Thursday, November 29, 2007

Garden Report - November 2007 -


My plants are ... well, at least some of them are ... alive. :)

Blueberry and sweet marjoram

BTW, I'm a little worried now. In November, I emailed some people -- readers of my blog -- to answer their questions and/or to send recipes in English. Usually my readers email me back to say thank you. Well, there were times that the reader didn't respond, but it didn't happen very often. But after November 4th, I emailed 9 to 10 people, and only one of them responded. Now I'm wondering if my emails are being rejected or automatically deleted most of the time for a certain reason... like a virus infection??? (But running virus scan on my PC showed no infection.)

I'm writing this in case those who emailed me in November read this post:
I did send out English translations or URLs of the recipes (or related info.) for persimmon jam, langue de chat cookies, pumpkin cookies, hanami dango, rakugan (Japanese dry sweets), sweet potato apple pie, frozen persimmon and slow cooker recipes written in Japanese. If you haven't received my email yet, please let me know, because I can send it again from a different email account in case my hotmail account was the problem.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Earlier Start Than Last Year

Now it's that time of the year again. Yep, time to soak dried fruit. For what?
For Christmas, of course!

For whatever reason, amaretto was on sale at the liquor section of the supermarket I regularly shop at. I was familiar with the name, and had read somewhere that it is used for cakes, but never actually tried it. Wanting something "different" for the fruitcake this year, I bought a small bottle of the almond based liqueur.

When I opened the bottle, heavenly aroma came out, which somehow reminded me of something very familiar. "AH! 杏仁豆腐(Chinese almond jelly)!" I thought. Yes, nice aroma. But for my fruitcake, I wanted a kick of something stronger, like rum.

So that's what I did. Amaretto and rum. Did I go off the wall again? I read that some people soak dried fruit with amaretto and add brandy. I also read that there is a cocktail you can make by mixing amaretto and rum. So ... how about 'amaretto and rum' version of fruitcake? I don't know. We'll see...

Oh, I found out that the language school I work for does not have a Christmas event. I'll have no chance to share my gingerbread fun with kids. Oh well... I'll make gingerbread people anyway for my own pleasure.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shishito Pasta

Shishito and Shirasu Pasta

My colleague gave me some shishito yesterday and I tried out a "shishito and shirasu (dried baby sardine) pasta" recipe.
Very simple seasoning -- garlic, olive oil, red pepper and salt -- but surprisingly tasty.
I enjoyed it with yuzu chu-hai and 'cheese on baguette' (?).

Mmmm.... should I categorize this under "Japanese" or "Western-inspired?"

Categories: ,

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sake to Sakana #6 Bijofu

Ever since I found this royalty-free stock photo site – and saw various fantastic images featuring Japanese sake – I had been wanting to shoot photos like them myself. And this is my first attempt. Yep, I said “first,” which means, there’ll be more to come.

If you have time, try browsing all 34 pages that the stock photo site shows under the keyword: ”sake”... by clicking on the orange-colored numbers above the thumbnails. You’ll probably see why I got so intrigued. Some of the photos are so simple… just a pair of sake bottle and cup, small portion of appetizers and a few leaves or flowers which reflect the season… AND a pair of chopsticks that tighten up the whole impression with their straight lines! Those are my favorite kind of photos. And when I see something I like very much, I feel the urge to recreate it myself. Hence, these photos here to add a new post to my long-neglected “sake to sakana” series. Hahaha

What I’m going to introduce this time is our local sake called “Bijofu 美丈夫.” The name means –- if I’m not mistaken -- "a beautiful looking young man." I’ve heard that it implies our local hero Ryoma Sakamoto, but it does not sound convincing to Kochi residents who are familiar with his photo. :P

Anyway, “Bijofu” is my absolute favorite, and I have written about it a couple of times here on this blog. The reason why I like it is that it goes well with most foods and it never disappoints me. It is dry with the fragrance not overwhelming, and I personally think that it tastes best when gently warmed (body temperature).

And I love drinking gently warmed Bijofu with seafood, especially fisheggs, such as kazunoko (herring roe) and mentaiko (spicy cod roe). Bijofu does not enhance the fishiness of the fisheggs, but instead, creates a pleasant sensation with the appetizer, which I like very, very much. So that’s why I did not forget to buy this appetizer this time:

Ogon Ika 黄金イカ in sudachi cup

The name of this appetizer means “golden squid.” What it is is raw squid strips dressed with seasoned kazunoko (herring roe), and I assume some artificial coloring is added to the roe. Yeah, unhealthy. But still I would never try to buy raw squid and herring roe separately and make this appetizer myself; It would cost a lot more than buying a small pack of ready-made ogon ika, and usually all I need is just a small amount.

