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Boy cat looks after Mother cat - Tehachapi

Posted on March 25, 2012 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Chibi is one of two feral cats that was living with underneath our ranch house in Tehachapi when we bought the property.  Chibi, means little in Japan but he has outgrown his name and his mother, Kurokin.The  black cat curled up next to Chibi is Kurokin. Normally, Kurokin will not let Chibi near her but she is recovering from surgey and feeling either too weak to shoo Chibi away or in need of tender, loving care.  After a whole year of trying to catch these feral cats, I finally trapped  Kurokin yesterday, and took her to the vet to get her spayed. She appeared pregnant and sure enough, she was.  I am sorry about the abortion but we had to do it. 

Chibi and Kurokin last spring. They were living underneath  the
ranch house.  Chibi didn't not make an appearance until
a few months after we bought the ranch. Kurokin was
keeping her in hiding. Chibi was a complete surprise.

Chibi missed his mother a lot while she was away. I could hear the sadness in his meow.  Now that they are back together, they are inseparable.   Kurokin is doing everything a cat can do to comfort his mother.  He licks her shaved tummy and holds her  lovingly.  In just a  a couple days, Chibi appears to have matured and learned to show compassion.  In fact, he acts like  the mother cat.  We had to leave them both in Tehachapi like we always do.  It's good Kurokin has company.  Two is better than one. People and cats, we are all the same.

Kurokin - the feral cat that used to bark at us.
Now she lets us pat her on the back if she feels like it
and follows us around but always keeps a safe distant.

Common Grains - Soba Salad

Posted on March 17, 2012 at 3:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I don't know who invented the soba salad but it's not the Japanese. Go to Wholefoods, Tavern, Real Food Daily,  M Cafe in LA - Soba salad is on their regular menu.   I can't get used to the idea of pre-seasoned soba noodles though.The Japanees tradition is to eat fresh soba plain and quickly with a dipping sauce before they go limp or eat soba in a hot soup.  The first time someone served me a soba salad, I was horrified.  But I have become more open to fusion. If pasta works, why not soba?  

During the Common Grains event, we decided to put soba salad on the menu, and people went for it.  But we did something slightly different with the dressing to maintain the quality of our fresh, handcut soba.

Fresh hand cut tartary soba noodles.
Flour: Anson Mills Tartary Soba blended with Kitawase Soba
Water ration: 48%
We went light on the salad dressing and used two instead on one dressing.  The oil based dressing was used with the leafy vegetables and the oil-less Dowari- sauce for the noodles.  This way, you can taste the noodles before they get masked with the salad dressing.

It's simple to make this salad.  Pour the Dowari dipping sauce over the cold noodles.  In a separate bowl,  toss the leafy greans with the oil based dressing, and serve the salad right on top of the noodles.  This presentation allows you to taste the texture and flavor of the soba before it gets tosed up with the seasoned leafy greens.  I sprinkled some deep fried buckwheat grouts on top on this salad.

Soba salad with leafy greens, avocado, kiwi, red radishes, cilantro
                                               and buckwheat groats.  

Here is a simple sesame dressing that I used for the leafy greens.
Creamy sesame dressing for Soba Salad 
(Makes 2 cups) 
1 cup grape seed oil or canola oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup Mori tsuyu dipping sauce or more to taste or use 1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbls sesame oil 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
3-4 Tbls Atari Goma (Japanese sesame paste)
1 tsp grated ginger juice
1Tsp sugar to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Put all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until creamy.

Dowari dressing
Dilute Hongaeshi with 25% Dashi. Bring to a boil in a pot and
simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and
let cool.  Keeps in the fridge for a week.

Common Grains - Salmon Onigiri - Sprouted Brown Rice

Posted on March 16, 2012 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Besides soba, our other popular seller at the Common Grain pop ups was Onigiri. Among the onigiris we offered, salmon onigiri sold like peanuts. The 40 cup electric rice cooker, nicknamed R2-D2 for its shape and sizer, turned out to be a practical thing to have. 

I used to make onigiris with mostly white rice but now I am inclined to make it more often with brown rice ever since I met  at one of our events.  Monica is working to revive ancient wheat varietals and advocates eating whole grains. I have been reading her book which she co-wrote with her late husband Gene Spiller.  It's a book about improving your health with a high-fiber, plant-based diet. I am thinking, why mill away the nutrients. Eat food whole, whenever possible.
I highly recommend the book.

