Smoked Salmon & Rice Soup

This is really easy with a package of smoked salmon (even poor quality, which is how I ended up making soup), and I had leftover rice in the fridge, making this soup a snap.

1. Brown onion and garlic in a large saucepan in a little olive oil.
2. Then add 1 TB flour to make a roux (thickener for the soup). Stir constantly for a minute or two until the flour is cooked and the mixture takes a caramel color.
3. Add 1/4 C white wine and cook (it will bubble furiously) for a few minutes until it thickens.
4. Add 2 -3 cups broth (I cheat and use organic buillion). At this point you could run it through a blender, food processor, or use an immersion blender if you have one. Return to pan and continue heating.
5. Add soy sauce to taste, about 1/4 C.
6. Now you have a flavorful broth. Add leftover cooked rice and flaked smoked salmon.
7. Season with chili paste, red chili flakes, and fresh ground pepper.

Japanese Salad with Arame & Umeboshi Dressing

After an impulse buy at the Japanese grocery store (umeboshi vinegar!), I decided to compose a Japanese fusion salad with some arame seaweed and the greens I had in the fridge.

I know this sounds scary, but seaweed is quite good for adding new texture to a salad. Even more, sea vegetables are very healthy, low in calories and packed with good stuff (vitamins/minerals?).

Umeboshi梅干し is Japanese pickled plum (or apricot, depends on the translation). It is a tangy-sour flavor, and usually combined with another Japanese specialty, shiso leaves. If you like umeboshi, try umeshu, a wine made with ume.

The seaweed comes dried in a package in the aisle that also has nori (the sushi seaweed). My package of arame came sliced into thin strands-- perfect for salad!

Minimally, you need to soak it to reconstitute. At this point, you can probably use as is, or simmer with some flavorings. I added a little soy sauce, sake, and ginger slices to mine.

After cooling down, you can drop the seaweed into the salad (herb greens in this picture, with red pepper) and serve with dressing.

Umeboshi Salad Dressing
As usual, I did some research on the web for something to use my Umeboshi vinegar in, but I was generally disappointed. I took cues from a few recipes and came up with this tangy-sweet-sour dressing.

2 tea Mirin (a version of rice wine that is specially called "mirin" みりん)
1 tea Rice vinegar (komezu)
2 tea Umeboshi vinegar
1 tea - 1.5 tea Soy sauce
1 TB + Brown sugar/agave syrup
1 TB olive oil

Cheese Rolls

My grandmother makes these amazing rolls, with cheese in the middle, that forms little caverns of cheese. I posted a picture, but I still have to get the recipe from her!


Thai Stir Fry

I am learning the ingredients in Thai cooking and realizing that most of the work goes into making a "paste" by grinding lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and spices. Cooking the paste into a meal is quick.

Thai Style Stir Fry Paste

Grind in food processor and/or mortar & pestle:
1 small stalk lemongrass (sliced first)
shallots / red onion (total 1/2 C?)
4 kaffir lime leaves, cut into thin strips
3/4 tea ground dried galangal (or use fresh if you have it)
1/2 tea ground corriander
3/4 tea fresh ginger,
1 jalapeno pepper, or a few dried red chili peppers

Put the ground ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add:
1-3 tea palm sugar
1/4 tea tamarind concentrate
(or more if using dried tamarind)
1 tea fish sauce
1 tea dark thick soy sauce

After sugar is melted and paste is combined, reserve.

You can freeze the paste and use later.

Thai Stir Fry
Heat a wok pan over high heat, add 1 TB oil (olive or sesame or a combination).

Add cut up vegetables and fry, shaking pan, until pieces start to brown on edges:
1 red pepper
3-5 mushrooms

Add raw nuts and toast with veggies:
1/4 C cashew nuts

Add 1 TB of the paste (see above) and a drizzle of coconut milk (or water or veggie broth would do fine).

Continue stirring veggies with sauce until sauce thickens a little and clings to the vegetables. If using frozen peas, add at the end of cooking and stir until warmed.

Serve with rice or noodles.


Soba Noodles and Stir Fry Teriyaki Veggies

Although soba is traditionally a cold noodle dish, I thought I'd jazz it up and serve it hot with stir-fried teriyaki vegetables.

