Tag Archives: Shoyu

Salmon patty Wednesday

4 Apr

I have a fond recollection of my mother making salmon croquettes – golden, crunchy, savory patties, served with a side of shredded raw cabbage and a dash of Bulldog Worcestershire sauce

I remember her lining the plates, assembly line across the counter, and watch as she would arrange the potato patties, flecks of pink mixed into the potato-white in an orderly row.  She would then place them in a plate of flour, an egg wash, and then into a plate of panko, which she would make at home – stale bread in the gigantic blender that came out only on special occasion.  

I recall the rich, oily scent of the patties deep-frying in a wok, the patties deepening with color until each one was a beautiful honey brown.  My mother would pick them up, carefully, with long, bamboo cooking chopsticks, let the oil drain well, and place them on paper bags that were folded, lined with paper towels.

However, the best memory of her making the croquettes, is when my mother was flaking the canned salmon, and I would hover around the kitchen table, waiting for her to fish out the bones – crunchy and salty, and oh – so special because there was only just enough for a small taste in each can.

I bring this memory up because I decided to make salmon patties last night – and I was flaking up the contents of a can of salmon.  (Two actually, one smaller one from Wild planet foods, the other, a regular sized Trader Joe’s can).  I fished out the bones, and offered them to my kids.  The little one wasn’t sure – but the older one popped them in her mouth, chewed carefully and said, “It’s good!”  Upon hearing her sister, the little one popped her bit into her mouth, nodded and said, “Fish!”

Into the flaked salmon went two ribs of minced celery, a 1/2 cup of steamed multi-grain rice, 2 beaten eggs, and a drizzle of olive oil.  I mixed everything together with my hands until well incorporated, heated up my trusty cast-iron pan over medium heat, a drizzle of canola oil, and gently laid down the patties.

I let the patties brown until a crisp crust formed, then gently flipped them over. 

When both sides were well-browned (and easily removable from the pan), I laid them out on paper towels to drain.

Today’s bento included:

Salmon patties!

Roasted beets, cut into heart shapes


Raw cabbage, cut into bite sized pieces, marinated in soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil and grated ginger over night.

Multi-grain onigiri – (white and brown rice, millet, barley, quinoa and wheat berries, steamed) with a store-bought seasoned konbu (kelp) center, wrapped in nori

Both girls each tried a small patty for breakfast.  My older one was convinced at the first bite – the little one watched her older sister’s reaction, before taking nibbles of her patty.  These nibbles quickly turned into “lion bites” as she realized how good they taste!


A very un-wintery break from all things routine

27 Feb

The nudges were subtle, but definitely, there.

“R- chan, you’ve been very busy?”

“The last time I saw something was … February 2nd?  I do read your blog without being prompted, you know…”

My father, ever the supporter, was dropping hints.

Then, a dear friend of mine who sends me cyber-encouragement through her site visits (the counts keep me going) noted the last entry… and I finally gathered my wits together to try to play catch up.

Work was indeed, hectic for the past few weeks.  Several business meetings in various local areas sapped my energy, as well as my creativity, and I found my bentos were starting to fall into a routine.  I realized I started depending on my husband, mother-in-law, and daycare provider – but truly, there were certain limitations such as meeting times, train schedules and closing hours to be carefully planned around.

Of course, the girls didn’t go hungry.

I was pleasantly to discover, my daughters loved the zucchini slices that were sautéed in canola or olive oil until the edges were barely translucent, and then tossed with soy sauce and lemon juice.  Chicken wings, drumsticks and turkey meatballs were staples – but the occasional mini-hot dog was also a big hit.  Sugar snap peas were available again – and these made great additions to the bentos when quickly blanched after being rinsed and de-stringed.  Broccoli, grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, carrot and celery sticks were staples – as they were quick, healthy, and added crunchy texture to lunch.  The rice cooker was my best friend – and between onigiri, and steamed multi-grain rice topped with either sesame seeds or gomashio, I had the carbohydrates covered.

Blackberries and blueberries were also available, as well as the smaller sized Fuji apples I was able to buy in bags at Trader Joe’s. 

I then realized, I was so busy, I hadn’t stopped at the Japanese store in weeks… and realized I NEEDED to stop by when I had run out of soy sauce.  I cannot function without soy sauce!

I made a quick stop at the store, and picked up quail eggs, ginger, daikon, and frozen udon noodles.  I realized afterward, it is amaebi, or sweet shrimp season, and had neglected to pick up a pack of these delicious seasonal treasures of the ocean.  They are a bit of an acquired taste – both in texture, as well as in preparation.  The shrimp are eaten raw, and similar to eating crawfish, you twist the heads off, peel the delicate shells off, which easily peel off, and pop the tails into your mouth.  They are creamy and delicious – similar to the texture of scallop sashimi.

