Killer Onigiris

Posted on June 10, 2014 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I've been eating Tartine bread non-stop for breakfast, lunch and supper but after two days, I felt like eating rice for lunch.   Onigiri came to mind, but of course, I wanted to celebrate RICE CRAFT - the ongiiri book I am going to write for Chronicle Books. One of the reaasons why I was in SF was to close the deal, and closed it is!  It's a good feeling. The book will be published in Spring 2016. A long ways to go but I have to get to work because some of the manuscript is due in September. I will make killer onigiris.  

Kale and Asparagus Soba Salad

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

I am making soba for Deborah Madison's cookbook promotion at Cooks County tomorrow.  So I thought I would practice a little.  I have to make 80 servings but the portions are small, so it should go pretty quickly.  There is a Kale Soba Salad in Madison's Vegetarian Literacy. This recipe is inspired by that one and the soba noodles are of course, made fresh.  My friend Casey came over with some chicken eggs.  I gave her soba.  What a great trade!

Soba Salad with Kale
Serves 4
1 bunch Tuscan kale, leaves sliced, thinly, crosswise and rubbed with ¼ tsp of salt
1 Tbls lightly roasted sesame oil

1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
½ tsp sea salt
4 Tbls Lightly roasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
1 -2 tsp soy sauce
4 servings of soba noodles, freshly made or cooked, or used dry noodles, cooked
Garnishes: 3 scallions, sliced thinly, crosswise
2 pinches shichimi pepper 2 Tbls roasted sesame seeds

Make the soba noodles and the salad dressing.  

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients and mix well. Taste and make adjustments, as necessary. Rub salt and sesame oil on sliced kale, until leaves soften. Set aside. Boil the noodles, drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shock noodles in ice water. Drain well. In a salad bowl, toss sliced kale and the dressing. Gently combine with the soba.  Sprinkle the garnishes, and serve immediately. 

Seasonal Menu- Kinpira and Udon Noodles

Posted on September 1, 2011 at 4:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Kinpira burdock and carrots


Kinpira Gobo - Stir fried burdock root and carrots
Hiyayako with mixed herbs 
Hot Udon Noodles with Toasted Age and Negi

Now that we have two home bases, one in Pasadena and Tehachapi, there are also two kitchens. Tehachapi's kitchen has been put together with odd and ends hat were sitting around the house. It's a funky collection but it is nice to inject new life into things you thought you no longer had much use for.

When we come to the ranch, I clear out the perishables from our fridge and bring it with us.  The  ice chest has become a good travel companion.  Even, a few tired looking carrots and half of a burdock made it into the ice box along with chives, dill, cilantro.  I also packed the tofu and udon noodles I made back in June that were sitting in the freezer. 

Hiyyako with mixed herbs

What we had for lunch today was Hiyayako again, but with mixed herbs. It's perfect starter for a hot day in the high dessert.  Dill is unheard of on a Hiyayako but it wasn't bad. I also used cilantro. I forgot to bring ginger, which traditionally goes on top of Hiyayako but I didn't miss it. 

There was enough carrots and burdock to make a small dish of kinpira gobo - stir fried roots.  They carrots were a little limp but I sliced the roots up and soaked them in water to crisp them up before frying.  I seasoned the roots with soy sauce and mirin. 
I toasted the age in the toaster. It came out nice and crispy.

Hand cut noodles - defrosted and boiled for 12 minutes, 
and then rinsed. 

Hot udon noodles in a soy broth with Toasted age and Negi

I toasted the age in the toaster, just enough to get them crispy.   It worked really well as a noodle topping.  I sliced some negi (scallions work too).  
I defrosted the udon noodles, and cooked them for 15 minutes. With udon, you want to gave them a good rinse to remove the surface slime.  I could have cooked the noodles in their frozen state but by the time we got to Tehachapi, they were starting to defrost, so I let it them defrost completely. Frozen or defrosted, these thick noodles take 12 -15minutes to cook.  I heated the soy broth that I made in Pasadena.  You could put a half boiled egg as a topping, if you want more protein but we had eggs for breakfast so I kept it vegetarian. The hand made noodles still tasted very good and had good texture.  I was pleased about that.

Asazuke Cucumbers Pickles with Ginger

Posted on August 29, 2011 at 10:05 AM Comments comments (0)

My favorite way of eating fresh vegetables is raw. These persian cucumbers had shinny skin and firm meat - perfect for a lightly seasoned pickle - Asazuke. I ruibbed the bite size pieces of cucumbers with some salt and put them in a to apply  pressure. The weight of the pickling device extracts the excess water in the cucumbers and instensifies their flavors. My pickling device is about 25 years old. If you don't have one, to extract the excess water. That's how it was done traditionally.  With a little sesame oil, sliced ginger and a dash of shichimi peppers, these cucumbers make a nice palate cleansers.