Soba is one of the healthier noodles, since (high quality) soba is made from mostly buckwheat flour, which has more fiber than the usual Italian pasta. Look for soba packages with "buckwheat" or "buckwheat flour" as the first ingredient.

Cook soba in boiling water for about 6 minutes, drain and keep warm.

While cooking the soba, saute/fry veggies in a hot wok pan with less than 1 TB olive and sesame oils, shaking frequently:

asparagus spears
chopped mushrooms
red onion slices

Once the veggies start to brown, sprinkle black pepper, then add teriyaki sauce (either use premade or make your own- it is easy!). Stir and keep veggies cooking on medium high heat until onions start to carmelize in the sauce. Throw in sliced green/long onion at the very end of cooking, it should stay crunchy.

Serve veggies and excess sauce over hot soba noodles.

Yogurt Raita

The perfect accompaniment to spicy Indian food is, of course, a raita. I've had tomato based raitas that were very similar to salsa, but my favorite is creamy with a yogurt base.

Raita is actually pretty easy to prepare. I use my food processor and dump onions, fresh herbs (cilantro, mint etc.) and spices (cumin, pepper), then serve with sea salt on top.

My most recent version contained:

1/2 red onion
1/4 C homegrown pineapple sage
1/8 tea ground black pepper
2/3- 3/4 C plain yogurt
(I like Nancy's brand)

Served with coarse sea salt on top.

The pineapple sage added a sweet quality that perfectly balanced my standard dal curry.

Indian Bread with Nigella/Onion Seeds

Having a yearning for Indian breads, I made up a paratha dough recipe (this time with whole wheat bread flour- I don't recommend- whole wheat pastry flour was much better).

Pushing little pieces of dough flat, I brushed with some ghee (clarified butter that tastes amazing) and sprinkled charnushka/nigella/black onion seeds (I'm not sure what to call them), then folded over and rolled flat.

These cook quickly in a dry hot pan and look a little like tortillas. While they taste good on their own, they are even better with curry and yogurt/onion/mint raita.

I made these in the afternoon and served with dinner, just warm in the microwave
To warm, heat in microwave for 20-30 seconds.


Tempura 天ぷら

I absolutely fell in love with tempura in Japan. My favorite takes on it are tendon (tempura pieces over a rice bowl, drizzled with sweet sauce, visit TenYa in Japan) and tempura-soba (tempura with cold soba noodles & dipping sauce).
My first try at making tempura was an absolute bust. I used regular flour (a no-no, too much gluten in regular flour), I didn't have a food thermometer at the time, and my thick veggie slices didn't cook all the way.

After watching my host mother cook (and she is a pro!), I learned the keys to great tempura:
  1. COLD batter (sit the batter in a bowl of ice water, also use ice water for the water in the batter)
  2. Don't overbeat the batter (forms tough strands of gluten), it should be lumpy
  3. Thin slices of veggies (see picture for how to cut vegetables like carrots)
  4. Hot oil- I've read 375 F is best
  5. Eat it fresh- left over tempura is no good, so don't try buying it from a department store booth
I generally pick up a tempura mix, and follow the directions. Otherwise, find a recipe that uses cake flour (low gluten keeps it crispy and light). I think there is salt and maybe baking powder in there too. Use ice water, and then put the finished lumpy batter in a bowl of ice water.Set up your frying apparatus: pan with oil and thermometer, tongs, cookie sheet/cooling rack with paper towels for finished tempura

Do all the prep ahead of time so that you've got all the veggies ready to go once the oil is up to temp. Cut carrots into super thin strips- you can clump them together and fry in a bunch but the carrot will actually cook this way. Butterfly the shrimp, but leave the tails on. Slice, salt and rinse the eggplant. Thinly-slice the kabocha pumpkin. Mushrooms are great halved and bell peppers are pretty easy to do as well.
When you are ready to fry, dip the veggies/shrimp into the batter, pull out with tongs or chopsticks, and let the excess batter drip off. Then dip a few pieces at a time into the hot oil and fry until golden.

Carefully remove the hot pieces from the oil with tongs or chopsticks and let drain on the paper towel set up (see picture earlier in post).

