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Posts Tagged ‘soup’

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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As a big fan of the Polish Deli I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to finally get out and sample the goods at Kasia’s Deli on Hoyne and Chicago. I was actually first told about it by a tow truck driver last winter. I drive a big old green hoopty, better known as a Buick, and it’s electronics don’t do so well in Chicago’s cold winter. Last winter the beast died on me in front of my apartment and I had to get it towed to my mechanic. I hopped in the two truck and started talking food with the driver. He mentioned that he stops in at Kasia’s quite often and I ought to check it out. I held on to that advice for a year before acting on it. This past Sunday Yuki and I took a nice walk over there to grab some grub only to find out they were still closed for the holidays until yesterday. So, I went back yesterday and was rewarded with some extremely tasty viddles.

It’s not a large place by any means, but good things come in small packages. They make a nice variety of prepared food from different kinds of goulash to kielbasa with krout to pierogis to salads to all sorts of wholesome goodness. They also have some deli meats and cheeses that you can either take home sliced or have them make you a sandwich. At the far end is their homemade soups, pierogis, and blintzes. They also have a few refrigerated grocery items like milk and whatnot as well as a few dried groceries like breads and polish chocolates. The prepared food is all made in the back and is extremely cheap while using quality ingredients, just like a good Polish Deli should. So, I picked up a few things and brought them home.

Last night for dinner we had some of their mushroom and barley soup, rice with vegetables (carrots, peas, and corn), stuffed cabbage rolls (pork, mushrooms, and rice) with tomato sauce, mushroom and kraut pierogis also with tomato sauce, and some grated beets.  Everything was fantastic. Each of our plates cost about $6, that’s all. It’s damn hard to beat that for such quality food.

For breakfast this morning we had some of their blueberry blintzes. The cottage cheese and melon on our plates did not come from Kasia’s. I’ve made blintzes in the past, actually many many years ago, and these are every bit as good as anything I’ve ever made. $3 for a package of 6.

I have to say, Andy’s Deli is larger and a little better (especially because they also smoke their own meats), but since they closed their Wicker Park location a few years ago it’s not very convenient for me to get to. I will still make the occasional journey to Andy’s, but I am damn glad that Kasia’s is close by to fill the void in between. I have a feeling I’ll be heading to Kasia’s whenever I wake and know that I won’t feel like cooking dinner that night.

It was obvious that the lady behind the counter had a crush on me too (how can you blame her?). As she was bagging my food she asked me if I wanted a free T-shirt. It’s very hard to say no to a Polish woman who smells like kielbasa. Not to mention how hard it is for a Jew to say no to something free.

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Yuki made this soup the other night. We came across uncased sausage at the store and that made her want to make this soup. It’s a very simple, very healthy, very tasty, and very quick light dinner. While she made the soup, I did all of the prep for her. I love using my santoku!

We picked up 1 pound of the sausage, I sliced 1/2 onion, chopped up 1 head of broccoli, 7 fingering potatoes, 1 carrot, 1/2 head of cabbage, sliced 2 blocks of fried tofu, and diced 3 garlic cloves. She used 1 cup of chicken stock for added broth flavor.

In a soup pot she boiled 2 cups of water with the chicken stock and added everything. She let it slowly simmer for about 15 minutes and then seasoned with salt and pepper. That’s all it took. A simple boil lets the ingredients to the talking. She had some white rice with hers while I just grabbed some bread to go along with my bowl.

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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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Back during Chef Week a few weeks ago Yuki and I went to Spring for dinner. We have both been there before, so we pretty much knew that a $30 pre fix there would be well worth the dollar. We were right, as usual.

I do apologize, the pics I took with my phone were absolutely terrible! You’re going to have to use your imagination if TV, cinema, and the internet haven’t already sapped you of it.

When we got there our table wasn’t quite ready. No worries, we went to the bar and ordered a bottle of wine. Within a few sips we were seated. The first thing I remembered about the tables is that, unlike a lot of restaurants (and I mean you Paul Kahan!), there is more than ample space. The only conversation I heard was ours, my elbows weren’t banging into anyone, and there was no chance of an accidental ass-to-the-face of the person next to me when one of us got up. It is definitely a more romantic atmosphere.

We started with one each of the two appetizers. A smooth lemongrass-cocunut soup with prawn dumplings, thai chili, shaved shiitake, and kaffir lime. As well as a tuna and hamachi maki roll. The soup was outstanding, and while the maki was good, it was very basic. It could have been from a good sushi restaurant instead of a place like Spring.