Today, I made onigiri with which in Japanese is called  It is slightly milder in flavor than brown rice and cooks fast like plain white rice. Sprouted brown rice contains high levels of minerals and dietary fiber.  It's very easy to cook and digest. I used a to cook the rice.  One cup of uncooked rice yields three large onigiris.  

I use my hands to make Onigiri.  You can use onigiri molds but hand molded onigiris taste better.
Here is what you do to make onigiri. While the rice is cooking, I get the seasonings and fillings ready.  For the Salmon Onigiri, you will need salt, water, and grilled salmon.  You can grill a fillet or two of salmon and flake it into small pieces. You can also use leftover salmon from last night's dinner. Put the salmon in a bowl and set it aside.

Prepare a bowl of salt water to rinse your hands in so the rice doesn't stick while you are molding the onigiris. Also, have some salt for seasoning the rice. Put everything on a tray.  

Divide the cooked rice into six mounds and place salmon flakes in the middle.  Alternatively, you can mix the salmon flakes into the rice to make salmon rice. 

Mold each mound into a triangular shape with your hands. Make sure you wet your hands in the bowl of salt water first. Dab a little salt on your palm and then pick up the mound of rice and make the triangle onigiri.  Don't press too hard. The onigiris should be firm but soft in the inside.  The salmon rice onigiri is in the center of the picture. The onigiri stuffed with salmon is in the background.  

Take a piece of nori seaweed and cut it into wide strips.  The width is a matter of preference. I use about 1/3 of the nori seaweed sheet to wrap each onigiri.  Onigiri is best eaten fresh.  You can also freeze Onigiri and microwave it.
I am not a regular microwaver user but it does magic with cooked rice.

Common Grains - The Disappearing Kabocha

Posted on March 9, 2012 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

One of my soba students, Liisa Margosian, came to almost every single Common Grains event. She always saved up her appetite for soba and ordered two or three serving in one sitting. It is a pleasure to watch her eat. Sometimes she brought friends, and a couple times she brought food. Good food. There were the half a dozen fresh eggs from Dr. Stefan Magopian's biodynamic organic farm. The yolks were sunny and full. I almost cried, they were so delicious.   Then there was this pumpkin that Liisa grew herself.  She showed me pictures of her garden on her I-phone and promised she would give me one. But it took a long time to get the pumpkin because she had to "cure" it for a couple of months. I waited and waited, and finally in February, she brought the pumpkin to me to the event  that took place at Atwater. The pumpkin was  big and heavy.  She apologized for the delay but it was well worth the wait.  I took the pumpkin from her and put it away.  I was so busy that night.  I completely  forgot about it.

When that ATX event was over, I realized a few days later that I had left the pumpkin at the Atwater Crossing.  My staff was back there to collect our stuff, so I asked them to look for the pumpkin. Luckily, someone had put the pumpkin on the bar counter to be admired. Thank goodness noone thought of eating it.

Yesterday, I got myself in the mood of finally cooking  the pumpkin. Kabocha pumpkins can be hard to split and cut, and if you are not careful, you can loose a finger.  I gave my pumpkin undivided attention as I sliced and beveled each piece. The meat was orange and firm. It was a jewel of a pumpkin.

I simmered the pumpkin with a little sugar for about 10 minutes, just until I can get a toothpick through the meat.
I turned off the heat and let the pumpkin soak in the syrup overnight.  This dish is called Kabocha-no-Amani.  Here are various recipes of the Kabocha pumpkin dishes (1), (2) (3), (4), (5) By the way, Kabocha goes very well with soba and compliments nutritiously.  Kabocha is loaded with Vitamin A.  I tooked the left over Kabocha no Amani  to our ranch in Tehachapi.  From Malibu - Atwater - Pasadena - Tehachapi - the pumpkin has come along way. And now, it's gone! 

KCRW Good Food

Posted on February 26, 2012 at 7:45 AM Comments comments (0)
Teaching soba at Tortoise, Venice.

I got to go on to talk with Evan Kleiman about making soba at home.
It was fun to talk about something I love doing so much with one of my favorite talk show hosts.
 It was a good thing for the particularly soba.

