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Posts Tagged ‘carrots’

Osechi-ryori is the Japanese style of traditional foods eaten on New Years Day. It typically consists of many different small dishes that are served in stacked jubako (fine lacquer boxes similar to bento). To purchase a ready-made Osechi can set you back well into the hundreds of dollars. Or, you can spend all of that money on an airplane ticket to Japan and let your mother-in-law cook all of the food and arrange the jubako for you, Kawabata family style. Now, I’m not completely sure of all of the ingredients that were used, but I’ll sure do my best to fill you in on what filled my belly.

First and foremost was a delicious bottle of sake. My father-in-law always gets a really nice bottle when I come to visit. This is a bottle of Junmai Daiginjo from Aomori (Aomori is the farthest north area of Honshu and I once hitchhiked from central Tokyo all the way up there, but that’s a story for another time) called Denshu. It’s one of the best bottles in Japan and you won’t find it anywhere in the States. Junmai Daiginjo is sake that is made from pure rice without any added alcohol or sugar, rice that is polished at least 50%, and cold brewed at less than 5 degrees celsius. While you can find some Junmai Daiginjo in the States, you won’t find any as nice as this. It’s smooth as a baby’s ass! Even if you don’t love a baby’s ass, you’ll certainly love this bottle of sake.

In this box there was some simple steamed pea pods, shiitake simmered in shoyu (Japanese soy sauce), boiled satoimo potatoes, simmered lotus root, simmered carrots, and koya tofu (freeze-dried tofu, something I’ve never eaten before but really like the texture).

Here we have braised beef wrapped gobo (burdock root), salmon wrapped in kombu, sweet-pickled daikon and carrot, and sweet shoyu glazed yellow tail.

This level of jubako contained dried herring roe, white and pink fish cakes, ikura (salmon roe), mashed sweet potato, soy-glazed dried anchovies, Cool Breeze Amongst Pine Trees (Uichiro’s name for his famous meatloaf, don’t ask me how he came up with that name, some things are probably better unknown), and ham.

Next to the jubako was a plate with some grilled red snapper. I’m always disappointed when I order red snapper in Chicago. I’m never disappointed with I eat it here in Japan. Tamiko got the skin nice and crisp while keeping the flesh moist and juicy. Extremely fresh fish.

Then, she brought out bowls of soup. A clear broth made from kombu and katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes) filled with mitsuba greens, fish cakes with good fortune written in the middle, mochi (an absolute necesity at the Japanese new years table), shiitake, and slices of yuzu peel.

Last, but surely not least, she served up some red snapper sashimi that was cured in kombu. A touch of wasabi was all it needed.

Dessert was simply fresh strawberries and green tea. Strawberries are extremely expensive here in Japan so they’re always a treat.

To wipe our mouths we used “Year of the Dragon” napkins since 2012 is the year of the dragon. I was born in a year of the dragon as well.

Happy new years everyone!

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Farmer’s Market season officially kicked off this past weekend, and I couldn’t be happier. While it’ll still be some time before the best produce is available (peaches, carrots, etc.), there are some great veggies ready for the taking. With Sunday not only being the first Wicker Park Farmer’s Market, but also being an absolutely beautiful day, Yuki and I took Otis out for his first taste of the fresh produce Michigan has to offer.

Jakes Country Meats was there some beautifully smoked pork products. All of their pork is smoked with wood and vegetables like beets and celery that contain natural nitrates. They hit me up for a couple of smoked chops and a package of kielbasa as I am a lover of kielbasa. Haven’t had the kielbasa yet, but I salivate every time I open up my freezer and see them sitting there just waiting to be thawed and thrown on my grill!

I also picked up some River Valley Kitchens asparagus ravioli, some beautiful purple asparagus, and a few butterball potatoes. Along with the smoked chops these ingredients were to become dinner.

I also used 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 onion diced, 3 garlic cloves minced, and a handful of parsley chopped.

In my large skillet I melted the butter and then sautéed the garlic, onion, and asparagus for about 6 minutes. I added the ravioli (since they were not frozen I did not boil them) and let the fry in the butter for about 5 minutes or so on each side. Then I tossed in most of the parsley and seasoned with some salt and pepper. I set it aside until my grill was done.

For the grill I cut the potatoes into wedges and drizzled them with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I grilled them on the top rack for about 8 minutes on each side. Since the chops were smoked they just needed to be heated, some nice grill marks were also in order. So, I just let them cook for about 3 minutes on each side.