We both got the skatewing. It was lightly floured and pan-fried to perfection. The natural sweetness of the fish was perfectly matched with light gnocchi that was flavored with kimchi as well as some Brussel sprouts and almonds. Skatewing is not a fish that I get to eat very often, so it was a nice change from salmon, tuna, or halibut, the typical fish found on menus.

For dessert, we ordered one of each. There was lemon sorbet served in a black tea. The sorbet was slightly sour, but not to the point that made your lips pucker. I guess lemons aren’t quite in season yet, they’ll get sweeter in a month or two. The other dessert was a delicious moist brown butter pound cake with caramel ice cream.

Service was quick and attentive. I never felt rushed, but never ignored either.

Overall, Spring was just as good as I remembered. It’s one of Chicago’s best seafood restaurants and Chef McClain is one of Chicago’s finest chefs and restauranteurs.

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I thought we were done with Restaurant Week, well, I thought wrong! A couple friends of ours had invited us to join them for dinner Saturday night at Salpicon. I’ve been there once before with  my sister and brother-in-law, maybe 5 years ago. I remember walking away fully satisfied both in my belly as well as my taste buds. So, the opportunity to dine there again, at the discounted restaurant week price, was too good to pass up as we’re not ones to miss out on top-notch Mexican food at a discount. Hanging out with Tony and Sandra was also a nice proposition which certainly didn’t hurt the matter.

I must warn you that I did use my cell phone camera again. The pics do not do the food the justice they deserve, but what can you do? Also, since there were four of us I have a lot of pics to show. They offered 5 different appetizers as well as 5 different entrees. What we did was order the 4 most interesting of each and shared them all. I’ll try to keep this post short, but no guarantees.

Ceviche of Blue Marlin. Very typical with onions, tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro. Served with tortillas it always makes a great starter.

Gorditas Divorciadas. Thick tortillas stuffed with black beans and shredded beef (I think brisket, which completely satisfies the Jew in me). They each had a different salsa. One was a guajillo and the other was serrano-tomatillo, both had Mexican crema drizzled on top.

This was the Trio de Tamalitos. Three little tamales, one with queso fresco and serrano chiles that had a spicy molcajete salsa and crema, another with black beans, rajas (a saute of chilis and onions), and chihuahua cheese with a black been puree, the last had zucchini and chipotles.

The last appetizer was Sopa de Lentejas, lentil soup. It was garnished with grilled pineapple, smoked bacon (YUM!!!), chile pasilla, and queso anejo.

For the entrees we got the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo. Big, plump, juicy grilled shrimp in a sweet garlic and olive oil sauce with avocado chunks, guajillo chiles, and white rice. Not too garlicky at all.

Chiles Rellenos. Two battered poblanos deep-fried and swimming in a roasted tomato sauce. One was stuffed with minced pork picadillo, the other with chihuahua cheese. There was a side dish of frijoles borrachos, but I forgot to get a pic of that. Deal with it!

Pollo en Mole Poblano. Two chicken breasted smothered in a rich, spicy mole and served with Mexican rice. It really was kind of spicy. My first bite gave me a couple of little hiccups.

Tinga Poblana. Pork tenderloin on top of a roasted tomato-chipotle sauce with chorizo and potatoes, surrounded by an avocado-tomatillo sauce. This was hands down the best in show! Nice soft tenderloin and chorizo….how could that go wrong?

Alright, time for dessert. We got a flan that was covered in a sugar dome.

Tres Leches.

A crepe filled with berries and a caramel sauce.

My personal favorite was the mango and pear cobbler. Not sure what it’s actually called, but it sure was delicious with the cajeta ice cream on top!

All in all it was a delicious dinner. It’s every bit on par with Rick Bayless as far as creativity and quality. While I just found out that they offer a $29 pre fix every Monday and Tuesday this restaurant week deal might not have been the best offer. However, on a weekend night it was. I would recommend to everyone that they check Salpicon out for the pre fix deals. If you don’t want a limited menu, it’s also definitely worth paying full price for.

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Alright, my final Donna from Aqua Safari recommendation, Las Flamitas. Again, it’s off the tourist path so the prices are much lower and food is much much better. A couple from Iowa joined us for this lunch. He went diving with us and they were also looking for some local food options.

So, we started off with some soup. One thing I noticed is that the more authentic joints always serve soup with the meals, gratis of course. This one was a simple chicken consomme with vegetables. Very basic, but very tasty.