Recipe: Asazuke cucumbers with ginger
Makes 2-3 servings

2-3 Persian or Japanese cucumbers
1.5-2 tsp of salt (kosher or amashio salt)
2 tsp roasted sesame oil
1 tbls ginger, sliced very thinly
or roasted sesame seeds 

Wash and peel the cucumbers and slice vertically in halves.
Rub salt on the cucumbers.  
Put them in a pickling jar or cover with plate and apply pressure with something heavy like a stone (1kg) and let it rest in the fridge for 30-60 minutes. 

Peel the ginger and soak in water for about 10 minutes.  Slice the root thinly as possible. Soak again in water
to make them crisp.  Drain and serve with the cucumbers.

To serve, discard excess water.  Pour the sesame seed oil and toss lightly. 
Serve with sliced ginger and a dash of shichimi pepper or sesame seeds.

Ohitashi - A Green Dish

Posted on January 15, 2011 at 12:07 AM Comments comments (0)

I am still feeling the extra inch I put on during the holidays.  Now that I am in Tokyo, my appetite for good food just won't stop.  But what's nice about eating in Japan is that there are many delicious plain dishes.  Take Ohitashi for example.  It's blanched greens that is served like a salad with plain soysauce or soy based broth. No oil is added so it's very light and refreshing, and can be put together in no time.  Most greens in the spinach family work.  I made Ohitashi with Komatsuna - which is mild like spinach. The leaves are slightly thicker.

I found the Komatsuna at a vegetable and fruit shop in my old Shibuya neighborhood where my parents live.  This shop has been here forever, and they haven't changed much since I was a child. Even the abacus and the container holding the rubber bands come from the sixties.

It's fun to go back to these familiar places.  I walked on the old concrete path that leads up to the road near my house. It was the shortcut that I used to take school.  The old bath house is gone. So are the gesha houses that played majong and shamisen music into the night but the produce shop feels like it will still keep going so long as they are people who care about these mom and pop shops.
Recipe for Ohitashi:
Serves 4 - 6

1 bunch of greens such as spinach, mizuna, komatsuna, broccoli rabe, shungiku, mitsuba, water cress
Pinch of salt
Garnish- dried bonito flakes, roasted sesame seeds
Soy sauce (Koikuchi style) or Soy sauce diluted with Dashi (to taste)
1 sushi mat

Shock the greens in cold water.

To make ohitashi, take a bunch of washed greens and blanch them in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute.  
Rinse in cold water and trim the root ends.

Gather half the bunch by the root ends and set them down on the mat so they are straight. Take the other half and put the root end on the other side.  Wrap and shape the greens into a tube, using the mat.  Gently squeeze out any excess water. Let stand for a few minutes.

Unwrap the sudare and cut crosswise into 2.5-3inch pieces.  Serve with soysauce on the side

Spread the greens on the sushi mat. 

Roll the mat to shape the greens.  Then unroll and cut the
greens like sushi rolls.

Option: You can dilute the soysauce with dashi to make a more liquidy broth.   Pour the broth on the cut greens,  and let stand for 10 -30 minutes in the fridge.  Serve with sprinkles of roasted sesame seeds or bonito flakes.

Ohitashi served with bonito flakes and soy sauce







Taking flight - Artichoke seed

Posted on August 2, 2010 at 1:22 AM Comments comments (0)
We'e had a relatively cool summer in Santa Monica.  My vegetable garden was performing rather well in June, as you can see from the picture below, but the temperatures never rose high enough for the tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplant.  So I had to pull some of them out.  The peppers and zuchinnis are slowly coming along, and I planted more tomatoes and cucumbers this weekend. Let's see what's happens to the rest of our summer.  It was not all without hope though.  What did surprising well were the artichokes. I find artichokes tedious to eat but I love to have them in my garden.  The purple flowers keep my garden cheerful. Eventually, they turn brown and dry, but even then, I like them.  I had never paid much attention to ttheir seeds before until I saw them this afternoon. They were so beautiful, I had to run inside for my camera. Poor Ana had to wait for her walk until I finished taking pictures. But she never complains. She knows me.  's 's wedding gown was lovely but look at this one.  It took my breath away.

  Artichoke seed. Ready to take flight.

My last artichoke flower of the year.

Mass of seeds.

Old beauty

Brown Rice with Azuki Beans

Posted on July 10, 2010 at 1:41 AM Comments comments (0)

Brown rice with azuki beans served with gomashio

There are several ways to cook brown rice. In our s, we made the rice two ways -in the and . But unexpectedly, we  had an equipment glitch with both cookers during class. The electric rice cooker didn't get switched on properly (or somebody accidentally pulled the chord out) and the pressure cooker was leaking steam from the side.  We had tested the brown rice before class so we had rice to serve but I hope we don't have this kind of double trouble again.

