Posts tagged ‘recipe’

October 3rd, 2011

Caprese Pasta

As a Japanese person growing up in humid Tokyo, I love nothing more than cold noodles on a hot day.  Although officially, the calendar says ‘fall’, in sunny Los Angeles, it seems like the weather forgot it’s October, as temperatures still soar into the upper 80s.  With a forecast like that, is it surprising that my dinner menu still revolves around either salad or cold noodles?  Well, maybe not for me, having grown up with cold Japanese pasta dishes, but for my husband, ‘cold’ and ‘noodles’ are two words that he’d prefer not to have listed together in a description of his dinner.  Even though most Americans have embraced pasta salad, my husband is still a holdout. But I was feeling a bit adventurous and I sensed that he was tired of another salad dinner, so I got creative.  I knew he wouldn’t eat Japanese soba or udon cold, but knowing that he loves caprese salad, I casually suggested a pasta dinner without mentioning anything about temperature.  Sneaky, right?

When we visited Tokyo in July, the temperature was 100 and the humidity hovered around 95%.  Not in the mood for something hot, I ordered a cold capellini pomodoro dish at an Italian restaurant.  Between the delicious flavor and the small Japanese portion, I was convinced that I could eat ten servings of this masterpiece.  Was my enthusiasm shared by my husband?  Well, yes, if ‘meh’ is considered an expression of high praise. I knew he didn’t like Japanese-y cold soba broth (I’m suspecting the fish taste of the broth was enhanced when cold), but why not delicious tomato sauce with perfectly cooked, al dente capellini!?  I was puzzled.  With that memory in mind, you are probably wondering  why I’d risk dinner on the chances that he’d enjoy a cold pasta dish?  Call me a gambler, but I was hoping his fondness for caprese would outweigh his dislike of cold noodles.

Did my gamble pay off?  Let’s just say if this were poker, I hit the royal flush.  He loved it!  Maybe now I won’t mind the high temps of fall in Los Angeles knowing we have a delicious dinner option.  And now, so do you…

Here’s how to make the caprese sauce:

Ingredients:

  • Heirloom tomatoes (cut into small bite sizes)
  • Fresh basil leaves (chopped)
  • White onion (small dices)
  • Garlic (minced)
  • really good olive oil
  • really good salt
  • freshly grinded black pepper
  • White balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  1. Mix everything but cheese in a bowl.  The ratio of tomato to basil to onion to cheese that you’re looking for is roughly: 5:1:2:3, while the ratio of olive oil to garlic to acid is 10:3:1
  2. Keep in the fridge about 20 minutes
  3. Add mozzarella a few minutes before mixing with pasta; adjust flavor with salt and pepper
July 27th, 2011

Egg salad

The egg salad sandwich was my favorite lunch to take on a field trip when I was an elementary school student in Japan.  My mother had a special technique for creating this amazing meal.  She’d cut the crust off and freeze it the night before.  Why?  Because a kid walking around with mayo based food all morning would most likely result in a bad tummy all afternoon.  But a frozen egg salad sandwich in the morning, thaws out quite nicely by lunchtime.Egg salad sounds like a typical all-American food, but is it really? I’ve seen oeufs mayonaise, a simple appetizer of boiled egg with mayonnaise at many restaurants in Paris.  Also, considering that mayo was introduced to America by the French, it’s probably really a French dish…  By definition, my husband should love egg salad.  He loves eggs, sandwiches, and even Paris, (France, not Hilton) yet for some reason, the combination doesn’t work for him. His explanation?  “I like my eggs with runny yolks so I can scoop them up with bread.”  When I counter with, “But you like omelettes,” he brings cholesterol into the argument, stating, “If I’m already eating eggs, why should I make them even worse by adding mayonnaise?”  This leads us to the mayo discussion. If you ask him to elaborate on it, he’ll tell you it just tastes fatty and disgusting and that the only mayonnaise he’s ever enjoyed, came on the Burger King breaded chicken sandwich.  For all these reasons, he doesn’t want tuna salad, pasta salad or potato salad.  To me, it just sounds like a bunch of excuses, but having lived around his peculiar eating habits for a few years now, I guess it’s starting to make sense.  Besides, I enjoyed that Burger King chicken sandwich too.

My husband’s philosophy on mayonnaise suddenly changed when I introduced him to the Japanese mayonnaise, Kewpie.  Kewpie is to the Japanese household what Heinz ketchup is to the American household. It has a slightly sweeter and lighter taste than it’s American counterpart, and it comes in a plastic tube with a tiny opening so you won’t overuse it.  With a cute kewpie doll logo on the label, it’s aesthetically pleasing too.  Is it hard to find in the U.S.?  Much like anything else, these days, you can buy it through Amazon with a marked up price, or, if you’re more adventurous, you can go explore your local Asian grocer.  If there’s none in your area, I suggest venturing into that foreign food aisle at your local supermarket you usually skip, where they hide the the Asian food and kosher stuff.  Take it from me, once you try Kewpie on a BLT, you’ll wonder what the ‘miracle’ was in that ‘whip’ you used to eat.

