Listing posts

Creamed spinach with bread, and weekend muffins

jason

Another weeknight meal last week took advantage of some onion-studded rye bread from Essential Bakery. I thought I had a bit more spinach handy, but I guess we used a fair amount of what we had started with at breakfast… anyway, I made a cream-enriched bechamel sauce with some garlic and added some spinach and parmesan. Normally, I’d be inclined to use onions for this dish, but I didn’t realize we were out until I had already set my mind on this dish.

Creamed spinach

Yesterday morning, before we headed off to my office to grab some things for my aborted Chinese New Year demo, I made some chocolate muffins embedded with a bit of raspberry jam.

Chocolate raspberry muffin

I guess they are reminiscent of thumbprint cookies, but they were softer and just lightly sweet.

Chocolate raspberry muffin detail

Tomatoes in January

jason

Not usually a good idea, you say… and yes, you’re correct. I don’t normally consume tomatoes in the winter, as they tend to be rather tough and flavorless. I’m not deluded into the idea that aroma-free “roma” tomatoes or the B.C. Hothouse winter collection is suitable for anything remotely tomato-like. I am a sucker for tomatoes in Seattle starting around August, but especially when our local tomatoes are fantastic in September and October, a huge percentage of my daily budget is sacrificed to the tomato gods.

Most of the winter, I avoid tomatoes entirely. But I occasionally dig in to some adequate canned tomatoes.

Earlier this week, one of our weeknight dinners was a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce, made with fresh basil, onions, garlic. I made it with a little bit of feta and some olives.

Spaghetti with tomatoes, feta, and olives

Feta olive spaghetti with tomato sauce

I don’t ever really stop thinking about food. One morning Hiromi and I were just finishing up breakfast and she asked me what we should do for dinner, and I reflected on my schedule for the day and immediately started making a simple yeast dough, suitable for either pizza or calzone. She picked up some vegetables and cheeses on her way home, including some asparagus, mozzarella and parmesan.

When I got home that night, I started sauteeing some onions, and soaked a few dried porcini in water; I used the soaking liquid and the porcini with a bit of wine to caramelize the onions. I rolled out my dough and layered in onions, asparagus, olives, basil, mozzarella, garlic, and parmesan. I used some decent canned tomatoes, but decided not to make a separate sauce because I figured in the 20–30 minutes in the oven, it would make its own… I usually make a sauce ahead of time, but actually the self-saucing approach worked out quite nicely.

Asparagus porcini calzone

Asparagus calzone

You can’t see the insides because we hungrily devoured the end result without cutting and posing the cross section, but you can see that, even with ventilation ducts, we had a minor eruption or two…

Utthapam, dosa, and Chinese New Year

jason

We were supposed to do a supermarket demo at the Bellevue Uwajimaya today, but they were a little bit more crowded with Chinese New Year demos than expected and we decided not to become a fire hazard. We did have a fairly substantial delivery for them, so it wasn’t a total loss, but a bit of a complication to our carefully laid, if a little haphazardly executed, plans…

Since we found ourselves firmly planted in the Eastside, we went to eat dosas and utthapam at the Crossroads (Bellevue) location of Udupi Palace, a fairly decent south Indian restaurant that’s actually an outpost of a successful suburban Bay Area group of restaurants.  I used to come here fairly often when I was a Microsoft employee, and to its predecessor called Golkonda.

Today, we ordered rasa vada (fermented lentil fritters in rasam, or spicy tomato soup) to start. We each had half of a pineapple utthapam (thick lentil pancake) with cilantro, and half of a dosa (thin lentil crepe) stuffed with an apparently Sri-lankan style shredded spiced coconut mixture.

Utthapam and dosa

These are served with coconut chutney and sambar… our lunch was full of fiber, and sustained us well past a normal dinner hour. Alas, we only had a cell phone handy to record our excessive consumption, so we ended up with a blurry photo.

My little cold, rice porridge, and Families with Children from China

jason

I came down with a bit of a cold this weekend, and Hiromi thoughtfully prepared some okayu, or rice porridge, for me. This is standard comfort food for anyone the slightest bit ill in Japan. We ate it with some pickles, some of which were Chinese, and some of which were Japanese.

