Spring, spring, Where are you?

4 Mar



In dire need of some fresh, happy, colors…

Today’s bento included blanched snap-peas, sautéed chicken burger, blanched asparagus with okaka, or shaved bonito flakes and a touch of soy sauce, yellow carrot sticks, red pepper slices, and watermelon radish.

A burst of color spilling over the gray, browning slush covering the roads.

New beginnings, a new day, it’s Groundhog Day?

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It’s been quite a while, dear reader, and my life was quickly overrun with various changes. Our beloved dog passed away, and I started a new job involving a longer commute, and different hours.

Of course, my blog suffered dearly, as I was unable to juggle everything as gracefully as I hoped.

Needless to say… A small triumph, despite the blizzard that whipped past the region last week, dumping 2 feet of snow, or the snow-sleet-freezing rain-snow fiesta that blanketed the area again…. I managed to pack my own bento today, inspired by a mouthwatering piece from Serious Eats I’ve salivated over the past few month.

I followed the basic steps – layering cooked udon noodles (I started with kanmen or dried noodles) and added blanched snow peas, carrots, scallions, a generous bit of roast chicken from Makinajian Poultry Farm – their herb roasted chicken has the most deliciously aromatic skin and juicy meat – and a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon, mushroom into my trusty Nissan Thermos.

Lunchtime came, and I filled the thermos with hot water, resealed the goodness for four (long) minutes, and voila!!

The photos truly are snapshots of the moment – however, they don’t capture my anxious moments before opening up the container revealing my long, anticipated udon lunch!!

I’ve had a few unsuccessful batches, where I sadly ate my mistakes – underseasoned soup, poorly drained noodles resulting in a gelatinous mess at the bottom, raw vegetables that didn’t seem to warm up despite the amount of time I kept the lid on…..

However this time, dear reader, it was a success!!

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What IS your favorite food?

13 Jun

I can eat pretty much, anything.

I can also drink, pretty much anything.

…pause…

My ultimate childhood dream was to be given a spoon, and an endless container filled with salmon roe, or ikura – the brilliant orange mini spheres bursting in one’s mouth, snippets of alternating saline and ocean…. Ah – the ultimate would be to be given free reign of such decadent snacking…

I digress. Or not?

The girls’ favorite hors d’oeuvres – ikura (salmon row) adorning cucumber slices, 1/8 inch thick.

Orange gems bursting, salty, in one’s mouth – complimented by refreshing slices of pale green cucumber…

Need I say more?

Gochisosama!!Thank you so much Uncle K for our gorgeous treat!!!!

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When I get homesick…

13 Jun

As a child, my father, the stereotypical Japanese business man, often played golf on Sundays.

My mother, the dutiful wife, was left at home, tending to the chaos of home life with the children (my brother and I).

My father was left to his own devices – and he made a quick breakfast of instant ramen with the protein addition of a raw egg. Common process in Japan (tsukimi udon, tsukimi soba) but a freakish contribution of endless debate and derision by many over here….

Personally, my argument is, if the egg is fresh and the poultry farmer known, I am willing to take the leap…

Needless to say. I would wake up after my father left – often, the ramen broth left behind, and I would happily finish off as Sunday “Golf Ramen” – wishing Sundays happened more often so I can enjoy the remnants of my father’s rushed breakfast.

Three decades later, ramen is now trendy, widely accepted in American culture -ranging from gourmet Zagat NYC dining to college dormitory survival essentials.

On those days I have a brief moment to breathe – or I’m so homesick for a bowlful of noodles in savory, hearty, fragrant broth topped with generous toppings – and the company of forgiving and understanding colleagues who don’t mind my inhaling and slurping my noodles, I escape to the local Japanese eatery – Shiro of Japan – to enjoy their ramen special.

Wednesday. Wednesday, my dear reader, is the key day!!!

20140613-005333-3213607.jpgRamen day at Shiro restaurant 401 Old Country Road Carle Place, NY

A step off of the beaten path

13 Jun

I’m used to trudging along my daily routine. Get up, pack bento, choose outfits for girls, make breakfast (may it NOT be cereal and milk), braid hair, shoo H out of the house to ensure she makes bus, get ready for work, herd little one to car, drop off at school, drive to work, and WORK.

