Monday, April 30, 2007

anpan

This morning, Satoshi and I were sitting in a bakery that was attached to a large local supermarket. As we had our coffee and pastries for a little mid-morning snack, I noticed a sign that was advertising anpan. Anpan is a bun with sweet bean paste inside. You can usually find it two ways--with koshian (a smooth sweet bean paste) or tsubushian (a sweet bean paste but a little chunky) inside.

I asked Satoshi if he eats anpan. He said, "yeah, but it isn't really my favorite." So, I ask him, "if I make anpan, what kind of an should I put inside, koshian or tsubushian?" He said, "tsubushian."

So, while he finished his coffee, I went grocery shopping. This tsubushian is made from 100% Hokkaido adzuki beans. It is already cooked with sugar, so to some, it may be really sweet. If you have dietary restrictions, you may want to cook the beans yourself and add the amount of sugar that is right for you.

I followed my trusty bread recipe that is noted on the yeast box, and waited for the bread to be ready to fill.

The 330g container of an is perfect for 12 anpan. Fresh out of the oven the insides are quite hot, so be careful! Still, it was the perfect mid-afternoon snack with some hooji-cha (roasted green tea).

Here is the recipe if you'd like to try making this yourself.

For the buns: makes 12
3 cups (300g) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons (6g) instant dry yeast
4.5 tablespoons (40g) sugar
30g egg (half an egg)
.75 cups water (175 cc)
1 teaspoon (5g) salt
3.5 tablespoons (45g) butter

For the an:
330g an (your choice, smooth or chunky), precooked and seasoned

sesame seeds (optional)

1. Put the first 4 ingredients in a bowl, add the water
2. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 15 minutes
3. Sprinkle the salt and knead some more.
4. Add the butter a little at a time, folding over to create layers. Knead another 15 minutes.
5. Let rest for 50-60 minutes.
6. At end of 50-60 minutes, poke with your finger into the middle, if the dough stays down, it is ready
7. Turn out onto a floured board, press out air, cut into 40g-50g pieces (about 12)
8. Roll into balls, place under a towel for 10 minutes
9. While waiting the 10 minutes, ready your an in 1 tablespoon scoops onto a plate.
10. Flatten a ball of dough in the palm of your hands, making it as thin as you can without tearing it. Add a ball of an to the center of the dough, then gather the sides and pinching all sides to the middle. When all is sealed, roll gently between your palms to make it round and put the sealed side onto your baking sheet.
11. Repeat step #10 until all dough and an is used up.
12. Leave under a towel for another 40 minutes.
13. Preheat your oven to 400F (200C) and coat each anpan with an egg wash.
14. Sprinkle each anpan with sesame seeds in the middle.
15. Bake for 8-13 minutes.
16. Enjoy!

NOTES: I ran into a slight problem because I forgot to add the egg to my dry ingredients. I added it after I had gotten to step #4, which was REALLY messy. At step #5 I let the dough rest for 60 minutes. And at step #15 I baked these for 13 minutes. This was my first time making anpan and even with the little obstacles, it still came out great (if I do say so myself!).

culture shock

It was 6 years ago today that I moved from Hawaii to Japan. We lived in Satoshi's company housing for the first three months then found a place to live. I wrote a little bit about it here, but wanted to tell you a little more.

The first thing that threw me off when living in Japan is that there are no appliances in the apartment, no washer or dryer, no refrigerator, no stove, not even a light fixture! Just an empty box. You even have to bring in your own curtains. In fact, that is how you can tell if someone has moved--the curtains are gone.

The first week in Japan, we lived off bakery and convenience foods,things that didn't need to be heated up because we couldn't heat them up.

At night, I would sit in the kitchen and wait for Satoshi to come home from work, I had no books to read, no television to watch, no computer, and was lucky that the housing gave us a light bulb for the kitchen! We didn't even have a phone then, so once a neighbor had to come and tell me that Satoshi would be late! Talk about feeling sad, lonely and homesick then!