Dashi - The essence of Japan

Posted on February 10, 2012 at 10:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Jubei Yagi - Proprietor of Yaghi-cho - Katsuobushi shop

The Common Grains project has finally arrived at the final destination - Soba-ya in Torrance. Doing event after event is like running a long distance marathon with pots on my back. I have a dent in hub cap and a scratch on my new Prius, not to mention the car has not been washed in weeks; I got one traffic ticket, and lost my I-phone.   Otherwise,we've been sailing smoothly, and the people have responded very well to our soba.  This makes me very happy, and there are a few more events before we wrap at the end of the month.

Common Grians is offering its final  at Soba-ya until Feb 21, featuring handmilled soba. One of the highlights here is the upcoming dashi workshop, probably the first comprehensive dashi workshop to be held in LA, or maybe in the country!  

Karebushi (katuobushi) blocks on display at Yagicho 

Yagi-cho, a specialty dashi shop's owner, Mamiko Nishiyama, daughter of Chobei Yagi (picture above) will join us from Tokyo to do a with me.  I wrote about Dashi and the shop in the I have two big boxes plus what Nishiyama stuffed in her suitcase ful of bonito blocks, bonito flakes, dried sardines, a variety of konbu and wakame seaweed, donko shitake mushrooms, sesame seeds, soybeans. Nishiyama was so thrilled she passed through customs safely. If I had a way,  I would have moved their entire store here.  I wish Chobei Yagi would join us too but he is holding the fort. It turns out that Nishiyama went to grade school with me. I didn't remember until my sister reintroduced me to her 40 something years later.  Mamiko and I hit it off like old girlfriends. What fun.

Here are two pieces of mature Karebushi - katsuobushi blocks. The upper part and lower part of the fish. 4 blocks makes a whole. 
Jubei Yagi taps two karebushis together. He can tell by the sound how good the karebushi is.

He takes a sip of freshly brewed dashi. It's delicious.

Mitsuwa Marketplace - Soba Demonstration and Sales

Posted on January 26, 2012 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Today, we started Phase 3 of the project at Mitsuwa Marketplace.  We are doing soba demonstrations and sales of fresh soba there. An elderly gentleman came to watch us make soba. He wore a Dodgers baseball cap and a clean white shirt. His back was quite bent but he walked without a cane. He watched us making soba, had a tasting of soba, then another, and after that, he wanted to buy the take home soba.  But later, he came back to tell me that he didn't know the soba noodles were uncooked!  Yes, I explained to him that the noodles needed to be cooked at home. He said he lived alone and didn't think he could cook the noodles by himself. He seemed a little lost because he had already paid for the noodles.  I felt  bad for him so we made an exception and cooked the noodles for him. He was very happy.  It turns out that he is a 105 years old retired math teacher. He is a regular at Mitsuwa. His son (who is in his early 80s) brings him to a bus stop where he picks up the bus that brings him to the market every week.  He likes to hang out at the food court.  

He watched the soba demonstration with curiousity. He enjoyed talking about his family.  His wife passed away a couple of years ago at age 94. He said that his wife getting sick forced him to walk again because he had to go visit her at the hospital.  He thanks his "kachan" in heaven everyday for enabling him to walk again. Now he visits her at the cemetary every week.  He says walking and appreciating people are the way to longevity.  He has 55 grandchildren and some.  When the noodles were cooked, I packed it carefully in his back pack. He headed for the exit. I hope to see him again while we are at Mitsuwa.

Soba event at Breadbar Century City

Posted on January 16, 2012 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

She slurped it all!  

One of the main reasons why I got involved in the was to share my love for food and make new friends. The Common Grains soba event at Breadbar is doing just that. Every evening I am meeting new people and they all seem pretty happy with the soba.   We have another week to go at Breadbar and then we move to the next event. 

Some found out about us on the web.

This couple stopped by for soba on their way to the movies.
It was their first soba experience and love it!

She is eating the grilled onigiri.

Very happy slurpers.

Kanpai with sake!

This baby is getting a headstart with soba

The Bruin slurpers.  Anne's part of the Common Grains
creative team.
Karumude and her friend.

