Friday, August 31, 2007

Sweet Seasons / August 2007 - Streams -

Another "cool" theme for this terribly hot summer. Doesn't this kanten jelly (right) remind you of the clear water bubbling over rocks?

The light-blue colored wagashi can be translated as molded sugar cakes. They are made by moistening the mixture of special fine sugar and special rice flour, and pressing it into a wooden mold.

Since they are such simple wagash, the quality and taste of the sugar is crucial. No one would want to enjoy tea (either black or green) licking two tablespoons of glanurated sugar. To be a truly enjoyable dessert, this type of sugar cakes must elegantly melt in your mouth, leaving refreshing light sweetness on your tongue.

And to me, it was amazing how such simple and truly good taste can enhance the most subtle flavoring added to it. See the black sesame seeds on one of the sugar cakes? Just two grains. But these tiny grains of sesame seed totally changed the taste of this wagashi, which was so impressive.

I'll write more about the special sugar used for wagashi sometime soon.

* Wagashi by Shingetsu


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Because They Are Available for Limited Time Only

Peeled Nectarines (I put them in boiling water briefly)

As I wrote a year ago, now making a nectarine cobbler is one of my summer rituals. I've already learned that here (and in some other prefectures as well) nectarines are available only for several weeks in summer and once they disappear from store shelves, they never come back until next summer.

So this summer, I kept my eyes on the fruit section of several supermarkets -- not only one place --, waited until the end of our very short nectarine season and bought a pack containing the ones that seemed very ripe. Yep, no more "not-very-ripe-but-already-going-bad" fruit for my cobbler.

I should have browned the top a little more...

And I baked this nectarine cobbler on August 10th. I know. "Obachan the procrastinator," right? :D Forgive me. On the 11th and 12th, I was busy taking photos at our big dance festival (photos are here, if you are interested), and right after that I went to my parents' house. That's how I completely forgot to post about this cobbler.

BTW I used the same recipe as previous years (but I use salted butter).

Too bad I didn't have ice cream to eat with this cobbler when I took above photo. And when I did have ice cream, I didn't have time to shoot a photo because the ice cream melted so quickly.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Look! I Went the Whole Way

Pan-fried Lamb with Mint Jelly Sauce

Yep, I found lamb shoulder at the supermarket I shop at almost every day. It was easy -- all I had to do was just going to one part of the meat section where I usually pay no attention to. Haha... just like that.

Today, this lamb shoulder -- the very first lamb shoulder ever in my kitchen -- was rubbed with minced garlic, rosemary, crushed black pepper and olive oil, and left in the fridge for more than three hours. Then it was fried in the frying pan.

Oh, and the jelly! When I tasted it beforehand, I felt the sweetness of the apple and refreshing minty taste almost at the same time, then a slight tanginess followed. It was something I'd never tasted before and I instantly fell in love with it. But I thought the taste of the greasy lamb may be overpowering and hide the delicate flavor of the jelly. So I made mint jelly sauce by adding a little vinegar and some chopped fresh mint leaves to the jelly (I got this idea from some recipe sites), hoping it will give more refreshing flavor to the meat. It did!!

Viva blogging! It has broadened my culinary horizon again. And my heartfelt thanks to those who made it happen -- those who gave me the jelly, those who made suggestions and those who were quiet but expecting me to go the whole way. ;)
(But the lamb was a bit tough... And after removing the fat, there wasn't much left to eat, to be honest.)


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Figs from Mom's Garden

Fig Tart

I know I said "stay tuned for another post on 'English breakfast- Obachan's version'," but it may need some time to be ready. So before that, I'm posting about the dessert I made after coming back to my apartment with the figs I brought back from my parents' house. Mom's fig tree is in a very good shape this year and she didn't know what to do with all the figs she picked.

My younger sister made this fig jam when we were at our parents' house. She ended up with 7 or 8 small jars filled with the sweet fruit jam and I brought back two of them.

Oh, I almost forgot. I used this recipe (had to cut down the salt, though) for the crust, but to me it was a bit too flaky ... or crumbly?