Anyway, the adventure I wanted to tell you about is buying home appliances from the electronics store.

This excerpt was taken from my email dated May 4, 2001: "...Yesterday we went electronic appliance shopping. This is an art form. You go into an electronics store and go through all the different types of appliances that you need. The salesman then takes you to each area that you select and figures out which model/type you need. After going through alll of this, he comes up with an estimate. After getting this estimate, you negotiate a lower price. The first store that we went to gave us a quote of 510,000 yen (about $5100). After a little negotiating, we got him to go down to 458,00 yen (about $4580).

With this estimate in hand, we then went to another store to get their estimate. They came up with 458,000 yen (about $4580). We then lied and said that the other store's estimate was 430,000 yen (about $4300). After about 20 minutes of waiting (because he had to call the main office), he brought the price down to 442,000 yen (about $4420) plus 6 cans of beer. We told him we didn't need the beer, so could he bring the price down to 440,000 yen (about $4400). After another 20 minutes, we got the price we wanted..."

Talk about culture shock! I'll post more of these little tidbits here and there.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

pizza...failure

In Japan, it is Golden Week. Most people are on the freeways and stuck in major traffic. Others have gone abroad to destinations like Bali, Hawaii and Guam.

Since Satoshi has to work in between of this Golden Week, plus the airfare, hotels and transportation fees have skyrockted during this time, oh and we also don't want to deal with the crowds, we are just hanging around our area.

Tonight's dinner....pizza!

I decided to try the pizza dough recipe in "The Silver Spoon". It was really easy to make and didn't take many ingredients.

I topped it with roasted veggies like onions, eggplants and tomatoes. And also salami and mozzarella. I heated up the salami to take out some of the oil.

Here's the recipe:
Impasto per la pizza (Ricetta Base) Serves 4
1.25 cups all purpose flour, preferably Italian type 00, plus extra for dusting
.75 teaspoon salt
.50 ounces fresh yeast
.50 cup lukewarm water
olive oil for brushing (optional)

Sift the flour and salt into a mound on a counter and make a well in the center.

Mash the yeast in the water with a fork until very smooth and pour into the well.

Incorporate the flour with your fingers to make a soft dough.

Knead well, pulling and stretching until it becomes smooth and elastic.

Shape into a ball, cut a cross in the top, place in the bowl and cover.

Let rise in a warm place for about 3 hours until almost doubled in size.

Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a round about .25 inch thick.

Brush a cookie sheet with oil or line it with baking parchment.

Put the dough round on it and press out until it covers the area.

Make sure the rim is thicker than the center.

Sprinkle with the topping ingredients, leaving a .75 inch margin around the edge.


NOTES: I couldn't find fresh yeast, so the book says to use half the amount of dried yeast and to follow the dissolving instructions for it. The dough was quite sticky, but keep using flour and it eventually came together nicely. It was still a bit sticky after the proofing, so I should have used some oil on top of the parchment. Plus, I didn't read the directions too well, it says to bake at 425F (225C) for about 20 minutes, the result was that it didn't brown and stuck to the parchment. Still, it tasted pretty good, although we had to use our teeth to scrap the crust off...

Gotta try this recipe again...have a great week!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

kyoto (part 3)

Today we went to Kyoto. One thing you'll realize when visiting Kyoto is that it is a pretty huge area and quite spread out, so you need a lot of time to see everything.

Recently, there was a poster in our train station that advertised a botan (peony) showing at Otokunidera (Otokuni temple). This temple is located in Nagaoka-kyo, which is in West Kyoto. Nagaoka-kyo is also a large producer of takenoko (bamboo shoots) in this area.

Since we were going early in the morning, I decided to pack us a bento (boxed meal). I made sanshokugohan (three colored rice). Recipe to follow.

After arriving in Nagaoka-kyo, we had some time before the bus would come to take us to the temple, so we had our breakfast on these benches near the bus stop. Not the greatest place to eat, but at least we could sit and enjoy our meal.