I can attest – you either love them or hate them – I fall into the “love” team, while my husband definitely falls into the latter due to the texture.

I’ll have to go back this week and hope the season isn’t over…

Needless to say.  Back to trying to step back into the bento blogging routine!

Christmas Eve 2011 – the Turducken challenge

4 Jan

At Thanksgiving, Papa paused, and said, “Why don’t we have a turducken?”
I pushed back, feeling my beloved roast turkey couldn’t be de-throned, and told him, “No, no, no.  Turkey is for my favorite holiday!” 

So we had a gorgeously juicy and moist turkey from Makinajian’s for Thanksgiving.

Then, year end festivities began, and we started the usual-last-minute-what-are-we-doing-for-Eve dinner debate.  No goose (last year’s Eve), no turkey, no duck, no capon, no chicken, no fish, no pork.  Hmph.  I personally loved my roast goose last year despite the thin layer of fat I had to scrub off from the oven and surface it managed to sputter onto, but alas…  Perhaps this was a time to cave into Papa’s turducken.

Papa and I had our first encounter with turducken (de-boned chicken stuffed in a de-boned duck, stuffed in a de-boned turkey, tied together) at his boss’ Christmas party a few years ago.  I remember being impressed by the sheer, solid mass of protein – but even more exciting, was the fact I had FINALLY encountered this magnificent Cajun dish that Jeffrey Steingarten had so deliciously documented in The Man Who Ate Everything. 

I drooled the first time I read and re-read the section on turducken.

I called Makinajian Poultry Farm in the hopes they might magically be selling turducken, but to no avail.  I then started seeking options on-line, until a lightbulb turned on in my head.

What about Fairway Market?  I recalled my mother-in-law ordering a massive leg of lamb a few years ago which we triumphantly roasted, and created a perfectly carnivorous Christmas.

Once I confirmed I can order the massive bird(s) at Fairway (although the head butcher was out that day), I gave my husband the reins to order the size he wanted.

On Christmas Eve, after snoozing a couple of times from 4:30 am, we put the turducken into the oven at 225 to slowly roast for 9 – 10 hours.  Given the 3:30 pm (but everyone always comes fashionably late) start time, we thought we had ample time.  The goal was for the internal temperature to reach 165.

Twelve, stressful hours later, our turducken interior reached 165, yet, when we started carving it, we were alarmed it was still a little pink.  Perhaps we should have allowed it to rest.  However, with the thought of our hungry guests’ stomachs rumble as the gorgeous scent of roasting turducken perfumed the air, we decided the best thing to do was to start carving, and as a desperate last-ditch attempt – we microwaved the pinkish interior.

It was quite a gorgeous sight to see…

We finally sat down to eat around 5:30pm, after pulling crackers, and putting on our crowns, we tucked in for our meal.

Accompanying the turducken was:

Roasted parsnips and carrots

Mashed potatoes

Mushroom saute – I took Eringi, Bunashimeji, maitake, and regular button mushrooms, sliced them into 1/8 inch thick slices, and sautéed in a little butter and soy sauce until limp. 

Pan sautéed brussel sprouts with pancetta with a soy sauce drizzle

Jellied cranberry sauce, ridges intact (per Papa’s specifications)

Green salad – courtesy of Nanna who always makes a huge one for me

Sausage stuffing – Papa had insisted that Stove Top stuffing was the best; however, I have now (he grudgingly admits) converted him to the virtues of my own stuffing… albeit I do use a mix!

It was quite a lovely Christmas Eve.  Now, if only I could convince my dear farm they should start selling turduckens….

Taking a deep breath – it’s August already… Brandywines, San Marzanos and more

5 Aug

“You know, you haven’t been as diligent with your blog these days…”

An honest comment from my father last night as we skyped – the girls eating dinner, while my parents (Jiji and Baba) took turns talking to them.  I certainly need to get back into my routine of blogging – but it’s difficult these days,  trying to soak in the long, summer days without the restrictions of school schedules, wake-ups and the dreaded daylight’s savings…  No, not a mikka bouzu, but… simply summer laziness?

Last night’s dinner included:

Freshly picked edamame – boiled for 4 minutes until they turn brilliant green, then sprinkled with sea salt.

Seared flank steak (TJ’s conventional, but I believe non-antibiotic), marinated with a minced garlic-(conventional) ginger-soy sauce-rice vinegar-Trader Joe’s 21 spice rub, and seared on the grill.

