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Posts Tagged ‘ponzu’

Ah yes, horse, the other red meat. You know, I’ve never understood why horse meat was off-limits in America. I mean, it’s an animal not all that dissimilar to deer or elk and we certainly have no problems eating them. Is it because we ride horses? Would you eat a cow if you rode it? I don’t know. I do know that many other places in the world do eat horse, and Japan is one of them. While it’s not a prominent animal in the extremely large, diverse, and interesting encyclopedia of animals consumed by the Japanese, it is featured in various areas where other meats might not be as readily available. As such, in places like Tokyo, there are restaurants dedicated to serving this animal on a platter rather than saddling it up for a gallop. The other night I finally got my first opportunity to enjoy the succulence of these animals when a friend of mine asked me if he could take me out for a horse. Not only is that the first time another man had ever asked me that questions, but that was a proposition I was only too happy to jump on. So, we headed out to the Ebisu district of Tokyo and headed to a place called Uma Yakiniku Takeshi. Uma is horse in Japanese, yakiniku is the style of grilling meat at your table, and Takeshi is the name of the proprietor of this establishment, he also happens to be a well-known Japanese comedian. Before I get to the food, one thing I love about Ebisu is that there are numerous interesting little izakaya’s serving up weird and exotic cuisine that you would never find unless you stumbled upon them. We ended up walking around for about 15 minutes before finding our destination.

When we sat down we were greeted with a cold glass of draft beer and some lightly pickled cucumbers with salted kombu. I’m not a big pickle or cucumber guy by any stretch of the imagination, but honestly, this wasn’t too bad at all. I even think my younger brother, he who has even stronger negative feelings toward pickled cucumbers than me, would eat this. At least he would if he was hungry enough to eat a horse.

We started off with horse tataki. Rolled in black pepper and lightly seared on all sides, this piece of meat (what part of the animal is still up for debate, but I think it’s the tenderloin) was covered with in thinly sliced onion and chopped scallions.

After a quick dip in ponzu (the horse meat, not me) here I am about to have my first taste in equestrian delights. MMMMMMMMMMMM! Honestly, it reminded me of kosher pastrami. I could throw this on some rye bread, slather on the mustard, and wash it down with a Dr Browns and be a happy man. Very delicious and surprisingly familiar to me. I had heard that horse tasted quite a bit like beef, but I think it’s a little more like bison as the muscles don’t have as much fat as cow does.

Next up was horse sashimi. Just think of this as beef carpaccio, except that it went nay instead of moo. A bit of fresh grated ginger and garlic, a splash in some tamari, and down the hatch. A little sweeter than beef, and much more tender than I expected. I can’t recall ever eating a beef carpaccio that I enjoyed as much.

Then we got the yakiniku going. The first plate had some napa cabbage, eggplant, the green part of the scallion, and, of course, some horse meat. This part of the animal comes from the belly/rib area. Think of it as thinly sliced ribeye.

Here’s our tabletop grill in full effect. I didn’t get a pic of it, but we each had a dish with three different dipping options for the grilled meat. There as a ponzu-based sauce that was my favorite, some sea salt, and some rice vinegar.

For the next cut of horse to be grilled my friend thought he’d throw me curveball, something I’d be hesitant to shove down my throat. He was wrong as it turned out to be one of the most delicious pieces of meat I’ve ever grilled yakiniku-style…the heart! I’m telling you, this was so tender and sweet, with a bit of black pepper it was heavenly! I’d jump a fence to get me some of this.

So good, the heart was (that’s my Yoda speak), that we had to get more on our next plate. Besides the heart and horse food (vegetables) this dish also had blood pipes. I don’t know if they were arteries or veins, but they were also delicious. A little rubbery, but after a few chews the clean flavor of the animal really came through. It was almost like eating thick intestines, but clean intestines. Very good indeed.

We put the grill aside after that and got a plate of horse weiner. No, not that kind of weiner, I don’t have that big of an appetite. This was a plate of weiner-style sausages. Again, a little sweet, but a very deep, rich flavor. It was also very juicy.

Our final dish was horse fried rice. With a little scrambled egg and some scallions this was a very typical fried rice, but with horse meat.

I have to say, Americans are a weird bunch. We shun so many different food items that the rest of the world consumes. As I write this blog it becomes clear to me that the reason we’ve not been exposed to things like horse as an edible creature is solely because of politics. If the beef lobby wasn’t so powerful I think we’d be eating all sorts of other animals…guinnea pig, various insects, horse, etc. It really is a delicious animal, and one that doesn’t contribute nearly as much to Climate Change as cows do. If we open our minds as well as our mouths, there’s a lot of tasty things out there we could enjoy. Mr Ed, sorry, but you are one delicious creature!