The bus came shortly after we finished eating and took us to Otokuni Temple. The admission to enter was 300 yen. There were many botan and many shaded by paper umbrellas.

The bugs were having a field day in the pollen.

From Otokuni Temple, we decided to go to Daigoji (Daigo temple), in South-east Kyoto.

The reason why I wanted to go to this temple was because of a jigsaw puzzle. When I was home, my mom and I did a jigsaw puzzle of this temple and I wanted to see it for myself. It is actually called Bentendo and is part of the Daigoji property.

This temple was very peaceful and quite empty, it was nice to walk on the grounds.

We were getting hungry and were lucky to find a little restaurant on the grounds called Ugetsuchaya. I had their Godairiki udon--thick wheat noodle with a mochi (rice cake), seaweed and seasoned mushrooms on top. It also came with goma tofu (a curd made from sesame seeds) and yubazushi (sushi wrapped with yuba (bean curd skin). Very delicious and filling.

After lunch, we caught the shuttle bus back to the train station. There we happened on a little kiosk selling taiyaki (fish shaped pancake with sweet bean paste filling)--these were really cute and tiny! They had different fillings like custard, sweet bean, chocolate and cream cheese to name a few.

Before heading back to Osaka, we stopped in for tea. We went in to Fortnum & Mason at Daimaru Kyoto. I had their flavored tea--Strawberry. It came with a little chocolate napolitan. Delicious and very fragrant tea!

It was a great day filled with lots of new experiences.

Here is the recipe for the sanshokugohan. Serves 4

4 servings of cooked rice

5 eggs
Sauce A: 1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon oil

200g minced chicken
Sauce B: 4 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
3 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

green peas

1. In a bowl, scramble the eggs with the ingredients for Sauce A. Add the oil to the pan and when heated, add the egg. Stir the eggs around the pan until they become all crumbly and broken up. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2. In the same pan, add the minced chicken and the ingredients for Sauce B. Stir constantly and use a wooden spoon or chopsticks to break up the meat. Cook until all of the gravy evaporates. The meat should be crumbly and broken up as well. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

3. To assemble, put the rice into a bowl and top with the egg on one half and the meat on the other half. Place the peas in the middle.

NOTES: I used minced pork instead of chicken and snow peas instead of green peas, but I'm sure you could use minced beef and any other type of greens you wish. I blanched the snow peas in salt water, just to give it some flavor. You can make the egg and meat ahead of time and put together for a boxed lunch , a party dish or a quick dinner.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 27, 2007

gerard mulot

I was first introduced to Gerard Mulot when I found Keiko's blog, Nordljus. She had his book linked onto her blog. The bright cover really called out to me. I made a note of his place in France, but also found out from his website that he has many shops in Japan.

In the meantime, the one that I intended to visit closed and when I went to Tokyo, I didn't get a chance. The counter that he had in a local department store never had macarons, just different types of cookies and cakes.

Then on February 15, they opened a little area called the "Dessert Terrace" in the JR Osaka station. 6 different patisseries all in one place! Yesterday, when Satoshi and I were in Osaka, he wanted to go in. He said he'd been wanting to go in to check it out, but been afraid to since "it was a place for women"...So we went in and Gerard Mulot's counter had...macarons! Of course I had to get some...

The flavors were a little different from what I've tasted, but very delicious! From the left clockwise, Maron (chestnut)--chocolate maron creme filling, Passion Basil--passion fruit gelee with basil infusion (this was a bit on the salty side), Caramel--a cinnamon caramel creme filling, Mandarin -- mandarin orange gelee, Nougat--a nougat-like creme filling. I was a bit surprised because the macarons I've tasted before were quite chewy. These were very crisp but airy and broke as you bit into them.

I want to thank everyone for their tech tips, I've figured out how to load up my photos--I needed to get a memory stick reader. And I also want to thank everyone who has emailed me needing recommendations for places to visit in Japan and other questions about Japan. I hope my advice helped you and that you enjoyed your trip to Japan.