Sometimes a hiccup sets my schedule way off course. Other days, I arrive at work unruffled, early, and presentable.

Needless to say, today was an off-day with the little one’s pre-K performance taking over prime time from 11:30 – noon, and my attempts to work remotely being thwarted by every other element.

I’m happy to say, I managed a run to Kerber’s Farm – a farm stand I’ve watched over the past 18 years go from functioning farm stand to neglect – and then to rebirth.

I will post a photo of my indulgence of the day that left me with massive “workout” guilt, addressed with “but-this-was-so-incredibly-delicious” indignation.

Fried egg and roasted vegetables on a homemade cheddar biscuit…. Inhaled in two minutes, BEFORE I reached route 110, less than two miles away.

If I were a cat, my paws would have been washing my eyebrows, and behind my ears.

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Visit the farm! 309 West Pulaski Road Huntington, NY 11743

Burdock what?

28 May

I often lamented I was unable to find organic burdock… Until I discovered them in a box at, yes dear reader, Fairway during a lunch forage.

I leapt for joy. My heart beating quickly, I picked out six pieces – each about six inches long, and about an inch in diameter.

The woman who checked out my groceries inspected the burdock, and asked what it was, and how was I going to prepare it.

Kinpira Gobo came to mind.

I rinsed the burdock root well, and trimmed the ends. I then took the back of my knife, and scraped the thin skin off of the root. The dusty, brown, skin peels off easily, exposing a delicate, fragrant, white flesh. I had a bowlful of cold water handy, and plunged the peeled root into the water to prevent them from browning (due to oxidation, similar to peeled apples turning brown).

Once peeled, I cut them into 1 1/2 inch long slabs – which I then, julienned into thin matchsticks. Again, I put the cut pieces into cold water.

I also peeled four medium sized carrots, and cut them into similar sized matchsticks.

I heated up my trusty cast iron pan over medium high heat, added a tablespoon of sesame oil and a teaspoon of canola oil – and as they heated up, the most delicious, rich, warm aroma rose from the pan. I quickly drained the burdock pieces, shook the extra water off, and added them to the pan. The carrots followed as well.

A noisy chorus of sizzling vegetables, mixing with the intoxicating scent of sesame oil, woody-herbal burdock, and caramelizing carrots quickly filled my kitchen.

The girls looked up from their homework – their noses wiggling like bunnies.

I tossed the burdock and carrot mixture with tongs, and added 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce and mirin continuing to mix everything together, well.

After the burdock pieces start to wilt, and the carrots soften, I added a generous handful of ground white sesame seeds, and continued to toss well.

Once all was blended well, I removed the pan from the heat, stepped back, and inhaled the delicious fragrance.

It brought me back to my childhood, and mom’s homecoming.

The girls looked up, and each had a taste test. They chewed thoughtfully, nodded, and said, “Yum!”

One of the best things about kinpira gobo is that it tastes delicious warmed up, as well as at room temperature – perfect for a bento item!

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Ramping and porgy-ing into spring

28 May

My company moved recently, and although I groaned and complained about the perceived increase in commuting time, I soon realized, I was now in the midst of prime food foraging – both for lunch options, as well as for shopping!!

Where else could one ask to be relocated to an office where one can find a Fairway in close proximity to a Trader Joe’s, and option upon option of dining choices?

Nonetheless, on one food foraging lunch expedition, I was besides myself at the beautiful box of organic ramps beckoning from the produce section.

I grabbed those by the fistful, curbing my frenzy only by the fact it was two days until payday, and my household CFO’s voice of reason echoed in the back of my mind.

These ramps were cleaned, grilled, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt, and served with grilled whole porgy – aka “fish sleeping” per the girls.

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Alas – the skin stuck to the grill, but the fish was incredibly moist, and delicate, complimenting the fragrant, tender, sweet ramps.

We ate the grilled porgy with a light ponzu dipping sauce. A bowl of steamed multigrain rice completed our meal.

The girls and baba enjoyed every bit of dinner – and I can’t wait for another lunch foray for interesting eats.

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