I find most food bloggers have very positive opinions about their food. They generally always love it.
Personally, I try to share recipes that I have loved, as well as normal, and the not-as-great ones. It helps to gauge how great I think the great recipes are. I also keep a list of my favourites for easy identification. I got a bit of flack for calling my Turkish bulgur salad with pomegranate and almonds the best salad ever, but truth be told, it was also called the best salad ever from the blog that I found it on. It also deserves the title.
I like to try other food bloggers’ favourite recipes. A while back, Ashley listed her favourite tofu dishes, and I was eager to try her Lemon Miso Tofu and Eggplant, adapted from the Rebar cookbook. With a lemon, miso and wasabi dressing (I substituted Aleppo chili flakes), I knew it would be tasty. The key is to press your tofu so it can absorb a lot of the marinade. As Ashley suggested, I made this with an overnight marinade for the tofu. I used the same dressing for the eggplant the following day, and in no time, it was ready to be baked for a quick meal. I preferred the tofu with the marinade the most, but it also worked well with the eggplant. Feel free to use your favourite vegetable. A good, tasty tofu recipe.
I was waiting patiently all summer. My heirloom tomato plants were late bloomers, you see. I ate a few tomatoes here and there when I noticed them earlier in the season, but nothing that I could harvest as a meal. Now my plants have a lot of tomatoes for the picking.
This is fusion cuisine at its best, where the classic Italian flavours from the caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar) are infused with Japanese flair.
First, a portion of small cherry tomatoes are poached, lightly cooked and skinned. The remainder remain raw and are halved. The textural contrast, with the skinned poached tomatoes and the raw crisp tomatoes was wonderful. Heirloom tomatoes, with their varying colours and tastes work really well with the mix (my green zebra tomatoes were the most sweet of all!).
Next, the traditional buffalo mozzarella is replaced with silken tofu. I realize this is sacrilegious to the purists. My brother ate caprese salad every day throughout this honeymoon in Italy, it was that good. Buffalo mozzarella can be a difficult find, and to be honest, I really liked the silken tofu as it sopped up the extra dressing. It was light, tasty and incredibly filling. This was a main meal salad, especially when I added the baby arugula.
The typical basil is replaced with shiso, which is a Japanese herb that tastes similar to mint. I decided to pluck basil from my balcony instead of searching out shiso.
The dressing was changed from a heavier balsamic to a light sherry vinaigrette with deep tones from the sesame oil and soy sauce. Now I knew this was a definitely a Japanese interpretation.
This is a tad more work than a standard salad, but trust me when I say the poaching of the tomatoes are worth it. The variety of both flavours and textures are remarkable. Together, we have a delicious salad.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to My Kitchen, My World, featuring Japanese dishes this month, to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Dil Se, and to Ricki and Kim’s vegan SOS challenge featuring sesame.
This weekend, I might die. Hopefully, not literally. But I am nuts. I hope I can still stand on Monday.
All summer, I have been training to cycle between Ottawa and Cornwall and back again. A double imperial century, or 320km. A double metric century, 240km, if we chicken out. Either path will be difficult.
A few of my latest training runs have been cancelled due to rain, so I am hoping that the weather will be nice (no rain, no wind) this weekend. Last I checked, everything was good to go, but nothing matters except the weather on the day. Heck, on Monday it wasn’t supposed to rain either, but at 9am, after 3km, it started to rain. We took shelter for an hour to re-evaluate. It continued to rain. We watched another episode of Dexter. By this time, we decided to forego my last 120km training ride and hit the pool instead.
While loading up on carbohydrates hasn’t been proven to work as well in women, I have been scouting out high carb meals this week. Oatmeal sprinkled with pomegranate molasses, is a new favourite for breakfast. Welcoming pasta back into the mix, including this Japanese-inspired noodle dish I found at 101 Cookbooks.
It was a simple dish with subtle flavours. I thought the ginger would overpower the dish, but it blended seemlessly with the noodles and broccoli. The mint and basil worked well together with the chili flakes in this Japanese dish.
If I was truly carb-loading, I would omit the tofu (72% carbs) but I think tofu adds a certain filling factor, so I kept it in. Good thing I am a woman!
This is my submission to Regional Recipes, featuring dishes from Japan, this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Susan at The Well-Seasoned Cook, to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Abby of eat the right stuff and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
I know tofu gets a bad rap, but I rather enjoy it. It sops up flavours while cooking and can be molded into many different directions. One of my favourite kinds of tofu is silken tofu. I still remember the first time I tried it; my friend added it to an orzo soup simply because it was close to its best before date. The tofu was cut into small pieces and every time I ate a piece of tofu, I felt like I was eating from a cool cloud, a pillow of silkiness – in a good way! It was my first introduction to tofu and I was hooked. I started adding it to my soups, too, and cold noodle salads.
