Guilt Free, Calorie Free (not quite but still): Quinoa Salad

Guilt Free, Calorie Free (not quite but still): Quinoa Salad

After eating “dirty chips” (it’s basically nachos.  Potato chips are used instead of corn chips with pull pork, gorgonzola cheese and BBQ sauce) at Maison Tavern (nothing to mention here…I am not a big fan of this place) last night, my stomach has not been happy.  It was too late to regret it when I left the place.

So here is my “feeling guilty” lunch.  I ate oranges and apple for breakfast and quinoa & arugula salad dressed with nutritious yeast, olive oil, lemon juice, champagne vinegar, white wine and salt for lunch.  This should even out 5,000 calories that I had last night, right (I am trying SO hard to feel better about myself)?  You all agree that I can consume more calories at tonight’s dinner since I was being good all day, don’t you?

Happy Friday 🙂

Mother and Child over Rice: Oyako-don

Mother and Child over Rice: Oyako-don

Not human mother and child.  This is not going to be weird, spooky story at all.

It’s one of many Japanese soul food dishes.  Oyako means “parent and child(ren).”  This dish is made with chicken and egg and that’s why it’s called “Oyako”-don.  Some Oyako-don restaurants are very serious about what they serve, like this very famous and beloved Oyako-don restaurant called Tamahide in Tokyo, established in 1760.  This is something my mom barely made when I was growing up.  I felt I was struck by thunder when my kindergarten class mate’s mom (our neighbor.  My mom and she were so close) made it for me one day.  Nostalgia…

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Oyako-don for 2:  Chicken (I used breast, cut in bite size), 1/2 x  onion, 2 x eggs, sugar, sake, mirin (sweet wine), soy sauce, dashi (bonito stock).  Mix all the liquids, then cook onions for a few minutes and then add chicken. Cook until chicken is tender.  Turn the heat off.  Then add beaten eggs and cook about 3 minutes with low heat or until eggs are done per your preference.  Add that over rice.

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I tried to eat this at a couple of different restaurants but  I always prefer to eat at home.  I think that is because I want to cook my eggs MY way and also my memory of that evening when our neighbor made it for me while my mom was out.  I was missing my mother but I couldn’t hide my excitement to eat this dish I hadn’t seen before.  It smelled sweet and looked so colorful and fun.  I remember it tasted so joyous!

I don’t make my Oyako-don with that much of excitement anymore, but I still enjoy it when I do.  The combination of smells between the sugar, dashi, soy sauce, chicken and onions!  You don’t have to do much, all you have to do is to wait until it creates its magic.  That few minutes of patience, that alone is worth cooking this dish.

It was delicious.

What is Hama Hama?: PNW Treasure

What is Hama Hama?: PNW Treasure

2-year residency in Atlanta, Georgia was quite tough for me.  It was challenging to find fresh and organic produce (maybe I was not looking hard enough?) and seafood!  Oh seafood…you have no idea how much I missed the fish market in Seattle when I was in ATL.  They are available there of course, but there is no denying that northern ocean water produces finer seafood, especially shellfish.

This small vendor at the farmers market that I mentioned a couple times before in my blog offers seasonal shellfish.  This past Saturday, they had 2 kinds of clams (one of them is called Happy Clam!) and a variety of oysters.  The name of the vendor is “Hama Hama Oysters and they grow Hama Hama oysters at their farm.  Isn’t that such a fun sound, Hama Hama?  I just want to repeat saying that.

http://hamahamaoysters.com/

I purchased one jar packed with 7 x medium size Hama Hama from granddaughter of the founder of this oyster farm in Lilliwaup, Washington near Olympic National Forrest.  It was shucked and packed that morning and I was there 9:30 in the morning, which tells me the oysters are incredibly fresh.  I didn’t want to add too many condiments because I wanted to taste the intense sea water and umami-packed sweet flavors spreading through my mouth (I was already salivating when purchasing them).

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Straight up Hama Hama Oysters without lot of seasonings

1)      Rinse gently

2)      Place them in cast iron pot

3)      Drizzle olive oil and add a bit of sea salt and splash or dry white wine

4)      Put the lid on and cook about 5 min (no need to touch, just let your pot do its job)

5)      Add little bit of fresh lemon

6)      Yay!

Accompaniment was lightly steamed leek with butter and salt.

Is your mouth watering yet?

Hama Hama.  This is your magic word of winter (or all year around).  Hama Hama, Hama Hama….

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Chopping Therapy: Prep for Gyoza

Chopping Therapy:  Prep for Gyoza

It really helps me when I have a bad day or I am upset about something.  Chopping vegetables is one of my meditation methods.

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When I was a young child, helping my mother and grandma in the kitchen was mandatory.  My mom started to let me use “old person’s kitchen knife” when I was 4.  I always wanted to sound like them.  They make this passionate, happy and fun sound of their knives hitting wooden cutting board with 100 miles per hour speed.

