Instant Antidepressant: Baby, it’s cold outside so let’s go out!

Watching the snow falling is one of the beautiful things in the world, but it is not really my favorite thing to do. It makes me feel a bit blue and depressed. I think it’s because I know this peaceful quietness would disappear very soon.

Yesterday, Sunday November 5th 2017, it was a bit snowing and intensely cold for November in Seattle. I love Seattle autumn, but I guess I was not ready for this weather. However it turned into one of the most delightful days.

Here is list of how I make those cold and blues go away.

OXTAIL PHO at BA BAR (http://babarseattle.com)

Classic Vietnamese repertoire, beef noodle soup. Noodle have gotten better now at Ba Bar. It won’t get bundle up and like a giant mochi any more. Broth tastes exactly how I wanted it to taste like. Combination of savoriness, tons of umami, a tat sourness and slight sweetness. Make sure to breathe in the complexity of this noodle soup before digging in. Then, you taste the meat falling off from the bones and noodle at the same time. It warms your belly and heart at the same time.

PIPE & ROW (https://pipeandrow.com) and BURNT SUGAR (https://burntsugar.us)

Strolling stores in cute neighborhood like Fremont is essential especially on a chilly day like this. Looking at those pairs of shoes that cost way more than you can afford but it’s so nice to dream. Someday in Paris 🙂 You can do it yourself but it would be much more fun with your trusted and honest friends who are not afraid of saying, “No, you look ridiculous in that dress” or “You look amazing. You must get that sweater.”

YOUR BESTIES
I don’t call people “friends” very easily. Honestly, I only have several friends whom I gave my respect and the highest regards to. I got to go out and eat pho, drink coffee, shop, talk, make fun of each other and laugh. Most importantly, love. Since I have a few friends, I can easily open up my heart and show who I am when being with them. I show how important and precious they are to me. I share my life, small and big with them. They give me so much hope and strength to keep going. It’s pure happiness. There is no better way to fill your soul.

Dark, rainy and cold days are coming in Seattle soon. However, as long as I have these things, I don’t need to go seek for antidepressants. When your heart is open, depressing days can easily turn into happy days just like I experienced yesterday. That’s instant and long-lasting at the same time.

Good Luck Veggie: Renkon (Lotus Roots)

Good Luck Veggie: Renkon (Lotus Roots)

It is a good luck vegetable so Japanese people eat Lotus Roots as part of special New Year meal.  Why is this root vegetable is good luck?  As you can see you can see holes of Renkon as photo shown below.  It is said that you can see the future.  Also, Renkon produces tons of seeds, therefore it means “productivity.”  Kind of clever, huh?

004

I am fortunate enough to be able to buy Renkon at Asian market in International District so I keep it in my fridge often.  I usually simply sautée it with different kinds of seasonings each time.  Last night, I sliced it in ½-inch thick, sautéed with sesame oil (I love sesame oil by the way, so fragrant), sprinkle of salt, splash of fish sauce and dash of black vinegar.  I am very enthusiastic about black vinegar.  This is one of  several fermented seasonings that I am in love with.  Black vinegar is very smooth, malty and mellow, not stingy.  When you cook vegetables, any meat or fish, your dish ALWAYS come out complex, yet mild, rich and delicious.  If you use black vinegar when making hot and sour soup, your soup would taste divine!

Anyway, here is last night’s magic.  Black vinegar and home-shaved bonito on top of sautéed renkon.  It only takes about 10 minutes to cook.  All you need besides the renkon dish is white rice.  Savory and comforting dinner is ready.

005006

Chickpea Journey: to Japanese Homemade Miso

Chickpea Journey: to Japanese Homemade Miso

She is very intelligent, creative, sweet, classy and smart.  She grew up in Hiroshima in Japan and teaches Japanese at private elementary school in Seattle.  I met her for the first time through our mutual friend about month ago.  We hit it off right away and her stories sounded so interesting to me.  She mentioned making miso at her home when we first met and I thought she was my kind of people 🙂

Today she and I got together for brunch at Terra Plata in Capitol Hill.  She brought me a jar of her miso, made with chickpea!  When I opened the lid of the container, it smelled so vibrant. That was the first time for me to try homemade miso ever.  I decided right there to prepare cabbage miso soup tonight.

006

This is tonight’s miso soup, made with miso that she poured her passion and love into.  It came out SO delicious.  It reminded of her.  Sweet, wholesome and healthy.

Rika’s Asparagus vs. Dad’s Asparagus: It’s Spring!

Rika’s Asparagus vs. Dad’s Asparagus: It’s Spring!

