rice cooker.


Soak the chestnuts in warm water for about an hour. Soaking will soften the shell of the chestnut.  Cut and cross with a knife on the flat side of the chestnuts.  Peel the chestnuts.  


Put the peeled chestnuts in a bowl of warm water with the measured salt for about 30 minutes.  Drain water.  Slice the chestnuts into 1/2-inch pieces.  In a medium pot of water, put the chestnuts and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  

 

Rinse the short grain and sweet rice together.  Put the rice in a bowl with enough water to cover the rice.  Soak for about 15 minutes.  Drain.  

 

Combine the rice, chestnuts, salt, soy sauce, konbu seaweed and measured water and cook in a donabe rice cooker,  electric rice cooker or regular pot as you would cook steamed rice  Gently toss the rice and serve in individual rice bowls.  Garnish with roasted sesame seeds if you like.


The black square is the konbu seaweed.

   





Discard the konbu.  You can eat this.  It's great fiber.



 


MENU SUGGESTIONS: CHESTNUT RICE, ROASTED EGGPLANT WTIH SCALLIONS AND GINGER, TUNA SASHIMI, VINEGARED OCTOPUS



Off she goes!  




Note: Chestnut Rice makes a nice accompaniment to almost any fish or meat dish. I use a konbu based vegetarian broth so this would make a nice dish for vegans. I cooked the Chestnut rice in a donabe rice cooker. I also did a story in the Los Angeles Times on Donabe Rice Cooking, which features the donabe rice cooker.

and goes into more detail about  how to use the donabe rice cooker.

Whole Grains Day

Posted on September 1, 2009 at 6:01 PM Comments comments (1)
Brown Rice with sprinkles of black sesame seeds






Even though the days are still hot in LA and we have not managed to contain the fires, I felt a hint of cooling down this morning, which gave me some relief and hope. The start of the fall season is around the corner.

I made a pot of brown rice today with the new crop grown in California. The grains were fat and shiny. I got so excited that I designated the first day of September Whole Grains Day for health and pleasure.  

I have an interesting family history of eating brown rice. My mother became a brown rice convert in the early 70s when we moved to LA from Tokyo. She comes from the older generation of Japanese who shunned brown rice and kabocha pumpkin because they remind them of the hardships of war.  In the initial days of living in LA, my mother loved every form of processed foods she saw at the supermarket.  To her white meant peace time, end of hunger, hope, modern life, affluence.  Bleached white flour, white sugar, white rice, cream, milk, cheese. Her kitchen pantry was stocked with processed food.  Then one day, she attended a health retreat and realized that maybe the food she was feeding her family wasn't so healthy and decided to make a change.  She had the pressure cooker going regularly with brown rice in it. I was afraid to enter the kitchen out of fear that the pressure cooker might explode.  She would grill brown rice balls on the barbecue and stuff our bento boxes with them. She made miso and kept it the basement to ferment.  Even the lowly kabocha got a second chance for all the nutrients it had.  Not all her five kids nor my father had the same appreciation for these wholesome foods as she did but I was one of her converts.  Brown rice and Kabocha became my comfort foods.



Pressure cookers have come a long way since my mother's days.  They are safer and easier to handle. I have an electric SR-106N Panasonic pressure cooker that allows me to set the timer and walk away.  It gives me the nuttiest and moist brown rice.  Every pressure cooker works a little differently so you will need to follow the manufacturer's directions but I swear by this one.  I've had it for fifteen years and gave one to my sister.

Let me tell you what toppings I love with brown rice- skip the butter for a change and try a combination of  roasted sesame seeds, sea salt, cracked red pepper and cut nori seaweed. It's delicious.  You can make a wholesome meal with a bowl of brown rice and some vegetables on the side. Hey why not that kabocha.  I am sounding  just like my mother now. That's what my brothers and sisters would say.