This is one of my favourite dishes, especially when enoki mushrooms are on sale, as the silky, melt-in-your-mouth tofu is paired with pale, tender, enoki mushrooms smothered in a delicate, subtle dashi broth flavoured with soy sauce, mirin and sake. It is a snap to put together but it is important to warm the tofu so that it is heated all the way through. This is simplicity at its finest, very much the quintessential trait of Japanese cuisine. Depending on the mushroom you choose, this dish vary from delicate as I described with the enoki mushrooms, to more robust with maitake mushrooms.
Enoki mushrooms are hands-down my favourite mushroom and here is another lovely summer dish for enoki mushrooms: Enoki somen.
It is my pleasure to join the Washoku Warriors this month, featuring our favourite dish from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh (the original recipe is posted here). I am also submitting it for this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Simona at Briciole.
I have a love/hate relationship with restaurants. I love trying new foods, but hate the heavy cost, of both funds and calories, that typically go hand-in-hand with restaurant meals. Plus, as I get more adventurous in the kitchen, I feel that I can make it better, cheaper, and healthier if I have the time to experiment. A year ago, I thought Japanese cuisine was impossible to make in my own kitchen, but after getting a few staples, it is easy to make tasty Japanese meals at home.
This post is all about the carrot-ginger-miso appetizer salad you find ubiquitously in Japanese restaurants. I never thought of making it myself until I saw it on Smitten Kitchen, who proclaimed it to be the best salad after adapting it from Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP.com. Whiz together a couple of ingredients in your food processor or blender and you have a silky, spicy, creamy, zesty and salty dressing in one. Use it to top lettuce and avocado for a wholesome, delicious, complex veggie treat prior to your main meal.
This is my submission to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month featuring avocados, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this month’s Vegetable Marathon featuring carrots as well as to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays (which also includes salads).
This is another super simple show-stopper of a dish (even simpler than the sinfully delicious mushroom bourguignon) but you need a bit of advance prep. Or in my case, the 5 day miso marinade was perfect when I spotted black cod on sale but already had my meals planned for the beginning of the week. Once you buy fish, you need to cook it soon. But you can wait a bit while it marinades in miso.
This is the popular Black Cod with Miso, made famous by Nobu. I was excited to try it at home after I had it at an overpriced Toronto restaurant, since it was darn tasty. Incredibly tasty! Flaky, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth fish with a sweet and salty miso sauce. Absolutely heavenly. I knew I could recreate heaven in my kitchen, so off I went.
I ended up skipping the the step to grill the fish, and ended up baking the fish for around 20 minutes. The fish was really good but not as mouth-watering as what I had at the Spice Route. I suppose that is why you pay $23 for the teeniest piece of fish. Next time, I will try to follow the recipe a bit more closely to see if that helps lock in the juices. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious (and pleased even fish haters), I just know it can be better. I am salivating just thinking about the next time.
The weather has been fabulous for spring so far in Toronto. A great time to start riding the bike! Warmer weather, though, brings cooler dishes, which is why I loved this dish. It melds a variety of Asian flavours together with my one of my favourite noodles, soba. The fresh green veggies, including baby bok choy, snow peas and spinach, are lightly steamed, then combined with cool silken tofu in chunks and smothered with a ponzu soy sauce.
But what is ponzu? It is an Asian sauce made from mirin, rice vinegar, bonito flakes and kombu, and occasionally soy-based, with a note of citrus tang from yuzu. But what is yuzu? It is a citrus fruit from East Asia, that looks like a small grapefruit but tastes like grapefruit and mandarin orange. It is difficult to find yuzu here, so it can be substituted with a blend of juices from other citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, etc). There are recipes to make your own ponzu sauce as well but I buy mine from the store.
I have discussed other Asian ingredients and where to find them in Toronto, in previous posts here and here, and ponzu sauce can also be found at Asian markets like Bestwin and T&T. I can’t say I’ve seen it at Loblaws and the like, but I haven’t checked. I found it on amazon as well.
Ponzu sauce is nice as a replacement for soy sauce in many Asian dishes and has the added benefit of less sodium. It is also a great dipping sauce for gyoza (Japanese dumplings).
