Tag Archives: Carrots

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!

20140528-225742-82662350.jpg

Advertisements

Let there be noodles!

17 Jan

The girls’ school offers a hot lunch sponsored by a student’s family, once a week. The little one joined her sister this fall at the school, and I realized there was a hot lunch slot available around the time of their birthdays.

I mulled and pondered… What did I need to do? What am I expected to do?

One day, my older daughter turned to me and said, “Mama, it’s not fair. You NEVER come read a book on my birthday at school, and you NEVER do hot lunch.”

That statement sealed the deal for me.
I signed up on the hot lunch volunteer list, and started brainstorming.

“What do you want for lunch?” I asked her.

Men men! (noodles)!” They both piped up.

I asked the school what I needed to do to prepare the lunch. They gave me ideas… “We usually cook 12 pounds of pasta… Probably about 100 students will participate…”

I started panicking. What could I possibly make for a hundred kids?!

Udon or soba noodles in soup would be a challenge, since the noodles are not tasty if over cooked, and the soup may be the X-factor. I could almost see myself doling out a tub of soup, while trying to catch slippery noodles out of a pot to try to portion out… A hundred times.

I then thought about rice bowls… I could steam a hundred servings of rice. I then make various toppings that each student could customize their rice bowl with… Seasoned turkey soboro, egg, peas, vegetables… I then realized I only can possibly make eleven servings of rice in the rice cooker(s) I would have access to. I even asked the local Japanese restaurant to provide me a quote for the steamed rice… But the thought of making all the toppings was dizzying.

I then realized, yakisoba would probably be the best option. I could make it with ground turkey, vegetables, and make my own yakisoba sauce to ensure I kept control over the ingredients.

I went on a shopping binge at the local Japanese food stores, snapping up bags of the fresh yakisoba noodle packs – each one containing three servings. Thirty three packages of noodles later, (some were on sale too!) I purchased seven pounds of cabbage, ten pounds of carrots, six pounds of onions, eight pounds of ground turkey, a bottle of ketchup, two bottles of Bulldog brand Worcestshire sauce and a pilfered bottle of my husband’s HP sauce, we were ready.

The night before the lunch, I peeled the carrots, and hand-sliced them into 1/4 inch matchsticks (yes, each and every one…) until 3 am. The onions and cabbage were also sliced, thinly, about 1/4 inch thick.

The next day, my car perfumed with the strong smell of onions, I took my goodies to the school. A concerned friend, worried for my sanity!, helped me for an hour, and produced a food processor to cut up four pounds or celery.

Once set up in the school’s commercial kitchen, I started browning the turkey, seasoning with salt, white pepper and soy sauce. In a separate pan, I sautéed the onions slices, and added the carrots, the cabbage, and then the celery, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Once the turkey was done, I set it aside, and continued cooking the vegetables. When the onions were softened, and the cabbage edges were starting to become translucent, I set them aside.

A added ketchup, HP sauce and Worcestshire sauce in a 2:2:1 ratio, mixing everything together with a whisk. Some soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil were also added, just to add depth. These were about 1/2 cup each, but again this was for 100 kids!!

Into another pan, I lightly oiled, and added the noodles. The pan was large enough to fit three squares of the fresh noodles, so I started cooking them, following the instruction on the packets. I added a bit of water to soften.

Midway, the school staff reassured me, due to some student absences, we could probably make less than the original hundred count so we ended up cooking only twenty packets, or sixty servings.

I somehow managed to get most of the lunch ready, and squeezed into the classroom (for both!) to read “Guess How Much I love You” to each respective class.

Lunch was successful. I received many kind compliments, and the best part was that every bite was either eaten, or taken home!

Here are some pictures of that day.

20130117-102254.jpg

20130117-105808.jpg

20130117-105820.jpg

20130117-105751.jpg

20130117-105729.jpg

20130117-102330.jpg

Comfort is a bowl away

16 Oct

After watching a mouth-watering episode of their favorite cartoon, Anpanman featuring a character flying in a ramen-bowl, the girls asked in unison, “We want men-men!”

Didn’t have ramen, but a bowl of udon in soup, topped with turkey soboro, blanched hakusai or Napa cabbage, sugar snap peas, blanched carrots, narutomaki and cooked egg will just have to do!!

A weekend classic for the girls of the household…

20121016-152411.jpg

Last Japanese bento for May

5 Jun

20120605-205950.jpg

Today’s lunch for Japanese school included my daughter’s favorites.

Grilled chicken wing and drumette
Carrot sticks and red pepper slices
Blueberries
Whole wheat pasta spirals tossed in marinara sauce with sliced grilled sausage and sautéed onion slices.

I broke away from my usual onigiri routine – I confess – I was exhausted, and hadn’t gotten my wits together to make rice after our strawberry picking trip.

Corned beef, and then back to Monday…

19 Mar

The weekend was lovely – especially yesterday, as I watched the girls play in the yard, my beloved labrador, Kiki, running circles around the girls.

We had a belated St. Patrick’s Day dinner at Nana’s – Trader Joe’s uncured corned beef, cabbage and carrots cooked up in beer in a pressure cooker (45 minutes at medium with just the meat, and then another 30 minutes with a cabbage head, quartered, and 6 peeled carrots), accompanied by creamy mashed potatoes and salad. 

