Tuesday, March 31, 2009

osaka

I gotta admit that in Osaka, there aren't much "sights" to see, especially if you want to entertain someone with children. My friend from college, Len and his family are here for several days. I met up with them yesterday to take them to the Aquarium, Osaka castle and some shopping.

After the Aquarium, we went to the Tempozan Village for lunch then rode the "World's Largest Ferris Wheel" (that's what my ticket says). I think the ride was about a half an hour. They even have one special car that has a see through bottom...yikes! I'm glad we rode in the "normal" car. The day was sunny and clear. Afterwards we walked to the Tempozan Park to check out some of their cherry blossoms.

Osaka Castle's cherry blossoms have just started to bloom, and the air is still very chilly, so I think it may be another week before we see more blooms.

I'm glad I was able to meet up with them and I hope Len and his family enjoyed Osaka and will enjoy the rest of their trip!

Gosh, the month flew by. I still have some posts waiting to be published...I guess they will have to wait a little longer.

Monday, March 30, 2009

love it!

Friday, I met my friend Kathy in Umeda. Her contract to teach is up so she will be returning to Hawaii. I got to Umeda a little early and browsed Kinokuniya, a large bookstore. I was lucky to stumble upon their English book sale. Almost all their english written books were 50% off or more!

The thing about buying books written in English in Japan is that they are expensive, sometimes double the price that you see on Amazon in the US, probably because of the shipping and importing fees. So, I am always happy to see when a sale is actually a sale. (Most times at department stores they advertise "sales" or "bargains", but most times the prices are still very expensive.)

Kinokuniya had thrown the books in separate areas without really organizing them, so you really had to look at each title. For example, a gardening book would be right next to a cookbook.

After perusing every area, I bought four books, "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini, which my Aunty recommended highly. "Love in the time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. An English-French dictionary, I've wanted to buy one for some time now but wasn't about to pay an arm and a leg for one. This is easy to use and hopefully I'll make good use of it. And lastly, "American Food Writing" by Molly O'Neill, which has many anthologies about America, its foods from the many cultures and also many recipes. I can't wait to get into all of these books.

So after Satoshi came home, I had him play, "guess how much this was". His first guess was 8000 yen (about US$80)...nope...then he mumbled to himself, "nah, you wouldn't spend that much money at once on books anyway"...finally after two other wrong guesses I told him...3500 yen (about US$35). He was pleasantly surprised.

I think I got a really nice deal on my purchases.

I'm sad to see Kathy move back (we've had many good conversations over lunch and shopping adventures). (Take care Kathy!)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

1 year service

On the 15th, we got together for my FIL's 1 year memorial service. Not only was it a memorial service, but we also put my FIL's ashes into the family grave.

The service was performed earlier than the actual day because of the schedule of the priest.

Up until now, we hadn't seen my MIL cry out loud, usually just dabbing tears here and there, but I guess this service upset her because she broke down. I guess because it would truly be her last "goodbye".

One tidbit, in Eastern Japan most keep the ashes in a ceramic container inside of the grave, but in Western Japan most put the ashes into a fabric bag so that the ashes can truly return back to the Earth.

Rewind to the 8th, we got together to see the new family grave. It was rebuilt in January so that my FIL's ashes would be able to be put in.

If you remember, we had gotten together back then to check out the Hyatt's Japanese restaurant, Touzan.

Well, after the service to see the new grave, we went back to Touzan for lunch and finalize our plans for the memorial service.

Satoshi and my BIL had the sushi lunch and my MIL and I had the tempura donburi lunch.

Luckily, the 1 year service went smoothly, my FIL's ashes went into the family grave. The days up until the service were rainy so we were glad that the weather was cooperative on that Sunday.

Lunch went smoothly too. Everyone enjoyed the boxed lunch and after a filling lunch, the immediate family went up to the lobby lounge to have dessert.