Okayu

She was craving dengaku-nasu, so my responsibility was to broil the eggplant and prepare the neri-miso, or dengaku-miso, and carefully broil the dengaku-nasu once again with the miso topping just until it starts bubbling. Its very easy to turn dengaku-anything into a crunchy mess, and I’ve had a few disasters before, but this one worked out. I’m sure I’ve explained it elsewhere, but neri-miso is made with miso, sugar, mirin, and, optionally, some dashi-jiru (Japanese soup stock) in roughly equal proportions. The further west in Japan you go, the milder this will likely be, and the further north, the the saltier.

Dengakunasu-arita

On Sunday, in spite of my slight health complaints, we went to an event for Families with Children from China, where we showed off dragon beard candy, and some matcha chocolates. Hiromi offered samples and some product information, and I filled in details about the products and handled credit card transactions and so on. We had fairly good results, and I left a bit more than was officially requested for the space fee.

After the event, we got crepes and coffee for a late, light lunch at Cafe Javasti in Maple Leaf. When we got home, Hiromi wanted to watch the Seahawks game, so I served some “vegetable chips” and tea for both of us, and later brought her a beer and some Theraflu for myself. She thought it was kind of funny that I was bringing the food so that she could watch the game.

(Although I’m happy that the Seahawks won handily on Sunday and I did pay some attention, I’ve never been a huge afficianado of spectator sports and she was far more excited about the game than me…)

Not enough time, some kind of dinner, blood orange and gin

jason

Monday night we had the dubious pleasure of completing my office shelving work… I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s actually organized, but it looks much less chaotic than it previously did. I’d actually be able to make good use of another shelf, but the next step is moving the remaining bits from my upstairs office to my storage facility. I have two spaces at ActiveSpace near the zoo, one of which is small and has a window, and the other of which is large, features high ceilings, but doesn’t get much natural light save for a partial skylight.

I’m planning to consolidate the two spaces into one, now that I really don’t see the office enough during daylight hours for a window to matter much, and don’t need quite the same amount of space as I once did.

We actually didn’t feel much like cooking after a long Monday… it was a day off from my contract project, but I never get a day off from my business. But we made something that was quite pleasant… we were hungry enough that we didn’t photograph it, though. It was tounyuu nabe, or soymilk hot pot, which I think I last had in Japan last spring, but Hiromi made it last Christmas when she visited. Basically, it’s thick, unsweetened soymilk, simmered with a bit of dried konbu, seasoned with miso and maybe a bit of salt. We used a combination of yuzu-miso (expensive, but adds a nice yuzu flavor) and komekoshi-miso. To the pot we added good, fresh tofu, some takenoko, and enoki.

Tounyuu nabe is simple food, but it is kind of special for Hiromi and me, because we ate a variation of it called toufu-dzukushi the first time we had dinner together at a fancy toufu restaurant in Kawasaki.

The last two nights, dinner was completely unremarkable, but tonight I made some yu tsai (a leafy green somewhat like nanohana) with atsuage, onions, and vegetarian “oyster sauce.” Hiromi made takenoko gohan, rice with bamboo shoots. We also had miso soup, but our itamemono wasn’t very Japanese.

Yutsai and atsuageTakenoko-gohan

After dinner I asked Hiromi if she wanted a drink, and she asked me to do something with the Moro blood oranges we got yesterday. I squeezed about four or five of them and blended the juice with a couple of shots of gin, a dash of bitters and a hint of vermouth, then shook everything up in a cocktail shaker with ice. After splitting the results into two glasses, I added an ounce or so of tonic water to each glass for a bit of effervescence.

Bloodorangeandgin

The result was quite refreshing. I’m not much an expert on mixed drinks, but I’m starting to have a bit of fun constructing them, and most of my recent endeavors have been quite passable.

