Archive for November, 2008

Maple ginger acorn squash

Maple ginger acorn squash

Maple ginger acorn squash

I prepared this dinner, and thus it was easy. I must give credit where credit is due: I used Chef Girl’s Warm Ginger Squash and Care2.com’s Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash for inspiration.

So, the components of this dish were: microwaved acorn squash halves, a sauce of maple syrup, salt, black pepper, minced ginger (lots!), and butter, and green onions and toasted almonds as toppings.

I also made a quick vegetable soup with canned tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, and white onions. I used herbed vegetable stock and added two bay leaves and a bit of parsley.

All-in-all, a very autumny and tasty meal.

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Eggplant pasta

Eggplant pasta

Eggplant pasta

In contrast with Yusuke’s Japanese-style pasta, this dish was distinctly Italian. Not one of our lower calorie meals, Yusuke boiled the pasta in a mixture of olive oil and water (as usual). While the pasta was cooking, he prepared the sauce in a frying pan: succulent eggplant cubes, canned tomatoes, and lots of garlic. After the pasta was nicely al dente, he added it to the sauce in the pan and cooked it all for a bit longer.

We had a light soup on the side: miso with seaweed and bean sprouts.

This dinner coincided with the arrival of our friendly neighbourhood déneigement guide. It provided a wealth of useful information about such intriguing topics as:

  • what will happen to your car if you leave it in the path of snow removal crews
  • the tiered progression of salt trucks, to snow blowers, to plows, to bulldozers, to the massive trucks that slurp up the snow and carry it away
  • how to get a snow dumping permit if you don’t have enough room on your property for your snow (seriously)

On a related note, I’ve concluded that the best way to winterize one’s home is to move to Hawaii. Yup.

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Konnyaku stir fry

Konnyaku stir fry

Konnyaku stir fry

I was introduced to a new, erm, substance in this stir fry. I had read about konnyaku on the Just Hungry blog, and I asked Yusuke if we could try it. Konnyaku is a gelatin-ish food made from the konjac (a.k.a. konnyaku) plant. The package that we bought calls it “yam cake,” but apparently it has no relation to yams or potatoes of any sort. Konnyaku is described as a miracle health food, since it is very filling, has almost no calories, and has tons of fibre. The texture is the main appeal for me, and it’s impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t eaten it. It’s not as chewy as a jelly bean, but it’s much firmer than silken tofu, and it’s not dry and crumbly like firm tofu.

Like tofu, it soaks up and compliments any flavours that are combined with it. In addition to the konnyaku, the stir fry includes potatoes, carrots, and green onions. Yusuke used his standard stir fry ingredients, namely ginger, garlic, and soy sauce (and maybe salt, mirin, sugar?).

Our side dish was yudofu topped with green onions, ginger, soy sauce, and bonito flakes.

Apparently one of the concerns over konjac as a jelly snack is that it can be choking hazard and is actually banned in North America. I also read a caution that swallowing it without chewing it properly has unpleasant consequences for some people.

A note on sources: I read the wikipedia article on konjac as well as the informative konnyaku posts on Just Hungry. Of course the Internets provide many other additions to konnyaku wisdom. For example, I particularly enjoyed this site’s pronouncement: “Konnyaku is one of the most effective items for defending yourself from fatness.” And another: “Konnyaku surely helps your physical and mental health.” Sounds good to me!

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Mushroom pasta

Mushroom pasta

Mushroom pasta

According to Yusuke, the Japanese are often accused of imitating and stealing from other cultures. But on the contrary, he argues, they borrow, adapt, and create things that are new and uniquely Japanese. Enter Japanese-style pasta. There are various “traditional” ways of modifying Italianish dishes with Japanese ingredients, but Yusuke fashioned this particular offering from angel-hair pasta, oyster and button mushrooms, olive oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, and the coup de grâce: soy sauce. The oyster mushrooms were exceptionally excellent. Sometimes its hard to find decent ones: our local grocery has been known to stock slimy mushrooms with a greenish tinge. But these were deliciously firm and smooth, and my hobbit-like fondness for mushrooms was satisfied. The soup was miso with spinach and tofu.

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Sweet potato stir fry

Sweet potato stir fry

Sweet potato stir fry

This stir fry was our nod to Canadian thanksgiving back in October. The stir fry is diced sweet potatoes, bean sprouts, spinach, and egg, with salt and black pepper. Yusuke usually uses a bit of butter for this stir fry instead of oil. This would be an excellent breakfast/brunch dish, too. Yusuke sometimes tops his portion with ketchup, but I prefer unadorned sweet potato.

The soup is simply water, sesame oil, salt, black pepper, wakame, bean sprouts, and Ajinomoto “super seasoning.” Ajinomoto is MSG, a flavour enhancer that has gotten a fair bit of bad press. I’m not concerned about it though, since we eat very little processed food (which often has lots of MSG), and Yusuke only uses a tiny bit when he adds it to soup. At any rate, it was delicious.

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Sautéed veggies and tofu

Sauteed veggies

Sauteed veggies

This is a very simple dish; simplicity seems to be one of the most important themes in Japanese cuisine. Yusuke used olive oil and lots of garlic to sautée bright, fresh veggies— namely onion rings, green pepper, zucchini, and carrots— and cubes of silken tofu lightly coated with flour. And that’s all. When served, we pour a mixture of soy sauce and wasabi over everything. I have a tendency to use rather too much wasabi just so that I can get that lovely sinus-clearing, eye-watering kick.

The soup was miso of some variety…

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Curried tofu stir fry

Curried tofu stir fry

Curried tofu stir fry

Wow! Holy red bell pepper! Finally, the bright colour of a vegetable shows up in my picture. This was another of my attempts at playing chef, just to give Yusuke a break from kitchen duty. I used this recipe: a stir fry with firm tofu, red bell pepper, green onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. The first time I had made the dish, it came out rather tasteless, so this time, I tried to improve the gustatory experience by adding lots of soy sauce, chicken broth, and garlic in addition to the salt, pepper, and curry called for in the recipe. The soup was miso, with the last of our leftover napa (that stuff lasts forever!) and wakame. We’ve been using a different brand of miso lately, and Yusuke found that it tastes quite good to add chicken bouillon to the soup instead of dashi.

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