I can't believe how fast the year went by, today is the actual memorial day. Next year is the 3 year service. It is actually the 2 year but the Japanese have a complex way of counting things, which if you ask a Japanese they may or may not be able to explain.

I hope my MIL will start getting out more now that my FIL's ashes have been put into the grave, for the past year she has stayed at home because "she didn't want to leave my FIL at home by himself". I guess it may take some time though...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

flying tandoori

No it is not a new airlines...but I do have to tell you about the disaster(s) I had yesterday in and out of the kitchen.

It started in the morning, trying to get my toast out of the oven, I branded my finger with the element. My reflexes were not quite awake yet and I left it to sizzle a bit (Ssss)...itai (ouch, now I kind of know how those cows must feel)!

Then when I went to the market and tried to pick out a lemon, 3 of them flew off the shelf....sigh...I ended up not buying any.

And then the disaster of all disasters was trying to prepare tandoori chicken for dinner, I used this recipe. As I was measuring out the spices into a ziploc container to marinade the chicken, my unzipped jacket somehow went into the container and proceeded to drag the container off the counter. I tried to catch it, which ended up with me volleyball bumping it instead and spices flying everywhere...of course, I screamed...

I walked carefully to the bath area to brush myself off. Spices were on my sweats and house slippers....afterwards, I noticed there was also a nice "spice trail" to the bathroom...

I took out the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed everything (hopefully everything) that spilled, then I started measuring the spices again.

I guess I should be thankful it happened with only the dry spices and not with the yogurt and other wet ingredients.

After marinating the sasami (skinless chicken breasts) for about 4 hours, I baked it for 10 minutes in a 350F (180C) oven then put it under the broiler for another 17 minutes, turning once halfway.

I also made some hummus using a recipe that I had printed out from the Food Network (the recipe is no longer on their site). It was a recipe by Mina Newman, executive chef of Layla Restaurant (not sure if she or the restaurant is still there in NYC).

I toasted a handful of pine nuts, then cut up half of a carrot, cucumber, red pepper & green pepper. I added 5 or 6 teaspoons of the hummus and mixed it well.

Then I took out 1 graham pita from the freezer and toasted it. I cut it in half and filled one half with half of the hummus mixture and a sliced tandoori chicken breast.

The results...a great dinner and a nice way to end all the madness in the kitchen (for now).

Friday, March 27, 2009

foodie thursday in kobe

Satoshi was supposed to have the day off yesterday, but had an emergency at work. So that left me to go galavanting in Kobe on my own.

I first went to Kobe Grocers. I was reminded by a reader that there was an import grocery store in the Kitano area. Actually when I studied in Kobe, we went to this grocery store to buy ingredients to make lasagna (I am pretty sure it was the same store).

This store is super teeny, only 3 aisles, but the shelves are packed with all sorts of stuff. And there is not really much organization to the shelving, just putting stuff wherever it fits. I spent a good half hour in there perusing the different things.

The bulk of my purchases were stuff that I couldn't find at the gourmet supermarket that I usually visit...like Italian sausage, pitas (graham flour pitas), chicken broth. Everything was kind of pricey but I felt they were worth it. Especially since most markets don't carry these items.

Then I walked down Tor Road and went into this fancy bakery, Le Dimanche, which I think means Sunday.

Anyway, they had so many things that I wanted to get one of each.

I ended up picking up a croque monsieur, curry bread and a danish with caramel and nuts.

The croque monsieur and curry bread was delicious. Most times you can find fried curry bread but this one was baked and the dough was a baguette dough, nice and chewy. The danish was delicious too. The caramel was like a brittle and there were lots of nuts (cashew, almond and hazelnut).

Right around the corner from the bakery was La Pierre Blanche, a sweet shop. I had been wanting to visit them but they were under renovation the last time I was in Kobe.

I purchased their fig kugelhof and a rose macaron.

Both the kugelhof and macaron were dipped in dark chocolate.

The macaron was delicious. A rose flavored gel and rose flavored buttercream. Not perfumy but a light rose flavor. This was really good.

