Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Mozzarella Cheese Marinated in Miso

An interesting fusion of Eastern and Western delicacy ;)

Good guess, everyone! :D Yep, it's cheese.
And it was marinated in something very Japanese.
Can you guess what it was?

OK. Here's the answer.
This is mozzarella cheese marinated in miso. :D
Rosa's answer was correct, except that the cheese was not smoked.

I accidentally found a Japanese website talking about this interesting idea, and as usual, I couldn't resist the temptation to try it out myself. It didn't sound as strange as the combination of sweet bean paste and raw peach. I've read many times that fermented foods usually make good combinations.

But I knew I had to be careful about the miso I use. When I marinated tofu in miso before, it turned out too salty. So this time I blended a little amount of regular miso and bunch of saikyo miso, added mirin and heated it to make marinating paste.

This time it turned out a bit too sweet. But I agree with the favorable
comments I read about this food. It is a pleasant (well, at least, for
Japanese) harmony of salty miso and milky flavor of cheese. Adjusted the saltiness of the miso paste, this will be my favorite appetizer for sake. It's interesting. I don't think cheese is a great appetizer for sake as-is, but if added a little amount of very "Japanese" ingredients -- such as soy sauce, miso, bonito flakes or kelp -- it turns into a nice accompaniment for sake, our traditional liquor made from rice.

Well, thanks for participating, everyone! Hope you had fun ;)


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Open Sandwich with Low-fat New York Bread

My brunch today ... Open Sandwich and Scrambled Eggs

See the result of my first baking attempt with my brown applesauce. ;)

This is my favorite recipe from a muffin book (Japanese), Itsudemo Muffin - Muffins & Quick Breads - by Asa Shirokawa. The author is a Japanese woman who had spent several years in the U.S. She wrote that she was inspired by the muffins served at a cafe in NYC and came up with this quick bread recipe after trials and errors.

The recipe calls for absolutely no butter or salad oil. Instead, oatmeal (cooked), applesauce, banana and plain yogurt are used to make this quick bread pleasantly moist. This time, I omitted cooked apple chunks, and added a little almond powder to the dry ingredients. What I forgot to do, though, was adding a pinch of salt. It is not mentioned in the recipe but I thought a little salt would make this bread taste even better. Oh well, next time.

Nevertheless, the bread turned out very moist and tasty. I love tasting the gentle, natural sweetness of this bread with the saltiness of ham and/or cheese. (Of course, butter or mayonnaise is also good, but I like cheese the best.)

* To those who want to email me:
The window may not open when you click on the "email me" link on the sidebar. Right-click on the link and copy-paste my email address, please. Thanks.


Friday, January 26, 2007

I Did It! - Applesauce -

Obachan's Applesauce...
Why is it so brown?

OK. I just got back from work. Thanks to those who already left comments to give me tips while I was at work. Actually, this was what happened:

I used three different kinds of apples (jonagold, fuji and ohrin) because this site recommended using a combination of apples. They were peeled, cored, chopped and immediately thrown into my crockpot. I also added 1/2 cup water and apx. 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, AND one cinnamon stick (apx. 5 cm), then closed the lid and set the timer to 4 hours (on high).

After about 2 hours, the chopped apples in the crockpot looked soft, but still the color was not very different. Then I started bloghopping, enjoying the wonderful aroma from the cooking apples, and forgot about checking the crockpot. When I looked into the pot after the timer went off, what I saw was this pinkish brown stuff.
So... is this the way it should be when you make applesauce in a crockpot? Or did I heat it too long? Or is it because of the cinnamon stick? What do you think? Is this sauce bad for health?

But this applesauce tastes delicious! I'm glad I didn't add any sugar, because it's quite sweet. And I already baked something with it, and had a GREAT success.
I'll post about it tomorrow. ;)


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Save Our Faves 2007! Meme

Hayashi Raisu served at Hanashi

Chubbypanda, a foodblogger based in Irvine, California, tagged me for his Save Our Faves 2007! meme. My mission seems to be posting about my favorite mom & pop eatery (or grocery or food supplier) in town to turn a spotlight on it. Looks like he is mourning about the recent closure of several good eateries in Orange County.