UPDATE: 2011: The Dessert Terrace is now closed

new toy

I got a new toy...Sony's Cyber-shot DSC T-100...only problem is that my computer is kind of old by tech standards (6 years), so it doesn't have the right Windows system to load in Sony's program--which downloads photos onto the computer. Satoshi is not tech savvy, so I have to figure out things for myself (he won't even read the manuals for me (which are in Japanese!).

Anyway, after surfing around on the internet,I think I may need to get a memory stick reader which can connect to the computer by a USB cable in order to download my photos...hope to be up and posting soon :)

Have a great weekend! The Golden Week starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

anzac biscuits

It is a dreary, rainy day here. Last year, I was intrigued by the ANZAC biscuits that Ellie made.

In Australia and New Zealand today, it is ANZAC day. I think it is like a combination of Veteran's Day and Memorial Day in the States. These biscuits were created during WWI and sent to the ANZAC (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) troops in their food parcels--they were crisp and lasted long because they were made without eggs, which were scarce at the time. The biscuits are still quite popular and many hand down their recipes through the generations.

I used the recipe from a book my brother gave me, "The Essential Baking Cookbook".

Here is the recipe: makes 26 cookies
1 cup (125g/4 oz) plain flour
2/3 cup (160g/5.5 oz) sugar
1 cup (100g/3.5 oz) rolled oats
1 cup (90g/3 oz) desiccated coconut
125g (4 oz) unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 cup (90 g/3 oz) golden syrup
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)

1. Preheat the oven to moderate 180C (350F/Gas 4). Line two baking trays with baking paper.
2. Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar, oats and coconut and make a well in the center.
3. Put the butter and golden syrup together in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat. Dissolve the baking soda in 1 tablespoon of boiling water and add immediately to the butter mixture. It will foam up instantly. Pour into the well in the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
4. Drop level tablespoons of mixture onto the trays, allowing room for spreading. Gently flatten each biscuit with your fingertips. Bake for 20 minutes, or until just browned, leave on the tray to cool slightly, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.


NOTES: I didn't have golden syrup, so I used molasses. I also didn't know what dessicated coconut was and only found shredded. I also didn't read through the recipe and didn't dissolve the baking soda in water before adding it to the mixture.

Still they were easy to make and the cookies came out very chewy and a bit crispy and reminded me of coconut macaroons and went well with a rooibos tea.

Hope your week is going well.

UPDATE: these cookies turned very crispy after letting them cool completely--almost like granola bars!

Monday, April 23, 2007

pachinko

Yesterday, Satoshi and I were on the hunt for a DVD player. At one electronics store, we had to actually pass through a pachinko parlor in order to get up to the store (what a marketing tactic!)

What is pachinko? It is a form of gambling. In Japan, they have several different forms of gambling, from horse races to lotteries. The pachinko machines look like up-right pinball machines, but they also have slot machines built in. These machines are apparently called pachi-slo (pachinko + slot). According to Satoshi (because I have never played), you put your money into the machine and these tiny silver ball bearings appear. You feed them into the machine with your left hand and your right hand controls the "flippers".

On my way to the market, I sometimes walk past these pachinko parlors and you should see the line of people! (Doesn't anyone have to work? Or maybe that is their job?) When travelling around Japan there aren't many places that do not have these pachinko parlors. Anyway, if you fill up enough containers with ball bearings, you can trade them in for prizes like toilet paper or other everyday items or you can receive a marker that can be traded for $$ from a secret location.

I don't know how these people can stand being in these parlors for very long though, it is very loud and noisy. Not only do the machines make noises, but the ball bearings do too while flying around on the pins. And if you hit the jackpot, there are flashing lights and lots of ball bearings that come out of the machine. Plus, it is super smoky! Talk about 2nd hand smoke! Blah! But, I guess these people didn't seem to mind. Some people are so hooked on pachinko that they forgo all of their other responsibilities. Like once, a father left his child in the car while he went in to play, this was during the day, so the car that his child was waiting in got really hot and the child died because of heat exhaustion! Several times a year in Japan, there are similar incidents like this. Very sad!

