August 07, 2015

Not just pasta salad

Ben and I made soba noodles with cucumber and avocado yesterday. We used this recipe as a basic guideline.

Here is a group photo of the ingredients.

 We used about 200g of the Korean soba noodles in the center. That was two bundles.

 I cooked them for 8 minutes in gently boiling salted water. The recipe says you should toss them with toasted sesame oil after cooking, but I found they turn out less sticky if you add about half of the sesame oil to the boiling water and half of it after cooking and rinsing them under cold water. So I did that and put them into the fridge to let them cool.

Meanwhile, Ben took care of the scallions. He trimmed and washed them,

then he cut them into rings.

We reserved most of the green parts to be added raw later, while the rest was to get sauteed along with the shiitake, which Ben sliced next.

We use a bit more than just one cup of sliced shiitake. We tried that but found the shiitake had too little presence in the finished dish. The amount you see in the picture is about 350g.

I heated about three tablespoons of olive oil in a nonstick frying pan and added the mushrooms.

I went on according to the recipe: after the shiitake had wilted down a bit, I added the white scallion rings and two cloves of garlic.

Yes, I use a garlic press. And yes, a lot of chefs will tell you that the garlic will lose a lot of its flavor when pressed. This is entirely true. But handling a garlic press is so much easier than chopping up the clove with a knife. So, for most of our everyday use, we use the garlic press. I can only think of one dish where I really think the garlic tastes better in thin slices (we tried both).

I also added a good splash (about two to three tablespoons) of soy sauce and let simmer for a few minutes. Then I added two teaspoons of mirin to deglaze and let simmer for about two more minutes, until the contents of the pan looked like this:

 We let that cool for a while. Meanwhile, Ben had peeled, halved and sliced the cucumber and peeled, quartered and sliced the avocado.

We used neither yuzu (I looked for fresh yuzu at a large department store today, but no luck - I only found bottled yuzu juice which was due to expire next month) nor lemon, but lime.

Ben found out that the various ingredients of the dish mix best if you add the liquids to the soba noodles before adding the solids. So I mixed the noodles with 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar, the juice from both halves of the lime, and a rather generous teaspoon of Sriracha sauce (the one with the green lid).

 I added the sesame seeds, then the prepared shiitake, the green parts of the scallions and the cucumber. As a ripe avocado is very delicate, it gets placed on top after mixing the rest.

Yum! So good in this hot summer!

(Sorry, blurry photo).

November 06, 2014

Back to the future

So it turned out that I had to take a rest.

Just wanted to say I am back again with a picture of my overgrown shiso and the last mizuna plant:

Why didn't I harvest the shiso? Because it turned out that shiso is indeed the one Japanese ingredient that I don't like (as I thought I had already noticed in Japan, but looking back at the time I bought the seeds, I hadn't been sure anymore). To me, it tastes like bitter almonds, a quality I don't like so much in an herb. My Japanese friend said that the red shiso is different from the green one, but I didn't notice a huge difference.

The picture is about two weeks old, and now all of a sudden the temperature outside is winter-like. Up to now, I had kept the plants for their decorative value, but they are starting to suffer under the cold.

There should be a series of photos of Ben and me making vegan nama fu on the camera's SD card. If I recall the essential details, I will post about that when I can spare the time.

August 19, 2014

Premonitions of Bento Mania...

Highschool has started for Esther yesterday.

And the first thing she said when she returned home yesterday was: "They don't have any Coca-Cola at the canteen. They have Dr Pepper and various energy drinks, but no plain Coke."

Hmmm. Dr Pepper is British. Most people I know say that it tastes similar to Cherry Coke. I used to like it a lot. I think that it tastes faintly of violets.

I would never have guessed that it was popular enough around here to be featured by a school canteen ;)

Esther also said that the air in the canteen was hot and stifling, and that there are about 2000 students at the school, but the canteen holds only about 60 people.