Freshly picked green beans – string beans and yardlong beans, blanched, and cut into inch long pieces, seasoned with katsuobushi  and soy sauce.

Handful of freshly picked yellow grape tomatoes

The garden is yielding an amazing amount of vegetables, starting with tomatoes ranging from the yellow grape tomatoes, San Marzano Roma tomatoes, gorgeous blush-hued Brandywine tomatoes, and Beefsteak tomatoes.  This is the first year I was successful with the Brandywines, and I was struck by how beautiful they are.  The tomatoes are ridged – some almost look knotted – but they all seem to glow a breath-taking rose as they ripen on the vine.  I thought my eyes were failing on me the first time I picked one that was ripe – I actually rubbed my eyes, thinking something was wrong.  How could a tomato be pink?  Oh, my dear reader – they can be pink, and they delicately and deliciously transition from the light, sea green to a bashful pink.  And the taste!  They are juicy and bursting with flavor, and I couldn’t help but eat a whole tomato (the size of my hand!), cut into wedges with salt in one sitting – barely breathing between the pieces because I felt I’d miss something by pausing, and hastily wiping away the juice running down my chin.  It tasted of summer sunshine in each bite.

The beans are also growing quickly – there are several types – Kentucky Blue (your typical string beans), flat green beans (we received a bean packet from a local fair that we planted), two types of yard-long beans (one is red, the other green), and of course, edamame

The cucumbers seemed to have failed this year due to the glitch with my sprinkler system – I’ve got rogue summer yellow squash, butternut squash and spaghetti squash that regenerated out of the compost pile – and have monopolized any area outside of the raised beds, virtually dominating the sprinkler head directed at the cucumber trellis.  We did get a good harvest early on – but not certain I’ll have any more this summer.

Shiso is growing under the poles, shaded by bean vines reaching upwards.  The artichoke is also growing, I cut one artichoke last night – I just need to steam it for the girls to “dip-dip” in a soy sauce vinaigrette. 

Potatoes are also growing – another compost re-generator, and I’m curious to see what they look like when we dig them up.

In the evenings, when I can manage to squeeze into the garden with the girls, I watch them go from the garden to the garden hose to rinse them before eating their pickings – the little one declaring she wants edamame – although I suspect every green bean she picks is considered an edamame in her book.  The older one carefully picks tomatoes, yellow ones, orange ones, red ones, and runs to the garden hose, rinsing them off, these summer jewels, and popping them in her mouth.

Summer appears to be picking up momentum as we lazily float down these wonderfully carefree times – but school is right around the corner, and my bento battle (at least for Saturdays) will start in two weeks.

As for photos of my garden – apologies for the lack of them – I was too busy picking, eating and chasing Kiki, my chocolate lab, out of the garden before I realized I left my camera inside…


PS.  Today’s NY Times has a wonderful article by Mark Bittman – one of my favorite columnists regarding “The Proper Way to treat Heirlooms.”  A timely article!

Filled onirigi for a change

25 May

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of May, and summer break starts in a few weeks for my older daughter.  What does this mean?

I might just have to reinvest my efforts into packing my own bento – so I get three months of practicing on myself!

The pro’s to this concept?  I would be able to experiment new bento ideas – such as mastering and conquering packing noodles for lunch.  I can imagine what I need to do for non-soup based cold noodles, such as zaru soba (zaru is a traditional bamboo “flat” colander) which I could bring for lunch – essentially, boiled, cold noodles served with a dipping sauce of men-tsuyu or dashi that has been seasoned well with soy sauce and mirin, garnished with chopped scallions, grated ginger, slivers of nori, thin slices of shiso  and perhaps sesame seeds.  Wasabi can be added – just a tiny bit – for a bite as well.  The noodles are dipped into the men-tsuyu and enjoyed (read: slurped).  THIS is a classic summer lunch from my childhood, and if I decide to bring everything to work for lunch – I’d happily be slurping away in my office at lunch behind closed doors. 

Slurping and noodles will be another topic we can explore at a later date!

The cons of the bento idea? 

Probably the fact that I may cheat because I know it’s lunch for myself, and if a co-worker asks me to go out to lunch on a gorgeous summer day to the restaurant overlooking the marina… I may have to take up on that delicious-Cobb-Salad-by-the-boats-lunch.

Bah.  I have time to mull my options!

