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Posts Tagged ‘chives’

Yuki was talking with her parents the other night about quinoa and her dad said that he’s never had it before. Since they’ve been doing most of the cooking the past week I took that as a cue to get my ass back in the kitchen, something I’ve been jonezin to do. I referred back to the Charlie Trotter recipe that I’ve used before for inspiration. Again, this dish is not his exact recipe, but it is inspired from it. These recipes should feed 6 adults provided their not all fat Americans.

Before getting to the chicken and quinoa I made a cauliflower puree soup that we could eat while the chicken roasted. My mom was with us also, and she is not a fan of cauliflower. I took that as a challenge to show her that cauliflower, when not referring to a boxer’s ears, is a beautiful thing.

I took one head of cauliflower broken down, 1 yukon gold potato chopped, 2 garlic cloves chopped, 1 inch of ginger chopped, 1/2 onion chopped, 1 cup of chicken stock, and 3 cups of water.

I simply threw everything into a stock pot, brought it all up to a boil, covered the pot, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it all simmer for about 30 minutes.

After that I just turned off the heat and let it cool down a bit. Then I poured it all into my blender and pureed it up. I poured it back into the pot and seasoned with salt and pepper. Before eating it I just heated it back up. My brother sprinkled a little shichimi togarashi in his which lead me to do the same. A wise decision!

Before we got to the soup I got everything else going. For the apricot curry sauce I put 3/4 cup dried apricots, 3/4 tablespoon curry powder, 1/4 cup rice vinegar, and 1/2 cup of water into my small blender and let ‘er rip for about 5 minutes or so.

Then I strained the sauce. I reserved the solids for use with the bird. I set the sauce aside and let it rest until serving time.

I had a 3.5 pound chicken to roast. I seasoned it inside and out with salt and pepper, squeezed some lemon juice all over the skin, then stuffed the cavity with the solids from the curry sauce and the lemon that I used to squeeze all over it. I put it in my roasting pan and threw it into a 450 degree oven. After 15 minutes I turned the heat down to 400 degrees and let it go for another 40 minutes. Then, I turned off the heat, slightly cracked the oven door open, and let the bird rest for about 15 minutes.

While the bird was roasting I got the quinoa ready. I used 1/2 each of an orange, yellow, and red bell pepper diced, 2 small Persian cucumbers diced, 5 tablespoons of orange juice, 1.5 cups of quinoa rinsed, and some chopped chives.

In a hot pot I poured in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then sweat down the peppers for about 5 minutes. Then I added the quinoa and let it sort of toast in the hot oil for about 3 minutes. After that, I poured in 3 cups of boiling water. With everything boiling I covered the pot, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. When that time passed I turned the heat off, kept it covered, and let it sit for another 15 minutes. Just before serving I added the cucumber and orange juice, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and then fluffed it up with a fork.

I also roasted some asparagus while the quinoa and chicken were cooking. I just took some asparagus spears and drizzled them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and ground sesame seeds. I threw them into my toaster oven set at bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

While all of that was going we sat down and ate the cauliflower soup.

When we finished the soup I took the bird out and cut it up. Honestly, that’s one area I’m not real good at. I butchered that thing pretty good. I got most of the meat off, but there was some left on the carcass that I didn’t get. Oh well, I’ll just have to keep roasting birds until I get better at carving them. No matter though, the meat was juicy and delicious.

To serve it, I drizzled the sauce all over the plate and then sprinkled over the chives.

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Last night I made a teriyaki-like salmon dish using maple syrup. To go with it I made sort of an Asian flavored creamed spinach with shiitake and pepper. With iron, folic acid, and omega-3’s on my mind, this dish packed them all in and then some.

First thing I did was make the sauce. I mixed together 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sake, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and 2 teaspoons of sugar. I set that aside and then marinated the salmon.

The marinade consisted of 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 2 grated garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, and some fresh cracked black pepper. I had two 8 ounce salmon filets that I cut in half, giving me 4 4 ounce filets (check the math on that one). I coated them in the marinade, covered it up, and let it sit at room temperature for an hour.

