Wednesday, October 28, 2009

breakinner and radishes.

yikes! it's been a while! i've been pretty busy with school and now i have a weekend job cooking at biwa. ( things are going quite well i must say.

to bring you up to speed...first week of school covered potatoes, grains and pasta, while the second week entailed soups and stocks. this week, we are finally getting to vegetable cookery. it's a bit of a relief to not have to eat fettucine alfredo, clam chowder (and the like) for 2 weeks straight!

vegetables are good.

with that being said, i haven't been cooking very much at home the last few weeks because i have been stuffed all day from eating starch and cream. yum.

the last few nights, however, i've been doing a little "breakfast for dinner" type deal and working on some "homework."

"the breakinner scramble"
(serves 1 hungry person)

2 eggs
1/4 lb of italian sausage
1 red potato, diced small
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced (de-pulped)
1/4 cup red onions, chopped
1 stalk of green onion, chopped
grated mozzarella cheese
slice (or 2) of toasted bread

heat your pan, throw in a bit of olive oil. brown the sausage (break it up into chunks). when that's done, remove and set aside. throw in the potatoes and red onions and saute in the sausage fat until tender. put the sausage and tomatoes in and combine well with the potato/onion mix. throw the eggs in, fold, and combine. place in a bowl/plate and garnish with green onions and grated mozzarella. serve with toast. (and of course, you can always top it with your favorite hot sauce!)

it's hearty. what's better than breakfast for dinner?

next up...homework.

since we are covering vegetables this week, the class has been assigned to do presentations on a specific vegetable. i have radishes and spinach.  i had my presentation yesterday so i opted to bring in a couple of japanese radish dishes (i used daikon, of course).  nethertheless, i think it went well, but the classroom ended up smelling like funk from the daikon (a typical odor of cut/prepared daikon) and i had to promptly remove my stuff from the classroom after the presentation was over (hahaha!). i think, over all, everyone enjoyed the stuff i brought in.

pickled daikon (shiozuke, "salt pickled") otsukemono

1 daikon, thinly sliced (1/16")

after it's been sliced (you can use a mandoline if you have one), douse with copious amounts of salt and massage it into the daikon, being careful not to break the pieces. place something heavy on top to press. i had the daikon slices in a bowl and then placed a plate on top, with a bowl on top of that, filled with water. let it sit for about an hour. after an hour or so, rinse the slices to remove any excess salt and then squeeze out the rest of the excess water. eat alone or serve with a bowl of rice or on the side of a bowl of curry rice.
you can use this method with cucumbers and carrots. just make sure to slice it thin!

namasu (daikon and carrot salad)
(a traditional japanese new year's dish)

1 lb daikon, julienned
1 lb carrots, julienned

3 tblspns, mirin
2 tblspns, sugar
2 tblspns, rice vinegar
toasted sesame seeds

cut the daikon and carrots thinly on the diagonal and then julienne (japanese style cut). toss it with a little salt and rinse (to pull a little excess moisture and bitterness out). dress the daikon/carrot mix and adjust the seasonings to taste. it should be light and not too sweet. add a small pinch of salt. garnish with sesame seeds.

ba bam!

well, spinach is my next presentation for this week, so i'll tell you how it goes. i'll probably end up making gomae (see past entry for recipe).

on another note, it's frickin freezing over here so i'm going to go make some miso soup...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

super duper simple cabbage salad.

ok, i lied. i said i was going to post something thing weekend but after writing that last post, i realized that after a week of studying "starches, grains, and pasta," i hadn't had any vegetables.

this is probably the easiest salad ever.

cabbage salad:
(serving 2-3)
2 cups of cabbage sliced into thick strips, washed and dried
1 sheet of nori (dried seaweed), ripped into pieces (or you can cut into pretty strips if you like)
sesame seed oil
soy sauce
toasted sesame seeds

drizzle soy sauce and sesame seed oil (a little more soy than sesame) onto the cabbage. toss well and taste. if it is at your liking, then throw in the nori, toss and then sprinkle some sesame seeds on top. serve right away (so it stays crunchy).

see, isn't that easy?


sorry, guys. i know i have been slacking on the posts! i'm getting used to the swing of things for culinary school so i haven't been cooking much at home.  i made a giant vat of japanese curry last saturday and the household is still working on it. haha! i'll post a few more recipes this weekend!