The kugelhof was filled with figs, with almost every bite you had seeds popping in your mouth. The chocolate was nicely balance with the sweetness of the figs.

It was too bad that Satoshi had to go into work today. I'll take him around Kobe some other day. (Thanks for working so hard Satoshi)

Kobe Grocers
2-19-2 Nakayamate-dori
Chuo-ku, Kobe
Phone: 078.221.2838

Le Dimanche
3-2-16 Kitanagasa-dori
Chuo-ku, Kobe
Phone: 078.331.8760

La Pierre Blanche
3-2-17 Kitanagasa-dori
Chuo-ku, Kobe
Phone: 078.321.0012

Thursday, March 26, 2009

eat your veggies (and some fish)

Dinner for the past couple of days was an assortment of different fish and veggies.

On my bowl of rice was kugini (which literally means simmered nails), ikanago (Japanese sand lance) is simmered in shoyu (soy sauce), ginger, sugar, mirin (sweet rice wine), sake (rice wine) & mizuame (starch syrup, like corn syrup) until it is caramelized.

This is a famous dish in Kobe, many families have their own variation of the dish. This is usually seen in the stores during Spring. Apparently there was a large oil spill in the waters off of Kobe recently, so the ikanago is quite sparse this year and the price of kugini is said to be expensive.

With some gobo (burdock) I had sitting in the refrig, I made kinpira. The hardest and most time consuming part of this recipe was whittling the gobo.

Kinpira from Hideo Makuuchi's "Soshoku no susume": Spring recipes : Serves 2 or more depending on your serving size

1 gobo (burdock), about 40 cm long (about 15 in) whittled
1 carrot, julienned
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
sliced chili pepper
sesame seeds

Heat a pan, add oil
Add the gobo and carrots, coat well in oil
Add sake, mirin, shoyu and chili and cook until liquid evaporates.
Top with sesame seeds.

The second dish I found on Obachan's blog. She has lots of delicious adventures in Kochi, Shikoku. If you have a chance you should check her site out.

This recipe uses Spring cabbage which is in season now. Spring cabbage is different from the normal cabbage you see in the store because the leaves are tender. Her recipe uses the microwave but since I don't normally use the microwave, I made this on the stove.

Spring Cabbage Tuna Salad : Serves 2 or more depending on your serving size.
1/4 spring cabbage
1 can tuna, drained
2 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon shoyu (soy sauce)
ra-yu (chili oil), to taste
sesame seed

Cut cabbage into bite sized pieces and wash.
Add to a heated non-stick pan and cook for about 3 minutes.
During the 3 minutes, cover to steam, stir and check until cabbage starts to wilt.
Add the tuna, honey, shoyu and mix well.
Add ra-yu, I added about 7 drops.
Top with sesame seeds.

In the small dish was rakkyo. Lately we've been hooked on these bambucha (huge) rakkyo (pickled scallions) from Miyazaki prefecture.

I liked these dishes, it was a great way to get in my veggies and some fish.

It is Spring, though the temperature here feels more like Winter...what have you been eating for dinner?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

on a sunny day

The wind has been really cold the past couple of days, I think they said the temps would be similar to February's, there may even be some snow in some places...Yikes!

Anyway, on a sunny day, while I was walking, I ran into this doggie in our neighborhood, I guess she (I'm assuming it is a she because of the ribbons) and her master were out for a "walk".

On another sunny day, I tried the 5 minute mug cake that Rowena and Laura posted about. I split the batter up between 2 mugs. I also added toasted macadamia nuts and one small handful of Ghiradelli 60% chocolate chips (these chips are larger than the usual chocolate chips).

I snapped the photo of them as soon as the 3 minutes were up. While putting my camera onto the table, they fell. While they were still warm, I turned them out onto some plates. The texture was dense probably like those English puddings. I say probably because I've never actually had an English pudding.