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The other night I made one of Yuki’s favorites, a dish she usually makes. She, like most Japanese absolutely love nabe in the winter time and it’s hard to blame her. You just can’t beat a good table-top soup filled with meat, veggies, and a good broth. I think chicken meatballs rolled in cabbage is her favorite and one she’s made quite a few times for me, so this time I made it for her.

First thing I did was get the meatballs wrapped and ready to go. I used chicken stock as my base for the broth so I used 2 cups of it to soak a heaping tablespoon of dried hijiki seaweed for about 30 minutes before I could do much else. When the hijike was rehydrated I strained the broth into a soup pot. The rest of my meatball ingredients were 1/2 red onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 inch of ginger, 1 pound of ground chicken thigh, and a small head of napa cabbage.

To make the cabbage more pliable I dropped it into some salted boiling water and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then I took it out and shocked it in ice water. The boiling water softened it making it easier to roll while shocking it in ice water helps it retain its color.

In a glass bowl I grated the onion, garlic, and ginger into the chicken meat, added the hijiki, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and mixed it thoroughly. Then I rolled walnut-sized meatballs in the cabbage and secured them with toothpicks.

The rest of my ingredients for the nabe were 6 green onions chopped, 2 small carrots chopped, 1 small daikon chopped, 7 fingerling potatoes halved, 8 shiitake halved, a package of fried tofu sliced, and 1 Honey 1 Rib (yes, I am finding creative ways to finish up those ribs since I over-ordered).

I put the rib in the chicken stock that had already soaked the hijiki and added 2 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and let the rib simmer in the broth for about 15 minutes. Then I strained the broth into our nabe (clay pot). The rib added some nice smokey depth to the broth. It also gave me some moist tender meat to nosh on while finishing up the cooking.

Then I brought the broth back to a slow boil and added the chicken-cabbage rolls. I let them cook for about 15 minutes to make sure they cooked all the way through. Once they were cooked I took them out and set them aside.

I kept the broth at a low boil and added all of the veggies. I let them all cook for about 10 minutes.

Once all of the veggies were cooked I added the chicken-cabbage rolls back and took the nabe to our table-top propane burner.

 To serve, I poured about a tablespoon of ponzu in each of our bowls. We helped ourselves by adding broth, meatballs, and vegetables along with a dash of togarashi. I had white rice topped with ground sesame seeds along with it.

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I like cooking salmon in foil packets because it’s a super easy and delicious way to get a lot of vegetables in your meal with maximum flavor. The other night I made some salmon packets with Japanese flavor.

My ingredient list included some bean sprouts, butter, 1 carrot cut in to matchsticks, 1 clove of garlic slivered, 4 shiitake sliced, 4 tablespoons of ponzu, 2 large bok choy, some sliced green onions, 1/3 pack of tofu, and 1 pound of salmon cut into 4 equal portions.

I took four pieces of foil large enough to wrap everything up in and first laid down half a bok choy in each, topped that with the salmon, then divided up the rest of the veggies and threw all of that on. I cracked some black pepper, poured 1 tablespoon of ponzu in each packet, threw a small pat of butter in each, then folded them up careful to leave a little air in to allow everything to steam.

I placed the packets on a baking sheet and threw it in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. That’s all, home cooking at its easiest.

I served it with white rice. On top of the rice I sprinkled some ground sesame seeds.

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The other day we were at the Tensuke Market in Elk Grove Village, arguably the best fish market in the Chicagoland area. We were out of rice and they usually have the best deals on high quality Japanese (even though it’s all from California) rice. Sure enough, they had a great deal on some new crop. While we were there we found a package of nabe-ready seafood. Nabe is simply one-pot stew or soup cooking. Usually prepared on the stove top then brought to a table-top burner to keep warm while eating it. So, we had seafood nabe.

Yuki started by making the broth. She simply boiled about 1/4 cup of dried anchovies in about 5 or 6 cups of water for 30 minutes or so. That allows enough time for the water to take on all of that nice seafood flavor without any added oils or salts.

While the broth was boiling away I prepared the veggies. Besides the seafood package (slices of fluke, octopus, scallops, shrimp, sea bass, and salmon) I chopped up 1/4 pound of napa cabbage, 6 green onions, 1 carrot, 1 package of enoki mushrooms, 3/4 pound daikon, and 6 shiitake. There are also fish cakes in the picture, but we decided not to use them. Instead, we used 1 package of shirataki noodles which aren’t in the picture.

When the broth was ready I strained it into our earthenware clay pot and discarded the anchovies. I brought it up to a low boil and Yuki added the daikon and carrot. She let that boil for about 5 minutes or so and then added the shiitake, green onions, and cabbage. About 5 minutes later she added the rest of the ingredients.

When the stew was ready, about 5 more minutes after adding the fish, we brought it over to our table and put it on our table-top burner over low heat. We poured about 2 tablespoons of ponzu into our bowls, then ladled some broth in and started eating. We had white rice on the side.

