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Posts Tagged ‘strawberries’

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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Alright, so Tuesday night’s Passover Seder was spent at my dad’s. His Seder is different from the one with my mom’s side of the family. They do everything family style while my dad likes to serve each plate himself. I think it’s a control thing, but this site isn’t about psychoanalysis.

This is what his Seder Plate looks like. It has all the elements, however, he uses a roasted turkey neck instead of shankbone and a horseradish root instead of green onion.

Also, instead of putting Elijah’s wine glass on the Seder Plate, he puts a full place setting off to the side for him.

My old man did all of the cooking himself, which of course includes his Matzah Ball Soup. The main difference is that, like me, he puts the chicken meat back into the soup. I do have to say, this was one of his best batches.

For dinner he served some roast turkey, matzah meal stuffing, carrot ring, tsimis (a slow braised beef short rib with carrots), green beans, and potato kugel (basically a casserole of grated potato).

He freshly grated some horseradish.

And, of course, plenty of Matzah on hand.

I was in charge of dessert. I made a citrus sponge cake and served it with whipped cream and strawberries. The cake was made with matzah meal flour and potato flour. I mixed in the grated rind and juice from a lemon and an orange. As thick as the batter was with all of the heavy flour it actually turned out light and moist.

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Last night was the first night of Passover. In America, typically the first two nights of Passover are a huge deal in the Jewish household (in Israel they only have Seder on the first night). Families get together for big feasts of traditional foods and celebrate the liberation from Egypt led by Moshe himself, called a Seder. I do want to state that I am not religious, I’m atheist. However, I am culturally Jewish and thoroughly enjoy a meal that consists of Matzah Ball Soup and slow braised Brisket. This year my brothers and I had the first night at our cousins with my mom’s side of the family.

Here is the traditional Seder Plate that sits in the middle of the table. It contains the symbols of the Passover story. Starting at 2 o’clock is the Beitzah, a roasted egg that symbolizes the festival sacrifice. Then is the Zeroa, a roasted shankbone symbolizing the lamb’s blood that was marked on doors to keep the Jews safe from the 1oth plague. After that is the Maror, we use green onion to remind us of the bitterness and harshness of slavery. Charoset is next, apples, honey, walnuts, and wine that are blended into a thick paste representing the mortar used by Jews in constructing Egyptian storehouses. Next is Karpas, parsley is used for the coming of Spring. There’s a bowl of saltwater that is used to show the tears shed by Jews in slavery. You dip the Karpas into the saltwater. Finally, in the middle is a glass of wine that’s set aside for Elijah the prophet.

At each individual seat there’s a small plate with the edible symbols. After we get through the Haggadah and eat the Seder plate dinner gets started.

The first thing that get’s passed around is Gefilte Fish. It’s basically a classic Eastern European fish dumpling made out of whitefish and pike. It’s eaten with horseradish.

Next is the Matzah Ball Soup. I had two matzah balls, but had already cut them up into bite sized pieces when I remembered that I needed to take a photo. I also forgot to take a pic of the matzah, but that isn’t the end of the world. I do have to say that my Matzah Ball Soup is far superior, but that’s always the case.

Then some fresh vegetables. Cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onions.

Here’s Grandma’s chopped chicken liver. Unfortunately it’s the only thing she makes anymore. She cooks up the livers, seasons them, and mashes it all down. My cousin Lorrie has to salt it though. Grandma’s taste buds aren’t quite what they used to be. But hey, she’s 86! She gets a pass.

Some bagels made out of matzah meal. They resemble bagels in shape only, but they aren’t bad.

Here’s the famous slow-braised Passover Brisket. Brisket is to Passover what turkey is to Thanksgiving. Again though, my brisket is better. I made the brisket last year, but not this year. I need to take charge of it again for the betterment of all our digestion.

Dessert consists of various cakes made with matzah meal flour and fresh fruit. Chocolate cake with raspberries, strawberry shortcake, brownies, carrot cake, grapes and strawberries.

For some reason I always tend to eat too much at Seders.

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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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