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.

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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.

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.

Alphabet Questions: M-S (especially R)

Alphabet Questions: M-S (especially R)

M – Most favorite book?:  Tokyo Bandwagon

N – Nicknames?:  Mimi Gomez

O – One wish?:  All animals get saved

P – Person who texted me last?:  Vivienne

Q – Question you’re always asked?:  Where did I put that?

R – Reason to smile?:  Chocolate, my overweight chihuahua, many, many, many good books, Billie Holiday records, my mom’s cooking, quote like ““Maybe we should all just listen to records and quit our jobs.” by Jack White, smell of freshly opened bag of Sun-dried Ethiopia Yirgacheff coffee beans, oranges, dog paws, depressing music grabs my heart, English accent, movie like Liberal Arts, independent bookstores like Shakespeare & Co., tasty pastries at Crumble and Flake,  Joseph Leonard, New York City especially East/West Village, Rent, Stomp, handwritten letters, text message saying “i love u,” holding hands, Paris, Paris, Paris, Staub pots, vintage housewares, Bangkok, warm and cozy bed, sound of rain drops, sound of cello makes, Picasso painting, Maria Kochetkova, point shoes, stylish looking glasses, snow,  flower bouquet made by Ayako, Emily Dann, the Corson Building, Autumn, claw-foot tubs, old wood chairs/tables, well-polished shoes, home cooking, chopping vegetables with my Aritsugu knife, beach, ocean, sunset, I can go on for about 2 days to list what makes me happy so I will stop right here.  And, Archie.

S – Song I sang last?:  Cups (“When I’m Gone”)

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!

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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.

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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).

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My simple night completed.

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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Sunday Happiness = Winter Vegetables in Staub 24cm

Sunday Happiness = Winter Vegetables in Staub 24cm

I used to dislike Sundays.  Lots of people don’t like Mondays but Sundays were loneliest and longest of the week to me.  However, since 2010, that has changed drastically.

I am cooking cauliflower today for lunch.  A whole cauliflower plus some other winter vegetables (more like left over veggies in the fridge), lotus root, Japanese sweet potatoes, carrots, carrots, brussels sprouts.  Here is what I did.

1.  Place all vegetables in cast iron pot

2.  Add white wine vinegar, water (50ml-ish? maybe), olive oil, sea salt, thyme, ground cumin seed

3. Put the lid on and cook about 25 minutes over low-medium heat.

4.  Bon appetit!

Accompaniments are La Parisienne’s demi-baguette www.laparisienneseattle.com/gallery.html and Loki Fish Co.’s smoked salmon spread http://www.lokifish.com/

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I get to do this kind of stuff every weekend.  Not only that, I get to share these dishes, joy, love and passion for food and cooking with my best friend.  Lonely Sundays?  I am so over it.