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So, I had some salt cured salmon filets that needed to get eaten up from our last bimble up to Mitsuwa. These salmon filets are great because the don’t need much cooking since they’re already salt-cured. With that, we also had a kabocha that Yuki wanted me to cook. However, I did not cook it how she requested. Too bad for her. Without further ado…

First thing I did was get the kabocha ready, I only used half of it. I seeded it, cut off most of the skin, quartered the half, and then cut the quarters themselves in half.

I set them in a baking dish, drizzled them with sesame oil, salt, and pepper. I boiled about 3/4 cup of water, poured that into the pan, and put the kabocha into a 375 degree oven for about an hour. The water should be mostly absorbed by the time cooking is done keeping the kabocha nice and moist, while the top gets a little bit golden brown.  Then I took 1/4 cup of walnuts and toasted them in a dry pan for about 6 minutes.

I coarsely ground them with my mortar and pestle and then added 4 tablespoons of ponzu. I let that sit while I cooked everything else.

For the kale I used a bunch of red kale stalks removed and leaves chopped down, 1 cup of chicken stock, 1/2 onion sliced, and three garlic cloves sliced. In a hot stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and then added the onion and garlic. About 2 minutes later I added the kale and let that wilt for about 4 minutes. Then I poured in the chicken stock and seasoned with salt and pepper. Once the stock came to a boil I loosely covered the pot, turned the heat down to medium-low, and let it simmer for about 30-40 minutes (however much time I had left on the kabocha, it doesn’t matter as long as the kale simmers for a while).

Once the kale got going I started the miso soup. I used a heaping service spoon of shiro miso, about 4 inches of daikon sliced and quartered, one small carrot cut in half moons, 4 green onions chopped in 1 inch lengths, 1/4 cup of dashi seasoned soy sauce, and 3 shiitake sliced. In a soup pot I poured in 4 cups of water and added everything except for the miso. I brought it to a boil, then covered the pot, and turned the heat down to medium-low to let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

I just rubbed some sesame oil on both sides of the salmon and then seasoned with pepper. My toaster oven has a broiler setting, so I just turned that on and broiled the salmon for about 8 minutes. That was just enough time to cook it all the way through and crisp up the skin. When it was finished it was time to put everything together.

I left the salmon as is. Put some of the kale on the plate and then a couple of pieces of the kabocha. I topped the kabocha with the walnut-ponzu mixture. I mixed the miso into the soup and served that up. Then I served some white rice along with everything, mainly to balance the saltiness from the salt-cured salmon.

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Last night I did a riff on one of Yuki’s recipes. She commonly makes ground chicken dumplings similar to these patties in the winter when we eat nabe (Japanese hot-pot). So, I took her idea and made my own Japanese flavored dinner.

The ingredient list for the patties were 3/4’s pound of ground chicken thigh, 1 block of tofu that I had pressed the water out of, one egg scrambled with 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 carrot cut into a small dice, 3 garlic cloves and 1 inch of ginger that I minced, and 1 tablespoon of hijiki seaweed. The hijiki comes dried and is available in most Asian sections of your grocer. I put 1 tablespoon of dried hijiki in a couple of cups of cold water and let it sit for about a half hour. Then I strained it, reserving the liquid for the miso soup.

I mixed it all together, with about a tablespoon of nanami togarashi (a Japanese red pepper spice mix, there are various kinds of togarashi that are also usually available in the Asian section) until the tofu was completely broken down and everything was mixed well. Then, on a lightly oiled baking sheet, I laid 8 patties (two patties per serving, leftovers for lunch). I let it cook in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

Before cooking the patties I got my miso soup ingredients ready to go. I cut 2 negi (Japanese green onions, larger than regular green onions, not as big as leeks) into 1 inch pieces, hiratake (oyster mushrooms), and wakame seaweed. Wakame can be bought dried or fresh. Fresh comes heavily salted to preserve it. You need to soak it really well in water and cut it into smaller pieces as it expands once the salt is rinsed off.

I also chopped up a small head of napa cabbage to cook as a side.

Once I put the patties in the oven I melted 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet and heated up the hijiki liquid in a pan along with one more cup of water, 1 teaspoon of dashi-no-moto (instant dashi), the negi, and the mushrooms. I let the soup simmer while working on the cabbage. Once the butter was melted I added 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and then the cabbage. I let the cabbage wilt in the soy butter for about 10 minutes and then turned off the heat.

After the cabbage was ready I added the wakame to the soup and then the miso. The best way to add the miso is to take a heaping spoonful and swirl it around in a ladle that is just slightly in the soup. This allows the miso to incorporate slowly keeping it from being lumpy.

I served everything with some white rice. I poured just a little ponzu on top of the patties to add a touch of acidity and help keep them moist. To keep with the Japanese flavors it only seemed right to drink Asahi.