Akila uses the standard electric rice cooker to cook brown rice. We used my rice cooker that can be set to brown rice cooking.  I  like to use an or a to cook brown rice.  The textures come out differently depending on what equipment you use.  The electric rice cooker makes a soft  fluffy brown rice. The  method keeps the grains nutty and mochi-like in texture, and uses less water to cook.  If you use a , the texture is somewhere in between the electric rice cooker and pressure cooker.   The brown rice in this picture was cooked in the rice cooker, Akila's way. I think you will have to experiment on your own to see what you like the best. They are all good, especially with the azuki beans, which adds a tint of red to the rice and azuki flavor.

Soak the rice and azuki beans for 4-6 hours.  

Recipe: Rice with Azuki Beans - Electric Rice Cooker method
Serves 6-8

Brown rice plus 3 tbls of azuki beans to make a total of 2 cups
4 cups water  
1 knob of ginger, peeled and sliced into tiny slivers. This is the hidden ingredient which will disappear into the cooked rice.
Roasted sesame seed topping (Gomashio) Coarse salt – Okinawa salt, Maldon from Britain, Fleur de sel In a very small frying pan, toast coarse salt to reduce its moisture content. Add sesame seeds and toast them, too but be careful not to burn them.

Wash the brown rice really well and drain water completely before adding the measured water.

Soak in 4 cups of water for 4 hours. Cook the rice with measured water and ginger in electric rice cooker.

Garnish rice with roasted sesame seed salt.


You can also make the rice in a pressure or donabe rice cooker. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for cooking brown rice. The amount of water will vary depending on the cooker you use.


Braised Kabocha Squash

Posted on July 1, 2010 at 1:56 AM Comments comments (0)

If I get to choose one vegetable to have in the fridge to munch on, it is not a carrot or celery but kabocha squash.  I cook the cut pieces of Kabocha in a light syrup, just long enough to give them a hint of sweetness.  The syrup is drained so the kabocha is never sugary sweet or mushy.  I often serve this dish with soba to supplement the Vitamin A.  Soba offers the rest of the good stuff.


1/4 of small to medium size Kabocha squash

2 cups water

3/4 cup sugar

Cut the kabocha squash in bite size pieces.  Bevel the corners.

Bring the water and sugar in a medium size saucepan.  Add the Kabocha

and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Then lower heat and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the meat is cooked.  Test with toothpick.

Drain the syrup.  Serve in a bowl.  

Keeps for a week in the fridge.

Carrots and Burdock Chips - Suage

Posted on June 4, 2010 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (0)

I love vegan chips. The latest experiment is with carrots. I made a lot of burdock chips 
at the Tsukiji Soba Academy while learning how to make toppings  for noodles.  These chips are perfect for soba and udon noodles, but can also be eaten straight as chips.  (here is the link to the recipe). The carrots tasted sweet and paired nicely with burdock chips.
I ate this entire dish by myself.  That was like eating one whole burdock root and a large carrot.

Shaved burdock and carrots.  I soaked them in water with a little
rice vinegar.

Quick Nappa Cabbage Pickles - Hakusai no Asazuke

Posted on May 31, 2010 at 11:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Second day - you can eat it like an oil--free salad.

Napa cabbage is a typical winter vegetable but in California, it is still available.  It's not as sweet like the winter napa but it's fine for making asazuke, quick pickles.  I found a nice size Napa at Wholefoods.  The pickle I make only takes a few days.You can start eating it like a salad from the second day forward, and reaches its peak on the  5th or 6th day. Before pickling, I prep it by letting the cut napa cabbage leaves dry in the open air for about a day. This brings out their  sweetness. You can just let them sit on your kitchen counter top.

Drying the Napa Cabbage 

Pouring the brine over the cut napa cabbage.

Putting the 3kg weight on the napa cabbage. I have had this pickling
device for nearly 20 years.  It still works like new.

1 Napa cabbage
2 cups of water
Salt to equal 2% of the Napa cabbage weight
3 inches - konbu seaweed
3 dried red chili peppers, seeded 

Put a cross incision at the bottom of the cabbage, about 4 inches deep.  Using your hands, tear the cabbage apart.  Slice each quarter again vertically.  

Prepare the brine with the measured water and salt.   Slice the konbu seaweed into thin strip.  Seed the chili peppers. Cut in halves.

Set the napa leaves in the pickling box. The leaves should face the center.  Add some chili peppers and konbu. Then make the next layer of napa cabbage. Repeat until you use up all the cabbage.  Pour the brine.  Put the lid on and refrigerate.