Serve with rice and a Japanese style dipping sauce or soy sauce, mirin/sake, sugar

Quinoa Pumpkin Muffins

Reading through this whole-grain baking book, I decided that pumpkin muffins are perfect for the season. I didn't realize they would smell so amazing! The addition of cooked quinoa to the batter add some protein, making perfect 10am snack muffins.

The next time I make these, I am thinking I will try subbing in some ground flax meal and wheat germ for some of the flour. Also, you could add toasted hazelnuts or walnuts to the batter with molasses.

Combine in a bowl and whisk together:
1.25 C whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 C brown sugar

1 tea baking powder

1/2 tea baking soda

1/2 tea salt

1/2 tea cinnamon

1/4 tea ground ginger

1/8 tea allspice or cloves

1/8 tea nutmeg

Then add 3/4 C cooked quinoa (rinse first, then stick in rice cooker) and stir until grains are coated.

In a second bowl, beat together:
2 eggs
3/4 C canned plain pumpkin
(organic tastes much better than "libby's" brand, so go the extra mile here)
1/2 C buttermilk or plan yogurt (like Nancy's yogurt)
4 TB melted and cooled butter
2 tea vanilla extract

Stir the dry and wet ingredients together. Spoon into muffin tins with cupcake liners. Push 2 pumpkin seeds into top of each muffin and sprinkle with sugar-in-the-raw or "turbinado" sugar.

Cook for 30 minutes in 400 F oven.

Pan Roasted Asparagus

I never thought as a kid that I would like asparagus, but I've become quite a fan. I usually do this in the oven on a large scale, but I had just a handful left, so I did it on the stove-top.

Wash asparagus, and break tough ends off with your hands.

Drizzle some olive oil in a hot skillet.

Add asparagus and cook, shaking pan to move asaparagus. When it starts to shrivel in pan, serve onto plates and sprinkle with lemon zest and freshly ground pepper and some rock salt.

Yatsuhashi: Japanese Sweets 和菓子

We decided to take a shot at making the famous Kyoto sweet "yatsuhashi". It is usually a raw mochi dough filled with sweet bean paste.

I referenced this site for the yatsuhashi dough recipe, basically water and mochiko flour microwaved until it is doughy, then rolled out in cinnamon and kinako (toasted soybean flour, tastes like peanut butter flavor). It's fast, but very messy. Make sure to microwave long enough to make the dough become stretchy, not just gooey-- you'll know when you attempt to roll it out.

My friend from Lorisancooks worked on our sweet bean paste. We did a white bean paste, which has less beany flavor than adzuki beans. Apparently, the traditional bean for shiroan (white bean paste) is limas, but I hate them, so I used navy/white beans. This site has recipes for both lima and navy bean paste, in Japanese fashion, with tons of steps. Lori mashed the beans through a strainer which actually gave her a blister, but I think it was worth it in terms of smooth texture.

This paste is pretty versatile and we ended up liking the toasted-coconut and almond extract variation. It is time-consuming, soaking the beans, pressure cooking them, then mashing them through a strainer.

After getting bored with Yatsuhashi, we baked the rest of the mochi dough into deliciously crisp crackers (see picture).


Thai Yellow Curry

After consuming bowl after bowl of delicious yellow curry at the Thai restaurant in the neighborhood, I realized I needed to learn how to make it myself. I've tried a few recipes here and there and never a real success. Until now!

First make the paste, you can prep it ahead. In fact, I think I will buy the ingredients in bulk and make paste to freeze.

After you've got the paste, making the curry is a snap (with a pressure cooker of course). Just fry onions, add paste and fry, then add the veggies, coconut milk, broth and cook.

Thai Yellow Curry Paste
1. Toast spices in a dry pan, shake occasionally over medium heat until fragrant:

3 tea cumin powder
1 tea coriander powder
1/2 tea ground cinnamon
1 tea turmeric
1 tea paprika
(I used Hungarian sweet)
1/2 tea cloves, ground

2. Chop by hand, then grind in food processor the wet ingredients:

1 shallot
1 small stalk lemon grass
4-5 cloves garlic
3 slender red chilis (thai)
4 kaffir lime leaves
(chiffonade first)

3. Add toasted spices from #1 into food processor. Also add:

1/4 tea red pepper flakes
1-2 tea dried galangal

4. Transfer to a mortar/pestle and mash. This takes your dry paste and releases the oils, which improves flavor. Add a pinch of salt to help the grinding process.

