Tag Archives: mirin

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!



Soboro onigiri, cresson goma ae and wings

20 Sep

This past Sunday night’s crazed cooking left me with a comfortable amount of bento ingredients and ideas for the next week.

Today’s bento includes:

Blanched watercress (cresson) “goma ae” or sesame dressing.  Into a pot of boiling water (pinch of salt) I added a bunch of cleaned and washed watercress.  Once the colors perked up (really, a quick blanch so it should only be 1-2 minutes to retain the crunch) I quickly removed the watercress from the pot and shocked them in an ice bath.  After they cooled, I carefully squeezed all the water out (otherwise you might tear the greens) and cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.

The goma ae or sesame dressing was made by combining the following:

2 tbs whole sesame seeds

1 tbs mirin

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tsp miso paste

I have a suribachi (mortar) that my mother had given to me, with a little wooden pestle (surikogi).  I ground up the sesame seeds, and then I gradually added the other ingredients, mixing everything well with the surikogi.  I then added the watercress into the actual suribachi, and carefully mixed them together with chopsticks.  You may want to adjust the seasoning – this happens to be the ratio I am comfortable with.  If you don’t have a suribachi, a food processor may serve well to grind up the sesame seeds, but there’s something soothing about grinding the sesame seeds down with the pestle, the fragrant seeds + wooden pestle + ceramic ridges of the suribachi creating a quiet and rhythmic gori gori sound in the quiet kitchen… Of course, you can always purchase pre-ground sesame seeds, but then you miss out on the fragrant grinding process of the seeds…

Also included today were:

Roasted beet stars

Baked Chicken wings and drumettes, seasoned with salt, pepper, a little organic poultry seasoning mix (courtesy of Makinajian Farm) and soy sauce, baked in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, covered, and then another 15 minutes uncovered.  A quick squeeze of lemon juice while hot usually rounds up the flavor very well, and keeps the chicken interesting even at room temperature

Multigrain (white, brown, pearled barley, quinoa, millet) Onigiri with turkey soboro filling

For the soboro, I sauteed 1/2 pound of ground turkey in a cast-iron pan, and then added the following ingredients, allowing them to slowly cook down over low heat – the flavors blending and concentrating in intensity as the liquid cooks down.

1 tbs mirin

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tsp freshly ground ginger

1 tbs miso paste (I use 1/2 red and 1/2 white)  – I dissolve this into the liquid ingredients

1 tbs sake or Japanese rice wine

1 tsp shiitake powder

Once the turkey cooked down, and there was no liquid remaining, I removed from the heat and allowed it to cool, and then put it in the refrigerator.

Similar to the other fillings, I took freshly steamed rice in slightly wet hands, and cupped my fingers to create a round onigiri With my other hand, I create a “finger” indent, and fill it with the daily onigiri center filling (soboro today) and form the rest of the onigiriNori strip to wrap up, and we are set.

Cherry tomatoes from the garden, picked by my oldest daughter

Hopefully she likes the slight change in filling and pace of her bento!