Monday monday’s lunch was:

Boiled egg in star shape

Sautéed zucchini slices with a little soy sauce and pepper

Blanched broccoli

Blue berries

Grape tomatoes

Carrot sticks

Oh what a glorious Monday it is!

January 2012, welcome, Year of the Dragon! Happy New Year!

9 Jan

2011, the year of the rabbit, skipped by very quickly – its little bunny tail quickly disappearing into the abyss of another 12 year cycle. 

Up rose the majestic Dragon, and hopefully, our health and luck continue the upward trend!

This week was a short week starting on Tuesday.  I included a little Japanese New Year items in my daughter’s lunch box.

Kimpira gobo, or julienned burdock and carrot slices (cut into matchstick width) that were sautéed and subsequently simmered in a dashi, soy sauce, mirin broth until the liquid is boiled away.  I’m guilty of cooking by “eyeballing” my recipes, but here’s a general recipe for this traditional dish:

One burdock (gobo) root – usually, they come in two in a package.  I take the non-bladed side of my knife, and shave the skin off.  It’s very thin, but very muddy – you can also choose to simply scrub the burdock with a vegetable brush.  It’ll be very fragrant – an earthy, herby fragrance that will be released, and the burdock root itself is a gorgeous creamy color.  Cut into 1 1/2 – 2 inch matchstick pieces, and allow to soak in some cold water.  The water will prevent the browning of the pieces.  Drain well, right before adding to the pan.

I like a healthy helping of vegetables, so I take three medium-sized carrots, peeled, and cut into similar matchstick pieces.

Into a large frying pan, I add 1 tbs of canola oil, and 1 tbs or sesame oil, heat until shimmering over medium heat, and add the drained burdock pieces and carrot pieces, and saute, coating the pieces well with the oil. 

I then add 3 tbs soy sauce, 1 tbs mirin, 2 tbs white sesame seeds and 1/2 cup water, and continue sautéing the pieces.  I also add 1 tsp of the ground shiitake powder to the pan, and continue sautéing the pieces.  Adjust the seasoning accordingly.  Alternately, you could add 1/2 cup of dashi – I substitute actual dashi with the water + ground shiitake powder mix.

Once the liquid has cooked away, I remove from the heat, and it’s ready to go.

Also in her bento were cucumber slices, some oden, left over from New Year’s Day, as well as sekihan, or literally, red rice (Sweet rice steamed with adzuki beans, served with a little salt and , which is served on auspicious occasions.  The oden included were (my favorite) boiled egg, bamboo sprout slices, and konnyaku (devil’s tongue yam) pieces which have been simmered in a rich, dashi stock for many hours.  The egg is stained a lovely, caramel color, and the pieces are seasoned with the savory, slightly sweet oden soup.  My winter favorite!

Wednesday, I sent in a thermos container full of oden, as my daughter told me she loved to eat it.

For Thursday, I included:

Broccoli omelette

Roasted chioggi beet stars

Cucumber slices

Blackberries

Friday was pizza day – and I fell right back into the usual routine.

Last bento before summer break 2011 – Japanese School version

12 Jul

Okra season arrived, and I was excited to find the fresh, crisp, green vegetables in the bins at Makinajian Farm.  The girls love to eat them – and they are often anxiously waiting for the blanched pieces to be seasoned for dinner.

I bring a small pan of water to boil, sprinkle a little sea salt, and once it is boiling, I put the okra (top stem portion cut off) to quickly blanch.  The pieces become a brilliant green – and I quickly take them out of the boiling water with chopsticks.  I then plunge them into ice water.

Once chilled, the pieces are cut into 1/2 inch pieces – and I season with whatever’s on hand.  Soy sauce, rice vinegar and a little grated ginger are a great choice, as well as soy sauce and katsuobushi.  Lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt is also refreshing.

Either way, the girls can’t inhale them quickly enough, and I feel like the Mama Swallow who raised her six babies outside our garage – the birds’ heads popping over the edge of the nest, as they eagerly called for her around meal times… and just as quickly as they started peeping for her attention, they would quickly silence as soon as she flew away.  Papa Swallow would perch on my car antennae, a little avian decoy who sat still on the slender wire while Mama would swoop and feed.

The girls would ask for more okra after the teaser pieces I provided to them before dinner.  Once their meals were plated, a quick “Itadakimasu”  all the okra pieces seemed to rapidly disappear in quick swooping motions with their little spoons – each one laden with two, three, pieces they could balance and configure into their mouths.

Bento included:

TJ’s Armenian Cucumbers (conventional) – can’t wait for the ones from the garden to be ready!

Roasted beets, star shapes

Baby carrots – I try to avoid pre-cut carrots, but I had them handy, so they were included in the lunch

Onigiri with yukari seasoning – it’s shiso leaves that have been dried, mixed with salt – it’s an herbal, almost fruity, flowery taste that is refreshing.

Blanched okra pieces – I put the cut slices into a smaller container with a lid, seasoned with soy sauce, lemon juice and a little pepper, and shook everything together, gently.  I then shook the excess dressing off, so it didn’t “run” in her lunch.

The teacher commented how excited my older daughter was when she opened her bento box, and how she savored every bit of it.  Home-run lunch for the last bento until mid-August!!