For my entrée I got the Parrillada. A plate full of grilled meats. There was grilled chicken, beef, a pork enchilada with mole, rice, fried plantain, a small salad, steamed squash ring, broccoli, papas fritas, avocado, lime, and some smoky salsa. It really was a ton of food! I ate most of it somehow, but it’s something that Yuki and I could have easily shared and still have been satisfied. Our Iowan friends each got the Parrillada as well.

Yuki ordered the Pescado Mojo de Ajo. A huge fillet of grouper covered in garlic. It was one of the freshest pieces of fish I’ve ever eaten. So succulent! Hers came with the same sides as mine. Oh, there were tortillas for all as well.

When we were offered flan there was no way I could resist, even though I was about to undo my shorts button because I ate so much. This flan was a little heavier than the one at Sabores, but it was still delicious.

The best part of this meal wasn’t the food though. The food was great and priced right, but it was everything that made this meal great. Dining with new friends always makes for good conversation. The lady who runs this joint was a very memorable character. For some reason she took it upon herself to tell Yuki and I that we need to have a baby and we’d better start practicing. Little does she know, we don’t really need a coach. But, she kept telling us how I need to eat more habaneros because “they’re good for chacachaca!” She wants to be our sex teacher. Not sure exactly what that means, but I’m pretty sure we don’t need anyone to teach us anything. Or do we?

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So, Yuki made dinner for Meatless Monday this week. As you can see from the pic, she cooks a totally different style than me. She prefers numerous different plates with different items while I usually cook more of a one-pot gig. But, with it being Presidents Day and a day off work it was her turn.

Starting with the top left dish, she simmered some daikon radish. For the broth, she boiled niboshi (small dried sardines) in water to extract that flavor into a deliciously light dashi. Then she simmered the daikon until they were softened, but still retained some texture. She topped the daikon with yuzu-miso and some sliced green onion.

The top right dish is sato imo, a hairy potato that made my fingers itch when I peeled it. It’s worth it though as it has a more pronounced earthiness in its flavor than the potatoes we’re used to here in the States. She first had boil them in some vinegar. These potatoes are very slimy and by boiling them in vinegar the slime is removed. After they were boiled she sautéed them in olive oil with some onions and garlic. Then she added some ponzu and a little mayonnaise.

The bottom bowl is harusame soup. She used konbu dashi for the broth, a very typical broth for Japanese soups. The noodles are harusame, made from mung bean starch. Also in it were some enoki mushrooms, shiitake, wakame seaweed, sliced aburage (deep fried tofu skin), baby bok choy, and an egg that was poached in the dashi.

She also made dessert, shiratama dango. They’re little dumplings made out of mochi rice flour. Simply add water to the flour, roll the dough into little balls, and boil them till they float. They’re usually grilled afterword to make them a little more savory before adding various sweet sauces. We used three of the more common sauces. On the left is azuki bean paste, the middle is mitarashi (a sweetened and thickened soy sauce with mirin, sugar, and corn starch), and the right is kinako (soy flour mixed with sugar).

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So, I’m sittin here at mi mama’s casa in Merida, Mexico. For whatever reason, I can’t seem to get this Chiles Rellenos I ate in Cozumel the other day out of my taste buds. It was hands down the best damn Chiles Rellenos one could digest! Not wanting to spend a ton of pesos at extremely subpar, boring restaurants on the tourist strip of Cozumel I asked Donna of Aqua Safari (the hotel/dive shop that we stayed and dove with, and will again hopefully in the near future) where she goes to eat. I figured that she’s been there long enough to know all of the good spots where we can get the local flair. I figured correctly, as I usually do. She sent us to Sabores. It’s literally the home of a mother and her son and daughter that doubles as one of the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever come across.

We walked into the house and straight back to their garden patio. As you can see, it was a little tropical paradise. Palm trees, a little canopy, and a few tables all graced by some beautiful birds there to pic up any crumbs. I guess humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy Sabores.

When we sat down they immediately brought us a pitcher of this red drink. I thought to myself, “this is the first time I’ve ever been served Kool-Aid at a restaurant…weird!” Turns out it was Jamaica, a common drink in the Yucatán made with hibiscus. It does taste similar to Kool-Aid, but it’s much better for you as it isn’t processed artificially sweetened dye. We also had a choice of two soups. I got the Sopa Pasta and Yuki got the Sopa Verduras. Same great broth, chicken consomme, but mine had noodles while hers had vegetables. If I were a bettin man, and I am, I’d bet that’s how they got their names.