Other appetizers this time included: ginkgo nuts (Yep! The envelope-and-microwave method again! ;P ), grilled squid with shichimi pepper and small taros seasoned with salt and black sesame seeds.

This taro appetizer seems to be a popular autumn appetizer here, but I think it tastes good only when it is warm. My taros turned stone-cold while taking these shots, and even though I microwaved them before eating, still they were not very impressive. Ginkgo nuts were very good (yet I think Bijofu shows its best quality when combined with seafood).

Anyway, I don’t think I have time and energy to have a kaiseki project this autumn, but I would probably try this sake-and-appetizer project at least one more time before winter (hopefully) because it is much easier and less expensive :P.


Monday, November 12, 2007

I Love My New Grill

Pacific Saury

Just to let you know that my new grill did a good job. :)


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Baked Apples on a Beautiful Autumn Afternoon

Baked Apples

Yeah, the weather was gorgeous today. Maybe that's why so many people decided to go picnicking with store-bought bento. And maybe that's why we had to work like hell at the bento shop today. What amused us was three fire trucks that came and stayed in front of the supermarket right across the street from our shop. We saw no smoke, no fire, and had no idea what the fire trucks were doing there, but anyway, they certainly got attention from everyone.

I came home around 2:30 pm, exhausted. But the afternoon was still so beautiful, and I felt like shooting some photos of autumny dessert in the afternoon sunlight...

... and of course eating the dessert!
You know, I just wanted to be one of those who enjoyed the gorgeous Saturday today.

And the baked apples were soooooooooooooo good with vanilla ice cream. :D

Well, these photos are the evidence that one can work at a bento shop both Saturday and Sunday mornings (actually until 2 pm and 3 pm) and still enjoy the weekend.
(But I won't mind enjoying a gorgeous weekend WITHOUT working at the bento place. Oh, I won't mind it AT ALL!!)

BTW, are you wondering why those cinnamon sticks are looking so big? It's not the sticks -- It's the apples. They are tiny apples called "hime-ringo (princess apples?)" here. Cute, ha?


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Let Me Show You My New Gas Stove (While It Is Still New And Clean...)

My New Gas Stove With Grill (YAY!)

No, it's not that I suddenly became rich or I won a lottery. For whatever reason, Kochi city had decided that now the town where I live in should change from the old-type city gas to natural gas. Those who live in Japan probably know that our city gas is classified into several types, such as 6A, 5C, 13A etc. Ours has just changed from 5B to 13A. Our gas appliances had to be adjusted accordingly. I could have kept my old gas stove with the necessary adjustment done, but its left burner was almost broke and the gas company gave a big discount on 13A type gas stoves, so I decided to go for a new one. This one was almost 50% OFF. Good decision, right? ;)

On Monday and Tuesday, apx. 1 hour on each day, I had to stay at home while a guy from the gas company worked in my kitchen and the balcony (because the water heater is on the balcony). It was such a bummer, but I guess it was worth it. I'm so happy with this new gas stove, especially this grill! Now I can throw away my old and smelly electric griller which I had to use on the kitchen floor because there was no space for it on the table. :D

This past week was not my lucky week, but this new change really made a difference now. Oh, I can't wait to use this grill...
Maybe tonight.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tai Meshi

Tai Meshi (Japanese pilaf with sea bream??) Cooked in Donabe

I'm not sure if "pilaf" is a proper translation for Japanese "takikomi gohan." When making pilaf, do you always need to saute raw rice (with butter) before cooking it in broth? Japanese takikomi gohan does not require sauteing rice, so maybe it shouldn't be called "pilaf." But I guess, from this translation, you can get some idea of what takikomi gohan is like, right? ;)

Here in Japan, tai (sea bream) is an expensive fish which is used for formal celebrations including wedding, baby's "first-feeding ceremony" etc. and also when someone achieved a great success. Thus, tai meshi also sounds like an expensive dish, and it actually was, I think, in the past. But these days young Japanese wives make the dish more casually and economically, making a good use of store-bought sea bream sashimi. Yes, those raw fish slices that come in plastic containers. Usually you see only 7 or 8 thin slices in one pack, but the good thing about tai meshi is that you don't need a whole lot of fish -- the fish is supposed to be mixed into rice anyway... like this.

I usually grill the sea bream beforehand, as recommended in many tai meshi recipes. I guess that makes the dish less fishy and more fragrant. The thinly sliced dark-green stuff in the top photo is kombu kelp from making dashi stock. Of course, it was my own crazy idea, but I always don't know what to do with the kelp after making dashi stock, so I thought adding it to this tai meshi could be a good idea -- It might even add extra umami. ;)