Well, the same thing here. In this small town in a rural city, “Shop For Rent” signs are nothing rare. In my neighborhood, there used to be a place that served nice mini-kaiseki course for a very reasonable price. It was more like Western-hybrid kaiseki mainly geared to female customers who love to taste little amount of many different dishes. I was planning to post about it someday, but they closed before I had a chance. How sad! :(

Anyway, the moment I read about this interesting meme on chubbybanda’s site, I thought about one small restaurant run by an elderly couple. Not because they seem to be in danger of closing, but because I love this cozy place and one particular dish called Hayashi raisu very, very much.

What the heck is hayashi raisu? It is often translated “hashed beef (stew) on rice,” if that helps. This site has a brief description of what it is (scroll down to “hayashi-raisu and ton-katsu”) with a photo, if that helps. It is one of those Japanized western dishes that we call “Yoshoku” here in Japan.

Hayashi raisu is not necessarily my favorite dish, to tell you the truth. Usually I find it a little too heavy for me, and it often gives me minor heartburn afterwards. But the hayashi raisu they serve at this small restaurant(?), "Hanashi 花偲" is different; this is the only hayashi raisu that I can call “my true favorite.”

Before I praise this wonderful dish that stole my heart, let me tell you a little about this place. It is listed as a “coffee shop” in the online inventory of our local eating establishments, but they seem to serve more meals and set menus than sweets and coffee. It is a typical mom & pop eatery, or more precisely, grandma & grandpa eatery?

I usually eat at this place in early evening, so I don’t know how it is there at busy lunch time. (Maybe a young waitress works there in those busy hours only.) But when I’m there, I see the elderly couple only, and the atmosphere is always so laid-back and cozy. As soon as I take a seat, the old lady in long skirt brings me a glass of water, oshibori (wet hand towel) and menu, and takes my order. IIRC, their menus are hand-made with photos of their food pasted on each page, not printed. Very homey.

The old lady never hurries -- I have never seen her doing something in a hurry. After she tells the order to her husband, she sits at one of the tables and reads newspaper or something. When the food is ready, she brings it to my table, and goes back to her reading. It is not rare to see her and her husband sitting at one of the tables, chatting with their neighbor who came in for an afternoon coffee.

The hayashi raisu they serve at Hanashi is rather light. Maybe they use thinly sliced pork instead of beef??? And the sauce is somewhat fruity but not too sweet, and it has a slight hint of garlic, which, in my opinion, perfectly matches the flavor of the meat. Always a small salad comes first, and hayashi raisu follows after a little while. I enjoy every mouthful of it as I read the comic books they have on the shelf for customers. Mmmmm… it’s a blissful moment. Really.
(Sorry, I can't report about other dishes, because I always order this dish.)

BTW, I often wonder why they use these Chinese characters, “花偲” for the name of this eatery, “Hanashi.” The word “hanashi” usually means “talk” or “story” in Japanese, but these Chinese characters mean “flower” and “remembrance,” and their textbook pronunciation is actually “hanashinobu,” not hanashi. Maybe there is a special reason why they wanted to relate those romantic Chinese characters to “hanashi.”

Well, according to the sitemeter on this site, very few local people read my blog. Honestly, I can't imagine this post increasing the clientele of this eatery at all. But it felt good to write about my favorite spot to share it with the whole world, so I thank you, chubbypanda, for tagging me. :)

1-10-1 Atago machi, Kochi city
Kochi, Japan
* In Atago Shopping Street,
Kitty-corner from Atago hospital

Hayashi raisu: 650 Yen (apx. US$ 5.37)

Now, I’m supposed to tag 5 bloggers, right? Well…. I’m never good at this… So forgive me for doing this again.
Dear readers,
please let me know if you want to be tagged for this meme and share your secret spots with us! ;)
1. Charlotte at My Bento Diet Thanks Charlotte! Your bentos look fantastic! :D
2. Kelvin at Walk of Coffee Your roasted chicken looks fabulous!