Eating it warm was delicious. The chocolate chips were oozy, and there was crunch from the mac nuts...Dividing the batter was a good thing. This "cake" was just enough to satisfy a sweet tooth, plus I have one for Satoshi to try.

On my lanai, I took some close-ups of the lavender, strawberry flowers, and tulip.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

recycle

Living in Japan, I've become more aware of recycling. I bring my own bags whenever I go shopping and try not to take any plastic or paper bags whenever possible.

So you may or may not be thinking...what do I line my garbage cans with? In the kitchen, I use the mandatory city garbage bag. It is clear and has the mandatory city stamp on it.

For the toilet and bathroom, I use the plastic wrapping from the toilet paper. Whenever I buy a package of toilet paper, I open the top carefully and use the rolls of toilet paper. When all the rolls are gone, I put the "plastic bag" into the trash as a liner.

Do you do anything special to recycle or save resources where you live?

Monday, March 23, 2009

thé ô dor

In a Japanese foodie magazine that I subscribe to, I recently came across this coffret (box) of teas.

Thé ô dor (tea-o-door), is a relatively new brand of French teas. (I wanted to make sure that the French markings were included in this post so that no one would confuse it with the word odor.)

Anyway, they have an online shop in Japan, but instead of paying for shipping, I found the coffret that I wanted at the Quatre Saison shop inside of the Umeda Hanshin department store, a shop that sells houseware items.

The reason I wanted to get the coffret was so that I could try 5 different teas (20 grams each) rather than spend a lot of money on 1 (100 gram) flavor.

The red tin was called October Revelation, a black tea with bergamot, grapefruit and orange. This was disappointing, no citrus flavor at all. Though the aroma of the tea before it was brewed was nice and fruity.

The pink tin was called Bollywood Chaipur, a black tea with pink peppercorn and cardamom. With a splash of milk this made a nice chai.

The white tin was called Histoire Tibetaine, a black and green tea blend with bergamot and vanilla. The vanilla flavor was faint but the bergamot non-existent.

The green tin was called Hanami Imperial, a green tea with pearl rose and sakura (cherry blossom). This was my favorite. A delicate cherry flavor.

The orange tin was called Marabout, a red rooibos with caramel and apple chips. It was supposed to be reminiscent of a tarte tartin, but the rooibos was more prominent than the caramel or apple.

The tins are very shallow which makes it hard to scoop the tea out for brewing. Also, there is a warning slip inside the box which says that if you don't keep the tins straight, you may spill the tea. I think the tins aren't airtight which makes the tea lose its flavorings. While I wouldn't want the tea to be perfumy or overpowered with flavor, I would expect it to have some aroma after brewing.

I'm glad I tried this, but I don't think I would buy it again.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

salame del cioccolato di stile giapponese

In 2006, I had this delicious salame di cioccolato, which I had found on a foodie trip to Tokyo.

That same year while reading "La Dolce Vita" by Isabel Coe, I found a recipe for it. This one used butter and sounded similar to the one I had tried. It called for amaretti cookies, hazelnuts, dried fruits, and some mixed nuts. I put it on my list of things to try but never got around to it.

Last month, while reading a Japanese blog, I found a simpler recipe for it. This one only used chocolate and "stuff" for the filling.

Here is the recipe:
120 grams (about 4 ounces) of chocolate
120 grams (about 4 ounces) of nuts, cereal whatever you want to put into your salame.
about 50 grams (about 1.7 ounces ) of powdered sugar, you could also use cocoa powder

I looked around at the gourmet supermarket, but couldn't find amaretti cookies, so I decided I would try making it "Japanesey".

This is what I did.

I bought a package of my favorite chocolate covered kaki no tane to replace the amaretti cookies.

I chopped some candied ginger and some dried apricots.

I also chopped some marshmallows and took a handful of hazelnuts out of the freezer.

For the chocolate, I melted several different dark chocolates, but all about the same percentage of 60%.