Turn the pickle everyday, rotating the bottom napa cabbage with the top napa cabbage. The bottom ones will be more pickled than the top ones.  They will get slightly gooey from the konbu seaweed. Don't wash it off, it is what gives the napa cabbage good flavor. So do the chilis.  

Keep refrigerated. Lasts for about a week.  I like to sprinkle the cut napa with dried bonito flakes, and serve the pickles with soy sauce. With a bowl of brown rice, I was in heaven today.

To serve, squeeze excess water, using your hands.  Cut into bite size pieces and serve.
Bonito flakes and soysauce make a nice accompaniment.

Handmade Dattan Soba with Heirloom Tomatoes, Avocado and Enoki Mushrooms

Posted on May 3, 2010 at 3:51 PM Comments comments (0)


Flour ratio: 40% Dattan Flour, 40% Buckwheat Flour  20% All-Purpose

I finally got around to making at home.  Of the 50kg of buckwheat flour that I brought back from Japan, I had 5 kg of Dattan buckwheat from China.  I didn't expect to like Dattan when I was first introduced to it.  People warned me that Dattan tastes bitter and medicinal. But it did not hit my tastes buds in that way at all.  I love the grassy flavor and the mustardy color of this buckwheat. You feel healthy just looking at it.  

Dattan soba is prized in China and Japan for its medicinal properties. Dattan is grown by the Yi tribes inhabiting in the highlands of Sichuan and Yennan province. This soba has almost 100 times more Rutin than normal buckwheat. The popularity of Dattan has slightly cooled off in Japan but there are people who eat this soba and drink its tea regularly to stay healthy. The Yi tribe who eat Dattan everyday is said to have no adult lifestyle related diseases.    

I make a mild Dattan soba by mixing the flour with standard Japanese buckwheat and all purpose flour. You don't taste the bitterness but there is a hint of grass in the flavor.  It is best eaten cold or as a salad.  I used vegetables I found in my fridge - tomato, avocado, enoki mushrooms and scallions.  Any salad vegetable goes with soba.


Makes 4

4 servings of fresh soba noodles  but recipe calls for a ratio of 40% dattan flour, 40% Japanese soba flour and 20% all-purpose flour.  See instructions below.  Or use1 bag dried soba noodles, and cook them according to package instructions.

1 avocado peeled, pitted and sliced vertically, about 1/4 inch wide

1 tomato, sliced thinly, 1/4 inch wide

1 bag of enoki mushrooms, ends removed

Yuzu or lemon rind,  a small sliver for each person

Wasabi to serve at the table (optional)

 Dipping sauce  (here is the link to a quick dipping sauce)

1-2 tsps olive oil or sesame oil to taste (optional)

Make the dipping sauce first and keep it chilled.  

To make Dattan soba noodles by hand, use boiling water, instead of water , as called for in the standard recipe I provided.  Use a paddle to mix the hot flour.  When the water is incorporated into the flour and cooled down, then use your hands to mix the flour and proceed according to the soba recipe. Cook the noodles just before serving the dish. Add some oil to the noodles. (optional). 

Slice the vegetables.

Arrange the soba noodles on a plate and arrange the vegetables  and Yuzu on top.  Pour the sauce at the table,  just before serving.  Serve with wasabi (optional).

Option: You can use other vegetables of your choice - sauteed shitake mushrooms, asparagus, lettuce, spinach, etc.

Stir fried Hijiki Seaweed with Tofu and Vegetables

Posted on January 16, 2010 at 7:23 AM Comments comments (0)

When I am in Japan, I find myself eating some type of seaweed everyday. One in particular that i love is hjiki, a porous grassy seaweed that grows wild on the rocky coastlines of Japan. Hijiki has great texture and flavor. It is sold in the US in dried form. Hydrated, hijiki expands to about ten times its original size, so a little amount goes a long way.  I use the long Hijiki seaweed, called Naga-hijiki

The easiest and tastiest way to prepare hijiki is to simply stir fry it with other vegetables. The most popular combination is hijiki with sliced tofu pouches, age, carrots, and green beans.  The way I do it is, I look in the fridge and see what vegetables I want to use up. You can come up with your own combination. Peas, sliced burdock, peppers and celery also work well. I season this dish with dashi or chicken stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. You can spice it up fresh ginger. For a more savory flavor, you can add about a cup of thinly sliced pieces of meat or seafood such as shrimp or clams to this recipe. If you want to make this dish more like salad, add crispy greens like mizuna, lettuce or sprouts (daikon radish sprouts are good.), just before serving. The  other nice way to serve this dish is to mix it into steamed rice and turn it into hijiki rice. I do this quite often.

One thing to remember about hijiki is to make sure you soak it in water for at least an hour, drain, and rinse it several more times to remove any impurities. Serve this dish in small appetizer portions.  It's a great source of calcium, iron and fiber.

