Saturday, March 26, 2011


I finally am updating this blog since the disaster.  My family is doing fine.  But I have to admit it was like a roller coaster ride emotionally.  I finally feel settled down though.
My daughter and I were going to visit my parents on 19th.  We had to cancel the trip.
I can't describe how much it hurt me to read about the people who are effected by the earthquake and Tsunami, how much I am worried about my parents even though they are in Yokohama, and how much I'm concerned about the future of the country that I grow up in.  I was so depressed for last 2 weeks.  I am still worried.  My worries won't go away until the nuclear reactors are taken cake of.  But my parents are spending everyday as usual even though there is some inconvenience.  I hope we can get together soon.

I took my daughter to Asheville, NC since our plan to visit Japan during the spring break was not happening.  It's almost her birthday so it was like a early birthday celebration.  I too needed to get away for a while.  From the house renovation chaos.  From the potty training for a puppy we adopted that was driving me nuts in the current conditions.  From the frustrating 3 months long attempt to get my new defected dish washer exchanged.   From the news that makes me so worried and scared.
We had a nice mother and daughter time.  The weather was nice and warm.  The flowers were blooming.  I   finally felt seine for first time in 2 weeks.

Since where we live in East Tennessee, it is not easy to get good French, we went to a nice French restaurant.  We ate at a authentic Thai restaurant which doesn't exist around our town.  Unfortunately, Sushi was just passable, not that good.  I guess I can't ask too much.  We are in Appalachia to begin with.  The fresh seafood is not a mountain thing.  But we enjoyed eating North Carolina BBQ.  We also had modernized southern food which really suited my taste.

We went to Western North Carolina Farmers Market.  It's open all year around.  We bought jars of jams and pickles.  We also got ham, bacon and 2 lb. block of Amish butter.  We decided to snack on what we got.  My daughter washed a tomato and bit it.  I found Croissants from a corner which was run by a French men.  He told me that he was a french guy and the French makes everything tasty with thick French accent.  It made me smile.  How I wished I had a nice cup of Cafe au lait with it.   We opened the jar of pickled eggs.

It's so pink....It is kind of pretty if you don't think it's food....  But I ate it anyway.
My daughter likes sour food so she enjoyed it.  I think it's too sour.  But having a bite of sweet tomato balanced the flavor.

 We saw lots of flowers blooming.  I was so happy to see Cherry Blossoms.  Such a delicate pink unlike the pickled eggs.  Nothing too extravagant about it, but it simply is so pretty.
 Is there a Japanese person who don't like this flower?  It's the sign of spring.  People get together under the Cherry trees to have parties in spring.  
 Since the school year starts in April in Japan, the sight of Cherry Blossoms brought me back the feelings of hope and expectation for new start.  I needed it.
I hope they will bloom soon in Japan, and bring hopes to everybody there, too.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Poached Egg and Tomato Sauce on Garlic Bread

My mother found the recipe for this dish on a magazine when I was still in school.  So it must have been about 20 years ago.  I immediately fell in love with it, and I still make this dish once in a while.  J and my daughter love this dish, too.  The good thing about this dish is that you can use baguette that are getting to be stale.  Or if you have tomato sauce left over, you don't even need to cook the sauce.  I love recipes that I can use extra stuff laying in the kitchen!  

*Tomato Sauce*
2 cloves garlic
1 table spoon olive oil
1 small tomato can
Salt and pepper to taste

< 1 > Cook the garlic in the olive oil in a pan.
< 2 > When the garlic is cooked to golden color, pour the canned tomatoes and cook it for 20 minutes.
< 3 > Put salt and pepper.  Done!

*Garlic Bread*
4 slices of baguette
1 clove of garlic, cut to half

< 1 > If the bread is fresh, toast it to light brown.
< 2 > Put the cut side of garlic against the bread, and smear the garlic all over the bread surface.  The hardened bread should work like a sand paper against the fresh garlic.

*Poached Eggs*
4  eggs

Poach them as you want. My secret is to cook them in a coffee maker.

Place the garlic bread on the plates and pour tomato sauce on it, then put the poached eggs.

The tartness of the tomato sauce and creaminess of the poached eggs work very nicely together.  The bread gets very soft by soaking the moisture from the sauce and the eggs.