After melting the chocolate, you are supposed to pour the chocolate into a plastic bag with the filling and meld things together.

This was really messy. I threw the bag into the freezer for 20 minutes and was able to get most of the chocolate off of the bag.

Then on parchment paper, I turned the chocolate out of the bag and formed it into a log. Then put it back into the freezer for 10 minutes.

The recipe says to roll it in powdered sugar, but I decided not to.

I sliced several pieces off with a serrated knife and had it for my afternoon tea.

Delicious. I can't wait to share this with Satoshi.

p.s. I got the title from Babelfish by inputting "Japanese style chocolate salami" and translating it from English to Italian, is it correct?

Hope you have a good week!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

wanted!

I am not sure if I ever told you, but I wish I had a camera built into my eye.

If I had one in my eye, I could've shown you the guy on the train digging his nose and then eating what he dug...okay, maybe you wouldn't want to see that, but there are some pretty outrageous things that I witness on public transportation.

Like the women who insist on putting their faces on while riding the train. Can you believe that some use 4 different mascaras? (When they do it while you are facing them, you tend to take notice.)

I could've shown you the guy smoking then throwing his cigarette into the stream and the other who threw his into the sewage drain.

Or the people who drink canned drinks on the train and leave them under their seat for others to clean up after them.

I could've shown you the 980 yen (about US$9.80) price tag for 1 nub of wasabi (Japanese horseradish) at the market.

I could've shown you this bird taking the very tiny, but very ripe strawberry from my planter. This bird was quick and smart.

It sat on the edge of the planter, looked at me looking at it and took the strawberry.

It went up to the roof of the house across from our lanai to eat it. While I ran to get my camera, he came back to check out the planter again.

Then went onto the roof once more to wait until I left the window, I took its photo while it was waiting on the roof...I have a feeling it was a bulbul, but I can't be too certain.

The tulips on my lanai have started to bloom, so fast and so pretty!

Friday, March 20, 2009

kefta and couscous

I love the internet. I love blogging. I love how I can get so much information from a machine that hooks me up to the world and to people, some that I have met and most that I haven't.

My world of food has opened up so much since I have started blogging. I am also grateful that I don't have to work 9 to 5, this gives me a lot of time to experiment in the kitchen as well as explore outside the kitchen (Thanks Satoshi!).

The other day, I read Mamatouille's post. If you haven't checked out her blog, you should, she has a lot of great ideas for saving time and money, especially if you have little ones to feed. Mamatouille got the kefta recipe from this blog.

I bookmarked it and debated as to what I should pair this dish with. I flipped through Ellie Krieger's "The Food You Crave" (hope you aren't getting tired of this book) and found a recipe for "Herbed Couscous Timbale with Dried Fruit and Nuts"....perfect! and the only ingredients I needed to buy were ground beef and a lemon for the kefta.

I subbed most of the ingredients for the couscous, for one, I didn't have fresh basil, so I threw some dried into the stock. For the stock, I used a bouillon cube. Also, the recipe called for red bell pepper but I used both green and red. I didn't have pine nuts nor dried currants, so I used mac nuts and dried cranberries. The only ingredient I didn't sub was the dried apricots and couscous (though the original calls for couscous that is preferably whole wheat).

For the kefta I followed the recipe as best I could, I didn't have a whole chili pepper, so I used the dried sliced chili that I had and I didn't add the salt.

The reason I chose this couscous recipe was because it used the zest of the lemon, and the kefta used the juice of the lemon.

While poaching the kefta in the sauce, I scooped out as much oil that came out as possible.

I made this on a weekday but wouldn't recommend this for working moms/dads, it does take some time to put together. I guess if you made this ahead then you could reheat it for a weekday.

The lemon flavor and moroccan spices are delicious together.

Today is the First Day of Spring and the Vernal Equinox also known as Shunbun no hi, which means that it is a holiday here.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

spring and french

Tuesday was French class, actually it was the last day of our 3 month (6 class) session.