Naga-hijiki - Long hijiki

Serves 4

1 cup dried hijiki, hydrated

3 -4  dried shiitake mushrooms, hydrated

1 large or 2 small pieces Age (deep fried tofu pouches) optional

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, 1/8 thick

1 tsp peeled and thinly sliced ginger

2 tbls roasted sesame oil or vegetable oil

1 cup dashi, dried shitake mushrooms stock or chicken stock of your choice

2 tbs mirin

1 tbs sake

1 tsp sugar or honey (optional)

1/4 cup soy sauce, or to taste

Salt if needed


Garnish: 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds (optional)

Add the hijiki last.

Soak hijiki in cold water to cover for at least one hour. Drain.  Rinse a couple more times to remove impurities.

Hydrate shitakes in cold water to cover, about 20 minutes.  Slice shitakes into 1/8 inch pieces. Reserve soaking liquid for the stock if you like.

Put oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Stir fry the carrots, age, mushrooms and ginger first for 2-3 mintues. 

Add the hydrated and drained hijiki.  Stir a couple times; add the stock or shiitake soaking liquid, mirin, sake, sugar and soy sauce. Stir, turn heat to simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes until most of the liquid is evaporated. Mixture should not be soupy or dry. Taste, and make adjustments with soy sauce, sugar and salt, if needed.

Serve as a salad or appetizer, about 1/3 cup servings per person.  Garnish with roasted sesame seeds.

Pink pickled radish on a pink dish

Posted on December 24, 2009 at 6:40 PM Comments comments (0)
Kabu no Asazuke

Watermelon radishes pickled Asazuke style

Christmas Eve dinner this year was a potluck.  It was my friend Annie's idea. This worked out better for me because my big oven and dishwasher were both broken.  I managed to make do with my little oven and got a new dishwasher just in time.  

Everyone asked for turkey, so that's what I made. Finding a small one to fit my litlte oven was the only challenge. Most turkeys start at 12 lbs but I found a smaller bird, about 10 lbs in size.  I also made some sides - stir fried brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, and the dessert - a tart tatin, which came out perfectly caramelized. One friend was too busy to cook so she picked up sweet potatoes, cream corn and cream spinach at Honey Baked. But she didn't want the others to know they were store bought, so we quickly hid the plastic HB containers under the sink and served everything in my good china. Noone noticed. Pot lucks can be a luck of the draw but we did alright, given the circumstances. The turkey came out nice and moist. I had no leftover turkey meat.  

As far as presents go, one present worth mentioning is the one Joe got from Edward. It was a disc shaped metal sculpture - a full moon and two waning moons welded together to look like a  gong. Can you picture that?  What was Edward, thinking? was Joe's polite question after Edward left.  Maybe Edward liked its karmic qualities. Sakai thought it was the best gift because it was unquestionably the tackiest.  Edward takes pride in finding such unique things at garage sales and discount stores. One year he gave me a I kept it for a few years and then gave it back to him as a Christmas present. We keep our presents light and humorous.

After stuffing myself with all this food, I realized I forgot to serve one plate: the pickles. Japanese and pickles. They are inseparable.  I needed them to clear my palate and help digest the heavy food. After the guests left, I ate the pickles - the whole plate.  My tummy thanked me for it.  

I made these pickles with watermelon radishes. Everything about these radishes are beautiful - their blushed outer skin.  Their inner pink hue  - the young ones are only partially pink.  Their flavor is juicy and sweet.  

I did a quick pickle - Asazuke style pickle which I blogged about last summer. There isn't much of a recipe for this one. There were four radishes in this bunch.  I washed the dirt off and sliced the root into 1/8 inch thick slices and the leaves into 1/4 -thick pieces.  I sprinkled a half a teaspoon of salt and gave the radishes a good massage. Then I put them into the with a piece of dried kombu, about 3 inches long, and let them pickle for a day.  

You can garnish the radishes with some yuzu or lemon rind but these pickles are delicious plain too.  The kombu gives the radishes a good savory flavor and a slightly slimy texture.  I served the pickles on my favorite dish by   The dish is pink and oval, and reminds me of the delicate seashells I used to collect with my grandmother at the beach in Kamakura when I was a little girl. I still have the shells.


Kimpira Heirloom Carrots

Posted on December 12, 2009 at 7:41 PM Comments comments (0)

Kimpira Ninjin - Kinpira gobo

I found some rare heirloom carrots at the Farmer's market. This maroon carrot in particular was a beauty.  It happened to even match what I was wearing- my hand knit sweater from Uruguay.  I wanted to wear the carrot around my neck!