This dish was adapted from Gourmet (July 2008), and despite having a long ingredient list and many directions, is quite simple to prepare but does leave many dirty dishes to clean. However, it is definitely worth it. You can use an assortment of seasonal Asian vegetables, steam them until crisp but retain their colour (blanch them if you are incredibly worried, but I chose not to dip anything into ice water and it was fine). The noodles can be cooked under the steaming vegetables, to save time. The sauce is nice but the ponzu flavour is not overwhelming. If you cannot find the ponzu sauce, substitute it with a bit more soy sauce, or omit completely. It makes a lot of sauce, which is tasty but could likely also be decreased by 3/4 or more. The crowning touch is the chilled silken tofu which melts in your mouth and brings that coolness to your palate. I found the dish best when served completely chilled the next day as leftovers, when the sauce is added just before serving.
I am submitting this glorious spring dish to a few places this time: my second submission to Health Nut Challenge 5 featuring Cruciferous Vegetables, hosted by Yasmeen Health Nut, to Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Thyme for Cooking and to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays.
I love wandering through ethnic grocery stores. There are always fruits and vegetables I don’t recognize. I wonder what they taste like, how to cook them, where they are grown, etc. One of my favourite grocery stores is Bestwin, which I like to describe as a low-cost Asian and Indian grocer. Since I started cooking Japanese, it has been a great way to find affordable Asian ingredients. My goal is actually to try every wacky fruit, vegetable and herb there.
The first one I will tackle is Nira, also known as Chinese chives or Garlic chives. It is in the same family as garlic and is similar to garlic more than chives. It is sold in big bundles but unfortunately doesn’t keep very long. It is common in Asian cooking (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) as well as fusion cuisine. Some other recipes with Nira, that I can’t wait to try, include Miso Soup with Nira, Spring Garlic Chive Soup, Yaki Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings), Japanese Iri Doufu (Scrambled Tofu with Nira), Scrambled Eggs with Garlic Chives, Pancakes with Garlic Chives and Ground Pork, Stir-fried Chinese Chives and Pork, Orecchiette with Fresh Mozzarella, Grape Tomatoes, and Garlic Chives, and Pan seared Halibut with Garlic Chives-Ginger-Coconut Sauce.
I recently got together with a friend who shared delicious Japanese spring rolls at a potluck. It is hard to get excited about spring rolls, but these were special. They were the best spring roll I had ever tasted. I needed to know what went inside those crispy layers, and thankfully she shared it with me. I am not sure what makes them so special, but I think the secret ingredients are the dried shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots and nira which balance out the flavours and bring crunch. Enjoy!
As well, this week I am hosting my first blogging event! I have been a fairly regular contributor to Weekend Herb Blogging, and figured it was about time for me to participate as a host. So here I go with WHB #231! These Japanese spring rolls are my contribution this week.
Weekend Herb Blogging, now hosted by Haalo, is all about sharing information and recipes about any herb, fruit, vegetable, nut, grain, seed, flower or plant. For complete rules, check them out here. Otherwise, send me your name, name of dish, post url, location and photo until Sunday, May 2 at 5pm EST at saveur11 AT yahoo DOT ca.
Allow me to introduce to you the yummiest eggplant ever: Baked Asian Eggplant with Miso. I picked up a few Asian eggplants on sale, but this recipe would also work with regular eggplants, although you’d likely need a longer baking time. You basically bake the eggplants until they are soft all the way through, then add a sweet miso paste and broil it to melt it with the sometimes bitter eggplant. Pure heaven. And purely easy. Why bother going to a resto for something you can make so easily at home?
I really enjoy the simplicity of Japanese cuisine. A few ingredients can whip up a quick and tasty dish. I absolutely love enoki mushrooms, which are very popular in Japan. They are white and slender, with a very delicate flavour (they converted me from a mushroom hater). Like most mushrooms, they absorb their taste from the rest of the dish.
In this dish, they are paired nicely, and blend in almost interchangeably with somen noodles (can you spot the tips in the photo?). Somen noodles are a fine white noodle made with wheat flour, and are the queen of Japanese noodles as they were a favourite of the imperial palaces and Buddhist temples. They are mostly machine-made but homemade noodles are pulled and rested at great lengths to make such slender noodles. Undoubtedly, the thin noodles are a joy to eat. They are typically eaten chilled during the summer months, but this dish, Enoki somen (Enoki mushrooms with somen noodles), adapted from The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber, pairs both in a warm dashi broth. I wasn’t sure what leftovers would look or taste like, so I modified to recipe to serve 1 and it was very filling.