At the previous class in February, we decided to have lunch together. I was glad that I didn't have an English lesson right after French class (sometimes I do) and was able to join them for lunch.

We ate at Burdigala, a French restaurant in the Herbis Plaza. This place is pricey. I've eaten here with Satoshi for dinner pre-blog, and at their cafe for lunch.

Most of the students in my French class are elderly, over 60 and many of them have been to Europe many times.

These guys know how to party.

One of the students arranged the luncheon. At each placesetting there was a menu of what we were having for lunch.

They ordered wine (2 bottles for the 11 of us).

We had a warm zucchini soup with a proscuitto flan, linguine with broccoli and sakura ebi (sergia lucens) in a white wine sauce, choice of a main--I chose a roasted chicken which came with some vegetables (the other choice was a grilled fish dish), dessert was a citrus terrine with cassis sorbet and espresso. (sorry no photos)

Everything was delicious and I was really full. Talk about a leisurely lunch, we started a little after 12:00 and didn't finish until 15:00.

And then it came time to pay the bill...they had decided to treat our teacher, so it was 4350 yen (about US$43.50) per person!

I usually don't carry a lot of cash with me but was glad that I had enough money to pay my portion.

Though it was a bit expensive, it was nice that we had this luncheon. Most times after class everyone leaves and we don't really have a chance to chat.

So, everyday after Satoshi comes home from work, there is a game that Satoshi and I play...guess how much my lunch was or guess what I had for lunch....Satoshi was surprised at how much my lunch was.

Changing the subject, the flowers on my lanai are beginning to bloom. The honeybees seem to be happy as I've seen several in the lavender.

I took a walk yesterday and noticed that some sakura (cherry) trees have started to bloom.

The air is really bad though because of the kosa (yellow sand), a dust cloud from China.

My next round of French classes starts in 2 weeks, I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

taegu

It is amazing how food photos on the internet can make you crave them. After seeing this musubi on Wowgrinds, I was craving taegu (tay-goo).

One thing about living away from the Islands is that whenever I crave something from home, most times I have to make it...from scratch.

After a little research, it seems that taegu is a local Korean food in Hawaii. (I've never seen the dish here in Japan, if you know what it is called in Japanese or Korean, please let me know.) Dried codfish is seasoned and eaten with rice as a side dish or as a beer chaser.

After some surfing, I found a recipe on this site.

The thing I was most worried about was finding codfish, or more specifically, dried codfish. I googled to see what it was called in Japanese and what it would look like. (for those interested, it is called tara (ta-la))

Then I went to the supermarket.

I looked in the pupu (Hawaiian for appetizer)/beer chaser section, nope. Then I went to the refrigerated fish section...bingo!

I actually wanted a smaller package, but bought the size they had. 480 yen (about US$4.80) for 150 grams.

The most P.I.T.A. (pain in the A**) part of this recipe was taking off the bones of the fish. As I shredded the dried fish, I sorted as best I could to get the bones out and only made half of the fish with half of the sauce.

There was no cooking involved, which was perfect. And all you need to do is let it sit overnight in the refrig.

Taegu from Recipe Cottage

2.5 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 teaspoons sesame oil
1 package dried codfish (tara)
2 teaspoons sesame seed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Put all the ingredients together and let stand for 1 day.

Get yourself a bowl of hot rice and dig in!

NOTES: I wasn't sure how many ounces a package of codfish was, so I looked at another taegu recipe and saw that they used 6 ounces (170 grams). I used ground Japanese chili pepper instead of Western chili powder. I have a feeling that the chili powder in the recipe should be the Korean type and not the Western type. I am also wondering if I should try soaking the fish to get rid of some of the salt.

But as for the taste, it was delicious! A little spicy, a little sweet, too salty for me, but all in all delicious and close to the taegu that I know. I'm making more after we eat this batch up and I will try soaking the fish before making it, maybe it will make taking the bones out easier too...will let you know the results.