While the salmon was marinating I got the ingredients ready for the creamed spinach. I had a container of spinach, 3 garlic cloves, sliced, 1/2 inch of ginger slivered, 7 shiitake sliced, 1 red bell pepper chopped, 1 small red onion sliced, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1/2 cup of heavy cream.

For the actual cooking I had to do the salmon and spinach at the same time. I’ll write about it separately, but it was a busy 10 minute stretch or so.

I heated up a large skillet over high heat and then poured in 2 tablespoons or so of sesame oil. I laid the salmon in skin-side up and let it cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, until it got a nice crust and easily released from the skillet. I poured the marinade into the maple mixture. When I flipped the salmon filets, after a couple of minutes, I poured the sauce all over each filet and let it cook for a few more minutes. Make sure you fan is on, it’ll get a little smokey. Once the sauce carmelized I turned off the heat and set the salmon on a plate.

In a separate saute pan I heated up 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and added the onion, pepper, shiitake, ginger, and garlic. I sautéed it for about 5 minutes and then added the soy sauce. About 2 minutes later I poured in the cream. Once the cream had reduced a little I added the spinach by large handfuls until it all wilted down and the cream had thickened up into a nice sauce.

Of course, some white rice on the side never hurt anyone. I garnished everything with some toasted sesame seeds and whole chives.

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For our 3rd anniversary last night Yuki and I decided to try out Sweets & Savories as we’ve heard great things about that restaurant. They offer a 3 course pre fix off the regular menu for only $29 every night. That deal seemed very appetizing to us. Being BYOB was also nice so we could save on a really nice bottle. We brought a bottle of Talbott Chardonnay 2007.

When we walked in the first thing we both noticed was a weird smell. It didn’t really smell like food. I’m not sure at all what it did smell like, but it was certainly a little weird. It didn’t bother us during dinner though, just when we first walked in. The interior was very drab and empty. The walls were a dark bronze-brown and there were only three pictures hanging on the back wall. Nothing else. I can’t call it minimalist because it isn’t. I think it’s more half-assed to be honest.

Service was a little off from the beginning as well. They had 3 servers and no one else. No bussers or host to help them out. The first server to greet us saw our reservation but said that we didn’t have a table assigned. I thought that was a little odd, especially since there were empty tables. He got a different server over who brought us to a table towards the back.

The first thing I noticed about the table was that there were salt and pepper shakers that looked like they came from a greasy diner. Not to sound like a snob or anything, but if you advertise your restaurant as serving upscale food there shouldn’t be salt and pepper on the table. The chef should season things for you while the servers should offer fresh cracked black pepper. I also noticed that their wine glasses are from IKEA. I know it’s BYOB, but that touch kind of cheapened the ambiance.

It took over 10 minutes for someone to bring us a wine opener and ice bucket. A few times I noticed a server standing around looking for something to do. How about letting us enjoy a glass of wine?  After we did place our order the service was much smoother, but still far from being good.

On to the food. I started off with the Vychissoise. As simple as soup gets, yet executed perfectly! I could taste every ingredient used from the potato to the leek to the garlic. Topped with some juicy lobster claw, a drizzle of truffle oil, and some chives this was a great starter.

Yuki ordered the Smoked Salmon Salade. It was also delicious. Just the right amount of vinegar to tie it all together.

For entrees I got the Grilled Pork Tenderloin. I couldn’t smell any of the rosemary that was supposedly used, but I could definitely smell the grill in my meat. Cooked rare with some pomegranate BBQ sauce it was really good. I know most people prefer their pork cooked through, but a nice tenderloin doesn’t need to be. It did send me to the porcelain god (for the record it was not to throw up)  three times this morning, but it was worth it for that soft meaty texture. The corn pudding was way under seasoned, but fortunately there was a salt shaker on the table.