Too much information

jason

Lucas of Cooking In Japan tagged me with the “Too Much Information” meme, for which I am invited (commanded?) to present 10 revealing/odd/interesting/random facts about me. I can’t promise much, but since I haven’t revealed terribly much about my pre-blogging existence here, I thought I’d reach into the past…

  1. Before I could even properly speak English, I had a Japanese babysitter, and I learned to speak enough Japanese that my mother nearly worried I might have a learning disability, until the babysitter started translating for me in my mother’s presence. I promptly forgot all of this after growing a bit older, and it hasn’t apparently helped me move beyond my limited Japanese.
  2. I quietly claimed, studied, and, due to frequent commutes in a backpack to school, damaged the paperback binding of my stepfather’s German Made Simple textbook about 3 years before I could elect to take German in high school, first learning to mispronounce German words around age 11.
  3. After planning an exchange program to Germany, I switched my major from Literature to East Asian Studies, putting myself in the odd position of trying to learn Japanese in Germany.
  4. Before I was allowed to cook unsupervised on the stovetop, I was fascinated by cooking with the microwave, and made various melted marshmallow concoctions.
  5. The first baking recipes I learned, other than those taught to me by my mother or other family members, were taken from the back of a Bisquick box. (I haven’t touched a box of Bisquick since 1993).
  6. I remember more about my first meals with girlfriends, past and present, than I do about such details as, for example, when their birthdays might be.
  7. I once held a dinner party to which more than 35 people showed up. Everyone went home well-fed, though most of them had to sit on the floor. I was able to maintain some semblence of domestic civility: Most people ate off of ceramic dinnerware, rather than disposable.
  8. Back in my college days, I produced a television show, produced a radio talk show, created TV news graphics, and hosted several music shows on my college TV and radio stations, when I wasn’t busy with political rabble-rousing. Frequent typos and grammatical flubs in this blog notwithstanding, I even had a brief stint as assistant editor at a small Seattle weekly newspaper.
  9. I’ve never paid for a TV, and I still have the same cheap stereo I bought in college about 12 years ago.
  10. I started college with a clear idea of what kind of work I wanted to do after graduating, but I graduated without one.

The memetic process depends on reproduction, so part of the deal is that I’m supposed to tag 5 other bloggers to respond to the meme. It’s meant to take a life of its own, like the game “telephone” combined with a chain letter. I’ll ask Hiromi to spread the meme in Japanese. Perhaps Travis in Tokyo and nearby Amy of Blue Lotus can play. If she’s amenable, perhaps I can convince my almost-neighbor, Gluten-Free Shauna, whom I’ve never met in spite of the fact that we both know some of the same people, to participate. My former roommate, Kaori, may answer in English or Japanese.

Pre-Chinese New Year Demo and various harumaki

jason

We kept ourselves busy the last few weeks, even though last weekend, for example, was a more leisurely kind of busy. I haven't scheduled any product demos since just before the Christmas season. This was our first weekend back in the routine, and we took it relatively easy, with just a four hour Sunday demo in the cards.

Yesterday we handled a fair number of internet orders, and took care of some necessary evils related to either home or office. In the process, we encountered this little made-in-China, post-holiday-clearance pillow creature:

Omocha-ushi

He found a new home. This doesn’t happen often. Several years ago, after a missed opportunity and a subsequent couple of trips of half-serious searching, I bought a (huge) stuffed dog from The Dog Club on a trip to Japan, which went on to become a huge licensed product with a worldwide presence. In spite of me being ahead of the trend curve on this one, this odd fisheye-perspective dog, along with the collection of teddy bears primarily inherited from my great-grandmother, nevertheless continues to inspire snickers and innuendo from non-Asian visitors. “Momo”, the litte round cow pictured above, was, however, Hiromi’s pick. My masculinity in this case cannot be questioned, although I can’t say that’s ever been a terribly important consideration for me.

Subsequent to accomplishing this very important mission, at a hardware store in South Seattle,  we found some suitable shelving to help bring sanity to my office. I like the shelves that I got, so I’m likely to expand that set to complete this office sanity effort.

Alas, this pilgrimage to South Seattle did not go as planned. We tried to drop a couple of items at a post office on the way to some other errands. Not only were we foiled by some awful stadium traffic starting at the downtown exit of Highway 99; I also discovered that this particular post office offers no Saturday collection, which meant that my decision to shorten my path worked out to be both fruitless and inefficient.

Somehow we lost all motivation to prepare food after our mission to South Downtown, and the traffic distracted us from our original goal of obtaining some very fresh tofu from Thanh Son’s factory shop. So we made our way to Maekawa, which, if you order from the relevant three pages of the menu, serves izakaya-style food.