I knew these carrots would be delicious cooked with a little butter but then I was thinking, how about stir-fried Kinpira-style, with a little red chili pepper to spice it up?  Usually, Kinpira is made with carrots and burdock but I wanted to try it with just carrots. 

A little too thick but what the heck.

The carrots came in odd shapes, so it wasn't easy to peel them but I did the best I could. Then came the slicing. Even worse.  With Kimpira, I should have sliced them more thinly but I relaxed and some came out rather thick. The maroon carrots had a beautiful yellow interior. I sauteed the sliced carrots in sesame oil for a few minutes until they became tender, and then seasoned them with soysauce, mirin and sugar. The maroon carrots lost their bright red color in the cooking and turned beige. The yellow carrots were nutty and the most flavorful of the three. The cracked red pepper gave the dish a nice spice, the roasted sesame seeds another layer of texture and toasty flavor.  It was a nice dish.


5 cups of carrots, peeled and sliced into matchsticks, 1/8 inch thick.  (mine were thicker

because the carrots had odd shapes)

2 Tbls of soysauce or more to taste

1 Tbls mirin

1 Tbls sugar or less, depending on the natural sweetness of the carrots

1 Tbls sake

3 Tbls Roasted sesame oil


Red cracked pepper 

Roasted ground sesame seeds

Over mediumm heat, saute the carrots for 3 minutes, until they are tender. Add the seasonings and cook for another 3-5 mintues, until the carrots absorb most of the liquid. Taste to see if it needs more seasoning. Adjust sparingly with soysauce, and other seasonings.   

As a garnish, the cracked red pepper will give it a zing!  It's nice too with roasted sesame seeds.

Quick Mizuna with Konbu Pickles - Asazuke

Posted on December 7, 2009 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (1)

Mizuna no Kizami Konbu zuke - and cut Konbu pickles

and cut Konbu asazuke.

Everyday, I try to make something with  and vegetables.  When I was growing up, my mother used to tell us that if we ate we would have beautiful black hair like konbu but maybe it was just her tactic to get us to eat more seaweed.  I am glad she got me into the habit.  Now I appreciate  even more, for its vitamins, minerals and fiber. Both sea and land vegetables make me feel good. 

I made a quick pickle-Asazuke with Mizuna and cut Mizuna has a nice piquant peppery flavor.  The texture of this pickle is crunchy and slightly slimy. The sliminess comes from the extracts of the kombu. It is something you might have to get used to. I love it.

The pre-cut dried konbu is great for making pickles and sauted dishes.  Best if you hydrate them before you put them in the pickle press. Don't soak the too long because you want to use the extract, especially the iodine to season the pickle. The amount of salt to use is between 1-2% of the total weight of the vegetables.  For this recipe, I use 1-1.5 teaspoons of salt for about a pound of vegetables.  Some dried kombu are saltier than others, so you need to make the adjustment accordingly.  I don't like to oversalt so I try to stay at the lower end of the ratio.

Serves 4-6
1 lbs
1/2 cup Kizami Konbu, hyadrated, or slice wider konbu into thin matchstick pieces, about 2 inches long and 1/16 inch wide, and hydrate.
1-1.5 tsp salt

Kizami-Konbu - Cut dried Kombu 

Wash the and cut off root ends.  Cut crosswise into 2 inch wide pieces.
Hydrate the cut dried konbu in water for 5-10 minutes.  Drain,

In a pickling container, combine the cut and Konbu.  Add the salt and mix it into the mizuna.  Add the kombu to the mizuna and mix together.

Press the Mizuna and Konbu, using the pickling press and let stand in the fridge for 2-3 hours.  Here is the link to the Pickling Press with screw top.
To serve, remove from pickling press, gently squeeze out excess water and serve.
Best eaten on the same day.

Note: If the pickle comes out too salty, give it a quick rinse under cold water.  Squeeze out excess water and serve.  

Mix the salt into the Mizuna and Kombu mixture.

Tempura - Overcoming the Fear of Frying

Posted on December 4, 2009 at 10:12 PM Comments comments (0)

Seasonal vegetables are an ideal candidate for tempura.  I found these zuchinni blossoms at the Farmers Market. Zuchinni blossoms aren't usually seasonal in December but I am sure with the way the weather has been, they are getting confusing signals. I got to the farmers market late. The farmer who grew these beautiful zuchinni blossoms was packing up but said I could have the basket of blossoms for just  $1. I couldn't resisit. I bought some cucumbers and green beans from him too. I went home and made tempura.


Mix the flour into the egg mixture, and not the egg mixture into

the flour. This makes a crispier batter.


It's okay to have some lumps of flour in the batter.