Yuki got the Lobster Risotto. With peas, arugula, and grana cheese, this was a fantastic risotto. There was a ton of freshly poached lobster in this dish. As great as the lobster was, it was the arugula that held everything together. The bitterness was perfectly matched with the sweetness of the of lobster. Fantastic!

As great as the starters and entrees were the desserts fell a little short. I had the Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake and Yuki got the Sweets & Savories Bread Pudding. The chocolate cake was light and fluffy, but extremely rich. With just the one little line of raspberry coulis it was difficult to eat, it needed more to help keep my palette fresh. For the bread pudding it was the caramel and creme anglaise that weren’t up to par. The caramel wasn’t quite sweet enough and the creme anglaise was a little too thin, it needed to be a little thicker for some textural difference in the dish.

Overall, it’s hard to argue with how good most of the food was for that price. The atmosphere and service leave little to be desired, but the food more than made up for the experience. The only though is that they’ve got the savouries part down, but they definitely need help with the sweets.

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Last night’s Meatless Monday certainly wasn’t the prettiest of all plating, but I do have to say, my fried rice was excellent!

First things first, making the shumai. I simply took a half a piece of tofu and mixed it together with a small carrot and three green onions that were all small diced. I folded it all into some wonton wrappers and then set everything aside to steam later. When it came time to steam them, I let them go for about 10 minutes or so. That left the carrots a little al dente to leave a little texture. For service, I drizzled the shumai with some ponzu.

The miso eggplant is a classic Japanese home dish called nasu-miso. To start, I took two large Chinese eggplants, chopped them up into bite-sized pieces, then sprinkled them with salt in a colander. I let them sit for about a half hour to allow the bitter juices to drip out. Then I rinsed them off and squeezed them dry.

In a really hot pan I heated up about 5 tablespoons of sesame oil. As soon as the oil was smoking hot I added the eggplant. I wanted to wait until the oil was super hot so that the eggplant didn’t absorb it all. I fried the eggplant for about 8 minutes and then added a mix consisting of 3 tablespoons of sake, 1 tablespoon of mirin, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. I let that boil down for a couple of minutes.

Once the liquid almost evaporated and absorbed, I added 2 tablespoons of miso that I diluted with 3 tablespoons of water. I mixed that all around and let it cook for about 2 more minutes before serving.

To make the fried rice I started by sauteing some ginger and garlic in peanut oil. After a few minutes when they became really aromatic I threw in a diced carrot and 7 chopped green onions. I let that all cook for about 7 minutes and then threw in a bunch of thinly sliced shiitake. That went for another 4 minutes.

Typically, when I make fried rice, I will first make some scrambled eggs and set them aside to add right about this point. I forgot to do that. So, I just dumped two scrambled eggs on top of the veggies and fried them. I still works, but it’s not how fried rice is usually made.

Once the egg was cooked I threw in 2 cups of rice that I had made earlier in the day and let cool. With a wooden spoon I continuously broke up the rice and stirred it all in to get an even mix and to allow all of the rice to fry a little bit.

Once the rice is was all broken up I added a few tablespoons of soy sauce along with some black pepper and mixed it in really well. Then I tasted it for seasoning only to see that I needed a little more soy. So, I added a little more soy. It’s always best to start with less than you think you need. You can always add more, you can’t take any back at this point. At any rate, the rice turned out fantastic!

Oh, right before serving the rice I mixed in a bunch of chopped chives. We were at my buddy’s new place out in Jefferson Park and they have tons of chives growing in their backyard. So they gave us some for our cooking pleasure.

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It seems like every other program on Japanese TV has something to do with food. One program that I watched featured the biography of Nobu Matsuhisa, he of the restaurant Nobu. One of the dishes he showed on TV piqued the interest of Yuki’s mom, so the next night we set out to try and replicate it…Fluke sashimi.

It’s really quite simple. Slice a piece of fluke as thinly as possible and arrange on the plate without overlapping each slice of sashimi. Mash some garlic and lightly brush a little over each slice. On top of that lay down thin sticks of ginger and chives. In a small pot heat up equal parts soy oil and sesame oil until smoking hot. With a metal spoon dish some of the hot oil on top of the fish so that it sizzles a little. Then, drizzle with some ponzu and toasted sesame seeds.