(school is going great by the way!)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

nihon shoku.

japanese food.

to my surprise, i was treated to a ridiculously delicious meal at sel gris on friday night by some kind out of town guests.  to say the least, it was quite extravagant. i thought it be best to show my gratitude by cooking up a giant japanese food feast for them the following night.

the menu:
(don't freak out, i'll explain all of this)
  • gomae
  • wakame and onion salad
  • agedashidofu
  • wafu hamburgar
  • kinpiragobo (again)
after an early morning trip to the hollywood farmer's market (by the way, i am helping with a cooking demo next saturday!), a rousing game of wiffleball in the park (grrr, i lost), a quick coffee and bronzing sesh (the sun came out!), i got to work.

(blanched spinach with a ground sweetened sesame)

3 large bundles of spinach (1-2 lbs), cleaned with roots trimmed off.
(with stems, it gives it a little crunch. you can use loose leaf, but try not to use baby, unless you are planning on buying a ton of it. if you buy "adult" spinach with stems included, it's way cheaper-plus, it's traditional.)
3 heaping tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds
1-2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons of soysauce

real easy.  boil a large pot of water (preferably deep because you have a lot of spinach. it will wilt down, so don't worry if you think you'll have a giant spinach monster growing out of your pot.) having a colander ready, put the spinach into the boiling water for no longer than 15 seconds, making sure it all gets submerged into the hot water. after it has just barely wilted down, IMMEDIATELY dump it into a colander and run COLD water onto it to cool it down. (or, if you have a bowl large enough, fill a bowl with ice water ready to go where you can throw the spinach in straight from the pot.) the point is, you want to stop the cooking process so that the spinach keeps its beautiful green color!
ok, while all of this is going on, you can get your sous chef, significant other, sister, brother, angry baby, or dog, to grind up the sesame seeds. sure, you can use the magic bullet, mortar and pestle or a food processer too, but it's more fun to get someone else to grind up the seeds. normally, there is this japanese bowl (ceramic or plastic) called a suribachi, that has a rough pattern on the inside, in which you grind spices or seeds against it.  that was mine or my dad's job in the kitchen when my mom cooked this to make sure we'd stay out of the way of the "HOT SPINACH, OUT OF THE WAY!". i don't have one of those bowls, so i
enlisted ben to smack it with a spoon with the seeds in plastic ziplock bag. when that's done (it doesn't need to be pulverized, just 75% ground), add the sugar and a couple turns of soy sauce to taste. it should almost taste like slighty salty peanut butter. squeeze all the water out of the spinach using those big muscles of yours and then chop it up into about 1 inch pieces. ( after squeezing all the water out of it, it usually looks like a long green log. i chop it into 1 inch sections short ways, and then in half, length wise, so you get chunks.)  toss the spinach and the sesame mix together in a bowl and serve! (if you have katsuobushi, or dried bonito flakes, that should go on top.)

wakame and onion salad:

small handful of dried wakame (seaweed) or fresh ogo (also a type of seaweed)
one med/large white onion
small bundle of kaiware (daikon sprouts)
rice vinegar
soy sauce
sesame seed oil

i wish i could find ogo. but i couldn't so wakame works as a good substitute. if you are using dried wakame, only use about a small handful of it and throw it in a bowl of water. it grows three times its size, so use as much as you think you'll need depending on how much you are making. while that is soaking, slice your onion VERY thinly. i normally would use a japanese mandolin but i don't have one of those either so i had to use my pro knife skills and slice it by hand.  after you slice the onion, soak, rinse and squeeze the onion a couple times in a bowl of water. it takes the bitterness out of the onion leaving you with the sweetness of the onion  instead. ( i also use this method when i put raw red onion in my salads.) when the wakame is all done expanding, drain the water and throw it into a bowl with the onions and kaiware.  for the dressing, you basically use equal parts of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. i usually go a little lighter on the sugar. add the sesame seed oil last. just add a little to get a hint of it (tablespoon or so if you use equal parts of the other stuff for a total of a 1/3 cup of dressing). toss it in with the onion salad.  it's ready to serve but you can always let it marinade in the fridge if you like.