To play this game, visit Chubbypanda -The Epicurious Wanderer- and read this post.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Cranberry Muffins

Cranberry Muffins

These must have tasted much better if I hadn’t substituted butter with canola oil and yogurt. I just felt like "healthier" muffins all the sudden today. Maybe the idea wasn’t too terrible, but the problem was the proportion :P And maybe I didn’t need to add soy milk at all. But the toasted walnuts and coconut flakes, along with the slightly tart dried cranberries, made the muffins pretty tasty, so this was not a total failure after all.

I’ll try again and post a recipe then (if I had a success).


Friday, January 19, 2007

Playing with Daifuku

photo 3964photo 3965
Fruit and cream daifuku

What’s “IN” now among young Japanese women is using pastry cream and fruit for daifuku filling in place of traditional “an (sweetened bean paste).” On several Japanese foodblogs, I’ve seen combinations like pastry cream and strawberry (or melon or banana), or pastry cream and chestnut cream, or even pastry cream+whipping cream+fruit. Someone did cheese cream (mixture of cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice) daifuku without fruit but it could be good with some kind of fruit, too. I’ll give it a try next time.

Today I tried:
1) Strawberry, pastry cream and whipping cream
2) Strawberry, pastry cream, whipping cream and coffee-an (dissolve 1+1/2 teasp. instant coffee with 1+1/2 teasp. hot water and mix with 100 g sweetened white bean paste)
3) Banana, pastry cream, whipping cream and coffee-an ← No photo.
4) Pastry cream, whipping cream and chestnut cream.

photo 3960
The ones on the right are the chestnut-cream version

I liked the ones with coffee-an. The coffee-flavored sweet bean paste may not be great with all kinds of fruits, but I liked it very much with strawberry and it was OK with banana.

I’ve learned that piping cream into small flat balls and freezing them beforehand helps a lot when making cream-filled daifuku. You need to wait until the cream thaws before you take a big bite, but it doesn't take too long, so no big deal.

For daifuku recipe, click here. (I updated the instruction :))

P.S. * My friends just told me that this type of daifuku was probably "in" a couple of years ago and nothing new any more... :P I guess many women got inspired by the wide variety of flavors that "MOCHI CREAM" (franchise confectionery by comme ca ??) introduced. I heard they have more than 20 different flavors of sweet bean paste, cream and their combinations.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I Was Too Lazy Today...

Oden (Cooked in instant oden soup)

Uh... Don't you ever expect me to tell you how to make a strange-looking boiled egg like this.
It's patented.

OK. I lied. It’s not patented. (Of course.) :P
It was nothing but my laziness. When I boiled the egg, this was what I did: I took it out from the fridge and threw it in the hot water from the tap and boiled it over very high heat. Just wanted it done ASAP. I know. A big no-no. The egg cracked right away and about 1/8 of the egg came out from the crack in the shell. Yeah, the pointy top was the part that came out. The top of the egg yolk was covered with a very thin layer of the egg white, but it came off when I sliced the egg in half.

Well, I made a lot at one time, so this oden fed me for two nights.
I think I had enough for this winter...


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Winners Announced!

Menu for Hope raffle winners were announced! Rush to Pim's site NOW!

Congratulations keaton for winning Obachan's wagashi-making kit!!


Friday, January 12, 2007


Black Sesame Tuiles

My first time making tuile cookies at home.

Almond Tuiles

I have to make a confession. Shaping was successful with two pieces per batch only; the third one broke when I pushed it against a rolling pin. So I gave up and left the rest flat. They all tasted good, though.

Next time I want to try them with ice cream ;)


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Instead of Nanakusa-gayu...

Nabeyaki Udon (cooked in a clay pot)

Yep, I thought about having Nanakusa-gayu today. Having so much osechi and sake yesterday, warm and comforting rice porridge with healthy herbs seemed like a very good idea. But when I picked up one of the packages of fresh "Nanakusa (seven-herbs)" at a supermarket, my inner voice said, “Hey, with Nanakusa-gayu, you can’t use up the leftovers from yesterday.” That’s right. So this is what I had today instead: Nabeyaki udon with lots of toppings. Most of the toppings look familiar, right? What’s on top right is a soggy kakiage made with mitsuba, burdock and dried shrimp. And under the udon noodles, plenty of carrot and daikon strips are hiding.