My mom sucked at cooking asparagus.  It’s more like my dad actually.  He liked vegetables well done (ugh) and she cooked them the way he liked.  I didn’t questioned why my dad liked vegetables cooked that way but I never liked it.  He almost eats anything raw.  Fish, beef, chicken, beans and so forth.  I always thought asparagus tasted like wilted old grass when I was a kid because of this.  I was never a fan until I was in my early 20’s.

My friend Rika and I went out to eat and drink a lot.  We explored the culinary wonderland of Tokyo.  We ate French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Ramen, Cuban, German, Hawaiian, Greek, Jamaican, Burger, Pizza, Cajun…you name it.  One day I saw her eating asparagus raw.  I had never met anyone who eats asparagus raw until then.  Light bulb moment.  Ah!  Why the hell didn’t I think of that??  I don’t even have to cook it!  Since that moment on, I haven’t cooked my asparagus until they get wilted.  Never.

It is spring.  My favorite farmers market vendors sell precious green asparagus.  They are beautiful.  Now this is my favorite way of cooking asparagus – lightly sautée in a bit of olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  These green stalks have such an ear pleasing snap sound as you bite into them.

Two interesting lessons from my dad and my friend.  Dad, I am sorry but this is how I cook asparagus and I hope you would like it someday.

Maria Kotchetkova: Celebrate with Soy & Honey Grazed Chicken

Maria Kotchetkova: Celebrate with Soy & Honey Grazed Chicken

This is only my opinion but Maria Kotchetkova is one of the most beautiful human beings alive in today’s world.  She’s a principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet Company.  As I am writing right now, I can barely contain myself because of my over excitement of joy

I set my alarm to wake up today (Sunday!) at 5:30am.  What for?  Well, because American Ballet Theater’s Swan Lake was going to be on sale at 9am EST today.  9am EST means 6am PST!  There are millions of gorgeous ballerinas in the world but this petit Russian, somewhat quirky dancer, is my favorite.  Last time I was in San Francisco to watch Giselle, I was hoping to see her dance but the principal that night was not Maria.  It was a beautiful stage production regardless of course (it’s SFB after all), but I still want to see Maria dance.

I follow Maria Kotchetkova’s FB page and Instagram.  One post said “Swan Lake June 26th, American Ballet Theater”  I freaked out because that means she will be a guest principal dancer of American Ballet Theater production of Swan Lake.  What an unreal combination!  I really can’t even handle this.  When I saw the post, I called Archie right away and asked him if he wanted to go to New York City with me (again).  I wonder how many men are willing to travel to NYC from Seattle just to watch one production of ballet, completely based on my taste.  He didn’t even hesitate to say yes.  He even asked me, “do you want to go back to Joseph Leonard for dinner?”  He knows me so well and he is the best man alive.

To show my gratitude to Archie, I decided to marinade chicken (one of his favorite food) with my soy & honey sauce with ginger and sake for a few hours and grill them.  I hope he will enjoy this with his Fremont Interurban IPA.

005

The most gorgeous ballerina, the best friend I could ever ask for and soy & honey grazed chicken.  What a satisfying Sunday.

Confidence in Happy Cows: Skagit River Ranch

Confidence in Happy Cows:  Skagit River Ranch

Betty said with her doubtful voice, “How can you eat meat you bought at the farmers market?  Is it even safe?”  I don’t know Betty well.  We just dance at the same dance studio and exchange not-so-deep conversations.  We were talking about my favorite farmers market and told her that I don’t shop at giant chain supermarkets anymore because I could find almost everything I need at the farmers market.

There are at least three wonderful butchers at University Farmers Market.  Once I bought a huge beef lamp at Sea Breeze Farm, I asked George, owner of this farm, how I should store the meat and he said “keep in a fridge uncovered and it will last about a month.”  He also advised me “when you start seeing mold on surface, all you have to do is to wipe the mold with vinegar.  You can also enjoy raw.”  He was so right.  I enjoyed his beef in every way for about  3-1/2 weeks.

Yesterday morning, I bought some beef from Skagit River Ranch for the first time.  I asked this super friendly lady Eiko what’s the best way to cook this.  She said, “you just marinade for about a couple of hours then cook 7 minutes one side and 5 on the other.  I like medium.”  I also asked if I can cook with less time because I like medium rare.  She said, “honey, you can eat that sucker raw.”  Now you understand why I love this farmers market.

005

Eiko also gave me her “Simple Everything Marinade” recipe.  You mix olive oil, soy sauce, honey or brown sugar, garlic and lemon juice.  I marinated for about 4 hours.  I think that was the best steak I have ever cooked at home. Beautiful pink/red inside and came out so tender.  I simmered left-over marinade for a minute and used for dressing over a braised broccoli salad.

It is way “safer” than any meat you can find at Safeway.  These farmers are not only confident what they provide for customers but also offer with pride.  You can actually taste it.  Their care, passion and love for what they do.