To go with it Uichiro made his special harumaki, spring rolls. He “took the two best recipes and combined them into his own which is now the best.” I won’t give you measurements so I don’t spoil his secret, but the harumaki contain shiitake, bamboo shoots, leek, pork, ginger, oil, sake, chicken stock, soy sauce, sugar, pepper, starch, and spring roll skins. Cook it all together, roll them up, then deep fry them to golden perfection and serve with Chinese Mustard.

There was also some clear broth soup with shredded green onion and wakame.

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In light of my great respect for the fine art of Kaiseki, Yuki’s mom decided that she wanted to take me out for another style. That woman loves me! Frankly, I can’t blame her. At any rate, a friend of hers had recommended Ushiyama in the Meguro neighborhood of Tokyo, so we gave it a shot last night. And what a shot it was! Slam dunk!

It started off with a plate of carrots, shiitake, and mibuna with grated apple. Who would have thought of putting grated apple on mushrooms? Ushiyama, that’s who. I’m damn he did, it was amazing!

After that came a dish of four. I ate them clockwise from bottom left. Ama ebi (sweet shrimp), raw sardines with thinly sliced onion that’s been soaked in cold water to remove the sharpness, warm salted ginko nuts skewered on pine needles on top of seitan (wheat gluten) cakes on top of grilled sweet potato that was shaped like a ginko leaf, and uni in a lily blossom. No, I did not eat the maple leaf in the center of the plate nor the pine needles.

Next was the soup course. I heavily bonito flaked dashi broth that was nice and smokey with a rinkon (lotus root) and mochi dumpling and a bok choy leaf with some yuzu zest. It ranks right up there with the best soups I’ve ever eaten, next to the one I ate a few years ago at Iron Chef Michiba’s restaurant.

After the soup course was the sashimi course. It consisted of suzuki (sea bass), melt-in-your-mouth tuna, and ika (squid). It must be ika season because the ika I’ve eaten on this trip is by far the softest and sweetest I’ve ever had.

Then they served us home-made soba noodles in a light soy-dashi with some thinly sliced negi (green onions) on top. I’m telling you, there is absolutely nothing like top quality freshly made soba noodles. I don’t know if I can go back to store-bought dried soba when I get home. I mean, of course I can, but it just won’t be the same. So chewy and clean tasting.

Next up was the grilled course. Sawara (a cousin of the spanish mackerel) grilled with yuzu-miso and served with yuzu-miso konnyaku and daikon that was cut into a flower with a small slice of red pepper. I’ve never had yuzu-miso before, I’m a huge fan!

After that was the simmered course which was kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) in a ginger sauce. It was served with spinach and daikon radish with chawanmushi in the middle.

For the fried course we got a dish with some tempura. Shishito pepper and ebi imo (a kind of yam) served in a light dashi with momiji oroshi and chopped chives.

Then came the rice and miso course. The rice was a glutinous rice with chirimenjako (baby sardines simmered in saltwater, dried in the sun, and covered in a sweet soy marinade), sliced shiso, and served on top of a cherry leaf. The miso had mizuna greens in it. There was also some lightly pickled cucumber and daikon on the side (yes Nick, I even ate the pickles!).

Finally, for dessert we got sweet potato mousse. It was so soft and lightly sweet, it was really more like a light sweet potato cheesecake. Served with a sweet potato chip on top.

This Kaiseki was Kyoto-style which is considered to be the most sophisticated and delicate of all styles. Hard to argue as the food was simply magnificent! Plus, all of that food for only $50 per person! I challenge anyone to find a deal half that good for a meal of that quality prepared with that caliber anywhere in the states. Thanks so much for bringing me here Tamiko!!!

