Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Rice balls

Rice balls are must have for lunch box. My mother told me that it is the best since it doesn't get spoiled even it's warm outside. By saying that, she avoided making sandwiches. I envied my friends who brought sandwiches for school trips, but I enjoyed my rice balls anyway.
 There are lots of variations. One is made of white rice and there is something in the center. I think this is most traditional. The inside could be a pickled plum, salted salmon, fish eggs, seaweed, etc. The other kind is made of mixed rice. White rice is mixed with Furikake, or scrambled eggs, seaweed, sesame seeds, dried shiso leaves, etc.
The latter one has same taste anywhere you eat, but the white rice one is plain until you get a bite of inside. It is fun not knowing what is inside and the plain part is a good complement to meat and vegetables in a Bento box.
My rice ball was always the white rice ball with Nori wrapped around and the center was pickled plum. That was my favorite. I always liked something sour.
However, my husband thinks the white rice ball is boring until you get to its core. So I started to make rice balls with mixed rice after I got married.
These rice balls are really refreshing for summer lunch. Pickled ginger is the only thing that provides saltiness (except for a little salt). Shiso gives very nice aroma to this simple mixture.

Summer Rice Balls ( 6 mini rice balls)
* Ingredients *

2 cups of cooked white short grain rice
3 large leaves of green shiso
3 large leaves of red shiso
3 table spoons of pickled ginger
Sea salt

< 1 > Put rice in a large bowl and let it cool down a little bit so the heat wouldn't wilt shiso.
< 2 > Cut shiso leaves and ginger to long strips and mix with the rice.
< 3 > Wash the hands well. Make them moist and sprinkle palms with a little salt. Put the rice on the palm and make rice balls. Make sure the salt gets around evenly around the rice balls.

If you bend your fingers from the base and make edge with your knuckles, you can shape rice balls to triangles. My mother never did this. Hers was always a circle. But I somehow can't make it like that. So my rice balls are more like rice triangles that appears in cartoon. I also like mini sized ones. It looks small, but it is packed with lots of rice, so it is a good prevention for not eating too much of carbohydrate.
Making rice balls with saran wrap became very popular as I grew up. It prevents hands getting dirty and more sanitary. You can also wrap rice balls with the saran wrap as you finish them.
But traditionally, they are made with bare hands that are sprinkled with a pinch of salt.
After having lunch with my daughter, I asked if it will be nice to put tuna or something in these rice balls. She said that it is refreshing as is. I agreed.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer has come

I can't believe it is summer already. Summer started with my parent's visit and I didn't really have a moment to realize the fact spring is over. I took them to lots of places and that let me discover many things. How beautiful scenery is around here. How peaceful trees make me feel. The size of the sky and shapes of the clouds etc....

I don't have a green thumb. I call myself a "plant killer". But I am enjoying having a little garden and I got ambitious this year so I started growing Shiso which is basil like Japanese herb. When I was living in Japan 20 years ago, it was almost impossible to find fresh basil in even in Tokyo. Cooking books usually suggested to use shiso instead. Yet it is a lot different from basil. I associate the taste of shiso with traditional Japanese dishes so I am not a good candidate to describe the taste. However, shiso is nice with non-Japanese dishes, too. I particularly like to cook it with butter

It started to grow nice leaves, so I decided to make cold noodle with shiso for lunch.

1 Cup of water
1 1/2 Table spoon of Sugar
3 Table spoon of Soy sauce
1/2 Tea spoon of Salt
Crashed garlic
1 Table spoon of Fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 table spoon of Rice wine vinegar
1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil

1 Japanese Eggplant
10 Cherry tomatoes
1 Scallion
3 Leaves of red shiso
3 Leaves of green shiso

5oz. of Somen Noodle

< 1 > Put water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to boil, then take it out of heat. Put rest of the ingredients for the sauce and mix. Let it cool.
< 2 > Slice an eggplant and cook it in small amount of oil.
< 3 > Slice cherry tomatoes and scallion.
< 4 > Roll shiso leaves together and chop them to skinny strings.
< 5 > Boil Somen. Somen is very thin wheat noodle. Be careful not to over boil it. After it's boiled, run cold water until it's cool.
< 6 > Mix the vegetable and sauce with the noodle and serve.

Somen is very thin and white noodle. It can be found in Asian stores. I use Korean version of it and it tastes very good. Sometimes I saw "Soba" on a menu of Asian restaurant and I was served Somen. Soba is buckwheat noodle. Thin white noodle is Somen. Although this recipe would be nice with Soba noodle, too.

To me, shiso makes dishes very summer-like. Because it's summer herbs. Coupled with summer vegetable (or fruits?) such as an eggplant and tomatoes, it is very refreshing. 

I'd love to play with this herb more during summer.

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