Still, it is something to experience.

Hope you have a great week.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

sugoi! (part 2)

I was checking my Site meter counter this morning and came across a URL that I wasn't familiar with. They had viewed our blog, so I wondered if they had linked up to our blog.

So, I clicked on the link, it was Onitsuka Japan, a Japanese sport shoe maker's site....hmmm...they don't have a blogroll...hmmm...wait!

There is a mosaic shoe on the top page...hmmm...I clicked on the disclaimer in the corner of the top page and found out that they used different photos which were all things Japanese on the Internet to create the shoe.

I clicked around and happened upon my photo of lightly simmered chicken! Sugoi! (Wow!)

Just move your mouse around on the shoe and little thumbnails will pop up, if you click on it, it will give you a bigger photo and tell you where they got the photo from....enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

sa-shi-su-se-so

Well, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining. Can you believe there is another election going on? My rant about this topic, which I posted about previously is here. Now, I'm not too familiar with their election system here, but it is driving me a bit batty. At least the election is tomorrow, so hopefully all this noise will stop for another 3 or 4 months...sigh...

Changing the subject...Do you want to learn how to cook Japanese food well? If so, you might want to try to remember this acronym of sorts : sa-shi-su-se-so.

1. Sa = sato (sugar)

2. Shi = shio (salt)

3. Su = su (vinegar)

4. Se = shoyu (soy sauce)

5. So = miso (soy bean paste)

The order in which these seasonings are added to dishes is crucial in Japanese cooking. They are listed in order of light to strong flavors. For example, if you put shoyu or miso in the pot first, it will be harder to bring out other flavors because the shoyu and miso have quite a strong flavoring. Shoyu and miso are most often used to finish off the dish, which is why they are added at the end of cooking or towards the end. Most Japanese recipes are written in this order, so you can't mess it up (well, most of the time anyway).

The Japanese are always coming up with innovative ways of shortening things in order to remember them so I think this is why they came up with this.

For dinner tonight, I made Tori no sappari ni (lightly simmered chicken), I've made this in the past and it is a fast, easy dinner.

I've been using an usukuchi-shoyu (light soy sauce) and it is really light, so my chicken came out kind of pale in color, not like this photo.

sa-shi-su-se-so..Happy Cooking!

Friday, April 20, 2007

foodie friday in kyoto

Today after my lesson, I jumped on the train to Kyoto. There are a lot of places to holo-holo (hawaiian for "go wandering")--eateries both traditional and modern, plus lots of shrines and temples. If there is one place you should visit in Japan, it is Kyoto. You can see architecture dating back to the early 1900's mixed in with modern buildings. Most buildings have a height limit --this is to protect the beauty that Kyoto holds.

My adventure started at Ichizawa Hanpu--they have been at their site for over 60 years, but I think they have been in business for longer than that. Their bags are very simple looking but very sturdy because they use sailing cloth. I'll have to save up my $$ though because they are quite expensive.

I then walked along Sanjo-dori to a store I have visited in the past, Matsuhiro Shoten. They make these gamaguchi purses (purses with these metal clasps on top). They use all kinds of different fabrics--some from old kimonos, some modern prints. Satoshi and I went there a couple of years ago and the store was so packed that it was hard to leisurely look and choose. Today, it was relatively quiet, so I had a nice time opening and closing the clasps and listening to others doing the same "pa-chin pa-chin".

Lunch was a little late at a little shopping area called Kyoen, at a restaurant called Chaimon--this restaurant specializes in foods made with sweet potato. I had their o-kayu (gruel) set. Rice cooked soft with sweet potato. There is an (a thick broth) to pour over the o-kayu.

And side dishes (from the back--forward) of kinpira (seasoned strips of burdock root and carrot), komatsuna (chinese cabbage) stir-fry, sweet potato tempura (fried) with purple sweet potato salt, an umeboshi (pickled plum) and some roasted pine nuts. The dishes and gruel were really good and tasty.