It’s so cold outside, but I’m in a warm room, eating this nabeyaki udon at kotatsu, watching TV. Totally relaxed and contented… Mmmm…Happy....
Hope everyone on the face of the earth is happy and contented like me on a cold winter night like this.


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Sake to Sakana #5 Tosazuru with Osechi

* The author of this post does not recommend sake-drinking to anyone who has not reached the legal drinking age or who should not consume alcohol due to medical/psychological concerns.

Last Friday, I explored my feelings deeper and found out this: What I really wanted to do was not re-making osechi… What I wanted was ENJOYING SAKE with osechi-type appetizers! :D
So, following my inner voice, I enjoyed this Saturday night.

Osechi appetizers
* Mizuhiki (colored paper cord) craft from DAISO 100-yen shop
To find out what mizuhiki is, click here.

In case you are wondering -- I never drink at my parents’ house. (The New Year’s ceremony is an exception, but you know how much we drink for that? Though the lacquer sake cups are quite big, we pour no more than a few drops of sake into the smallest one on top, so it doesn’t count as "drinking.") It’s not because I’m scared of my dad who used to say, “Women shouldn’t drink!” He probably wouldn’t care any more, but still I don’t feel like drinking there, especially when I’m always wanted by my niece and nephew for playing othello game and Japanese chess.

Anyway, to start my 2007 sake & sakana series, I made some appetizer-type osechi food in addition to the leftover from New Year’s Day and arranged them like this. Perhaps you can see my obvious intention to show off my knife skills I have acquired recently. ;) The black beans (kuromame) and kazunoko (herring roe) were the leftovers. The rest was made this afternoon. Yes, it took all afternoon but let me tell you -- it was worth it.

This sake is actually the leftover of our otoso this year and I brought it with me when I came back to my apartment. :P This brand, Tosazuru 土佐鶴 is probablyh the most popular brand in the eastern part of this prefecture, if not the whole prefecture. To tell you the truth, I cannot be a fair judge of this brand, because this is the sake I’m most familiar with since my childhood. No, I wasn’t a drinker when I was a kid, but I did taste Tosazuru at various traditional ceremonies when kids were allowed to lick just a little bit of it. And for such ceremonies, cheaper versions were always used, of course. So, when it comes to Tosazuru, I like the familiar dry taste of the cheaper versions better than ginjo or daiginjo.

Kazunoko, Kuromame, Tataki-gobo, smoked salmon in daikon wrapper and Matsukaze

In the white bowl is kazunoko topped with fine bonito flakes. I put two kuromame there just to create a nice color contrast. The brown log-like food (front left) is tataki-gobo (pounded burdock?), which I tried for the first time and immediately fell in love with. The sourness of the vinegar used for seasoning contrasted very well with the sweetness of roasted and ground sesame seeds. And the texture was delightfully crunchy!

The pink stuff wrapped in the white wrapper is also my new favorite: it’s smoked salmon wrapped with paper-thin daikon and tied with mitsuba stem. It's such a great idea that I found on the net. It requires absolutely no seasoning -- all you have to do is slice, wrap and tie -- and you can enjoy the wonderful harmony of flavors and texture. Believe me, the slight bitterness of mitsuba stem adds a nice kick at the end and I really admire the person who came up with this idea first.

What’s in front of the salmon appetizer is chicken meat loaf called Matsukaze. Its shape represents hagoita, a wooden paddle used in Japanese traditional badminton-like game. The toppings are green laver flakes and poppy seeds. It turned out a bit too sweet for me. (Perhaps you need to adjust the amount of other liquid seasonings according to the taste of miso you use.)

Kuromame with simmered chestnut and Nishime

Nishime (simmerd chicken and vegetables) was not a great success, but aren’t these carrots (representing plum blossoms) cute? The little bunny on top (Yes! Bunny!) was made with a boiled quail egg. I heated the tip of a stainless skewer and pushed it against the egg to make the brown brands which were supposed to be bunny's ears.

Well, I tried some of the knife skills introduced on this site, so please take a look. It was so much fun to make soft and elastic Kamaboko (steamed fish cake) into many different shapes.