On the side I made a very simple salad with iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, and a lemon vinaigrette I made with the juice from 1/2 lemon, twice as much olive oil as lemon juice, salt, and pepper (emulsified into a smooth texture).

I will say this, the chops, while very delicious, were more like breakfast ham than dinner meat. They were a tad salty for the way I prepared them. If I were to buy them again, which I would in a heartbeat, I would serve them with a vegetable hash and a nice runny poached egg on top. Otherwise everything was fantastic.

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Sorry I haven’t put a post up in a while, been kind of busy the past week with my beautiful baby boy, Otis. Yeah, I know, badass name. He is a handsome little badass though, so it fits.

At any rate, Yuki’s parents came in from Japan a week ago to help us out. They’ve done all of the cooking and I absolutely love it! I do want to cook, and will in a day or two, but I am definitely enjoying their Japanese homestyle food. The other night they made this classic dish for us, Chikuzen Ni. Chikuzen is the old name for Kyushu, one of Japans main islands. Ni means simmered. It’s basically a simmered dish that comes from Kyushu. Tough to figure that one out, eh?

I don’t know exact measurements because I was busy changing diapers while they cooked. What they did was make a bonito dashi and added soy sauce, sake, mirin, and a touch of sugar. In that they simmered some chopped up skinless chicken thighs, carrots, gobo (burdock root, a root vegetable native to Japan and other countries in that region), lotus root, bamboo shoot, haricots vert, and konnyaku. It is absolutely heartwarming deliciousness!

To go with the Chikuzen Ni they made some pan-fried tofu. After pressing the water out of some silken tofu they chopped it up and fried it in my big skillet with some vegetable oil. After they took it out they poured in a mixture of bonito dashi, soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, and potato starch. Basically, it’s the same as the broth for the Chikuzen Ni. The added starch gives it a nice gelatinous texture. On top they put a little fresh grated ginger.

White rice was on the side and a cold beer was in hand.

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After trying to connect with a couple of our friends for a while, with whom we usually try new Mexican restaurants with, we finally got this past Saturday night lined up. Nick and his wife invited us over for dinner this time. I told him I’d make some dessert. When he asked if ribs would be an acceptable dinner my response was “RIB ME!!!” You can’t beat slow smoking baby back ribs outside in 10 degree weather. All you can do is hope your cold beer is enough to warm you up until the ribs get in your guts.

At any rate, that’s what happened. Nick smoked some ribs, his wife made a couple of sides, and I brought a cake.

He did the ribs right. Not sure what his recipe was, but he made a nice spice rub and then placed his ribs on a rack in his grill. The hot coals were spread around the sides of the grill while he placed a drip pan filled with some cider vinegar in the middle. The indirect heat kept the ribs from burning, the cider vinegar evaporated into the meat adding some flavor and keeping the meat moist, and the rack allowed the ribs to kind of baste themselves. 3 hours under the hood and they were ready to go.

After some chips, carrots, and dip (along with some alcohol), dinner was served. Nick chopped up the ribs for us and served them with some really creamy scalloped potatoes and nice buttery brussel sprouts. Good ol down home cooking. What else should have been expected from a Kentucky-boy?

I have to say, the ribs were excellent! I’m not just saying that because he’s one of the few who actually reads all of my blog posts. They really were delicious. The meat was fall off the bone tender, the spice rub and his homemade bbq sauce set off the meat nicely. My comment at the dinner table was, “Nick, I’d eat your ribs for free over paying for Honey 1 any day of the week!”.  A couple other friends were there as well and between the 6 of us we could only muster enough stomach for about half of the fair. True to his good ol boy hospitality we were sent home with a half slab. Gotta love that!

For dessert I made this Orange Kefir cake. I’ve been on a baking-with-kefir kick and wanted to continue that trend with something simple and tasty. I found this recipe by The Barefoot Contessa herself for a Lemon Yogurt Cake. All I did was substitute the yogurt for kefir and the lemon for orange. It turned out great, nice and moist while not being too sweet.

All in all, Saturday night was a tasty feast. Any time my buddy wants to smoke up some ribs I’ll be there to help polish them off.

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After years of wondering why there was no Indian food in Wicker Park one finally opened up a few months ago at 1414 N Milwaukee, a nice 15 minute walk from my place. It’s called Cumin. They claim to be modern Nepalese/Indian, and while there really isn’t anything modern about it, it was damn tasty!

They have nice paintings of Himalayan villages on the walls and a pretty nice bar. Tables were a little too close together when getting up to leave or go to the bathroom, but were otherwise spaced alright while eating. The two-top tables were too small though. There was barely enough room for our food and didn’t leave us any elbow room. Overall, we weren’t uncomfortable though.