I use a thick, heavy cast iron frying pan when making tempura.  The pan should have plenty of depth to hold oil. I wished I owned a bigger tempura pan. That's next on my wish list for cookware. I always make the batter with ice cold water, fresh eggs, flour and a little cornstarch. I even threw an ice cube in the batter to make it colder.  I shouldn't do this but I took it out before it melted.  I only make small batches of batter at a time to keep it fresh. One new trick Akila Inouye of Tsukiji Soba Academy taught me was to mix the flour into the egg water mixture, and not the egg mixture into the flour.  Just by following this step, it made a much crispier batter and gave me more confidence in making tempura. 

Don't over crowd the pot.  Let the blossoms dance freely in the oil.

serves 4

12 zuchinni blossoms with stems
1 cup of flour mixtture - cake flour and 2 tsp of cornstarch
3/4 cups ice cold water
1 egg yolk

Clean the zuchinni blossoms.  

5 cups of canola, peanut or sesame oil.

Combine the cake flour and cornstarch. Sift together.
In a medium bowl, combine the egg, ice cold water, and egg yolk.  Using a pair of chopsitcks, lightly add the flour and cornstarch mixture and cut in the ingredients. Do not mix or beat.  Don't worry if you find unmixed articles of flour or egg yolk.  Set the bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and water.  

In the preheated oil (325F), begin to cook the tempura until crispy and golden color, about 1 minute. Drain the tempura on old newspaper or paper towels.  Give a dash of salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

My Japanese Pantry - Burdock Root - GOBO

Posted on December 3, 2009 at 9:31 PM Comments comments (0)

Gobo - Burdock

The Burdock root can grow to 3 feet (1 meter) long.   

Burdock tastes like a cross between a potato and an artichoke. It is particularly enjoyed for its crunchy texture. Burdock has a naturally brown color like a potato and the good earthy flavor is all in the skin, so don't shave or peel the skin all off. Gently scrub to remove the dirt and hairy roots.

These Burdock roots, GOBO, in the picture measure nearly 3 feet long. How can they grow so long? And for me the frequently raised question is how do I get these home from the market? It's always a challenge with the longer ones. You can buy water packed, peeled and shaven burdock but the flavor is inferior to fresh burdock, and contain additives, so I don't recommend them. When I get home, I cut the Burdock root in half, wrap it in a wet day old newspaper (Not the FOOD section!)  and plastic to keep them fresh in the fridge. When Burdock roots are old, they get pulpy, shriveled, and tough.  Make sure you find one that feels thick, firm and flexible. The fresher they are, the crispier the texture. You can eat them raw when they are very very fresh.  Burdock improves digestion and is full of fiber.


Kinpira - Stir Fried Lotus Root and Burdock

Posted on December 2, 2009 at 11:13 PM Comments comments (0)
 Kinpira Renkon to Gobo - Stir fried Lotus root and Burdock

Stir frying lotus root and burdock in roasted sesame oil

There are some beautiful root vegetables at the Asian markets right now. I often make Kimpira when I see a nice burdock. Burdock and Carrots are the most popular combination for this dish but you can also use lotus, daikon radish, celery and potatoes.  The vegetables are simply stir fried in roasted sesame seed oil and caramelized in a soy sauce, sugar and sake sauce. Taste the roots midway through your cooking, and make adjustments to suit your palate. I love cooking with Lotus root and Burdock because they both retain their crunchiness in cooking and don't get mushy.

Serves 4

8 oz lotus root, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 burdock root, roots scraped off, lightly scrubbed to remove dirt, and sliced 1/8 inch thick
1 tsp rice vinegar
3 tbls roasted sesame seed oil
1 tsp roasted sesame seeds
2 tbls sake
1.5 tbls sugar or more to taste
3 tbls soysauce or more to taste
1/2 tsp Crushed red chili pepper or 1 dried chili pepper, seeded and chopped

Soak sliced burdock and lotus root in water with 1 tsp of rice vinegar for 10 minutes. Drain.

Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat and saute the lotus root and burdock for
2-3 minutes, or until the roots are tender and opaque in color.  Turn heat to low and add sake, sugar, chili pepper, and soysauce and cook for a couple more minutes until the roots absorb most of the caramalized liquid. Turn heat high for 10 seconds.  Remove from heat
and serve.

Garnish top with sesame seeds.

Slice the burdock at a diagonal. Soak both vegetables in
vinegared water for 10 minutes.  Leaving them out will
discolor the vegetables and make them look unappealing
so have the vinegared water ready before you start slicing 
the vegetables.

Garnish with roasted sesame seeds.