Onigiri - JANM onigiri contest

Posted on January 9, 2012 at 1:00 AM Comments comments (0)

I woke up 430 am this morning to cook 75 lbs of rice for the onigiri contest.  We made about 300 onigiri with it.  We sold out in 2 hours.  80 people entered the contest.  This one was a runner up and not a winner, but I thought it a was fun and original onigiri.

Onigiri Contest - JANM

Posted on January 7, 2012 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (1)
Tomorrow is the kick off of Common Grains.   We will start with the Onigiri Contest.  
My son Sakae made these onigiris while I was visiting him in Seattle. Binah, his finace, took these pictures.


Drying the Soba Seeds

Posted on January 7, 2012 at 9:45 PM Comments comments (0)

50 lbs Kitawase Washington State Buckwheat seeds, washed and sun bathing, to get ready for the Common Grains Debut.

We washed 50 lbs of  soba seeds, which will be used for making fresh buckwheat flour.  Lili is checking to see if there are any stones or seeds.  She said the buckwheat was clean.

Common Grains - Onigiri rehearsal

Posted on January 7, 2012 at 1:20 AM Comments comments (0)

We are just two days before the kick off of Common Grains.  Today, we tested the rice cookers and figured out the logistics of the onigiri contest.  We don't know how many people will come but we are preparing for 500.

We practiced making onigiri.  It's  going to be fun looking at all onigiris on Sunday.

Lili Gomez's onigiri. The cilantro is the Mexican touch.

Janet and Soma's onigiri - The Jalapeno and shansho pepper eyes are hilarious. Souma's on right looks like it has a hangover.

Monster Onigiri by Soma. I stouck in the almond teeth.

Happy 2012! Tehachapi Ranch

Posted on January 2, 2012 at 8:20 PM Comments comments (0)

It's nice to start the new year in Tehachapi with our routine morning walk.  Our neighbor, Michelle, stopped her truck to wish us a happy new year on her way to work.  "Your field is so nicely mowed, I see you decided to take a walk," she said. 

I love watching Ana dash through the field. You tell her to go and she shoots off like a bullet. She's really turned into a ranch dog.  She loves digging the mole holes, too. One day, we will plant something or bring in some farm animals but for now, we like this empty field.

Happy Holidays -Tehachapi

Posted on December 22, 2011 at 5:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Common Grains - The Project

Posted on December 6, 2011 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Common grains is an idea that grew out of my love for grains.  With a grant from the Japanese government, I am promoting Japanese grains in LA in the new year. Watch for the grain related events, including a pop up soba bar, panel discussions, screenings, and workshops in January and February 2012.  Come and have a slurp of soba with me.  

Before and After the Wind Storm - Pasadena

Posted on December 5, 2011 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Day before the wind storm Day after the wind storm

The wind storm swept away the leaves of the ginko tree in my backyard. The golden leaves were as ephermeral as cherry blossoms. Our city lost 600 trees from the wind. Very scary driving highway 110 at night after the test run at Breadbar.  I hit a few branches that were scattered on the road. Sakai's sculpture fell over but didn't break. Neither did the ginko tree.


Ginko Tree - Pasadena

Posted on December 4, 2011 at 10:55 PM Comments comments (0)

The ginko tree in our back yard turned from green to bright yellow.  I can see why my landlord adores this tree more
than anything else.   He doesn't let the gardner touch it.  An arborist from the Huntington Gardens comes to prune the tree once a year.  I don't know how old it is, but it is probably close to 100.

限りなくイェローに近いグリーン. この銀杏の木と庭に挽かれて,パサデナに引っ越してきたようなもの。みているだけで目の保養になる。うちの猫も野生のインコやリスもこの木の中で遊んでいる。


Fall - Tehachapi ranch

Posted on October 26, 2011 at 4:10 AM Comments comments (1)


A male deer sits under the apricot tree of our backyard.  This is as close as I have seen a large wild animal make himself at home at our ranch in Tehachapi.

The National Fruit Collection, Faversham, England

Posted on October 23, 2011 at 6:35 AM Comments comments (1)

My English friend Caroline sent me this picture she took of apple varieties displayed at the in Faversham, England.  They grow 2,300 varieties, 2 of each tree.  Caroline and her partner, Evan, went on  a guided walk and tasted various apples directly from the trees. I didn't know that many varieties of apples existed.