Tag Archives: Dashi

A lazy day dinner – Summer 2011 version

14 Sep

I found this little snippet of summer saved in my draft file, and thought it best to share before winter descended with snowflakes whirling and dancing across the frosty window.

I share with you a favorite summer dinner option.  A favorite for Mama because it requires minimal cooking (as long as the rice is ready), and a favorite for the girls, because it includes natto,  okra, and mekabu, all very uniquely mucilaginous, and beloved in Japanese cuisine.

For this particular meal, it was:

Bowl of steamed multi-grain rice topped with natto (fermented soy beans)-chopped scallion-julienned shisookramekabu topping (well mixed) with a side of thinly sliced and sautéed eringi mushrooms in a little olive oil/butter and soy sauce, accompanied by miso soup (this one had thinly cut onions). 

A side of ika sashimi, or squid sashimi, served with a little soy sauce for dipping.

I point out, the topping for the rice contains ingredients that are known individually for their rather slimy, gooey nature.  Iw!! May be your initial reaction, dear reader.  GROSS!!! You might add.

All I can say, is that I was on a mission to ensure my girls would be able to adjust to the unique Japanese tolerance of various unique foods, including their textures!

And I must say, based on my daughters’ meal preferences, I may have succeeded.

The preparation of the natto-okura-mekabu topping is quite easy.  Natto comes in little pre-portioned packets at the Japanese store.  Okra, I purchase at the local farm during the season, and blanch in boiling water until they go from either a dull green/purple to a cheery green.  I then quickly shock them in ice water (to keep the crunch) and cut into 1/4 inch pieces.  Mekabu comes reconstituted in a convenient package, also from the Japanese store.

I chop up one bunch of scallions, a handful of shiso leaves from the garden, and start assembling.

I put everything into a bowl, and using chopsticks, mix the whole gooey concoction together, incorporating all the components together, and seasoning with soy sauce.  Once everything is mixed well (until the little thin, filament like natto threads are well incorporated into a uniformly sticky mixture), pour over your rice.  I omit the mustard that is included in the natto packet, as I once added an entire packet to the girls’ natto, and I almost frightened them – they almost revolted! – away from EVER trying natto again… (Too spicy).  Here are two very good blogs written about natto one by Maki of “Just Hungry“, and another referred from her site called “Welcome to Natto Land.” 

The girls silently scarf down the rice with natto mixture, and often ask for more.  The little one manages best with a spoon – otherwise she picks up one item at a time with her training chopsticks, which is excruciatingly time-consuming and almost painful to watch, especially after an hour and a half of her picking up natto bean + okra seed + mekabu strand and carefully placing each sticky morsel in her mouth.

Miso soup starts with adding 2 tbs ground shiitake powder in boiling water – about 4 cups, and adding thinly sliced onions in the water until they become a little translucent.  I then remove the pot from the heat, and add about 4 tbs of miso paste.  I dissolve the miso into the stock, well.  The key is to NEVER BOIL miso, as the delicate flavor will be ruined.

When I have enough time, I will make a proper dashi with katsuobushi shavings, but on the rushed evenings, I take a short cut and make-do with the ground shiitake powder which I have come to depend on greatly.

You can include a variety of items in miso soup – such as cubed kinugoshi tofu, thin slices of aburaage or other vegetables, such as napa cabbage, julienned potatoes or mushrooms. 

Jiji and Baba will laugh when they read today’s blog – they will recognize the porcelain dishes as they are the same ones from my childhood.


Before the perigee moon – a non-Patty-esque bento

18 Mar

The past week has been an emotional one, where my brother and I have been glued to the NHK channel watching Japan cope and deal with the aftermath of The Great Tohoku Kanto Earthquake of March 11, 2011.  I race home each night from work, and plant my girls in front of the laptop, the familiar be-bop-be-ba-bap-beep tone of Skype becoming routine.  We hear the dial tone, and the spiraling arrow icon, swirling like a mini whirlpool in the middle of the black box on the center of the screen.

We hear Jiji’s voice first, and then the girls start talking.  “Jiji?? Jiji Baba?  Are~? ” says my little one.  “Are~” in Japanese is a word used when questioning something – best translated in this context as “Where???”  I don’t utilize this phrase; however, I can think of the one place where it was used.  It’s from a scene in Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro where the two girls, Satsuki and Mei arrive at their new home in the countryside, and start exploring the house.  They open the shoji doors, exploring the house saying, “Are~~?”  Funny how little two year old brains retain the most random things, and apply them.

Yesterday, Jiji and Baba were just starting to eat breakfast.  My mother follows a very strict diet of multi-grain, high antioxidant, low sugar items to manage my father’s blood sugar level.  Breakfast is often half a piece of toasted wheat bread with kinako, or soybean powder, raw tomatoes, plain yogurt, raisins soaked in black vinegar, and walnuts.  I personally think it’s a diet that one needs to ease into – but then again, my father’s health has improved with the change in diet. 