Once we finished our soup they brought us their dry-erase menu board. Note, the dollar signs are pesos and not dollars. At about 12-13 pesos to the dollar you can do the math, or let a calculator do the math for you. All you really need to know is that there is no possible way to get home cooked food of this quality for anywhere near this price in Chicago, or on Cozumel’s tourist strip for that matter.

Here’s the Chiles Rellenos. Man, just looking at this picture makes me crave it again! I got con carne option. Perfectly seasoned ground beef stuffed into the roasted poblano and drizzled with Mexican crema. Delicious chunky refried frijoles negros, rice, slice of lime, and a small salad on the side to help push the food through my tracts. Yuki got the pollo milanesa, thin chicken breasts breaded and deep fried, to perfection I might add. Not oily at all, but nice and crisp while the meat stayed juicy. Along with the usual condiments of salsa verde, salsa rojo, and tortillas we were set! Until dessert at least.

What true Mexican meal is complete without flan? Not this one! The best flan ever! Creamy, but light and not heavy. Just a touch of lime to balance the caramel. It was outstanding.

Everything was top-notch. You could really taste that this food was cooked in someone’s home, and cooked with care. Next time I’m in Cozumel I am definitely heading back to Sabores. If you know what’s good for you, especially what’s good for your taste buds and stomach, you will too if you ever go to Cozumel.

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A good buddy of mine, Jason Meyer, gave us a couple of tables he made a while back. He’s a very talented sculptor/furniture maker/badass dancer that I used to work with at Bin36 back in the day. In order to show gratitude Yuki and I invited he and his fiancée over for dinner the other night. We figured that he gave us something that he made so we should do the same.

We started off with some Lemongrass Corn Soup with Avocado garnish. The soup was actually purchased and I didn’t make it (shhh, don’t tell Jason). It did taste exactly like something I would make though. Had I made it I would have simmered some corn and onion in vegetable stock with some lemongrass until the kernels were nice and soft. Then I would have discarded the lemongrass and blended the rest of the ingredients until smooth and strained it back into the pot. A little salt and pepper and there you go. I did make the rest of the meal. Well, that’s not entirely true as Yuki did some of it.

Then I served a simple salad. Mixed greens with cherry tomatoes and a sesame vinaigrette. Vinaigrettes are easy to make. This one had soy sauce, sesame oil, a touch of rice wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Next was the main course. I went to Olympic Meats for some good strip steaks. The steaks were pan-fried in nothing but olive oil. No salt or pepper added. Once I got a nice seer on each side and they were cooked about medium rare or so I put them on plate to rest. While they were resting I doused them with a sauce I had made. The sauce consisted of grated ginger and garlic, soy sauce, lime juice, red pepper flakes, and pepper. No salt since there was plenty of soy. I made the sauce way in advance to let the rawness of the ginger and garlic mellow out a little in the lime juice. By pouring it on the steaks while they rested it allowed the flavors infuse into the meat and keep them nice and juicy. I served the steaks on top of baby spinach with roasted yellow peppers and shiitake.

On the side was some hijiki rice that Yuki made. In the rice cooker she added to the rice some diced carrot, hijiki seaweed, cooking sake, soy, and konbu dashi. It’s one of my favorites as hijiki adds a wonderful flavor to almost anything. Plus, it’s extremely healthy as most seaweed is.

For dessert I made some Mexican Chocolate Pots de Cremes. What better to follow Asian flavors than Mexican chocolate? I made these the day before to let them set in the fridge overnight. I used egg yolks, heavy cream, whole milk, Mexican chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate. You first have to heat the cream and milk without boiling it, just a slow simmer for a few minutes. Then you incorporate the egg yolks, beaten, very slowly constantly mixing so that the eggs don’t scramble. Once it’s thick enough to coat the back of the spoon add the chocolates in pieces so that they melt completely. Once you have a nice smooth thick custard pour it into your serving dishes, cover, and chill for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight. To serve, I sliced some strawberries and added a little whipped cream.

Jason brought a bottle of Prosecco that we enjoyed with the soup and salad. After that we opened up a special bottle of Sake that we brought back from our last trip to Japan. Everything worked out extremely well. Portions were perfectly sized as none of us were hungry afterwords yet we weren’t stuffed either. I hope they enjoyed because it would be a disaster if I had to make them a table!

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