There is a egg called "Onsen Egg" in Japan. "Onsen" means hot spring.  The egg is cooked in natural hot spring which temperature is 150 F for about 30 minutes, so they are boiled very softly for long time.  It's very much like a poached egg, but because it's cooked very slowly at the moderate temperature, it's soft all over.  The yolk gets hard at 50 F lower than the temperature that white gets hardened at, so the yolk is not too runny even the white is still very soft.
It was very difficult to get Onsen eggs unless you are actually at a hot spring in the past, but it became very popular and the technology allows people to duplicate same effect without having natural hot springs.
This is the method that I read years ago on some Japanese web site.  I have been cooking poached eggs with this method since then.  The great things about this way of cooking are almost fool proof, you don't need to be glued to the pan, very easy to clean, and you can cook ahead of the time if you wish.
All you have to do is to put the fresh eggs in the coffee pot, pour water in it as if you are making coffee, and turn it on.  You want to leave them in the pot for about 8 to 10 minutes.  You need to do it for a few times to see how long the eggs should be left in the pot to achieve your favorite consistency.

Yes, it looks funny.  But it tastes really good!  
We recently switched to a french press from a electric coffee maker.  But we kept it to make Onsen eggs.  
For breakfast, we sometimes put it over the brown rice and sprinkle soy sauce over it.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Pasta

We are renovating 2nd floor right now.    I have to tell you the house J bought for us is very old.  It's built in mid 40's which is not a surprise at where we live.  But the couple who lived here were old and weren't taking care of this house well besides whatever the renovations they did was very unprofessionally done.  So by the time this house was on sale, the couple was long gone, the house was unattended for years on top of the original messed up conditions.  It is true because of it, we had a such a bargain.  I didn't look at this house until the day of the closing.  I was busy in North East.  So it was such a shock to see the state this house was in....  but we took out the carpeting from entire house, cleaned up, had the kitchen remodeled, painted the wood paneling walls.  It's slowly coming together.  The one thing (which is most important factor to me to pick a house) that I love this place is its size and layout.  It's not huge, but adequate for 3 of us.  It has funny little place or hallway to play around.  So even though it is far from my dream house yet, I'm happily waiting it to be the one someday.
So the entire 2nd floor is demolished to have new electric, air conditioning system and walls installed.  Which is great!  Yet when the lunch time comes, I feel too self conscious about cooking something has strong aroma such as frying garlic.  They are working hard and cooking some nice smelling food and not serving them seems to me not nice.  
But I do get hungry.  And I don't want to eat PB & J every day....besides the fact that we don't keep bread in the house since J is trying to avoid gluten as much as possible and our daughter doesn't care for a sandwich.
So the cold salad pasta is actually great lunch for me to whip up.  All I have to do is to boil the pasta.  It doesn't create aroma of cooking.  I just have to cut ingredients and mix.  

*Smoked Salmon and Avocado Pasta*
For 2 servings
1 avocado
2 oz. smoked salmon 
10 cherry tomatoes
1/4 red onion
2 table spoon capers
2 tea spoon Dijon mustard
2 tea spoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly squeezed juice form 1 lemon
2 tea spoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Your favorite pasta 1/2 lb.

< 1 > Start boiling water for cooking the pasta.
< 2 >  Chop avocado, salmon, and tomatoes to bite size.
< 3 > Slice the onion into thin strips or mince.
< 4 > Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
< 5 > When the pasta is cooked, mix with everything in the bowl and serve.

Both avocado and salmon contains lots of fat, so I hold off the amount of olive oil in this dish.
This actually will be really nice on a hot summer day.  But It is getting pretty nice here in east TN.  I hear birds singing in the morning.  The are very colorful.  I can't wait till spring....

February has passed....  I can't believe it's already March!  Here is the review of the sweets I made in the last month.

There are lots of chocolate sweets because of Valentine's day.  I actually lost a week worth of data because the construction upstairs cuts off the electricity suddenly.  So there should have been more sweets...  However the sweets that I made during the time were actually not really successful.  Especially the tartlets that I baked with raspberry tinted very pale pink pear compote. It somehow resembled too much like a mini chicken breast.  It really did.  Those were called chicken breast tarts by J and our daughter.  It could have been perfect for halloween with some red sauce drizzled over it though.

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