Monday, January 31, 2011

Rice Salad

The weekend was almost a sneak preview of spring.  Warmer air, sunshine, birds' singing.....  just missing flower blossoming.  I heard that this area will be beautiful in spring.  I just have to be patient for another couple of months.

I made this rice salad with leftover rice from a night before.  It's very light and refreshing dish, yet you can get vegetables, meat, and carbohydrate.  So I prefer to eat it as one meal but it's a kind of sad to only eat this for dinner.  A weekend lunch is perfect time to do so.

3 cups of cooked rice
1 medium tomato
1 carrot
1 stalk of celery
1/3 yellow or orange pepper
2 boiled eggs
1 can of tuna
3 table spoons  chopped parsley
Lemon juice form 1/2 lemon
2 table spoon of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

< 1 > Cut the all the vegetables to 3/8 inch cubes.
< 2 > Chop the eggs to same size.
< 3 > Drain the liquid out of tuna can and loosen it with a fork.
< 4 > Mix the all the ingredients together.

Put olives, caper, or pine nuts. Decorate with sliced boiled egg.  

I used left over Jasmine rice ( half white, half brown ).  I think any kind of rice will work.  

So I was reviewing what I have baked this month....  I had been baking that much before.  It is almost my new year's resolution to be a good baker.  I want to be able to bake like as I can cook.  I'm looking forward to baking in February, too!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Apple Upside Down Cake

This is the last cake of this month....  I hope!  I'll review what I've baked so far this month tomorrow.  I'm going crazy about baking.  I didn't expect this to happen to me one month ago.  But I am happy it did.  I found a new joy in my life.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Soba Salad

This dish actually makes a great summer lunch since it is served cold.  The soba noodle tossed with citrus and vinegar sauce just slide down into your throat.  (But don't forget to chew it!)
It was pretty warm today here in East TN.  Nice and sunny.  It was such a teat after the cold weather.  So I decided to cook one of my favorite dish that is not really suitable for a cold day.  

*Soba Noodle Salad*
8 oz Soba
1/2 package of Tofu
1/2 medium tomato
1 avocado

Some lettuce, herbs, or scallion for garnish

Lemon juice form 1/2 lemon
1 table spoon rice wine vinegar
2 table spoon soy sauce
2 tea spoon freshly graded ginger
1 tea spoon sugar
1 tea spoon sesame oil

< 1 > Start boiling soba according to the package.
< 2 > Cut the tofu to bite size and place it on a colander to get lid of excess liquid.
< 3 > Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a large bowl.
< 4 > Cut tomato and avocado into bite size and mix with the sauce.  
< 5 > After soba is boiled, immediately rinse soba with cold water to cool the temperature down.  But make sure the noodles are drained well.
< 6 > Mix soba and tofu in the mix.

Garnishing with thinly chopped scallion, or red onion is nice.  Serving this noodle salad on a bed of leaf is one of my favorite way of eating especially if I have mizuna.
As for the herbs, fresh shiso will be really refreshing but I can't get it at where I live.  In NY suburb, it was so easy since there were lots of Japanese stores.  I'm pretty certain it could be found in Japanese store anywhere, but Chinese don't use shiso, so they usually don't carry it.I'm planning to grow them in the garden when spring comes.  Cilantro will work well for this dish but if you want to feel Far East instead of South Asia, I wouldn't recommend it.
You can mix some spicy thai sauce, or wasabi into the sauce, or serve the dish with togarashi powder (Japanese powdered red pepper) on the side.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Green Tea Whipped Cream

Green tea (Macha) has become a very common ingredient for sweets in last 10 to 20 years.  When I grew up in Japan, I remember eating green tea ice cream at a tea shop, but that was pretty much it.  Now, it's a popular flavor for any kind of sweets.  Green tea cheese cake, green tea cookie, green tea cake, green tea caramel, green tea anything.  It's almost used like cocoa powder in the west.
But I have to admit....  It tastes really good in sweets.  It adds a little bitterness and that gives any confections such sophisticated taste.  

As for drinking tea, Macha is very special.  Unless you study how to make it and the ceremony of it, I don't think average Japanese have so many experiences drinking it.  I myself had few occasions in my life.  You can experience it at some tea houses, but it will cost quite a lot.  But it is not about only drinking and making tea, it's about art of serving, and coordinating the whole setting, etc.
But the leaf green tea is very commonly brewed at home.  I would end up drinking it after breakfast and dinner everyday when I visit my family in Japan.

Japanese teas are drunken without sugar.  Green tea, roasted tea, any kinds.... As a small child, I was so excited to find out that you can put sugar or honey in English tea.  I did that for my entire childhood and as soon as I grew up, somehow I stopped.  I love drinking any tea without sugar.  
So I was very disappointed to find out that there were no bottled tea without sugar sold in the states when I first came here.  But now there are.  I hope it will be more popular because it's so refreshing cold in summer.  