Today’s lunch included:

Roasted chicken wingettes, which were simmered and coated in a teriyaki sauce – the other half to yesterday’s drumettes.  Accompanied by renkon, and blanched broccoli florets, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Onigiri with a okaka filling.  If you recall, my earlier attempts at making onigiri were thwarted by two main things.  The multi-grain rice that refused mold into a cohesive ball, and my filling had too much soy-sauce.  My earlier attempts had me trying to make a rice ball with grains that scattered across the counter – almost as though to mock my pitiful attempt at getting them pressed into shape – and the ultimate tipping point was when I added my okaka (katsuobushi mixed with a little soy sauce), it contained too much liquid, and when I tried to mold the unruly grains around my filling, it decided to break out of the other side of my pathetic onigiri.  This time, I used the brown rice/Kagayaki haigagenmai mix (1:1) and I reduced the amount of soy sauce mixed into a tablespoon of the katsuobushi.  I added the soy sauce a drop at a time while stirring gently with chopsticks until the katsuobushi flakes came together in a ball.  Fast stirring = a cloud of katsuobushi that made me sneeze, while our feline family members came stomping down the hall, into the kitchen, and weaving between my legs. 

I formed the onigiri by taking a handful of rice, and using very wet hands (lightly sprinkled with salt), I molded the rice into a cylinder.  I poked a hole in the middle, and added a 1/2 teaspoon of okaka and molded the rice over the hole.  I then continued forming the onigiri, and wrapped it with a piece of nori.  I sprinkled the ends with sesame seeds for crunch, and wrapped it in wax paper – so the sauce from the chicken wingettes/renkon doesn’t run into the onigiri and undo my masterful molding

Roasted beets in heart shapes

Grape tomatoes

On a separate note, my father provided me the lyrics for the Bento Box songs, and I found out I remembered some of the lyrics incorrectly.

Korekkurai no Obento Bako ni onigiri onigiri choito tsumete / kizami shouga ni gomashio kakete / ninjin san / sakuranbo san / shiitake san / go bou san / ana no aita  renkon san / suji no totta fuuuki”

 I incorrectly remembered the part about sprinkling sesame seeds… the official version sprinkles gomashio, or sesame salt.  Also, I was missing sakurambo san, or cherries.  Thank goodness, because I know this song is also a counting song, and I was not convinced “san” was going to be “sansho” or Sichuan Pepper.

Thanks Jiji.

Windy Wednesday – a salmon-beet-asparagus-quail egg day~

4 May

My daughters are enjoying the fresh asparagus from the farm, and insist on having some for dinner each day.  I’ve been blanching the thin spears, and then cutting them into inch long pieces.  Last night, I chopped up the cut-out beet pieces (from the older one’s lunches), and tossed them and the asparagus with a vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and soy sauce.  The girls’ lips puckered a little as they gobbled down the beet-asparagus salad, their mouths outlined with a faint magenta ring of beet juice.

Today’s lunch included:

Pan-seared Scottish salmon (conventional, non-farmed) fillet over steamed multi-grain rice – I was too tired and lazy to fire up the grill last night.

Boiled quail eggs (conventional)

Blanched asparagus spears and cherry tomatoes

Roasted beets in penguin shapes

The farm has artichokes – so I pick one up every week, and serve them, steamed during the week as a treat.  Last night was artichoke night, and at our house, we dip the artichoke leaves in a soy sauce/lemon juice dipping sauce.  The older one now has the hang of how to scrape the artichoke meat from the leaves – however, the little one is still learning.  Sometimes I see her making faces as she is trying to chew on the tough outer leaves.  Other times, I stop her from lifting up her small dish and drinking the dipping sauce.

Either way – we often skype with Baba and Jiji, and they watch, fascinated, as the girls methodically work through the layers of leaves, and then onto the tender artichoke heart (after I scrape away the fuzz from the choke).

A little blue Thursday

13 Apr

All seemed normal as I got my older daughter ready for school – face washed, lunch packed, breakfast on table.  I got her seated at the table, and then walked into the little one’s bedroom to get her ready. 

She wasn’t the bouncy little girl I always see in the morning, and seemed a bit under the weather.

I got her dressed, teeth brushed, face washed, and sat her next to her sister in her high-chair.

She poked at her food, shook her head and said in a tiny voice, “No want it.”  Definitely not my normally determined and assertive two-year old.

Without a temperature, it was difficult to ascertain what was wrong with her until later in the morning.  We spent a day snuggled on the couch – I attempted to work from home, while she was cocoon-ed in a blanket next to me with the occasional “Mama mi-mi (infant language carryover for milk, or in this case, something to drink)…”

Thursday’s lunch  for my older daughter included:

Turkey/flax meatballs, baked

Roasted beets in star shapes

Blanched broccoli with katsuobushi and a drop of soy sauce

Steamed multi-grain rice (brown rice, quinoa, millet, wheat berries, barley) with sesame seed and nori furikake (seaweed seasoning)