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Somen noodles are typically eaten in a cold broth in Japan. It’s the perfect lunch or light dinner on a hot, humid Tokyo day. Seeing as the days here in Chicago have been hot and humid Yuki decided to make a somen dish for lunch on Saturday.

Somen noodles are packaged just like soba, wrapped in individual servings. So, she first boiled two servings of the noodles and then cooled them down in some ice water.

While the noodles were cooling she hard-boiled a couple of eggs and steamed (maybe boiled, I wasn’t paying close enough attention) some okra. When the okra was cool to touch she thinly sliced them.

In a bowl, she mixed equal parts water and yamaki mentsuyu (soy sauce that’s been seasoned with dashi). She also added a few dashes of ponzu to give it a little bit of citrus tang. Then she divided up the noodles and topped them with the okra and hard-boiled eggs. We also had some cherry tomatoes so she cut some of those in half and put them in as well.

That’s all there is too it. Delicious, refreshing, and fully satisfying.

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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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A common dish in our diets is a shiitake burger. When I was at the store cremini mushrooms were on sale for $1.49 per 8oz package as opposed to the normal $4.99. Shiitakes also typically cost about $4.99 per 8oz package. So, I decided to use creminis.

To make the patties I small diced a quarter of a medium-sized onion, two garlic cloves minced, about 5 or 6 oz’s of creminis diced, and about a pound of ground beef. To that, I mixed in a half teaspoon of mirin, 1 teaspoon of sake, 1.5 teaspoons of sake, and one egg all beaten together. I don’t typically like to put egg in my burgers, but I didn’t have any bread crumbs or any bread to make breadcrumbs and I was a little worried that the added liquids would make the meat too loose. Once everything was mixed up I let it rest for about fifteen minutes. Then, I made it into 4 patties and put them in the fridge, covered, until just before grilling time.

I made some soup to serve with the burgers. I put about 3 cups of water in a pan and turned the heat up. I added about 8 chopped green onions, one chopped carrot, the rest of the creminis sliced, and let that all boil for about 7 minutes. Then I added a tablespoon of instant dashi and about a quarter cup of soy sauce. Once that all mixed in I added some sliced aburage and a half block of silken tofu that I diced. I let that simmer a little and then covered it and turned the heat down to keep it warm while I grilled.

I first grilled some broccoli and orange bell pepper slices (both drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper) over direct heat on the top rack until the broccoli started to show some grill marks. Then I moved the broccoli to the other side of the grill off the direct heat so that it would continue to cook a little without burning. After the broccoli was moved I put the burgers on the lower rack and grilled them up. By the time the burgers were done on both sides the peppers were nice and roasted and the broccoli nice and al dente.

I served everything with white rice. I also drizzled a little ponzu on top of the burgers to add a little zing to them.

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Yuki requested a simple, lightly flavored dinner last night, so to please my wife I made a Japanese-style line up of chow. I made Hijiki Rice, Miso Soup, and Pork-stuffed Aburage.

For the rice, I made two cups in our rice cooker. I simply washed the rice and added a little less water than necessary to cook it. To get the liquid up to the right amount I topped it off with some soy sauce, no more than about a quarter cup. Then I added a couple tablespoons of dried hijiki seaweed (available at more and more groceries), about a half teaspoon of dashi-no-moto (dried, instant dashi, also available at more and more groceries), as well as half of a large carrot diced. That’s it, turn it on and let it cook.

The miso soup was also simple. I brought two and a half cups of water to a boil with 6 green onions chopped to inch-long pieces. Once it started to boil I added 6 baby bok choy and 6 quartered shiitake mushrooms. I let that boil for about 10 minutes, turned off the heat, and added a half teaspoon of dashi-no-moto along with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. I put that aside until dinner time.

Before making everything I cooked up the ground pork. I sautéed a chopped clove of garlic with a half-inch of chopped ginger in some oil for a few minutes. Then I added about a quarter of an onion, small diced, and let that cook for a few minutes. After that I added a half pound of ground pork and cooked that all the way through. Once the pork was mostly cooked I added 1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sake, a half teaspoon of mirin, and some black pepper. I let that liquid boil down and then took off the heat to cool.

To prepare the aburage I first layed them in a colander, boiled some water, and then dumped the water on them to rinse off the excess oil that they come in. Then I squeezed all of the water off. I took my sharpest knife and carefully slit open one side and then gently used my fingers to open them up. After that I just spooned the ground pork mixture and then set aside.

Once the rice was ready I put the soup back on some heat and put the aburage under the broiler. Just before the soup started to boil I added some diced tofu and some wakame seaweed. Then Yuki whisked in a couple tablespoons of miso. When the aburage was heated through, about 5 minutes, I took them out and layed them on beds of arugula and drizzled with ponzu sauce.

Dinner was served!

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