There was even imo-cha (sweet potato tea)--this didn't taste too good, almost like they made the tea from the skins of the sweet potato...kind of earthy...still, it was interesting to try.

After lunch I continued on Sanjo-dori and came upon a Japanese snack shop--Funahashiya. I've written about them before when Satoshi had his staff over for dinner last year.

I bought a package of arare (rice crackers) for Satoshi's omiyage (souvenir). When I told the girl at the register that I didn't want a plastic bag, she looked at me like I was crazy.

My last stop was a trip to Patisserie Kanae. This little shop was featured recently in a Japanese foodie magazine. The pastry chef/owner makes different types of cakes, has a patisserie class, and also makes macarons!

I've been trying a lot of traditional flavored macarons but what really caught my eye was her Japanese flavors.

Here's what I got: Right row: Sesame Noir (black sesame), Poivre Japonais (sansho--Japanese pepper), Sakura vert (the leaves of the cherry blossoms), Matcha (green tea) Left row: Charbon de bamboo (bamboo charcoal), Yuzu chocolat (citron chocolate), Sojavert-Epinard (soybean with spinach)

Everything was delicious and tasted exactly like the real thing--although I'm not too sure how charcoal is supposed to taste though it was a bit gritty .

Well, the weather has been great for the past couple of days--lovely for walks or just to be out and about. Too bad it is supposed to rain tomorrow.

Hope you have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

kobe

Today I went to Kobe to visit a friend's exhibit. I've written about this previously when we went 2 years ago. Since then, the cafe that Satoshi and I went to closed down along with some other cafes. Since I didn't get to see my friend, I took a look around at the exhibit and then I went gallivanting.

Kobe is a port city that is about 30 minutes from Osaka by train. Because Kobe is a port city, there are many foreigners that live there today and there are many houses called Ijinkan (foreigners homes) that were built in the early 1900's. Some were used as consulates and many are still standing today even after the big earthquake of 1995.

Kobe is also known for their sweets. A famous one is from France, Henri Charpentier. I picked up their selection of macarons.

From left to right: fraise (strawberry), passion (passion fruit), cafe (coffee), caramel (caramel with fleur de sel), pistache (pistachio), framboise (raspberry), citron (lemon), chocolat (chocolate). These were delicious with a cup of tea.

Factory Shin is a local confectionery. I picked up their chocolate macarons for tomorrow's tea time.

comfort food

Do you have a comfort food? Most people do. Although I didn't grow up eating mac and cheese for dinners, I am beginning to think one of my comfort foods runs along the line of a pasta with a cheese.

I recently saw Ivonne's post in which she made a LOT of nice food and a particular dish caught my eye--her Farmer's Pasta.

Since the air is still on the nippy side, I decided to make a baked pasta for dinner last night.

The type of baked pasta that I'm used to is with a tomato meat sauce topped with cheddar cheese, but most times when we eat out in Japan, we never find that type, we almost always find a cream type sauce or white sauce with different types of cheeses.

I decided to try to recreate the baked pastas in Japan with a recipe for the bechamel sauce from Andrew Weil's cookbook. I think most of the recipes in this book are re-done to make them a bit healthier, although I deviated a bit, so maybe my version is just as guilty as a normal bechamel?

This is the original recipe for the bechamel sauce: from "The Healthy Kitchen" by Andrew Weil, M.D. & Rosie Daley

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups warm milk
2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup thinly slice scallions or green onions
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt

Pour the olive oil into a medium saucepan over low heat.
Put the milk in a separate saucepan over low heat only until it becomes warm; do not let it boil.
Gradually stir the flour into the warm oil, stirring constantly. Let cook for about 1 minute to make a brownish roux.
Slowly add 1/4 cup of the warm milk and whisk it to blend it in.
Pour in the remaining milk, continuing to whisk.
Allow the sauce to simmer about 2 minutes just to thicken slightly, then turn off the heat.
Mix in the cheese, spices and salt. Cover the sauce with plastic wrap until ready to use.