When I have a rough day at work, I tend to choose a dish requires a lot of chopping.  Gyoza (dumpling) is one of them.  I have a fond memory of helping my mom to prepare and wrap gyoza.  You chop Chinese chives, garlic, ginger, napa cabbage and onion.  You chop them all as finely as you possibly can.  How fun does it sound?  I feel like I am getting high, just thinking about it.  I guess I am a creature who is easy to be pleased.

This is my amusement and is also delicious.  You have umami from soy sauce, pork and veggies and sweetness from pork and other ingredients.

1.  Mix REALLY well ground pork (or mix of ground pork and ground beef), chopped Chinese chives, garlic, ginger, napa cabbage, onion, soy sauce, salt (lots), pepper, potato starch (needs to be potato starch, not corn starch), sesame oil.  Use your hand.  It gets messy, but no utensils or tools, just your hand.

2.  Wrap 1 with very thin gyoza wrappers (you can buy them at Asian grocery stores).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2_p_ny4eTE

3.  Place them in oiled and heated skillet.

3a.  Cook over high heat for 1 minute or so

3b.  Reduce heat to medium and add little bit of water (not too much) and put the lid over skillet.  Leave it for 2-3 min

3d.  Remove the lid and increase heat to medium high and add oil.

4.  Enjoy

Only thing I would like to mention is that it is SUPER important not to move around gyozas in the skillet.  Just leave them as they are until they are done.  Oh, that smell while cooking!  This Japanese soul food’s glorious aroma takes me right back to where I grew up.  My mom teaching me how to wrap dumplings and my small hands trying to mimic what she does.

Now, pull out your well-sharpened knife and start chopping.  You will know exactly what I am talking about as soon as you finish chopping first clove of garlic.

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Color of Saffron: STAUB 22cm

Color of Saffron: STAUB 22cm

I don’t like shopping really.  No, let me rephrase that.  I do not like shopping except for books, grocery and kitchen tools.

Yesterday, this little but heavy box arrived at my cube at work.  I tried so hard not to show my excitement.  But it was really hard, Oh My God.  It was my Staub pot!  When I decided I was going to get rid of all tools, pots and pans that I was not in love with last year, I especially started to invest in pots and pans.  I contemplated for a LONG time, like 8 months.  Which one was better for me to get, Staub or Le Creuset (I am a thinker, what can I say)?  Finally I decided to get Staub and my first pot was Grenadine Round Cocotte 28cm.  It was a significant decision and I enjoy cooking even more because of Staub.  It is cast iron pot and it is heavy but what I love about this pot is the lid.  The lid closes very tightly and steams inside really well with small amount of water.  Let’s say you are cooking winter vegetables, it usually takes a long time to cook them because they tend to be dense.  Because of the tight lid closure, it cooks with small amount of water, which means that it cooks with water that vegetables contain, therefore it has a stronger flavor.  Also these dimples in the lid.  Whoever thought about these is genius.  My hat’s off to that genius.  Here is why. Those dimples circulates water inside of pot and has a basting effect.

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I do have an emotional connection to this series.  This my 3rd Staub and this is just gorgeous. There are so many things I want to cook.  This a damn good problem to have.

Transformation of Two Beloved Birds: Road to Pho Ga from Free-Range Farm

Transformation of Two Beloved Birds:  Road to Pho Ga from Free-Range Farm

So, there were two chickens, running around a field.  Being outside, eating healthy food and getting exercise builds nice muscles, especially on their thighs.  Also, with them running around freely, it makes them stress-free.  Well, maybe not completely “free” from stress but they have way less stress than caged ones.

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Those 2 birds ended up at my house and my dear friends and I enjoyed tasting them so much.  I oven-roasted them with winter vegetables (blogged on 1/17) and also consumed 4.5 bottles of red wine as well.  Next morning, as you can guess, we were not as happy as the night before due to dehydration and headache.  What does Asian mother say when you have hangover?  “Eat your noodle soup!” or “Eat your miso soup!” or “What an idiot!” I decided to follow my mom’s voice.  Noodle soup!

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Let’s use those birds then.  Carcasses into pot and shimmer for an hour, then add Royal Boat brand fish sauce and fresh squeezed lime juice.  There soup is ready.  Then cook rice noodle and add to the soup. Garnish with cilantro and grated yuzu (glorious Japanese citrus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuzu) on top.  After this, my hangover is magically gone because of togetherness of umami from chicken, tanginess of lime, saltiness of fish sauce, freshness of cilantro, then with delightful, sweet and tender aroma of yuzu.  Flat rice noodle is well coated with this simple yet magnificent soup.  Nothing was left in my bowl, not even a drop of the soup.

Thank you, healthy chickens.  Because of you, I am getting right amount of protein, ready to build nice muscles and I feel “cage-free” from the crappy headache.