5. Add liquids:
1/2 tea fish sauce
1/2 tea oyster sauce
1 tea brown sugar (or palm sugar)
1 tea sesame oil (or peanut oil)

Save for using in curry recipes.

Thai Yellow Curry with Green Pepper, Sweet Potatoes and Shrimp
Fry in olive oil until browning:
1/2 yellow onion, chopped

Add 1/2 C yellow curry paste (above) and fry until fragrant.

Add 1 can coconut milk and 1/2 - 1 C vegetable broth. Add chopped vegetables:

4 small sweet potatoes/yams, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 green pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks

Pressure cook until veggies are done, 4-5 minutes for yams. I use this fabulous website for vegetable cooking times in the pressure cooker.

When finished cooking, open lid and add:
1-2 tea brown sugar
raw shrimp

Stir over heat until shrimp are cooked. Serve over basmati rice.


Coconut Black Sticky Rice Pudding

I bought a huge bag of black glutinous rice at the asian store, and pondered how to use it for a few weeks. Finally today I decided to try this Thai staple.

Pulling from several sources, I realize I made a few mistakes. So this is what I will do next time!

Wash 1 C black glutinous rice in the bottom of a pressure cooker. Add 3-4 cups water (?) to the rice. Cover and pressure cook for 30 minutes.

I had to drain some of the water since I used 6 C: wayyy too much water! Hopefully 3-4 cups is about right for 1 C of this rice.

After the rice is cooked, many recipes call for adding a sweetened coconut milk. Well I'm pretty lazy in the kitchen, so I just dumped half a can of coconut milk into the pan. For sweetening the pudding, I chopped and added 1/4 C palm sugar. You could also use plain white sugar, but I like the flavor of palm sugar.

Since it was still very watery, I added 1/4 C tapioca pearls, which added a great texture to the rice, made it more pudding-y. After simmering 15 minutes, the tapioca had cooked and my pudding was looking good.

I added a pinch of salt, less than 1/4 tea pandan extract, and a small drizzle of vanilla extract to round out the flavors.

Serve with coconut in individual ramekins.

Napa Cabbage Salad with Creamy Wasabi Dressing

After making gyoza, I had some napa cabbage leftover. Not wanting it to go to waste, I pulled together this salad. The wasabi pairs nicely with the cabbage, and the creamy mayo-based dressing is reminiscent of slaw. The quantities listed make a large one-person salad-- you can increase to make a larger portion.

Napa Cabbage Salad
1/2 head napa cabbage, sliced finely
1/4 cucumber, sliced thinly with a peeler
1/4 C sliced almonds

Creamy Wasabi Dressing
Mix together in a sealable container (tupperware or small glass jar)
1 tea Water
1 tea Mayo
1/4 - 1/2 tea wasabi powder
1/2 tea ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
1/8 tea mirin
1/2 - 1 tea lemon juice
lemon zest

Japanese Food Weekend Part 4: Teriyaki Salmon

Another homestyle Japanese favorite, this is nothing like recipes that use bottled teriyaki sauce. The real stuff is just mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar and tastes amazing.

Although this cookbook has no pictures, the recipes are dead-on. It is my go-to Bible of Japanese food.

Teriyaki Sauce てりやきのたれ
Making the teriyaki basting sauce ahead of time is easiest. Combine in a small saucepan and heat on medium-low:
1/2 C mirin
1/4 C sake

Once warm, add and heat to simmer:
1/4 C soy sauce (I use low sodium)
2 TB sugar (plain old white sugar is perfect)

Let it simmer 20 minutes or so until it thickens a little. Let cool and stick in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Teriyaki Fish
Marinate the fish (I used salmon, but yellowtail would be good too) for 15 minutes in the fridge in this mixture:
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C mirin or sake
1 tea grated ginger

Start preheating the oven to 450/500 degrees F. (or you can use the broiler, ours is just broken)

Pull the fish out of the fridge and pat dry. Place the fish (skin side down if it still has skin on) on a cookie sheet.

Drizzle some teriyaki sauce (from above) over the fish.