NOTES: I made only half of this sauce recipe. I also didn't use Parmesan cheese. I used 20g Mozzarella, 20g Gouda and 20g Gruyere--grated. I put half of the grated cheeses into the sauce and kept half to top the pasta with before putting it into the oven. Also, I didn't have green onions or scallions, so I left it out of the sauce. The rest of the dish is kind of an ad-lib.

1/2 red pepper (chopped)
1/2 onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced
5 stalks asparagus (chopped)
2 slices bacon (sliced thin) (doesn't bacon make everything all better?)
2 cups dry whole wheat fusili, cooked about 2 minutes less than directed on package
pepper to taste
oregano to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
a small handful of Italian parsley (chopped)

In a pan, put the olive oil and heat, add garlic and onion.
When onions start to wilt, add red pepper, bacon and asparagus.
When everything is quite cooked, add seasonings.
Then add the cooked pasta and white sauce and mix well.
Divide into 2 gratin dishes and top with reserved cheese.
Put under the broiler for about 15-20 minutes.
Top with freshly chopped Italian parsley.

Creamy and piping hot, it was heavenly...Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

mariebelle & scones

If you read this blog frequently, you'll know that I LOVE scones! I've tried many different recipes and I have 14 posts about scones too. But, anyway, my flax rolls were about to run out, since we've been enjoying them for breakfast, so I decided to whip up some scones yesterday afternoon.

I use this recipe when I feel the need to "whip" some scones up, but don't have much time and don't want to go through any type of frills to make them. It is fast and doesn't take many ingredients to make.

I sometimes add different things like fruit, nuts or herbs like lavender to this recipe and have been pleased with the results.

This batch of scones came out of the oven just in time for tea. In Japan, you often find "milk tea", this is tea with cream or milk in it. They also have a drink called "royal milk tea", the ceylon tea is steeped with milk then strained into a cup, there is a bit of a "skin" that forms on top of the drink, but it is rich and creamy. I thought that maybe this drink was influenced by the English, but found out that it is a Japanese creation.

With a nip in the air, I decided to try a cocoa that I bought on my visit home. I first heard about Mariebelle's cocoa on Chocolate Obsession and also heard about Mariebelle's chocolates on the Chocolate Nerd.

But, unable to get to NYC anytime soon, I decided to check out their site. They didn't give any info as to where to buy them outside of NYC, so I picked my brain and came up with Neiman Marcus. This is where I usually pick up Vosges, so I checked NM's site and sure enough they also sold Mariebelle. I made a note of this so that when I went home (to Hawaii), I would check it out.

I was pleased to find the cocoa, but a bit disappointed that they only carried it in the larger 20 oz. size because I wanted to sample it before making such a large purchase. Still, I wanted to try it, so I bought the "spicy" one--63% cacao with chipotle, cinnamon and nutmeg.

I warmed up a half cup of milk with a fourth of a cup of the cocoa and whisked it into a thick, rich drink! Talk about zing! The spices kick in as it goes down your throat, there is a little burn in your mouth that lingers, but it is still delicious! Plus, I am a sucker for the packaging and love the dark chocolate colored can with the turquoise blue design.

Hope you are keeping warm where you are!

Monday, April 16, 2007

nikujaga

The other day, I was reading Cass' mishap adventure making nikujaga. In Japanese, niku is meat and jaga is short for jagaimo which means potato. This is a Japanese-style "stew" and is sometimes called nimono (simmered dish). I have made this several times and it is a pretty simple one-pot dish.

As I read her post, I realized that I hadn't made this dish in awhile and with a bit of a nip in the air today, I thought that this dish would be a good thing for dinner.