Although we’ve been eating a fair amount of Japanese food lately, it’s all been homemade. This was Hiromi’s first-ever meal in a Japanese restaurant in Seattle, and it’s probably one of very few places that I would take anybody who is actuavlly Japanese. This isn’t because it’s spectacular food; it’s decent, but not pushing any boundaries. The thing that I dislike about most Seattle Japanese restaurants is the distortion of portion sizes and the bizarrely non-Japanese combinations and seasoning approaches. But this place is so familiar and ordinary, that it wouldn’t be terribly shocking to find similar food in a little neighborhood spot in Japan. Except for the strange “teishoku” section on the menu, which is out of place on an izakaya menu, it’s all standard izakaya fare, with a few interesting house specials and so on.

It was, of course, Hiromi’s chance to eat some non-vegetarian Japanese dishes she hasn’t been able to indulge in when I’m cooking. She was simultaneously curious about the place and skeptical, but pleasantly surprised by the comfortable familiarity of it all.

Tonight, on the other hand, we had a bit more initiative. We had some soup and rice, but most importantly, we made a few different kinds of spring rolls.

Harumaki no moriawase

I make a few unconventional spring rolls, but tonight we went over-the-top and made about five or six variations. We put some away in the freezer for later indulgence, but we alternated between heavy and light flavors.

One was nattou, camembert, negi (actual Japanese-style leeks in this case) and shiso, and an alternate version with nattou, negi, takenoko (bamboo shoots), and nori. We also made a simple one with takenoko, carrots, and rice noodles, as well as a version with cabbage standing in for the takenoko. We also made one with camembert, walnuts, umeboshi, and shiso, which is the only one that required no dipping sauce. For the others, especially the nattou spring rolls, we used some Japanese mustard (karashi) mixed with Japanese soy sauce.

Harumaki detail

From fried to simmered: apple fritters and cabbage rolls

jason

Apple fritters

Apple fritters

Yesterday I made apple fritters with some Macintosh apples. I improvised the proportions of ingredients, so I didn’t quite get the balance of flour and liquid right, and they turned out a fair bit oilier than I had hoped. The oil temperature did drop a bit, but even when I controlled the temperature precisely I didn’t quite get it right.

Of course, it set the tone for the day… I had a similarly high-fat, though fairly modestly-portioned lunch, of macaroni with a blue cheese bechamel sauce. We had a quick and dirty dinner the night before, and our top priority was to use up a few ingredients, and so I made a fairly heavy sauce and the only pasta I had handy.

Knowing I’d have a day of heavy, fatty food ahead, Hiromi and I thought aloud that I should probably make something healthier for dinner. But it wasn’t in the cards… Hiromi had a flash of inspiration, and just asked me to obtain some fresh tofu on the way home.

Vegetarian stuffed cabbage rolls

Cabbage rolls

She used kanpyo (dried gourd*) to tie blanched cabbage leaves together and stuffed them with a mixture of very fresh tofu, mushrooms, carrots and onions. She made a Japanese-ish soup stock with dried kelp and porcini, then added some western touches with some celery seed and onions.

Jaga bataa with almonds

Jaga bata

I converted a baked potato into jaga-bataa, which is nothing fancier than cut potatoes with a bit of butter, salt and pepper. I added a touch of sour cream for the Eastern European vibe we had going on, and some almonds for aroma contrast.

* The original version of this post mistakenly referred to gobo/burdock rather than gourd. That should teach me that it's a bad idea to write at midnight... but it probably won't stop me.

Attempted nougat and matcha chocolates

jason

During the last week or so most of our home meals have been minor variations of things I’ve made recently, and on late nights, arriving home quite hungry, I haven’t felt much of an urge to photograph the “reruns.”

Tonight, though, I made a first attempt at a brown nougat, made without egg whites, flavored with a bit of kirsch and vanilla. I embedded some almonds in the nougat. My hands weren’t quite happy, because I worked the sugar while it was still hot enough to produce some blisters on my hands. The Silpat mat helped me rein in the sugar as it started cooling initially, but I wanted to incorporate some air into the candy.