Even though the tea is not supposed to be sweet, using green tea for sweets is exception for me.  I sneak it in my baking sometimes.   Also whipped cream made with green tea powder is great accompany for some baked goods.  

1 small package of heavy whipping cream
2 table spoon of sweetened condensed milk
2 tea spoon of green tea powder 

< 1 > Put everything but the green tea in a bowl.
< 2 > Using a sieve, sprinkle the tea powder in the bowl.
< 2 > Whip it until it achieved desired texture.

I ate it with a small financier that is made with cashew nut powder and fine coconut flakes as mid morning tea snack.  In fact, the combination of green tea and coconut is really nice.  I need to think up some other recipe to incorporate both of them.
I'll bake plain pound cake today and will serve that with a scoop of green tea cream on side for dessert.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I love Cole Slow but not with Mayonnaise

I started to make this Mayonnaiseless cole slow for Thanksgiving dinner.  I actually make whole Thanksgiving dinner for my American husband's family.  I feel weird doing it since I am Japanese but they don't seem to care about that and they seem to enjoy my cooking, so I just carry on.
But honestly, I feel like I needed something not rich in the menu.  I'm pretty certain that many Asians find traditional Thanksgiving dinner too rich.  I do like all the food...  turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffing..... but had to have something sour and not cooked to change the pace.  (Japanese call that kind of food "for resting chopsticks".  In this case, more like resting my stomach.)

1/2 head cabbage
1/2 medium onion
1/2 large pepper
1 stalk celery
1 large carrot

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1 table spoon Dijion mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

< 1 > Julienne the vegetables.  Or chop them to skinny pieces.  Use cheese grader for carrots...just slice them uniformly.  Place it in a heat proof bowl.
< 2 > Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a pan and bring it to boil.
< 3 > Pour the boiling dressing over the vegitable and mix.  Refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

I have put in kale, spinach, beet, radish, nappa cabbage, daikon, celery root, apple, asian pears in the past.  (Not at the same time.)  It could be depending on what the main course will be and what you want to use up from your refrigerator.
The dressing could be tweaked around, too, by using apple vinegar, white balsamic, fruit infused vinegar, simple lemon juice, or combination of a couple of them.
The color is another factor that I like making this dish.  Play with red cabbage, red onion, yellow carrot, a pepper in any color.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cilantro Fried Rice

The cilantro wasn't popular when I lived in Tokyo 18 years ago.  It only appeared next to some Chinese dishes as decoration just like parsley.   I didn't even bother to pick it up to put it into my mouth.  It's surprising to see that it has gained so much popularity there. 
I first ate it at my mother in law's house in Florida.  Her husband cooked Vietnamese egg rolls and he served them with cilantro to roll with lettuce.  I fell in love with it immediately.  
I started cooking South Asian food more regularly 10 years ago.  Before that, my Asian cooking was pretty much Japanese and Chinese.  I love using cilantro but sometimes I can't use them up.
This dish solves the problem.  Moreover, it uses up leftover rice, too.  Very convenient for me.

*Ingredients for 2 servings*
 1 Table spoon Coconut Oil
1/2 Medium Onion
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup cilantro leaves
Salt and Pepper to taste

< 1> Mince onions and cilantro.
< 2 > Cook onion in coconut oil until it becomes translucent.   
< 3 > Put the rice in the pan and cook for 1 minute.
< 4 > Mix the cilantro in.
< 5 > Put salt and pepper to your liking.

This rice could be used for any Asian dishes including Indian.  I can't really see it with some delicate Japanese dishes that are cooked in Dashi Broth though.  Don't over salt it if you are serving this with a main dish that is already salty.  Lots of Asian main dishes are supposed to be eaten with plain rice to balance out the saltiness.  
I think Jasmine rice is the best choice for this dish, but any kind of rice will do.  I used Japanese rice in the picture.  If you are using leftover Japanese rice, you might want to either microwave it or rinse it with water before you use it.  That makes it easier to break up rice in the pan.
I ate the rice with a over easy with a sprinkle of soy sauce for lunch.  That was so simple and nice.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Simple pasta goes well with anything

I love eating pasta as a main dish.  We did that so much when we were young and didn't have money in Manhattan.  We must have had pasta 3 - 4 times a week.  I can come up with different kind of pasta every time at least for a few weeks even I was cooking pasta that often.  But after doing it for 5 years or so, we got kind of burned out on that.  
Now that my husband is trying to avoid to eat too much carbohydrate, pasta has become a side dish.   But since it is difficult for me to eat rich pasta with main dish, this is the recipe I do often.  It goes well with lots of things because it's so simple.  