agedashidofu (fried tofu):

1 package of FIRM tofu (i used portland made "ota tofu")
2 stalks of green onions, chopped
katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
flour/katakuriko (corn/potatoe starch)

before you cook your tofu, you need to get all the moisture out of it so it doesn't get soggy when you are trying to get a nice crust going. what i usually do is stick the tofu (removed from package) in the microwave and blast it for 3 minutes. it basically sweats all the water out (hashimawari household trick). OR, because we don't have a microwave in our house (long story), wrap it in some paper or clean kitchen towels, place a pan or a cookie sheet on top of that and put something heavy on top for about 10-15 minutes. it will basically squeeze the water out. when that's done, cut the big block into smaller rectangular pieces, about 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick.  heat up a pan with vegetable oil so that it comes about halfway up the height of the tofu. (some people deep fry it, but this is makes it less oily). lightly batter each piece with katakuriko (if you use this, it creates a puffier crust. i didn't have any of this either, so i used flour). place it in the pan and then DON'T touch it. you want to create a nice toasty crust, so don't poke at it. you can check on it to make sure it doesn't burn but for the most part, you'll see the crust from the bottom start to brown up along the edges. when that happens, flip it.  after it's done, place it on a plate and mound it with green onions, then katsuobushi. (again, i didn't have that either, so i left it out.  traditionally, it's on there.)  put a little soy sauce on top (a couple turns of the plate) and that's it.
i should say that there are other ways to serve the agedashidofu. some recipes will call for it to sit in a soup/sauce that contains dashi, mirin, and soysauce.  at home, we use just top it with soy sauce so it doesn't get soggy. plus, it's simpler and really glorifies the tofu.

last but not least...

wafu hamburger (japanese style hamburgers):

1 lb ground beef
3 stalks of green onions, chopped
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 egg
1 daikon radish, finely grated
salt and pepper
ponzu or soy sauce
saute the mushrooms slightly in vegetable oil and remove from heat just before they're done. the hamburgers take a short time to cook, so you want the mushrooms to be slightly cooked to give it a head start. place the ground beef in a bowl with the chopped onions, sauteed mushrooms and 1 egg. season with salt and pepper. mix well and then form small patties (about 2 inches in diameter). place the patties in a lightly oiled (fat from the beef will come out) pan and brown. because the patties are so small, it should only take about a few minutes (max) on each side to cook all the way through.
while this is going on, peel the daikon and grate the radish so you almost get a puree. again, you can always get your handy kitchen helper do this while you're prepping the burgers. it was normally my job (or my dad's if i wasn't around).
when the burgers are done, mound the daikon puree on top and then put a little ponzu on top.  ( i didn't have any ponzu, so i used soy sauce. you can always make your own ponzu by putting a little citrus juice into the soy sauce). when i have it handy, i also like to put a shiso leaf on top of the burger before the daikon.

the last dish is actually kinpiragobo. i made it last weekend so you can look up the recipe from the past entry. here's a picture of it anyway:

to get centimental on you...i had a fun time making this meal.  not only did this remind me of home, but this meal represented who i am as a cook.  this is my idea of what japanese soul food means to me.  my parents are sending me a care package.  get ready, this is only a taste of what's to come...