Cook for 2 minutes, remove from oven, baste fish with more teriyaki sauce. Cook 2 more minutes and so on, until the fish is just barely cooked (overcooked fish is nasty). The sauce will carmelize on the fish and on the cookie pan.

Serve with rice and simmered vegetables, enjoy!

Japanese Food Weekend Part 3: Nimono (Simmered) Vegetables

I fell in love with this dish at a "homestyle" restaurant in Japan, whose main customers are businessmen away from home. It may not look like much, but the subtle flavors and perfect texture of the vegetables is a sure winner.

With a pressure cooker, this dish is pretty quick to cook (after all of the cutting), and is a great way to eat several winter vegetables at once. I got inspiration for the nimono cooking method from this recipe.

I serve it with salmon and my new favorite Japanese rice called "haiga", which retains the nutrition of the bran, but still is soft, sticky and white.

You will want to buy or prepare dashi stock before starting on this recipe.

First cut up all the veggies, paying attention to size. Since I'm cooking them all for the same amount of time, the most tender veggies need to be cut bigger than others.
3 Carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
Gobo or burdock root, washed of dirt, then cut into 1.5" long, halved pieces
Red or yellow potato, cut into 1 inch chunks
Yellow onion, cut into rings
1/2 small Kabocha squash, peeled and cut into 1.5 inch chunks
1-2 cloves garlic, whole

In the base of a pressure cooker, combine:
2 TB brown sugar
1/4 C sake or mirin
1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 - 1/2 C dashi
(fish/kelp stock, making dashi the cold water easy way)

Add the cut up vegetables. Turn on heat, seal pressure cooker lid/wobbler.

Pressure cook for 4 minutes. Release pressure. If you are inclined to stir, be careful not to break up the lovely chunks of potato/squash.

Serve with rice and broiled fish.


Japanese Food Weekend Part 2: Gyoza

Gyoza to the rest of the world is "potsticker". After falling in love with the Japanese version at a ramen shop called Ippudou while living in Tokyo, my friend and I had to make them ourselves.

Lori posted the recipe on her site: http://lorisancooks.blogspot.com

You do a bit of chopping, and then mix everything together for the filling. The most time consuming task is actually wrapping the filling. It's too bad I don't have pictures of the raw potstickers... next time!

While I normally can't stomach ground meat, I made an exception and bought grass-fed-happy-pig (or so they say at the organic grocer) ground pork. Seriously, the ground pork is necessary.

Japanese Food Weekend Part 1: Mochi

Saw this at the asian grocery and couldn't resist! This is mochi with bean paste, covered in black sesame seeds and it is heavenly!

Mochi is a main part of the traditional Japanese sweets called "wagashi". These are "strange" to the western palate, but utterly delicious once you get accustomed to sticky, not-so-sweet sweets.

Technically, mochi can refer to the pounded-glutinous rice paste that usually surrounds Japanese sweets. Mochi is sticky when raw, with a nice chew to it. You can also fry it and it puffs up (very good with sugar and cinnamon!). I also am a fan of mochi in okonomiyaki, the Japanese cabbage-pancake.

Usually Japanese sweets are stuffed with sweet bean paste made from adzuki beans. Again, an acquired taste, but healthy, and bonds well with the sticky mochi.

In Japan, you can buy treats like this nearly everywhere. Housewives pick some up from the Department store for snacks to serve with tea. Every season (or even every 2 weeks), the mochi sellers have a new seasonal (or "shun") ingredient, so sometimes you see mochi wrapped in leaves, or flavored with cherry blossoms, or flecked with some green vegetable whose name I cannot remember.

Cilantro Citrus Salad Dressing

What to do with the rest of that huge chunk of cilantro from Winco? Make salad dressing!

I poked around for cilantro dressing recipes and decided to adapt from this salad book. However, her recipe doesn't have anything sweet, which I thought it was lacking, so I added honey.

In food processor, dump while running:

1 clove garlic

1/4 C washed cilantro

Scrape down the sides. Pulse a couple more times. Then add while running:

2-3 TB C lime/lemon juice

sprinkle lime/lemon zest

1/4 C olive oil

1 tea honey

1/4 tea or a pinch of cumin
(seeds or powder)

The mixture should emulsify, which will make it creamy. Serve over salad, especially with avocados. Delish!