* How can I make this kind of oil pie crust less crumbly? What should I add more? Or if you have a recipe for light, slightly crispy, flaky but NOT TOO CRUMBLY oil pie crust, please let me know! I want to find a good one before Halloween.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Summer with Many Gifts

Gifts from two caring friends

It was not a long time ago when I posted about the lovely care package from Hawaii, remember? Now look at these goodies! My good friend and his wife brought these all the way from England. How nice of them! This certainly is a special summer. I really wonder what I did to deserve all the gifts.

I'm crazy about this can -- or I should say tin, considering where it is from. So artistic and exotic! I'm sure the tea will taste excellent.

And I'm terribly curious about the "apple & mint jelly with cider." They said it would be nice with sausage or something, and I'm going to give it a try as soon as my stomach problem is gone. (I don't know exactly what was wrong... It must be something I had tne night before...) Stay tuned for another post on "English breakfast- Obachan's version" which should be coming soon.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Different but Very Tasty!

Very "Unorthodox" Unagi Donburi

It was a Saturday morning cooking show that introduced this unique unagi donburi (broiled eel on a bowl of rice). Well, there IS such a thing as “una-tama don.” When you order a unagi donburi, usually what you see on top of rice is a few slices of broiled eel. But when it comes to una(eel)-tama(egg) don, the eel slices are briefly cooked in a small amount of sauce, and beaten eggs are added at the end to be cooked until half-done.

This donburi is a variation of “una-tama don” with more ingredients added. In the TV cooking show, it was introduced as a great idea to make donburi dishes enough for several people when you couldn’t buy enough unagi for everyone. Yes, onions, komatsuna (Japanese mustard spinach?) and tofu -- things that are not usually used for unagi donburi -- are used for the topping for this unique donburi dish.

Believe me. The crispy komatsuna was such a great accent in this dish. Another good idea was pre-mixing sansho pepper with cooked rice instead of sprinkling it on unagi like people usually do. It made the sansho flavor milder and longer-lasting (because it will remain with the rice even after the topping is gone).

They also introduced an interesting idea for making Japanese traditional pickles in a quicker and easier way. It is adding leftover beer and a little amount of sugar after rubbing vegetables with salt! They said it makes the pickles taste like real nukazuke, vegetables pickled in rice bran mixture. Well, it did not taste exactly like nukazuke, I would say. But they tasted pretty good after I added a tiny piece of konbu (kelp) and marinated them overnight.

I’m going to spend a couple of days with my parents, my younger sister and her kids at my parents’ house. See you guys when I come back on the 16th.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Expanding my "hot-day meal" repertoire...??

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes on Home-made Focaccia

It was about 2 weeks ago when I visited Suzan’s wonderful site and read about her roasted baby tomatoes. Living in a rural town known for its tomato production, I knew that I was going to give it a try sometime soon. And look! I did. :)

If I forgot to mention this before, our prefecture, Kochi is famous for tomatoes as well as fresh seafood. Some “sweet” varieties grown here have become popular throughout the country, especially after the news related to Japanese Royal family. What news? It was that when Princess Kiko was pregnant, Empress Michiko sent her some bottled tomato juice. The empress thought that the good-tasting and highly nutritious juice was good for a pregnant woman . That tomato juice was made in Kochi using locally grown sweet tomatoes called “fruit tomato.”

Personally, I love to eat the "fruit tomatoes" raw, but never use them for cooking, not only because they are lacking the refreshing mild tartness which, I think, is important for tomato sauce, stew, etc., but also because they are darn expensive.

So, of course I tried roasting regular, inexpensive cherry tomatoes. Look! Lovely, aren't they?

To be honest, for some reason they turned out a lot more sour than I had expected. (I wonder why.) But they were still very good with a tempting aroma.

Suzan presented them on a slice of tasty-looking bruschetta, but I couldn’t find anything like that at a nearby bakery and I didn’t think I could bake such a thing myself. After searching for an alternative idea, I found this focaccia recipe, and thought it was what I wanted.

As the recipe says, the focaccia was so easy to make that even I had a great success. ;) When eaten with this Italian bread, the roasted tomatoes did not taste too tart, and the bread and tomatoes made a real good combination together.

My “hot day meals” used to include some traditional Japanese dishes and some spicy Asian or Mexican dishes only. But this summer I’m interested in expanding my repertoire of Italian dishes.
Oh, I’m serious. ;)