Friday, October 2, 2009


firstly, sorry for the lack of posts. i've been getting comments from concerned readers whether i've been eating or not for the last few days! don't worry, i am. a lot.

to catch you up ("ketchup," get it, haha!) on things...

i made a pizza the other night with the roomies that contained almost everything that we had in the fridge and it turned out great. there's nothing to it. we bought some dough from hot lips pizza and here's a list of what we put on it:
zuccini, mushrooms, sauteed onions, spicy jalapeno sausage, andouille sausage, gorgonzolla cheese, mozzarella cheese, fresh chopped tomatoes, sliced red onions, bell pepper...and i think that's it. oh yeah, and a thin layer of tomato sauce.
here's what it looked like:

the night after that i cheated and made a fancy mac-and-cheese made from annie's white cheddar mac-n-cheese mix. it's krista's fault...she mentioned it over the phone and got a craving for it.
i followed the box directions but added crimini mushrooms that i sauteed with butter and fresh thyme. then threw in some freshly chopped tomato.
i ate the whole thing.
sorry, no picture of this one. it was good though!

the night after that, i actually went out for once and ate dinner at this fancy restaurant down the street called castagna ( i told my roommate that i needed to start watching my weight from all the food i've been eating so i was planning on eating light.

i ordered a roasted half chicken with a panzanella salad. i ate the whole thing. THE WHOLE HALF CHICKEN. dang.

afterwards, while we were walking home, we spotted down the alley way, right behind our house, a chef from another fantastic restaurant on our street, sel gris (, on his break. my roommate said he'd introduce me because he sees the chefs back there all the time when he takes the trash out. long story short, acquaintances were made, tuna was exchanged, wine was had and i went home with a cute porcini mushroom. literally.  the head and sous chef were extremely kind and even mentioned that a couple of OCI grads worked there. huzzah! there is hope!

ok, now for the food.

after our party last weekend, we noticed a bag full of goodies that someone had brought from their garden.  we finally figured out that ben's friend, beverly, had kindly brought over some beautiful veggies, fresh from her garden. included in the bag was a plethora of japanese eggplant, a giant zuccini, and tomatoes, among other vegetables like pumpkins and peppers. the decision to make ratatouile came from the fact that we had a giant zuccini and a ton of eggplant that needed to be eaten. also, i saw a kick ass article in the new york times a couple days ago that featured a ratatouille pot pie. decision made. (i'm sure i'm offending the french with this one but whateves...i made coq au vin, old school style, last week. i can't wait, i'm hungry!)

meaty ratatouille (it rhymes!):
adapted from melissa clark's recipe from nytimes ( it's basically the same thing, minus the biscuit.

1 lb spicy italian pork sausage, casings removed
1 onion, chopped into chunks
1 bell pepper, chopped into chunks (same size as onion)
1-2 pounds of japanese eggplant, chopped into chunks or thick slices cut on the diagonal (i did it that way)
1 lb zuccini, chopped the same way as eggplant
2 giant beefsteak or slicing tomatoes (sweet!!!), chopped into chunks
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
4-6 sprigs of fresh thyme
handful or parsley and basil, chopped
salt and pepper

preheat oven to 450 degrees.  toss chopped zuccini with olive oil and salt and pepper to coat in a bowl and then place on a baking/roasting sheet pan flat and put in oven for around 20 minutes or until it's all roasty and toasty. make sure to toss or flip the veggies once in a while so it gets roasted all around. meanwhile, if you have it, use a oven safe heavy pot/pan and cook the italian sausage, breaking it up into smaller chunks, until it's browned. remove the sausage into another plate and leave the oil in there. throw in the garlic, onion, and bell peppers and saute until softened (about 5 minutes or so). throw in the tomatoes and all the herbs and saute/mix together until the tomato consistency gets stewy (about 10 mins).  don't forget about the roasted veggies!!! throw those into the pot with the sausage. season with salt and pepper to taste. if you are using an oven safe pot, you can throw it into the oven (turn down the heat to 350) and let it stew together for about 20 min. if you don't have an oven safe pot, just transfer it to one that is and throw it in.

when it's done, you can top it with some freshly chopped parsley and serve with bread.  oh yeah, don't forget to tell your guests about the thyme sprigs!