Here's the recipe that I use (from Orange Page Book #5) -- Serves 4
Ingredients:
650g jagaimo (potato--4 large potato)
300g chicken thigh, boneless
1 onion
1 carrot
8-10 sayaendo or kinusaya (snow peas)
salt -- about a pinch
2 tablespoons oil
2.5 cups stock or water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon sake (rice wine)
3.5 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
shichimitogarashi (7 spice pepper) to taste

Preparation:
Rinse potatoes and cut into 3-4 cm pieces.
Cut the chicken into 3-4 cm pieces.
Cut the onion into sixths.
Cut the carrot into 3-4 cm pieces.
Take the wiry part of the snow peas off, put the snow peas into a bowl with a little salt and hot water and let steep for 1 minute. After the minute, take the snow peas out and leave in a strainer.

Let's get cooking:
Put 2 tablespoons oil into a pot then add chicken and stir with wooden spoon.
When the chicken starts to turn brown, add the potatoes and carrots, making sure to coat everything with the oil. (this helps everything to soak up the sauce)

When all is coated, add the onion.

Then add the 2.5 cups of stock or water, turn the heat down to low and simmer.

Raise the heat to medium and take off the scum that forms on the top. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes without the cover. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespooon sake, 1 tablespoon mirin and 2.5 tablespoons of shoyu (reserve 1 tablespoon of shoyu for later). Stir. Then put an otoshibuta (drop lid) on top and simmer at medium heat for 17-18 minutes. (if you don't have a drop lid, you can make one from foil, it should be 1 size smaller than your pot and have 2 holes in the middle)

After 17-18 minutes, the amount of liquid in the pot should have dropped about a third. Add the 1 tablespoon reserved shoyu. Raise the heat up and simmer until the potatoes are tender but do not fall apart, add the reserved snow peas and serve. Before eating add a dash or two of the 7 spice pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

NOTES: I usually use chicken but today used beef, also I couldn't find snow peas, so I left them out. It is best to use stock if you can get your hands on it, it makes a difference in taste. I use an organic tea bag-style stock packet with ground up kombu (kelp), katsuo (bonito), niboshi (dried small sardines) and shiitake (mushroom).

Before starting a recipe, I make my stock by adding the packet to a pot of boiling water, following the directions on the package. Then I use the amount that the recipe calls for. The leftover stock must be used within 3 or 4 days, since there are no preservatives in the stock it will spoil quite quickly--make sure the leftover stock is cooled before putting it into the refrig.

Hope you are staying warm where you are!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

did you file yet?

Today is April 15th. In America, it is the day that Federal taxes must be filed. I was quite surprised when I asked Satoshi about their taxes. In Japan, as long as you work for a company, they file taxes for you. How great is that? No need to figure anything out, no need to stand in line at the post office at midnight, just sign a release form and let them do all the work for you (well, you are working for them, right?!) In Japan they don't get to itemize any type of deductions, but if it saves you the headache of filing yourself, how can you complain?

So, lunch was a mixture of leftovers that turned into kim chee chahan (fried rice). Heat your assortment of veggies in oil and when everything is slightly cooked, add your leftover rice. If the mixture is a bit dry, add some stock then add your kim chee at the end. Lunch is served! Fast and easy!

The only problem with eating a lunch like this is that you get hungry quite quickly. We had some popcorn that I brought back for snack. This popcorn is made by the Hawaiian Popcorn Company. In Hawaii, you can usually get your popcorn with a side of furikake (dried seasonings like nori (seaweed)) and kakimochi (rice crackers) at the movies. This is mixed in with the popcorn and eaten. Some people actually sneak in this mixture at the movies so that they can mix in their favorite kakimochi.

I bought several interesting flavors while in Hawaii. One of which was Li Hing. Li hing is a sweet/sour flavor that is added to dried plums and is of Chinese influence. (If you are from Hawaii, you are probably salivating at reading this part of the post.) Actually, if you look for li hing in Hawaii, they have added the powder to almost anything and everything, even to frozen margaritas (yum!) and cake frosting (blah!)! When we eat the others I'll definitely share them with you.

Hope you have a great week!