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So, Yuki and I took a few days to visit some of the early temples and castles in the Kansai region of Japan. Most of the structures we saw date back to the 8th century and are truly amazing! Besides the structures there were also tons of great sculptures from the same time period. However, as you all know, this blog isn’t about architecture, it’s about food. This post is to let you know about the incredible Kaiseki we ate our last night in Nara at the Ryokan (traditional Japanese Inn) we stayed at, Yoshino.

Kaiseki is the classic multi-course meal that progresses through various cooking techniques using regional, seasonal ingredients. It’s the highest art form you can find in food anywhere in the world. Focus on the subtleties of each ingredient to draw out natural flavors and not cover then with heavy sauces (sorry Frenchies, but the Japanese have your asses kicked in food culture!).

It started with that dish in the middle of the picture above. From left to right was a little fish grilled in a sweet soy marinade, a roasted chestnut, ama ebi (sweet shrimp), some sort of seafood that had a jellyfish-like texture in a miso sauce (I have absolutely no idea what it was, but it sure tasted good!), then a three-colored fish cake.

After that they brought out this dish. It was obviously a shrimp, but I’m not quite sure what else there was. I think it was a gratin made with the roe of the shrimp. Also on the plate as a macaroni salad and some lettuce with a tomato.

Then we moved on to the sashimi plate. It had some fantastic Chu-Toro (tuna), Tai (snapper), and the star of the plate….Ika (squid). In the States when you order Ika it’s usually very thin and a little rubbery. Not these two slices. They were about a half centimeter thick, squid steaks! Rubbery? Hell no! Each chew and the squid literally melted away in our mouths. Hands down the best squid I’ve ever eaten.

Then they brought us a plate of steamed Ayu (sweet fish). It’s a river fish that eats moss attached to stones giving it a really fresh and clean taste. It was served with a light ginger sauce. The thing that makes Ayu special is that it’s eaten when the belly is full of fish roe. There isn’t much meat, so it’s like dipping chopsticks into a bowl of fresh water caviar.

Being the meatavore that I am, the next plate was what I was most looking forward to….Beef Tataki. Lightly seared beef to give a little texture to the soft raw meat laden with mouth-watering fat. The dipping sauce is a soy-dashi mix. You see the little mound of reddish gew on the side of the dish? That’s a mix of togarahsi (Japanese red pepper) and yuzu (a small citrus fruit). You mix that into the sauce like you would wasabi for sushi, along with thinly sliced chives. With the tataki there was a small dish of sliced cucumber and I think seaweed in a vinegar sauce that cleansed the palette from the fatty beef.

Then we ate the Shabu-shabu. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the individual hotpots we used, but here’s the ingredients. The broth was a light sake base, in it we added cabbage, enoki mushrooms, and shimeji mushrooms. Once they were cooked, we sloshed the thinly sliced beef around to cook it and then dipped it all in a light soy with more of the togarashi yuzu and chives.

After that we got two different preparations of Unagi. To be honest, I have absolutely no clue what the difference was. One was served on top of rice, the other with rice on the side. All I can tell you is that you will never find eel of that quality anywhere in the States. It tasted like they just caught it that morning. Best eel ever! Both came with a little dish of Japanese pickles. They were probably damn good pickles, but I don’t like pickles so I let Yuki eat mine.

After the Unagi was a clear broth soup with an ingredient we couldn’t figure out. At first, we thought it was some sort of mushroom. It wasn’t. Then we thought it might be shiroko, fish sperm sack. It wasn’t that either. We finally found out that it was eel liver, probably from the Unagi we just ate. It had kind of a crunchy yet soft texture. Not something you’ll find on any old menu.

Finally, to finish things off was a plate with fresh persimmons and grapes. persimmons are in season right now and are everywhere while Japanese grapes are absolutely huge compared to what we get.

All in all this was my 5th Kaiseki. I wish I could afford to eat like this every night as there is always something unusual and strange to the western palette. If any of you get to Japan I highly recommend splurging at least once to experience the delicate yet sophisticated Japanese cuisine at it’s finest.

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