Betty, I hope you try the meat at a local farmers market one day.  I promise you, you will enjoy it so much because, “you can eat that sucker raw.”

If You Are So Brave: Natto Eating 納豆

If You Are So Brave:  Natto Eating 納豆

Fried eggs and bacon?  French toast with loads of syrup?  Steak and eggs?  Or Green eggs and ham? What Japanese people eat in the morning is a little different (we definitely read “Green eggs and ham”, but “I would not eat them here or there”).  What I grew up with, for example,  a bowl of rice, miso soup, grilled fish, homemade pickles, and seasoned vegetables.  This kind of meal however takes time and preparation.  When I want to energize quickly in the morning, this is what I have;  natto over rice. Carbs give you energy as you know.  But what is Natto?  Natto is fermented soybeans in short.  Yogurt, vinegar, pickles, kimchi, miso, sourdough bread (gasp!), kombucha, wine (what?), Worcestershire sauce, cheese to name a few.  Natto is in the same family.  Like cheese, it has a STRONG smell and taste like…hmmm…natto?  It also has a slimy texture.  You simply add a bit of soy sauce (my dad’s favorite) or sweet soy which is my favorite then mix really well to make it even more slimy.  Then add natto on top of warm, well-prepared rice and start eating.  It contains fiber, vitamins, and iron so it’s nutritiously rich.  I grew up with this and it is on my long list of Soul Food dishes. You can do this.  Yes, it is slimy and it is smelly.  But you eat okra and you also love cheese, right?  It’s not far from it.  There is always a first time.  This will change your perspective on eating.  Completely.  If you want to experience that, I recommend for you to at least try it.  And I will salute you for your bravery. By the way, my mom will give you crap though.  She hates natto.

Get The Sand Out!: The Ocean Stew

Get The Sand Out!: The Ocean Stew

Ocean.  Waves, salty water, sand, surfboards, ocean smells, sunset…I love the ocean.  I like lakes, rivers, mountains but I love the ocean.  The ocean and I have a very personal relationship.  It’s deep.  Ocean produce seafood, especially shellfish…my love.  There’s only one downside of shellfish.  Picture this; you have this gorgeously prepared plate with all types of fish and shellfish.  Your favorite is clam and you dive into it.  Then, as you’re biting into it, this hard, weird, most unpleasant texture you’ve ever experienced.  Sand.

My mom grew up in Shizuoka prefecture which is located about 2-3 hour drive from Tokyo near Mount Fuji and beautiful pacific ocean.  My grandma and mom moved to Tokyo 15 years after the World War II ended but they never forg0t how great the seafood was in Shizuoka.  They taught me how to gut and filet the fish, how to clean and prepare fish and shellfish.  One particular lesson I am so appreciative having been taught is to soak clams in salt water and for (at least) a couple of hours.  You make the salt water bath the same concentration as sea water, then soak your clams for couple of hours.  Then you will see them become very active and start spitting sands out so you don’t have to take that super annoying first bite of clam sands.  Thanks, grandma!

026 028 029

This was nice and easy seafood stew that I made.

Heat cast iron pot, add olive oil and garlic.  Brown your fish (I used red bream) with high heat.  Lower the heat to medium-low, then add white wine and 1 small can of tomato leave it for a few minutes then add squids and clams.  Cook them for another few minutes then add oysters.  Don’t overcook oysters, turn off the heat just about when the oysters get plump.

Please go ahead, enjoy the Ocean Stew with sand-less clam

Yakimochi: Grilled Rice Cakes

Yakimochi: Grilled Rice Cakes

Tonight was one those nights that I didn’t want to slice or cut anything.  Basically I didn’t want to “cook.”  The fact is I am hungry, so I decided to make myself “yakimochi (grilled rice cakes)”  Yaki means grilled and mochi means rice cakes, as you might have guessed it.

I used to grill mochi in a small frying pan but since I got this “yakiami” which is a simple yet essential tool made with ceramic and metal. You can grill vegetables, meat, fish, and of course food like mochi over the stove with it.  I sometimes grill “onigiri (rice ball)” with this yakiami so I can add more flavor.  Adding soy sauce while grilling onigiri makes you salivate quickly.

004

Anyway, over low-medium heat, you cook both side of mochi until it gets golden brown (I like a little burnt).  There are so many ways to eat grilled rice cakes.  For example, you can dip them in ponzu sauce, in shredded radish (mizore-oroshi) and soy sauce, sprinkle soy power and sugar, fry them, spread butter over…list goes on.  I wanted to just have a simple and easy night so I added mochi in to my pre-made and heated bonito & kelp stock (dashi).

006

My simple night completed.