Knotted kamaboko in clear soup


After all, I'm very happy that I gave this "sake and osechi" attempt a try, because I learned how to make tataki-gobo and smoked salmon in daikon wrapper. The latter requres katsuramuki technique, but I made it small so it wasn't too difficult. Fun fun! :)

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Something Warm, Sweet and Kind to the Stomach

Bread Pudding

Before I (might) go for a possible belated-osechi project, I felt like something Western which is warm, sweet and kind to the stomach. Hence, this breakfast today.

OK. Now I'm ready for something salty.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Belated New Year's Greeting from Obachan

New Year’s Day. Time for celebration. Time for renewal. Time for thousands of wishes...

New Year's Card from Obachan
The handwritten Japanese says "A Happy New Year"
(Papercraft by DAISO 100-yen shop)

Long time ago, our ancestors developed so many ways to wish good luck for the new year when what they had was scarce, and we have been passing them down for hundreds of years. As a middle-aged woman, I see it more as a cultural wisdom rather than a blind obedience to unscientific nonsense.

My belief is that it is a blessing to have something you can actually see or do to work out your emotions (wishes, prayers, etc.) and traditional customs give the elderly something to pass down to the youth and make them feel being part of a big continuum. That is why I appreciate our traditions … only if they are not too rigid and complicated to make us their slaves. :P

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Bowls of zoni soup waiting for New Year's ceremony
at my parent's house

On January 1, 2007, we (my parents, my younger sister, her husband and kids and me) performed New Year’s ceremony in the morning at my parents' house, as we do every year. See my previous post for the details of the ceremony. (There you can see what kind of zoni soup is in these bowls.) And I tell you what: this year dad forgot to use taro for the ornament we used in the ceremony.

Ornament(?) used in the New Year's ceremony

Otoso (sake dedicated to god)

As I wrote before, I don’t believe in being a slave of a tradition, but regarding the New Year’s feast, I guess we were, again this time. Or it was more like mom was still haunted by the memories of having to make a big feast when she was younger… when our grandparents and mom’s relatives had the New Year’s feast together at my parents’ house. Every year in the past ten or so years, mom, my sister and I said, “Let’s make only 70% of this next year!” at the table. Well, let’s have our fingers crossed for the year 2008… ;P

Here’s some photos from our New Year’s feast this year.

If interested, see these sites for explanations on the symbolic meanings of the food and my previous post for the reason why our family makes this kind of unorthodox osechi. I know... in our 2007 version of osechi, basically there was not much change from what we had last year and the year before. Oh, but let me add this for the sake of my niece: you see the rolled sushi in these boxes? She made them for the first time. Well, of course my mom cooked the rice and I made the egg/cucumber strips in the center, but my eleven-year old niece rolled the sushi. Usually when a beginner rolls sushi, it either turns out with too much rice squeezed in or turns out too loose to fall apart when sliced. But hers was almost perfect and we were all surprised.

On new year's eve, we packed three sets of three-tiered jubako boxes. The two above were my work.The rest was packed by mom, my niece and nephew while my younger sis prepared toshikoshi-soba (not instant noodles, of course!) for the whole family.

Osechi on the table ( Jan. 1st, 2007)

Simmered Food

Sashimi (sliced raw fish)

Definitely too many jubako boxes... :(

Yes, having New Year's feast at my parents' house means so much to me. But to tell you the truth, I’m so tempted to make my own version of osechi now. The osechi at my parents’ is geared more for kids, and now I really want to try out something different -- more orthodox and less brightly-decorated one, OR some westernized osechi ideas featured in magazines for young housewives. So you MIGHT see a post about "belated osechi -obachan’s version -" this weekend, if I still feel like it then.


Sweet Seasons / January 2007 - Wild Boar -

Wild Boar

Here’s another cheating. Sorry! But I felt I had to post this one before New Year’s festivity was over, because the theme of this wagashi is specifically related to New Year’s celebration. I heard that the Chinese character "猪" means pig in China, so over there 2007 must be a year of the pig. The same Chinese character means "wild boar" in Japanese, so that's why you see illustrations of wild boar everywhere during New Year's holidays this year in this country.

Oh, isn’t he cute?

Have a wonderful year of the wild boar!

* Wagashi by Shingetsu