*Ingredients for 3-4 servings as side dish*
1/2 lb. of Pasta ( Angel hair, Thin spaghetti, Linguini anything you like)
1 Lemon, squeezed
1 cup of freshly grated parmesan Cheese
2 table spoon of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

< 1 > Cook the pasta to al dente.
< 2 > Mix with the rest of the ingredients.
< 3 > Sprinkle parsley or basil if you like.

Use unsalted butter if you want to make it a little richer
Press 1 clove of garlic and add to the mix for garlic lovers
Use anchovy syrup insteadof salt 
Lay the pasta on a bed of Arugula and put a few slices of Prosciutto on top to have as a lunch dish

Oh no.  Now I'm thinking about Prosciutto....  How I miss Bronx!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Le Creuset's frying pans

I wanted to get a frying pan that doesn't contain PFOA.  So when I went to Florida to visit my mother-in-law on Christmas, I went to a near by outlet mall to see what I can find.  I found really nice frying pan at Le Creuset which is 11-inch wide and quite deep.  I though it will be great when I cook stir fry dish.  The store person was really excited about this frying pan, I thought about buying a smaller one at the same time, but I wanted to make sure it's really good before I buy 2 of them.  
I immediately fell in love with the frying pan.  It doesn't require too much oil.  I can cook with a really small amount.  The heat distribution is great, too.  It's easy to clean.  I love it!!  
So I ordered the smallest size for cooking eggs in the morning.  It was really good price at Amazon.  Cheaper than at the outlet store.

Welcome to my kitchen!! 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tiramisu with leftover ingredients

I had leftover sponge cake and mascarpone cheese from the roll cake, so I made Tiramisu for next day's dessert.  It was very small, but rich and nice.
I usually make Tiramisu in a big pan and everybody eats it so much.  Almost too much.  So this is good way to control how much we eat it.  The lady fingers are too big, so I guess if I can make extra piece of cake, this is actually good way of making Tiramisu.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Italian meets Chinese in my (Americanized Japanese) kitchen

Even though the dumplings are Chinese dish, they were normal home cooking in Japan.  I remember I learned how to wrap them at age 4.  I was so happy when I was able to do it as well as my mother.  I thought I was quite good at it since mine come out better than my aunt who has been to China lots of times and is good at Chinese cooking.  But I recently found out that one of my Japanese friend is amazing at it.  She can wrap one beautifully in 5 seconds.  I really should have recorded it and put it on Youtube.

Looking at the picture above, they look like nothing special.  But these dumpling are called "Italian Gyoza" at my home and everybody loves them.  (Gyoza means dumpling in Japanese.)  It's just Italian like ingredients wrapped with Chinese dumpling wrappers.  It might sound weird, but pasta is originated in China and came from the Silk Road, so maybe it is fine.

This is actually my father's recipe.  He lived in Rome when he was young and came back to Tokyo with lots of Italian recipes.  Therefore, I grew up eating lots of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and anchovies.  But to tell you the truth, he never cooked this recipe himself.  He just came up with the idea and my mother materialized it.  I recently asked where the idea came from.  I though it came from ravioli.  But he told me that it was calzone.  The size is a lot different, but I guess wrapping tomato sauce and cheese together by flour dough is exactly same.  

One package of Round dumpling wrappers (about 50 skins)
Small can of crashed tomatoes, pureed tomatoes or even left over marinara sauce
1/3 eggplant
Mozzarella cheese (hard)
a can of anchovies
Olive oil
< 1 > Cut the eggplant into 3/8 inch cubes and sauté in olive oil.  Let it cool.
< 2 > cut the cheese 3/8 inch cubes, too.
< 3 > Drain and chop anchovies to 1/4 inch pieces.  I usually do this with kitchen sears in the can so I don't make mess on cutting board.
< 4 > Put a tiny bit of tomato sauce, eggplant, cheese, and anchovy and wrap with the skin.  
< 5 > Fry them with olive oil and eat immediately while the cheese is still melty.

It's best to eat these with fingers so these make a great casual appetizer.  But we love these so much so we usually make salad and have these as main course.
Yesterday, I cooked eggplant wrapped in the foil in the oven with a little bit of oil to avoid too much oil in the wrapper.  It worked well, too.
It might be difficult to wrap the skin comparing to wrapping ground meat stuffing.  The key is not to put too much things inside.

There are different ways of wrap dumplings.  Please watch this to wrap like how they are wrapped in the pictures.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Financier Friday - Walnuts

One day, I thought what if I use other nut powder instead of almond powder to make Financiers.  I love walnuts and we always keep raw walnuts as snack at home, so I decided to try with them.
I made Walnuts powder using a food processor.  It looked much oiler than almond powder so I reduced the amount of butter.   