The shiny stretched sugar mass

Stretching the brown nougat

Cutting the nougat into bite-sized bits

Ame: cutting

 I should have used a lower final temperature when I boiled the sugar mass. I got a fairly crunchy-chewy result; I really would have been happy if it were merely chewy.

Dusted with cornstarch

Ame nougat

I dusted the candy with cornstarch so that I can store it without the pieces sticking together. The end result isn’t bad, but I think I have to experiment a bit more before I develop much confidence in candy-making.

I finally got around to shooting some photos of Masa and Lisa’s Matcha White Chocolates, a product that evolved from a promotional concept I developed back in the late spring or early summer. After months of struggling with packaging options and some variations of recipes, they got the chocolates ready just about a week before Christmas, and we got it into the hands of a few customers before the holidays, but we will probably mostly be promoting the product leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Alas, I wasn’t quite happy with my own photographs tonight, so I’m continuing to borrow some of Masa’s and Lisa’s for my YuzuMura project.

Hiromi says that she can’t readily find matcha chocolates of this quality in Japan… most of the Japanese products I’ve seen so far use a fairly low grade of matcha and a blend of other ingredients to simulate the matcha… Masa and Lisa decided to use the same matcha they use to produce their matcha latte, so it’s a fairly nice result. I’ve gone with a somewhat more assertively matcha-y flavor profile in my own matcha white chocolate enrobed fortune cookies, so their chocolates have a slightly sweeter touch than my cookies, but I like them as a small indulgence, so the sweetness isn’t terribly overwhelming. The little foil packets help me with portion control…

Matcha White Chocolates

Matcha chocolates

Mini-vacation in Vancouver

jason

We had planned to make a day trip to Vancouver on Boxing Day, before I remembered something about a signature that most students need to get on their I-20 before departing the country… alas, I realized this just about an hour before we were hoping to take off, early in the morning, and of course Hiromi hadn’t quite formally enrolled in school yet, so it wasn’t even possible to get the signature had we planned for it.

Fortunately, we were able to make up for it this weekend. Instead of my usual supermarket demo routine, we drove up to Vancouver Saturday morning. Somehow we cleared the border in record time, and we walked the usual Robson stretch as Hiromi hunted for post-holiday discounted clothing. We also stopped at a tea shop that offers a lot of aromatized teas (I didn’t expect my kukicha to be fruity… that’ll teach me) and instant chocolate fondue with various fruits, marshmallows, and, well, gummy bears.

We also got some roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, whose shells we discarded at every trash bin on the way from Sears back to our hotel off Granville Street.

At night we tried to find something to bring along to a potluck party at the home of one of Hiromi’s friends near Gastown. We discovered, much to our dismay, that restaurants in Vancouver Chinatown are pretty much shuttered at night, so we abandoned our thoughts of bringing along some vegetarian jiaozi or other nibbles. Fortunately, I had a stash of matcha chocolates and matcha-white chocolate enrobed fortune cookies to contribute. We were able to eat our first semi-nutritious meal of the day at the party, as other guests brought more than the usual bread and chips… the party also had a spectacular view, facing the water, in a common room on the roof of an neat residential project in an industrial part of Gastown.

After a late night it took some work to extract ourselves from the hotel, motivated primarily by ever-increasing hunger pangs. We took a short hop from our hotel to the Granville Public Market, where we overindulged in pastries from La Baguette & L'Echalote, a samosa-like filled pastry from Laurelle’s, and some passable teas from Granville Island Tea, along with a nice aged Gouda from Dussa's.

Our pastry and cheese indulgenceGranville Island Public Market

We noticed a coffee shop offering employment only to people literate in Japanese.

Staff wanted

Actually we subsequently noticed two similar signs the same day at non-Japanese restaurants. Apparently Japanese-speaking staff are in demand in Vancouver.

We had dinner at one of the many Vancouver Greek restaurants… somehow Greek is neglected in Seattle, but we had a pleasant enough meal at Taki’s, along Davie, with another pair of friends Hiromi is connected to from her working holiday era.

Somehow, we sailed through the border control again on the way back home… the miserable weather and lack of significant holiday-like events must have reduced the line-up at the

Have you seen the owner of this license plate?

jason

This has not been a banner 12 months for me when it comes to cars.