My older daughter triumphantly showed her grandparents her lunchbox, which was empty.  We had a winner lunch!

Thursday’s lunch – a bit of non-St. Patty’s lunch:

Roasted beets, this time, cut into penguin shapes

Steamed multi-grain rice with black sesame seeds

Roasted chicken wings with salt, pepper, and organic poultry seasoning

Boiled egg – again, left in dashi overnight for flavoring.  Essentially, you take a hard-boiled egg, and let it soak in dashi overnight.  The egg white takes on the flavor of the stock, and it’s very tasty.  I found out my girls love these eggs!

Speaking of… this was the week of the super (Perigee) moon – honored with boiled eggs!

A colleague called me up late afternoon, to let me know the power cord was connected to the Fukushima Daiichi plants.  Sending positive thoughts for this process to be a success, so we can tackle the greatest worry, and continue assisting those affected by the earthquake.

Here are just a few sites taking donations for the victims of the 3/11/11 earthquake:

Japan Society, New York

Red Cross

Shelter Box

For those that may be unsure as to whether they should donate or not, please note, after Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese citizens and government donated heavily.  Please consider donating to the many charities lining up to assist those affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Perigee moon

Last week of January 2011 bento

28 Feb

I noticed blueberries in the produce section, and was happy.  High in antioxidants, sweet, and not messy (unless crushed), these are the perfect “happy” finger food I offer to my kids.  Although, honestly, I don’t know whether both girls actually eat the berries at daycare – I offered blueberries to both children, and the older one’s pile quickly disappeared.  The little one, in the interim, created a lovely fragrant mess of mushed berries across her high chair table, and told me very indignantly, “Don’t WANNIT!”  She then asked for a napkin, and graciously centralized her mush-mess, and flung the dirty napkin on the floor.  My older daughter blinked, looked at me and said, “Mama.  She threw her napkin on the floor.”  I thanked her for telling (ratting out) me about her sister, and wearily picked up the napkin. 

My older daughter requested tofu.  Hence, I included cubes of House brand tofu, Firm, and sliced carrots in 1/8 inch thick, 1 inch long pieces which I had simmered for a very short time in a little dashi, soy sauce and mirin.   (My short cut version of dashi – take  1 cup water and bring to boil – add tbsp katsuobushi or dried bonito flakes, and take off the heat to steep.  I use ground organic shiitake powder and add to this mixture).  By the way, a fabulous blog by Persephone, who I’ve been following – her blogs are informative, her photos and presentation gorgeous, and her food, adventurous.  A shout out to her – she had a lovely blog about dashi – and graciously mentioned my blog.  Hopefully I didn’t muss up blog protocol… between trying to figure out links, sources and spell-checking, need to make sure I’m not stepping on toes!

Turkey meat-o-ballies made with ground turkey, flax seeds, steel-cut oats, garlic, carrots, ginger and onion all minced and mixed together.  The meatballs were formed and baked in corningware at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

Steamed multi-grain rice with black gomashio

Steamed beets, sliced


For this lunch, everything except the rice was polished off.

The first day of February breezed in before a pending ice storm.  I had stopped at the Japanese food store during my lunch hour on Monday, so I was able to pack some goodies for Tuesday lunch.

Tuesday lunch was:

Steamed conventional edamame in pods – I am picky about the origin of the beans themselves.  I steer away from anything sourced from China.  Based on the various recalls from the petfood scare, the gyoza contamination scare, lead paint on toys, and various quality issues that make me dubious of product quality control, I scour the labeling of all foods and make an educated choice.  Hopefully the regulatory body overseeing quality control will resolve whatever loop holes quickly – I certainly don’t mind being able to buy items economically, but just not at the risk of not knowing what’s included in what my children eat.

Seaweed salad – this is pre-packaged and sold at the Japanese grocery.  I’m going to assume the seaweed is conventional – but then again, I have yet to find organic wakame available.  This version is seasoned with, I’m guessing, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and I see thin slices of dried red pepper.

Steamed beets

Steamed multi-grain rice, this time with white sesame seeds and a little sea salt for seasoning.

The edamame, beets and seaweed salad were gone.  We’re struggling with the rice… but she keeps asking for it for lunch!

Ice storm closed school on February 2nd, so she want to daycare with her younger sister.  Knowing how my provider cooks, they both probably had a lovely, healthy, hearty soup or pasta dish that was lovingly cooked.  Quite often, the incredibly fragrant smell of sauce, chicken or soup wafts out of daycare, and I inhale it in as I drop the girls off. 

The last bento day of the week was:

Grilled chicken drumstick seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon juice.  I roasted the drumsticks in the oven, covered for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.  I then uncover the corningware, and roast for another 15 – 20 minutes to crisp the surface.  I wrapped the bottom in foil as a “handle” for her chicken

Grape tomatoes

Steamed beets

A little less rice – with sesame seeds and salt.

Can’t believe February is upon us.  What happened to January?  Can I really believe Phil is predicting spring is around the corner?