This was a lovely noodle dish, a cross between noodles and soup.. a soup rather overflowing with noodles, or noodles dressed lightly with broth. Either way, I loved its simplicity and taste. Enjoy!
A note about finding these ingredients in Toronto:
Somen noodles – Likewise, they can be found at all Asian stores and well-stocked grocery stores like Loblaws.
This is one of those stalker-like posts, but with a purely good reason. This month Tried and Tasted is scouring recipes at Closet Cooking! Before I started my own blog, I was a loyal follower of Closet Cooking. Kevin, who also hails from Toronto, cooks with very creative ingredients and always has tasty posts. I have always wanted to take a peak into his “closet kitchen” to see his cupboards, as he whips up such imaginative meals… and how does he manage to eat all this food (he has almost daily posts!)?? Furthermore, he shares a similar love of Japanese cuisine, so there is no shortage of inspirational recipes, including tons of fish recipes that look both tasty and easy, including Maple Salmon, Misoyaki Salmon, and Broiled Halibut with Orange and Miso Glaze. I love how Kevin includes alternative recipes when he is faced with left-overs, so with my leftover salmon teriyaki, I thought his Salmon Noodle Soup (which I rechristened Salmon Teriyaki Miso Soup with Udon and Spinach) would be perfect.
A few notes, first, about Japanese ingredients in Toronto. There are many Asian markets in Toronto, some larger than others. This is a continuation from my post about soy sauce, mirin, and sake. My favourite stores (for price, variety and high turnover) are T&T and BestWin, but J-Town is also worth a trek up north. It is worth looking into smaller stores, because some carry Japanese ingredients, including tiny mom-and-pop shops like D&Y Market. I have learned a few things about brands, so here are my recommendations:
Dashi – Dashi is the traditional soup stock of Japan, in both vegetarian and fish options. I have made it homemade, but sometimes I find it easier to use powder (Ajinomoto makes a good dashi). It is a fairly common brand and should be found at most Asian markets, including PAT and T&T.
Miso – Miso is a salty paste made from fermented soybeans (also rice or barley). Miso soups are fairly common and easy to make but miso can also be used for sauces, spreads, for meat, etc. There are many different kinds of miso, and not all are interchangeable, so it is worthwhile figuring things out as red misos are more salty, white misos less so. Maki at Just Hungry has a great primer on miso. I usually buy mine at T&T, but it is widely available and can be found in well-stocked grocery stores like Metro, Loblaws, etc. Basically, I look to see if it is white or red miso. I store it in the refrigerator.
Shiitake mushrooms – Shiitake are Japan’s most famous mushroom, but also hails from China. Known for its meaty, woody aroma, they are widely used in Japanese cuisine. They can be bought fresh or dried. Look for mushrooms that are whole. Dried mushrooms can be kept indefinitively if stored in a cool, dark place. They need to be rehydrated for 20-30 minutes with water, before use. When looking for Asian mushrooms, there is no contest, you have to go to an Asian market. You can find them in the typical Sobeys, Loblaws, etc, but they are incredibly expensive. At T&T, BestWin and in Chinatown they are much more reasonably priced. I think at T&T I have seen fresh shiitake mushrooms for $2-3/lb. When looking for dried, I have found them in the same stores. They can be called shiitake, or flower mushrooms and winter mushrooms (from there Chinese names).
Udon – Udon are the thick, chewy Japanese noodles made from wheat flour. When I returned from Japan, I almost thought I was deprived of great udon when I tried the fresh stuff. I learned, though, that frozen is the way to go. I have tried the black package of Sanuki udon from T&T and love it. I plan to make udon from scratch one day, but until then, this stuff is great. Sanuki udon means it comes from a specific prefecture in Japan (Kagawa) and are chewier, thicker noodles (my favourite!).
Now onto the soup: It was wonderful. Japanese cuisine is all about balancing salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy and the sweet teriyaki worked wonderfully with the salty miso, meaty mushrooms and bitter/spicy green onions. I will now plan to make excess salmon teriyaki just so I can make this soup!! Delicious!
When I go to a restaurant, I usually like to order stuff at restaurants that I can’t make at home.. because I know I can make it better. Salmon teriyaki is one of those dishes, especially when you go to the cheaper Japanese restos. It can be anywhere from charred, blackened, dry and ooky sweet. But it is really easy to make at home, so now I don’t even bother with it when I go out.