Did the addition of Kewpie convert my husband into an egg salad eater?  Unfortunately, no.  If it’s offered, he’ll still say, what’s the point? To him, his love of the runny yolk is the whole reason to eat anything with eggs.  To illustrate the point, he’ll throw a perfectly good egg away if he breaks the yolk when preparing it over-easy.  To him, it’s like decaffeinated coffee or non-alcoholic beer.  Why ingest something that lacks the key ingredient that you enjoy?  Luckily, that same argument doesn’t hold true for tuna salad, which he now likes.  As for me, sometimes I miss those old days of field trips and delicious sandwiches, so every so often, I’ll make my own egg salad with chopped cucumbers, parsley, a bit of Kewpie and tiny bit of sea salt.  It’s great as a sandwich or with green salad.  But if you are feeling a bit adventurous, try it on warm rice with tiny bit of soy sauce and sriracha–It’s the poor man’s spicy tuna over rice…

PS: That delicious creamy taste you can’t quite identify at your favorite sushi joint–Kewpie!  Don’t tell them I told you.

PPS: I wonder if that Burger King chicken sandwich is as good as we remember?

July 13th, 2011

Lina’s green sauce

My mother-in-law, Lina, makes the best salsa verde!  It is so good in fact, it was  one of the main reasons I began to change my opinion on Mexican food.  Like I have mentioned before, Mexican food had always been at the bottom of my list of cravings, but once I married my husband, it became a necessity to find a way to bring it into my life; he grew up with it, and more importantly, he loves it.  Also, living in Los Angeles, home to one of the largest Mexican populations in America, why not expose myself to the culture?  Ongoing trial and error tastings have led me to a few fantastic foods.  Lina’s “green sauce”, as my husband calls it, is one of my favorite discoveries.I didn’t know anything about salsa or Mexican food before I came to America in the late 80’s.  This is how my (American) Mexican food knowledge progressed.  The first traditional Mexican ‘dish’ I was exposed to was tortilla chips; the building block of my newly discovered favorite snack, nachos.  These were not the good restaurant style nachos though, but rather their disgusting dorm cousin, made with microwaved cheese.  I remember being so excited to be a part of the nacho culture, that when I went home for the summer, I brought a jar of Tostitos salsa with me so that my Japanese friends could taste a part of what they were missing.  Their response, “Interesting…” Until about 5 years ago, I thought all salsa was red and came in a jar.  Now, thanks to my mother-in-law, my world has expanded, and I can make both red AND green salsa.

The main ingredients in Lina’s green sauce are tomatillos–lots of them.  I had never eaten a tomatillo, so when I first tried this sauce, it was a multi-sensory experience.  Visually, it is a beautiful green color, and the cilantro gives it a fresh from the garden aroma.  And the taste–Tomatillos retain their crunchness, so a little heat and garlic turns them almost into a spicy soup.  As a matter of fact, my first few times trying it, I ate a half bowl of pure sauce, like soup, with nothing in it, just trying to figure out what made it so good.  When Lina makes her sauce, it’s usually in a big batch, and we are always lucky enough to get one or two Tupperware containers full.  Even though it’s good with pretty much everything, my husband uses it almost exclusively on eggs; replacing his normal ketchup.  As for me, I still like eating it as a soup.  Lina giving me her recipe was a delicious way of welcoming me into the family!  Thanks Lina!

June 26th, 2011

Sick food

When you are sick, you want the most familiar foods.  Once, while ill, I asked a friend to bring me some soup, but I wasn’t specific on what kind I wanted.  As I’ve learned from living in America for the past twenty years, when you’re sick, Chicken noodle is the American go-to soup.  Every friend to the sick knows this.  So what did she bring?   She brought me a spicy Korean cup of noodles.   While I’m sure somewhere in a hospital in Seoul, they’re serving these up by the cart-full–in America, not so much.  I’m guessing she just assumed I would want something Asian, but as they say, never assume!

What does your ‘sick food’ say about yourself? My husband usually asks for toast, a bagel, or simply chicken noodle soup when he’s under the weather.  Makes sense as he has typical American tastes with a Jewish twist.  When I’m not feeling well, I want what my mom used to give me when I was sick, with one exception.  Which one of the following would you guess was a craving I developed after a few years in the U.S.? udon noodles, chawan-mushi (savory egg custard) or strawberry flavor Hagen Daz.  You guessed it.  See, my ‘sick food’ tells a story too.  I was born and raised in Japan, but got to experience the best America had to offer-a delicious ice cream with a fake Danish name.

Udon and chawan-mushi are not that easy to make (especially for my Asian flavor intolerable husband), so unless I have an instant udon noodle in the pantry (I recommend this brand), I too, will have to resort to chicken noodle soup when I get sick. After all, my father-in-law always refers to it as Jewish penicillin.  I’m not sure if this claim is true, but it still is delicious.

My recipe is quite simple.

Ingredients (about 4 servings):

1 Skinless chicken breast

5 celery stalks chopped

2 med sized carrots chopped

1 onion diced

egg noodles (as much/little as you want)

dried bayleaf, black peppercorn, chicken stock (I’m in love with this one)

salt and pepper to taste

optional: parsley or dill (dry or fresh)

1) poach chicken breast in chicken stock (room temp or below), bayleaf, black peppercorn, then start the heat.  once boiled, simmer for 5 min, turn off and keep chicken in the pot

2) once chicken is cool down, drain the soup, and discard bayleaf and peppercorn, but keep the soup.  cut or shred chicken by hands to bite size

3) in a soup pan, sweat onion, carrot, celery, then add chicken stock (5 cups or more, including one used for poaching)

4) when vegetable are almost cooked, add dry egg noodles and chicken

5) salt and pepper to taste, add minced herbs, if you’d like to

I like less soup; because it’s more like meal than soup.  It’s also easier to freeze this way.