Once we ordered they brought out the pappdom and sauces. The standard tamarind, cilantro, and chutney. The tamarind sauce was excellent! One of the best I’ve ever had.

For an appetizer we got the “true national dish” of Nepal (according to the menu), chicken momo. It’s basically just a regular dumpling filled with seasoned ground chicken. Amongst the seasonings were turmeric, ginger, and cumin. It was delicious! Very simple, very fresh, full of flavor.

We shared two entres along with some Indian rice and some naan. We got lamb keema matar and jhaneko dal. The lamb dish was ground lamb cooked with peas, big slivers of ginger, carrots, onion, and tomato. The dal was a Nepalese lentil dish stewed with onion and cumin. Both dishes were excellent!

The appetizers range from $4-10 while the entres start at $11 and top out at $20 for seafood. They average about $12-14 though, so this restaurant is not overpriced at all. It’s priced in line with a typical Indian restaurant. The quality of food is fantastic as well. The ingredients were all fresh and nicely prepared.

I won’t go as far as saying that Cumin is my new favorite Indian restaurant, because it isn’t. However, having one of its caliber so close is music to my tongue.

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After eating an entire feedlots’ worth of animal Sunday night we really needed Meatless Monday. We tried to make this one as healthy and simple as possible in order to ease the recent strain put on our tummies. Soba noodles, being about as healthy as you can get in the way of carbs, seemed like a good route to go.

For this one we cut up some green onions, carrots, and mushrooms and added them to some boiling konbu dashi. Once they were cooked a little we added some aburage and dried wakame. It takes the wakame a few minutes to soften. Then we dropped in a block of tofu that was cut into smaller pieces.

To put it together we simply put cooked soba noodles in the bottom of our bowls then ladled the broth and veggies on top. A dash of togarashi, a beer, and you’ve got a light, healthy, satisfying dinner.

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The other night I tried my hand at making a classic home-cooking dish from Japan, Nikujaga. It is a stewed meat and potato dish that is the definition of Japanese comfort food. There are about as many different ways to make it as there are Japanese mothers (and Jewish husbands who cook for their Japanese wives).

The basics of Nikujaga are thin slices of beef (can use pork for variation), potatoes, and onions that are simmered in a sweetened soy broth. Frequently there are other veggies added such as carrots and peas or green beans. It’s really very easy to make as well as being healthy and delicious. It’s the perfect meal for a winter’s eve when served with white rice.

I made it using about 2 cups of water, 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of mirin, and a couple tablespoons of sugar as the broth. I threw that all into my pot with about a pound of large chopped Yukon Gold potatoes. I brought that to a boil and let the potatoes soften for about 20 minutes. It’s best to put all of that in the pot with the potatoes cold and bring to a boil together so that the potatoes absorb more of the flavor.

Once the potatoes were partially cooked I added about 2/3’s of a pound of thinly sliced beef. After that boils for a few minutes I skimmed off the foam that forms from boiling raw meat, much like I do when making chicken soup. The foam isn’t bad for you or anything, but by skimming it off you get a clear broth.

After the meat simmered for about 5 minutes or so I added a thinly sliced onion along with a sliced carrot. I simmered those for about 10 minutes. I just wanted them softened, not fully cooked, so that there was still some texture left in them.

Then I threw in a bunch of shelled edamame. Those don’t need to cook since they’re small and already cooked when you buy them. They just need to be heated through so they go in towards the end. After they’re cooked through I thought I was finished and proceeded to serve up the meal.

However, I forgot the last ingredient that I wanted to put in, shirataki. These are clearish-white “noodles” that are made from the starch of a yam-like vegetable. It’s the same substance as konnyaku, but in noodle form. They don’t need to be cooked, just heated through. They come in a package in liquid. Drain the liquid, rinse them off, cut them into smaller pieces, and throw them in to the stew for a few minutes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a pic with the shirataki in the Nikujaga. Just imagine some opaque noodles in the stew and you’ll get the idea.

If you follow my recipe you’ll end up with about 4 servings. The only suggestion I would make, and it’s something that I’ll do the next time I make it, is to use Russets instead of Yukon Gold. Russets will stand up to the long stewing a little better as their a little more dense.

After Yuki ate the Nikujaga she gave me probably the best compliment I could have received. She said that her mother would definitely enjoy eating it. Knowing her mom and what a great home cook she is, that’s pretty high praise. I am now officially a Japanese mother! I may be the only Japanese mother in the world who is actually a Jewish husband without any children. That’s all part of my charm.

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