First of all, I combined recipes from numerous sources, including many of Kimiko Barber’s cookbooks (The Japanese Kitchen, Yo Sushi, Japanese Pure and Simple), where each had different ratios for her teriyaki sauce. I like this ratio of soy sauce, sake, mirin and sugar (3:3:3:1), although each portion can be changed depending on tastes. I found this recipe to create a light, flaky, tender salmon with a sweet glaze. There is enough teriyaki sauce for more than the salmon (the recipe can be halved, as long as you keep the same ratios). We drizzled it over spinach as a side salad and it was incredible. The sauce can keep for up to 2 months in the fridge.
While there are only 5 ingredients, and simple to make, it can be daunting as the ingredients are not pantry staples (unless you cook Japanese regularly). I highly encourage you to try this simple dish, so for those in Toronto, this is where I shop:
Soy sauce – I like Japanese soy sauce, which tends to run a bit sweeter, but also best for Japanese dishes. Furthermore, there are different kinds of Japanese soy sauce – regular dark, light, reduced-sodium and tamari. Light is only light in colour if you don’t want to discolor a dish. I typically buy regular dark or reduced-sodium and prefer Yamasa and Kikkoman, which aren’t that expensive. They can be found at any Asian market, including T&T, BestWin and J-Town. Shops in Chinatown should have it too.
Mirin – Mirin is a sweet rice wine, used as a sweetener and to add a glossy shine to foods. There are a few types of mirin, including aji-mirin (“mirin taste”) and mirin-fu chomiryo (“a kind of mirin”) as well as hon-mirin (“true mirin”). Hon-mirin has simpler ingredients; true hon-mirin has alcohol and no salt, and shio-mirin has alcohol with 1.5% salt. The difference is the alcoholic content. Shin-mirin (“new mirin”) has less than 1% alcohol, but still has the same flavour. Whereas the aji-mirin or mirin style sweet cooking seasoning has an ingredient list that starts with corn syrup and 8 other ingredients. I was only able to find aji-mirin at T&T and even J-Town, but found shin-mirin (basically look at the ingredient list- water, rice, koji (aspergillus oryzae) and sea salt) at Whole Foods and Noah’s. I think P.A.T. might also carry shin-mirin, and it looks like hon-mirin is impossible to find in Toronto. I’d love to know if anyone has found it elsewhere, and cheaper. I store my mirin in the refrigerator once opened.
Sake – Sake is a Japanese rice wine. I mistakenly bought a cooking sake from T&T, but I think it was just a mislabeled chinese cooking wine. Now I go to the LCBO to get sake. There is a bigger bottle, cheaper on the per mL basis which is what I get (Gekkeikan, 750mL). I store it in the refrigerator and it lasts pretty long.
Salmon – There are different kinds of salmon, but from a sustainability point-of-view wild Pacific salmon is the best way to go as per SeaChoice. I don’t know what T&T carries, likely Atlantic farmed, as the price is always reasonable ($6-7/lb).
I had a few blunders in the kitchen last week, so much so that when I was hosting a dinner party at my apartment, I decided to forego new recipes and serve a tried-and-true quick and easy, tasty dish: Salmon Fillet Wrapped in Phyllo Pastry. Despite sounding incredibly French, I actually got the recipe from a wonderful Japanese cookbook, The Japanese Kitchen by Kimiko Barber. Barber explains that the phyllo dough is a substitute for yuba sheets, which can be hard to find in North America.
The trick for this kind of dish is to use thick pieces of salmon so that the fish cooks the same length of time it takes to bake the phyllo dough.
This salmon is incredibly tasty and great for a spiffy meal on a weekday as it bakes up quickly. I figured working with phyllo could be pretty fool-proof, but as I learned, not when you forget to thaw it beforehand. We had the phyllo overtop the oven, hoping to thaw it faster, and still had to deal with holes as we were incredibly inpatient and ripped it apart. The holes can be easily hidden, though. We ended up eating dessert first (Cranberry Buckle with Vanilla Crumb), which stole the show, in my opinion.
Here I present an interesting miso soup with butternut squash, spinach and soba noodles. It had been a while since I made a Japanese dish, as I was sidetracked with buttermilk, pumpkin and cranberries, but I was craving a soup. I liked how the sweet butternut squash mixed with salty miso. This soup was adapted from a recipe in Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas. I have learned that Asian recipes may not be the best from non-Asian sources, but this was pretty good although certainly not authentic Japanese. It attests to the beauty of soups and how hard it is to mess them up.
The hardest part of the soup was prepping the squash. I found it easy to microwave the squash first, let it cool slightly, then peel and cut the squash for the soup. Alternatively, you could cut and peel before you microwave it. Roasting it would be easy as well, but takes longer and you are more likely to get soft (roasted) squash.