Tag Archives: Japanese

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

3 Feb

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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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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Dinner splurge

16 Oct

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On occasion, I’ll sneak out to the local Japanese food store, Shin Nara Foods, and pick up a chirashi sushi which can be conveniently split into two generous servings for the girls.

Their favorite is ikura or salmon roe – little orange bubbles of flavor popping in their mouths.

Monday Tuesday – quick and easy

15 May

Mother’s Day (in the US) was this past Sunday, and I had the rare opportunity to have both my mother, and my mother-in-law together, live (not SKYPE-D), this year.

The earlier portion of the day was my mother-in-law’s “day,” and we spent a few hours at the local petting/animal zoo, feeding lambs, llamas, goats, and parakeets. 

The latter portion was spent at my house, where my brother and his family joined in celebrating my mother’s birthday and mother’s day.

We had a lovely evening, barbecuing, chatting, and watching the kids run through the yard, enjoying the visiting uncle/Aunt and cousin, and racing back to Nana and Baba for hugs and kisses.

I benefitted from Mother’s Day dinner – as the leftovers were perfect for bento!

Monday bento included:

Grilled chicken drumstick with poultry seasoning and a sprinkle of lemon juice

Sliced yellow peppers, grape tomatoes and blueberries

Multi-grain onigiri in tawara shape, no filling, sprinkled with black sesame seeds, wrapped in nori

 

Tuesday, similarly, a quick and easy lunch:

Grilled chicken drumstick (poultry, lemon juice seasoning)

Sliced peppers, cucumbers, blanched asparagus

Blackberries

Multi-grain onigiri with okaka filling with nori belt – a tiny tiny onigiri

 

Wrapping up the week

15 May

Thursday bento included:

Roasted drumette and wingette

Roasted beets in heart shapes

Blanched asparagus spears

Cucumber slices

Blueberries

Vegetable spirals in Trader Joe’s marinara sauce, with thinly sliced (pre-cooked) TJ’s sweet sausage

 

This bento was actually for Japanese school.  It included:

Roasted  beet hearts

Grape tomatoes

Blanched asparagus pieces with tossed with a little katsuobushi and soy sauce

Rolled Omelette with shirasu (boiled baby sardines)

Multi-grain onigiri with okaka center, wrapped in nori

I had actually made four similar bentos – one for my little one, who had a quality “papa” day at home, one for Baba and one for myself – as we had a class-outing to the local park with her grade, and we spent a nice afternoon outdoors.

 

Wednesday bento and the blueberry chronicles

15 May

I realized I reversed Tuesday and Wednesday… alas… I still have not fully mastered blogging from my mobile…

We’ll just continue this as Wednesday’s bento!

Wednesday included:

Roasted chicken drumette and wingette – baked after being briefly marinated in soy sauce, mirin, lemon juice and sesame oil.  Always relieved when Makinajian’s has a package of these wings!

Carrot and turnip slices marinated/pickled in soy sauce, lemon juice, salt, pepper, grated ginger in a glass jar – and shaken up every time I opened the fridge

Blanched broccoli

Grape tomatoes, cucumber (Persian) slices, and blueberries

Multi-grain onigiri in tawara (rice barrel) shape, sprinkled with black sesame seeds for crunch, no center, wrapped with nori

The blueberries are plump and sweet, and my little one is starting to eye them curiously.  She seems to take after me – I was never adventurous eating fruit – and to this day, I’m very particular as to what kind of fruit (fresh, uncut, unsweetened) I am willing to eat.  I’m of the “I’d-rather-get-my-daily-fiber-and-vitamin-intake-eating-a-tub-of-salad” girl, rather than enjoying a piece of sweet fruit.  My mother-in-law always contributes a gorgeous green salad at family events for me (and me only!!) – and is entertained by the amount of greens I will consume in a sitting.

Blueberries, I was speaking of, and the little one.

Her favorite color is blue – “Bu-looooh!” she says, and she chooses everything blue – shirts, pants, cutlery, paper, sweets, pens, crayons… and marvels at her father’s blue eyes, the color of the sky on a clear, early summer day.

“Mama, blue berries are Bu-loooh!”  she says.

“Yes, they are, and they are yummy,” I tell her.

“I like them, and they were in MY bento,” my older one announces.

“… Ne-ne (shorted version for the Japanese word, “oh-neh-chan” or familiar form of “older sister”) can I have one?”

Handed a plump, deep blue berry, she expertly popped it in her mouth.  Her right cheek bulged, and her eyebrows furrowed as she concentrated on maneuvering the berry between her teeth. 

Her eyes opened wide, as she bit down.

“Mama, it’s good!” she exclaimed, and added, “I like blueberries!  They are buh-looh! My favorite!”

Tuesday

14 May

Salmon burgers, blanched asparagus, cucumber slices, pickled carrots and turnips, and blueberries!

No room for onigiri today.