Tag Archives: Spinach

Kusukusu (Couscous) and chicken sausage with a giggle

23 Aug

On an evening where creativity simply refused to produce any delicious ideas, I was searching in every crevice of my memory for inspiration. 

I hadn’t made any rice, so natto-gohan (fermented soy beans with garnishes such as chopped scallions, shiso served over steamed rice) was out of the question.  I didn’t feel like making noodles, since we had just had the sardine-caper-maitake liguine the other night, and when both natto and men-men were off the menu, the girls grumbled.  The girls adore their natto – and often, I’ll stir in other items such as the scallions, shiso mentioned above, as well as blanched and chopped okra, mekabu (a kombu variant) and any other vegetable (e.g. grated daikon, chopped enoki mushrooms) or item that can be incorporated into the natto.  Needless to say, without rice, natto was out of the running.

I sighed, opened the pantry door, and looked hard at the various boxes of items.  Bulgur, Whole wheat farfalle, whole wheat couscous stared back at me.  Bingo. 

Couscous it shall be. 

The freezer had some chicken sausage, which I quickly defrosted, and placed on my gas-grill, which I had turned on to pre-heat.  I cooked the sausage over medium heat, placing the sausages in the middle part of the grill (set to low), with the two outside burners set to medium.  I wanted the sausage to cook thoroughly, but not burn.

I then filled up a pot with 1 cup water, 1 cup chicken stock (Trader Joe’s, free range, organic) and brought to a boil.  I added  1 cup whole wheat couscous, stirred in a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden, covered the pot, and removed from the heat.  I then, washed 1/2 a bag of baby spinach, drained, and added to the pot, on top.  My aim was to have the remaining heat to wilt the spinach and tomatoes.

Once the sausages were done, I set them aside on a platter, and covered with a silicon lid (I have been trying to gradually cut down on aluminum foil and plastic wrap use at our house). 

I quickly mixed the spinach and tomato into the couscous (crushing the tomatoes – they are quite soft, or may have already popped due to the heat) and flaked it with a fork. 

I then plated the sausage and couscous – the girls’ sausage cut into bite-sized pieces, while I left the grown-up’s whole. 

At first, the girls were a bit unsure of the couscous texture, and the little one made faces, bits of couscous sticking to the sides of her mouth.  “Don’t wan-it,” she complained, as she picked out the spinach bits, and popped them in her mouth.  “It’s not pastina,” the older one added.

I then explained, “This is called couscous, and did you  know, these tiny tiny bits are a kind of pasta, almost like pastina?  Someone makes these by hands!”

My older daughter paused, and spooned a few couscous grains, and took a closer look. 

“They made these by their hands??  That’s a lot of hands!”  she added, and ate the spoonful. 

The little one carefully watched her sister, and took a spoonful herself, and added, “Chicken! Pasta!”  She then popped it in her mouth, and carefully chewed.

When we skyped with Jiji and Baba, my older one told them, “We are having Kusukusu (Japanese pronunciation of couscous) and chicken sausage!”

It was funny to hear, since kusu kusu is also an onomatopoeic phrase in Japanese for giggling.  “Really, you’re eating kusukusu,” repeated Jiji and Baba with a giggle.





Men men = Noodles = comfort food

21 Mar

As many of you know by now, I try to use Japanese seasonings and flavors in my cooking.  Growing up, my mother often laughed at how I’d try to use excessive amounts of bold seasoning – possibly trying to assert my “American-ness” in my cooking, and defying the common-sense rules of Japanese cooking (subtle, reserved, multi-faceted and layered) … and manners.

These days, I’ve come to embrace my Japanese heritage, and try very hard to incorporate certain items into my girls’ lives. 

One of these items – is the noodle, or as my girls call them, “men men!!”

My husband prefers eggs, bacon and toast, or eggs, bacon and waffles on a weekend morning.  Quite often, the thought of lugging the waffle maker out of its place in the laundry room (space hog results in items being sent off into Siberia) or having to wipe down the stove-floor-counter-sink after a greasy fry-up gives me heartburn.  I’ll try to negotiate with him to just… oh, have a fried egg and toast (with HP sauce) and a glass of cold milk in a frosty glass.

I grew up having noodles on the weekends – whether it be udon, soba, champon, ramenmy father in charge of Sunday breakfast always resulted in long strands of dough in various styles.  My favorites were noodles served in broths – and I especially loved when my father would make udon or soba noodles, and then provide a soup thickened with katakuriko, or what I called “Doro Doro sou-pu.” I especially liked when my father added a cooked, scrambled egg, or tamagotoji, as well as some other items, such as narutomaki fish cakes, scallions, and vegetables. 

My girls also love noodles for breakfast, and often, “Mama Mennn mennn!” is what I would wake up to on the weekends.

This weekend, they had udon noodles in soup with blanched spinach, carrots, poached egg, scallions, and (not pictured here) wakameThe older one deftly captures each noodle and vegetable with her chopsticks, while the little one snags the end of a noodle with her chopsticks, and grabs them with her other hand. 

The soup is made by adding shiitake powder, dried shiitake, soy sauce, a little salt, and a little sugar to a small pot of water.  I slowly bring this to almost boiling, but then, turn down the heat so the soup doesn’t actually boil.  I technically need to leave the shiitake mushrooms to reconstitute in room temperature water, but I never seem to have the time, so I take short cuts.  Sometimes I’ll add a piece of konbu, or kelp, and other times, katsuobushi

For Saturday’s version, I had a pot of boiling water for the noodles only, and I cooked the veggies and the egg in the soup pot. 

Between exclamations of “Mama atsuii! (hot!)” and blowing on the noodles to cool them off, the girls were content and full. 

**Persephone, a wonderful culinary explorer has featured dashi on her blog, and I suggest you check it out for some good basics.