Quick Napa Cabbage and Apple Pickles - Asazuke

Posted on December 1, 2009 at 12:50 PM Comments comments (0)

Napa cabbage and apple pickles

I have not blogged too much about Japanese pickles, Tsukemono, but I have them almost everyday with my meals -  breakfast, lunch, dinner and even as a snack with tea.  It is one of my favorite ways to eat vegetables because they are light, delicious and balances out the meal nutritiously. During the course of a meal, Tsukemono is usually served at the end to clear the palate, and gives the bowl of rice a zing.  Since Tsukemono can be strong in flavor and salty, it is eaten in small quantities. One outstanding character of Tsukemono is its seasonality.  If you visit the Tsukemono section of a (Japanese department store's food shop in the basement), you can always see what vegetables are in peak season. Winter vegetables such as napa cabbage, carrots, Mizuna, daikon radish, komatsuna, turnips make great winter pickles. I make Asazuke, a quick Tsukemono that is put together by rubbing salt on the vegetables, adding kombu seaweed for flavor, a spice such as red chili pepper, and applying some pressure to the vegetables with a Japanese pickle press. (see pictures below - my pickle device is very old!). The Napa cabbage and Apple pickles were made in just three hours. All I used was salt and pepper. The salt extracts the excess liquid from the napa cabbage, intensifying the flavor and improving the texture. Asazuke can be served in the place of a salad.  Since it contains no oil or creams, it is light and very refreshing. The leaves of napa cabbage become sweeter and denser when they are in season.  The apple adds a nice crispy texture and tart  flavor
Serves 2-4

8 oz napa cabbage, ends cut and leaves washed
1/2 apple - apple of your choice such as Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper or sansho pepper
Soysauce for the table (optional)

Cut the white part of the napa cabbage into 2.5 inch wide pieces.  Cut the leafy part
of the napa cabbage into bite size pieces.  Put the napa cabbage into the empty pickling container.  Rub salt on the napa cabbage, making sure that the salt is distributed evenly
and massanged into all the leaves.  Put weight on the vegetables, using a pickle device. Let stand in the fridge for about 3 hours.

After 3 hours, unscrew the press or remove the weight. Squeeze out the brine.  If the Napa cabbage is too salty for your palate, you can give it a quick rinse under water.  Gently squeeze out excess brine but the napa cabbage should not be dry.  Slice the apples into 1/4 inch wedges, and the slice them crosswise into smaller pieces, about 1/4 thick.  Combine with the napa cabbage.  Serve with pepper.   You can also put serve some soysauce on the side.

Put the cut white and green Napa cabbage into the pickling press.  Rubb with  salt until water is extracted.  About 1 minute.

Put the weight on top to press the pickles. This pickle press is more than 20 years old.
It comes with a lid, and goes straight into my fridge.  It's not the prettiest piece of 
kitchen equipment but I can't live without it.

If you have a pickling press with a screw top (See picture below).  Rotate the screw until the press is in contact with the vegetables.  Apply weight to press down on the vegetables.
 Here is a that has a screw top. 

Miso Soup with Mushrooms, Tofu and Mitsuba

Posted on November 30, 2009 at 12:43 PM Comments comments (0)

Shitake, Enoki and Tofu Miso Soup with Mitsuba

I still have some beautiful vegetable stock left over from the Butternut Squash soup I made for Thanksgiving.  Both the stock and the soup came from Thomas Keller's recipes in his   It took more than 5 lbs of leeks, onions, fennel and carrots to put the stock together and more vegetables, including the butternut which was partially roasted, to make the soup. But it was well worth the effort because everyone loved it. I used this left over stock to make miso soup this morning.  I hesistated to put miso in it at first, thinking that the scent of fennel, thyme, garlic, sage might be overwhelming in a miso soup but on the contrary, it came out delicious. This soup can also be made quickly with any fresh vegetable stock of your choice or regular dashi, using dried Bonito flakes and Kombu.  I used  as a garnish.  Mitsuba is a very refreshing Japanese herb. It has hints of mint, parsely, celery and chervil. You can find Mitsuba at the Japanese markets all year around.   

Serves 4

3 1/2 cups Dashi or Vegan Dashi  
3 Tbls or more of Miso (Mugi Miso or Koji Miso) to taste
1/2 bunch of enoki mushrooms
2 shitake mushrooms, halved and sliced thinly, 1/8 inch thick
1/2 tofu, medium or soft, cut into small cubes, about 1/4 inch
1/2 bunch chopped mitsuba leaves or 3 tbls chopped chives

Bring the Dashi to a boil in a medium saucepan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Put the tofu and the shitake mushrooms and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the enoki mushrooms and cook for another minute.

In a small bowl, dissolve 3 1/2 tablespoons of the miso paste in a few tablespoons of the warm Dashi. Add the mixture to the saucepan. Taste and add more miso paste, Dashi or water, depending on how strong the soup tastes. Turn off heat.

Pour the soup into individual bowls.


Serve with chopped mistuba or chives.

Dissolve the miso paste with some dashi before you add
it to the soup.