So yesterday and today she was lucky enough to be able to eat at the canteen. But I secretly asked myself if I'd turn into one of those crazy mums that get up at 4 in the morning to prepare fabulous bentos for their kids.

I tried looking at various bento blogs with her. But she lost interest rather quickly.

These are the things she said she would like in her bento so far: Strawberries, cherries, edamame and rice.

Not quite a sufficient variety to create more than one bento out of that.

To be continued.

August 14, 2014

Prawns and a fountain

We came back from a vacation in Sri Lanka a few days ago.

Food was mostly buffet style, and as I've said before, I'm not very fond of posting pictures of food which I have got myself from a buffet.

And if the food wasn't buffet style, it didn't look so spectacular.

I have one photo of a dish Esther ordered on the way to Sri Lanka at Dubai Airport, though, which I found rather impressive, even if the prawns are not straight ;)

 Hmmm. It looked more impressive in reality ;)

For a certain reason I would like to post photos of one fountain in Zurich-Oerlikon as well.

The two figures (a man and a woman) are each holding a fish between their legs, the water spouting from the mouths of the fish.

July 03, 2014

Making iced tea

Today, it was rather warm outside. I decided to have another go at making iced tea.

Decades ago, I had got a leaflet from a tea shop in Germany (of which I was a regular customer) explaining how to best make iced tea.

1. Fill several long-drink glasses up to two-thirds with ice cubes.
2. Brew the tea. Use double the amount of tea leaves as you normally would for a given amount of water, but let infuse for only half of the time. (Add sugar to taste.)
3. Pour the hot tea on the ice cubes. The tea will be "flash-frozen" instantly, while part of the ice cubes dissolve.

I tried to make a larger amount at once. A while ago, I had bought this "refrigerator pitcher".

I filled it with a lot of ice cubes. The pitcher holds 2 liters, and I filled it approximately to the 1.5-liter mark. Then I brewed the tea. I filled a paper tea filter with 8 teaspoons of green tea.

This is sencha with extra flavor added. I used earl grey flavor (a small rest) and blood orange flavor.

After I had added water of 80 degrees Celsius, it looked like this:

I let it infuse for one and a half minutes, then poured it on the ice cubes.

Hm. Again, I was not so happy with the color. I tried it. I wasn't that happy with the taste, either.

Possible ways to improve it:

1. Less ice cubes.
2. Distribute the tea leaves evenly among two tea filters, so they have more room to expand in the hot water.
3. Use fresher tea. (The blood-orange flavored sencha was more than a year old, I think.)

To be continued.



Another attempt at the perfect curry nabe

Yesterday, Ben pinged me on chat while he was at work asking what I had planned for dinner.

As yesterday was another rainy and rather cold day, I had planned to make a nabe using stuff that we still had in stock. I asked Ben if he would prefer tomato nabe or curry nabe, and he chose curry.

Overview of the ingredients:

Ben had pinged me around 6, and he was due home around 9. So I had enough time to soak some dried mushrooms. The bowl in the center contains about 20 g of dried cloud ear mushrooms, soaked in lukewarm water and cut into bite-size pieces. The bowl on the bottom right contains 4 dried shiitake, also reconstituted in the same water and cut into slivers.

I also decided to use the leftover konnyaku (in the bowl at the back). I wasn't quite sure if its fishy taste was compatible with curry, but then I thought: "The Thai make excellent fish curries. Why not give it a try?"

I had strained the liquid from soaking the mushrooms through a paper coffee filter into this measuring cup.

(Sorry for the blurry photo.) It had a really strong mushroom smell :) As you can see, it is almost three quarters of one liter. For use as stock for the curry nabe, I filled it up to one liter and added about half a tube of this instant kombu dashi:

To be honest, I am not so happy with this brand of kombu dashi. When I dissolve it in (usually boiling) water, it first turns into myriads of little gelatinous, light green squares. I have to stir really hard until they disappear. I'm also not quite so happy with its taste. But it is good enough for many purposes. 