This morning, around 10:30 am, I was driving southbound on 2nd Ave in downtown Seattle, on my way to pick up something from one of my vendors. Nobody was at the office yet when I came earlier in the morning, but I continued to another errand in West Seattle and made my way back.

I stopped at Cherry Street, and after the signal changed to green I crossed. The next several lights quickly followed in sequence, so, by the time I was fairly close to James (Google Map), the light had been in my favor for a while… Anyway, someone sped through the intersection going Westbound on James, and clipped the rear left fender and bumper on my car. I pulled off into a loading zone just before Yesler, and inspected the damage.

A witness who had been about to cross the street confirmed that the driver ran the red light, also saw the license plate (Washington State, 491–THC) from the other car fall off, and after checking to see I was ok, he picked it up and brought it to me. He identified the other driver as female, but I think he was running off to work and didn’t provide a lot of details. The other driver never stopped… not even to exchange information.

Hit and run

Another witness noticed the same driver speeding off past the scene. A few minutes later, someone else came down from his office and said he recorded the license plate number as the driver ran off. It matched, of course.

I didn’t notice a lot of details, except for a dark, probably compact car hitting my tail end.

I waited around for about 45 minutes after making a 911 call, but when I called back, they said nobody had been dispatched, but I was welcome to make the report from home. So tonight, just as dinner was ready to eat, a police officer came and took a statement… and, of course, the license plate.

Ironically, yesterday Hiromi and I made a pilgrimage to Tsubaki Shrine near Granite Falls, Washington to do Hatsumode, or the first shrine visit of the New Year. Among others, we got a new omamori to provide protection while driving. It’s hard to say whether it provided any protection, since I had an accident just about 20 hours later, but as far as I know, I’m not seriously injured, and the accident is clearly not the result of any error of my part, short of expecting other people to obey their signals… the only serious damage was to my car.

Omamori

Yesterday I wasn’t clever enough to remember my digital camera, but Hiromi snapped these photos from the outer part of Tsubaki shrine. Interestingly, I ran into two peope I know at the shrine, including a former employee of Central Market, and Thomas of ENMA. We observed O-Harae.

Tsubaki America shrine

Tsubaki small shrine

Tsubaki ema

Hiromi slaved over osechi

jason

I’m usually more involved in our nightly dinners, but I don’t deserve any credit for tonight’s New Year’s Day dinner. I put my best effort into photography and lighting, but I didn’t contribute much to preparation.

Hiromi wanted to make a vegetarian version of the classic osechi New Year’s meal, and I’m not nearly as competent in this area as I’ve only spent New Year’s Day in Japan once, and it was at the very early stage of my development of passable Japanese cooking skills. Traditionally, these dishes are made a day or two before New Year’s day, because nobody wants to cook on New Year’s day. It’s supposed to be a restful day, so people historically spent way more time than normal making foods a few days before the New Year, finishing on New Year’s Eve. Accordingly, vinegared dishes such as sunomono are common, and other dishes with a fairly high salt content, especially fish, make frequent appearances. Now, of course, both the common dishes and the pattern of preparation have changed, because so many fancy options for osechi meals can be purchased at department stores in Japan and even at local souzai-ya-san, a growing industry of neighborhood pay-by-weight side dish vending shops.

Actually most people in Japan wouldn’t go through as much trouble as Hiromi did. But the standard Uwajimaya osechi wouldn’t have been much fun for me as a vegetarian, and the quality would not be that impressive for her. So instead, she made a seriously labor-intensive meal.

This rolled konbu or konbumaki contains blanched green beans, carrots, and daikon. Usually it would have a bit of cured or salt-seasoned bits of fish, but we ate it with some pickles instead.

Kobumaki

This is one of the sunomono I make on a regular basis, though usually less elegantly presented than Hiromi did tonight. We don’t have fresh yuzu available, so we substituted Meyer lemon for the shell, which has a passable aroma and contributes the right overall shape. Hiromi splashed the daikon and carrot with a bit of yuzu juice to give it the desired aroma. My one significant contribution was running the daikon and carrots through the mandoline…

Kouhaku namasu

Hiromi prepared koyadoufu (freeze-dried tofu), carrot, shiitake and mizuna for this year’s ozouni, and I nearly set my Silpat mat on fire trying to toast them with the oven’s broiler set to “low” toasting the frozen mochi. In substitution for the usual katsuo-based broth, a dried konbu and dried porcini based dashi contributed a nice body. I stumbled upon the porcini alternative to dried fish a few years ago, and now Hiromi swears by it for any dish where the soup stock needs to have the kind of fullness usually provided by katsuobushi or niboshi.