Delicious Red Pepper Goo!

My friend made this at a dinner party and I seriously couldn't restrain myself. So. delicious.


It's basically roasted red pepper, a little garlic and mayo, but it tastes very sophisticated.


Thanksgiving Ideas

In order to avoid the boring usuals, I am thinking about Thanksgiving dinner particularly early this year. Here are a few ideas for the menu so far:

apple/cheese appetizer plate: granny smith, fuji apples, with blue cheese, extra sharp white cheddar, gorgonzola/brie, "fromage fort" cheese spread

tapas appetizers: kalamata olives/tapenade, marcona almonds, fig spread, flax crackers

hummus or white bean dip with Trader Joe's flax seed crackers

Side Dishes
mushroom risotto with wild rice and Parmesan cheese: use rehydrated shiiatkes, cut up some cremini mushrooms, use white wine (sauvingon blanc) and broth for liquid, wild/brown rice mixture and pressure cook

spinach, candied walnut, dried cranberry, salad with maple dressing

roasted butternut squash slices with goat cheese/herb dressing

roasted asparagus: break off woody ends of asparagus spears, roll in a little dab of olive oil on a baking sheet. Sprinkle pepper and coarse sea salt. Roast for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. Serve with balsamic vinegar reduction sauce.

Miso Broiled Salmon Fillet

Brined, rubbed, roasted turkey from Diestel Farms

Pumpkin pie with pumpkin seed crust from this book

Pear-Ginger pie from this book

Coconut tapioca pudding
for the non-pie-eaters

Champagne/sparkling wine: WinCo sells "Ballatore gran spumante" for $5 or less a bottle

Indian Breads: Parathas with Potato, Chile & Cilantro Filling

Simply put, I'm a bread person. After a coworker brought in pooris and parathas, I was hooked on Indian breads too!

I skimmed the bread recipes from a great book on Indian home-style cooking, and decided to make filled parathas.

The basic idea is you make the dough, make the filling, combine the two, then fry in a skillet.

Spicy Potato Filling
Slice in half and pressure cook 3-4 small potatoes (yukon gold worked best, but you could use red potatoes too) in 1 C water for 6 minutes. Use the fast release option, open the lid, and let them cool a little on a cutting board.
You could boil them for forever until soft, but the pressure cooker works great and saves time.

Then, peel the skin off the potatoes. Place potatoes in a bowl and squish into pieces with your fingers (careful not to burn yourself).

In a food processor, mix:
1/4 red onion
1 jalapeno, some seeds removed

2 TB fresh cilantro

Add the chopped onion/jalapeno/cilantro mix to the potatoes. Also add:
1 tea salt
1/4 tea cumin seeds
1/4 tea garam masala
2 TB lime juice

Mix and squeeze the potatoes and spices together. Try to break up the big clumps, but you aren't going for mashed potato consistency either.

Reserve potato mix for filling paratha dough (below).

Paratha Dough
Combine in a medium bowl:
1 tea salt
1 C all purpose flour (unbleached is my preference)
1 C whole wheat flour
(I used whole wheat pastry flour, but I'd guess that bread flour also works)

Then add 1/2 C water and mix with hands until combined. Add another 1/4 C water and keep mixing. If you need it, add up to 1/4 C more water and knead the sticky mass for about 2-4 minutes until it is slightly stretchy. Set aside and let dough rest for 10-30 minutes (you may want to cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to keep the surface of the dough from drying out).

After the dough has rested, pull off golf ball sized chunks and roll in a small amount of flour. Press into a thin disc. Mound a large spoon full (1-2 TB?) of potato mixture, then stretch the dough around to encase the filling. Press flat.

Repeat for the remaining dough/potatoes.

Don't just stack the parathas together. They become sticky as they sit and I had a whole pile (see picture) become a sticky mass. Use wax paper between them or leave them spread out on a cutting board!

Heat a skillet to medium high heat. Add a paratha and cook in the dry skillet on each side until browning.

Then add a drizzle of olive oil to each side and flip, to make a crispy texture. When crispy on both sides, remove and serve with raita (indian yogurt dip).

I read that these travel well, so I will have to take them on a road trip someday!