I used confectioner's sugar as usual, but I think brown sugar might bring the earthy taste of walnut better.  
It was really nice with a cup of green tea.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Easy Canned Tuna Rolls Recipe

When I feel like eating Sushi, this is what I do.  Make rolls with canned tuna.  I always have 2 or 3 cans of tuna in my cabinet and I do keep rice handy.  Nori is kept in the refrigerator so it keeps fresh.  

*For Sushi Rice*
2 cups Short Grain Japanese Rice
1/4 cup  Vinegar
1 table spoon Sugar
A pinch of Salt

1 can of Tuna in water
2 table spoon Mayonnaise
1 Scallion (chopped)
1/2 tea spoon Wasabi (Optional)


< 1 > Cook the rice according to the direction on the package.  Be careful not to make it too watery.  It will be difficult to roll. 

< 2 > While the rice is cooking, mix vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl.  

< 3 > Put the cooked rice in a large bowl.  If you have a wooden salad bowl, that is perfect.  The wood will absorb extra moisture from rice and vinegar mix.  Otherwise, use any bowl.
Pour the vinegar mix over the rice and fluff the rice with large spoon.  Grab notebook, magazine, or cardboard paper and fan the rice while you fluff it.  

< 4 > Once the rice is mixed and not steaming anymore, drain the tuna can, and mix all the filling ingredients.  

< 5 > Trim 1 1/2 inch off from the nori and set it on either Sushi roller or a sheet of plastic wrap longer side facing toward you.  Put the rice evenly on the nori leaving 1/2 inch on the side opposite of you.  Make sure you are covering evenly along the edges, too.  ( It's easy to use wet wooden spoon to do this.)

< 6 > Scoop the tuna evenly across left to right (or right to left if you are lefty) around 1 1/2 inch from the edge close to you.

< 7 > Using the rolling sheet or warp to pull up the nori with rice, roll tightly the whole thing.  If it's hard to do, putting a stick of cucumber next to the tuna helps.  It becomes a core.  

< 8 > Make your knife moist so the rice don't stick to it.  Cut off the both ends and slice the rolls to bite size pieces.  Wet the knife when it gets to hard to cut.

 Sneak in 1/4 tea spoon Cayenne Pepper in the filling to make it spicy
Put 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of soy sauce in the filling to omit dipping saucer
Roll with stick of cucumber, avocado, lettuce, or/and arugula

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bento (Lunch Box)

This is a very simple boxed lunch that I made in CT.  It was so easy to get Asian ingredients there.  Brown rice steamed with ginger, sauteed bitter melon, and chicken patty with Enoki mushrooms are in this 2 layer lunch box.  Oh, I miss lunch like this.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rolled Cake

The rolled cakes are very popular in Japan.  They usually have whipped cream and fruits in it.  But I made one with Mascarpone cheese cream and berry jelly and topped with black berries since I couldn't roll it well at all but wanted make it look pretty somehow.  I thought it would be like rolling Maki-sushi, but it was different.  Now that I think about it, I am not particularly good at rolling sushi either.  But it tasted good.  I guess I'll need to try it again!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pear Tart

I love almond cream.  Cutting and opening the poached pears like a fan was fun, too!  I do same thing to eggplants when I cook Tempura.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Leftover Lunch

I couldn't go shopping for a few days last week due to the snow.  We had a nice left over lunch of beef tongue, potatoes with salsa verde, beans and arugula salad.
We love salsa verde with lots of anchovies!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Macaron Colors

I love colors like these.  Macaron colors makes me happy.  These were made for my friends as farewell gifts when I left North East.  The simple notebooks from MUJI are really great.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Financier Friday - Earl Grey

I love Mariage Freres' Earl Grey French Bleu.  It's not as strong as regular Earl Grey.  But it has very nice complex aroma.  Also, it is so beautiful to look at.  I decided to use it for baking.  I ground it to powder and put it into Financiers.  It gave such nice fragrance.  The moment I bit the cake, the sent of Earl Grey revived in my mouth.  So nice.   

The only problem is that I am not sure what to drink with this.  Coffee will be overbearing.  Earl Grey won't be a nice contrast.  Green Tea is a bit too strong.  Light Jasmine tea?  That might be good.  The flowery fragrance will complement the taste of the Earl Grey.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year 2011

New Year Day is special to us.  It's time to sit down with family to welcome a fresh start and wish for everyone's good health and happiness.

I try to make the first meal of the year all pretty and tasty.  It takes all day on December 31st to prepare but it's my wish to spend as much as time necessary to produce something that makes people smile.  This sets my mood for the whole year.  So it is very important to me.

Last year, we successfully moved from North East where we spent 17 years and just started a new chapter in this town near Appalachian mountains.    I couldn't think of any new year resolutions.  I just felt very thankful that we pulled off the big move.  Yes, it was a tough year.
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