Ozouni

My only experience with tamago-yaki tends to be the saltier types served at izakaya as a drink accompaniment, or that made by sushi chefs, but this version, a classic New Year’s dish called datemaki tamago, is substantially sweeter. Datemaki tamago is typically made with a fish cake called hanpen, Hiromi substituted rehydrated koyadoufu. I provided the token contribution of beating the rehydrated koyadoufu into submission, chopping it into extra tiny bits. Hiromi sweetened beaten eggs and incorporate the koyadoufu, and made a thick omelet in a tamagoyaki pan, rolled up using the same kind of mat that can be used for sushi.

Datemakitamago

The egg was plated together with this dried-persimmon based side dish. The custard-like filling is made with steamed yamaimo (mountain yam), a starchy tuber, which Hiromi combined with egg yolks while the yamaimo was still hot, and a fair amount of sugar. The dried Hachiya persimmons were stuffed with this custard, and eventually sliced. Hiromi says this is essentially a Kyoto-style osechi dish.

Yamaimo-custard in dried persimmon

Hiromi blanched renkon (lotus root) for a few minutes, just enough to retain a nice crispness, and added vinegar, sugar, a bit of salt and some shredded Korean chilies to make another kind of sunomono.

Renkon no sunomono

I’m not usually terribly fussy about how my vegetables are cut, even for Japanese food; I use mostly rustic style rolling cuts for carrots. But osechi is as special occasion, so Hiromi slaved away cutting and faceting red and orange carrots for this nimono, or simmered vegetable dish. Our shape cutters, even the smallest ones, are too big for the scrawny American carrots typical in U.S. supermarkets. The nimono also features takenoko (bamboo shoots), renkon, satoimo, gobo (burdock) and shiitake.

Osechinonimono

Hiromi opted not to buy off-the-shelf kuromame, or sweetened boiled black beans, as most Japanese would do. For some reason, they didn’t quite stay black, but they tasted nice. She boiled them with yakimyouban (alum) and salt, then later added a serious dose of sugar. They would typically be boiled in a cast-iron pot, but my cast-iron pan doesn’t have a cover, so it was cast aside. It’s possible that the iron in the pot would make the beans shinier and blacker… we’ll try again next year.

Arguably kuromame

A couple of months ago I made my second or third attempt at making kurikinton, sweet potato paste with chestnuts. It might have been a bit early in the season, because they had a slightly whiter color than Hiromi’s. These are thankfully less sweet than most of the commercial kuri-kinton available in Japan, so they make a nice side dish even among savory things.

Kurikintonosechi

Hiromi spent more than a day on this elaborate meal… Here was the reward:

Hiromi no osechi

After all that work, I suspect I’ll be doing most of the cooking for the rest of the week…

A couple of vaguely Korean meals

jason

This week we had another nabemono craving, this time a reprise of my last kimchi soon dubu jjigae, with a couple of tweaks. I made it with some shirataki, or konnyaku jelly noodles.

Kimchi dubu jjigae v2

The next day we made a bibimbap, but in a clay pot, rather than stone. I don’t have a dol sot (stone bowl) handy, but I have a huge clay pot that works atop a gas burner… you’ll recognize it from most of my nabemono. As an alternative, it works reasonably well, but the “okoge” (crusted rice) is harder to extract because we fear breaking the pot. We were abe to cook the rice reasonably well, though this time, I think we had a touch too much water in the rice.

We made the bibimbap with some dotori muk, which I had previously used as a side dish dressed with sesame oil and soy sauce.

Big bibimbap in a clay pot

Bibimbap big detail

This was all fairly easy to prepare, but a fair amount of chopping and shredding was involved in our bibimbap…

Tonight, we had Hiromi’s carefully crafted osechi meal, which I can’t take any credit for, except for the photography, and a last minute run for some missing ingredients… I’ll post it shortly.