Archive for December, 2008

Spicy sesame sprouts

Spicy sesame sprouts

Spicy sesame sprouts

This dish features crispy, crunchy bean sprouts. Yusuke boiled the sprouts first and then sautéed them in salt, garlic, ginger, spicy tobanjan sauce, and sesame oil. He sprinkled sesame seeds on top to serve. Our accompanying miso soup was spinach and egg. Yummy. I should also note that Yusuke took the picture, too. Nearly worthy of a menu or food magazine, no?

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Azuki interlude

Sweet azuki beans

Sweet azuki beans

Azuki, a mild red bean, is a famous East Asian staple food that is especially prominent in Japanese desserts. They’re used to make the sweet bean paste used in anpan, for example. Sometimes you’ll see the word spelled “adzuki,” but Yusuke doesn’t think this transliteration is correct.

Pictured above is one common preparation of the beans that Yusuke made recently with beans bought in bulk from a little health food store near our apartment. He boiled the beans for about 10 minutes, then drained off the water. He boiled them again in fresh water until they were soft, meanwhile adding lots and lots of sugar, both brown and white. Then he let them soak overnight (which essential!). We just reheated the beans on the stove before eating them. Fabulous with green tea. You can eat the beans on their own, or every better, with mochi. Which I think will constitute an interlude of its own at some point…

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Shrimp and bok choy

Shrimp and bok choy stir fry

Shrimp and bok choy stir fry

This dish pairs mild, crunchy bok choy with succulent shrimp (ok, well, the shrimp was frozen, so not optimally succulent, but still tasty). Yusuke experimented with a new sauce for the stir fry, with sesame oil, salt, sugar, and potato starch to thicken it. The sesame oil adds a nice depth to the taste, and only a small amount is needed to give the flavour. On the side, we had an exceptionally tasty miso soup with green onions, wakame, and egg—perfect egg consistency!

Shrimp and bok choy

Shrimp and bok choy

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Sweet cabbage

Cabbage dish

Cabbage dish

This stir fry features cabbage with bean sprouts and pork. Yusuke brushed the cabbage with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and microwaved it until it was soft. Meanwhile, he stir fried the bean sprouts and pork, and then combined it all. The cabbage was the indeed the star of the evening with its natural sweetness highlighted in this simple dish. We also had a chicken broth soup with tons of mushrooms (yay!), green onions, and egg.

I feel that I should point out that although I describe so many of these dishes as “simple,” they are not necessarily easy. (I know: when I try to make them, they never quite turn out right.) Yusuke spends a lot of time and care in washing and cutting vegetables, soaking them when needed (e.g., eggplants), cooking ingredients in separate batches if if it will enhance the flavour, and meticulously tasting and using his alchemical sensibilities to get just the right combination of seasonings. I am continuously grateful for his efforts.

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Baked eggplant

Garnished baked eggplant

Garnished baked eggplant

Here’s another entry for the super-duper fabulously simple recipe file. Yusuke put Italian eggplants in the oven, roasted them until the skin was charred, separated the flesh from the skin, and sliced them into strips. We ate the slices topped with the famous trio of ginger, bonito flakes, and soy sauce. The eggplant was marvelously tender. Sigh.

We had a hearty miso soup to round out the meal. (This is one of our especial favourites.) First, Yusuke sautéed potatoes, carrots, and white onions in the soup pot with a bit of oil. Then he added water and boiled the vegetables before adding miso paste. He finished it off with dashi (of course), a dash of soy sauce, and green onions. When served, we sprinkled in some red pepper flakes to add a bit of spice.

Hearty miso soup

Hearty miso soup

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Miso stir fry

Miso stir fry

Miso stir fry

I already wrote about a miso-based stir fry, but this iteration was slightly different. The veggies are some of our favourite staples: eggplant, carrots, green pepper, and white onions, seasoned with garlic, ginger, miso (paste dissolved in water), sake, sugar, and soy sauce. The miso sauce is particularly good with eggplant, as the saltiness really clings to the flesh and balances against its juiciness.

Miso is of course most famous as a soup, but it is widely used in other types of dishes, including stir fries, marinades, sauces, stews, pickled vegetables, and even sweets. There are also many different types of miso. We buy a standard “multipurpose” white miso paste (shiromiso). Yusuke somewhat disdainfully says that the cuisine in the city of Nagoya is particularly famous for having miso in everything. The other day I was trying to explain the taste of miso to my lunchtime French conversation group, but I failed miserably. “C’est une pâte salée” doesn’t quite cover it.

Since the stir fry had miso already, Yusuke made a soup with a chicken broth base, with eggs, mushrooms (yay!), and green onions. I think I’ve finally mastered the technique of adding eggs to soup. You need to have a steady hand while drizzling the beaten eggs slowly in a circular pattern around the pot. Then you let the egg sink for a just a couple seconds before stirring the soup. If your hand is steady while pouring, there’s no egg clumps…

Yum

Yum

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Shio-dare stir fry

Shio-dare stir fry

Shio-dare stir fry

Yusuke called this stir fry “shio-dare,” which means salt sauce. The ingredients are zucchini, mushrooms (yay!), bean sprouts, and pork tossed with sesame oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. That’s all. Any further explication would be superfluous for this wonderfully simple dish. The soup was miso with abura-age.

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