I added two curry roux blocks to that and two tablespoons of this soy sauce:

(I have mentioned "light-colored soy sauce" a few times in this blog and translated that to "usukuchi shoyu". The stuff in the picture above was what I had used. I guess it's not really fair. This soy sauce is light-colored, yes, but it also doesn't taste very intense. Several cookbook authors tell me that real usukuchi shoyu tends to taste more salty than regular soy sauce, due to differences in the fermentation process. Yumi Hana carries real usukuchi shoyu. As soon as this bottle is finished, I want to try it.)

After I had taken this photo, I decided that the bag of Yude Udon would still fit in.

My first bowl:

On the whole, I was quite happy with this curry nabe. But I guess I don't want to use dried mushrooms every time. I also should have put in the shiitake right from the start, with the carrots, the cabbage cores and the konnyaku. They were still a bit tough when we had them.

So there is still space for improvement :)


June 29, 2014

A post-mortem on yesterday's oden

The weather report for this weekend spoke of rain and low temperatures. So I had decided to make oden for dinner on Saturday.

Unfortunately, yesterday I was in a bad mood for food-unrelated reasons. So contrary to what I had planned, I did not take photos of making the oden. While having dinner, though, my mood cleared up and I regretted not having taken photos. So today, I decided to write quite a lengthy post-mortem of yesterday's oden.

Yesterday's oden contained:

Carrot chunks
Daikon half-moons
Store-bought ganmodoki (I had finally found them frozen at Nishi's Japan Shop)
Fuku-bukuro (filled pouches of abura age, tied shut with kampyou ribbons)

Funnily enough, I had met my Japanese teacher at Nishi's when I had bought the ganmodoki. When I told her that I had to make the oden without fish products because my husband is a vegetarian, she wondered: "Oden without fish? Is that even possible?" ;)

But now a word about the fuku-bukuro. We blanched four abura age sheets, patted them dry, cut them in half and pried them open. The filling was:

2 dried shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, rehydrated and cut into thin slivers
100 g enoki, trimmed and cut into 2.5 cm lengths
half a cup (125 ml) of shirataki noodles, blanched and cut into 2.5 cm lengths

I still have the other half of the pack of shirataki noodles left. This time, I used this kind:

This is a product from Thailand. What I like about these shirataki noodles is that they come gathered in bundles which are tied with a knot. This makes it easy to lay them out lengthwise for cutting after having blanched them. I simply had to untie the knot.

And this time, we didn't try to make decorative konnyaku braids, but we simply cut the loaf in half horizontally, made shallow cuts diagonally on back and front, and then cut the slab into smaller rectangles. I liked the result much better than the braids - the last time we made braids, they were much too thick. This time, the konnyaku was less chewy and had acquired more flavor from the simmering liquid.

This is the konnyaku we used (the remaining half of the loaf):

 I thought I should have hard-boiled some eggs as well, but Ben remarked that it was way too much stuff to put into the donabe already.

My cookbook had said to tender-prep the potatoes before peeling them and putting them in, but as they were going to simmer for quite a while, we peeled them beforehand and cut them in half. While we were having them, Ben asked if the Japanese cuisine really makes use of potatoes. I told him: "Yes, of course, but as far as I know, Japanese potatoes contain less starch than European ones and thus are eaten not so much as a stomach filler (like rice or noodles), like we do in Europe, but rather as a vegetable."

But the stars of yesterday's oden were these (at least in my view):

This time, I had not made mugi miso dengaku sauce. I had my oden with the Korean mustard I have mentioned in an older post, and the yuzu kosho and the kanzuri in the picture above.
My Japanese friend had brought those from Japan for me :) She had never heard of kanzuri, though, before I asked her if she could get that for me. I told her that it was a specialty of Niigata, and she said that her brother lives in Niigata. Possibly she got it on paying a visit to her brother.

I was surprised how mild the kanzuri was. Yet I found it very tasty :)
And the yuzu kosho is really hot and I liked the citrusy taste of it :)

Yum - I like oden :)