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Godoufu with irigoma sauce and shouga no nerimiso

jason

Godoufu with irigoma sauce and ginger-miso sauce

Godoufu, the soymilk-based mochi-like "tofu" from Saga prefecture, has been featured here before, shortly after I reminisced about my first time tasting it when I was ceramics-hunting in Arita many years ago.

This weekend I got the urge to make it again. It's a bit time-consuming to prepare, so I don't really make it all that often, but I made it twice this weekend. Yesterday I went to a potluck, where my quadruple batch was consumed or otherwise claimed by others. I decided I wanted a bit more for myself today, and I really had more than enough soy milk this time... I made a huge batch of soymilk on Saturday morning.

The basics are simple, but a bit time-consuming. Start with a truly rich unsweetened soymilk. Milk substitute monstrosities such as the popular Silk brand are completely unsuitable, and even most unsweetened soy milks sold at health food stores will not have enough protein or flavor. If you have a local Asian soymilk producer, they probably sell the thicker type of soymilk that will be suitable for the task. Otherwise, you can certainly make your own... That's what I did this weekend, and it's why I ended up with about 9 liters of thick soymilk and a frightening amount of okara.

Godoufu

  • 5 cups thick Asian-style unsweetened soymilk (roughly 1200 ml)
  • 2 tablespoons kuzu-ko or arrowroot starch (about 55 grams)
  • 1/2 cup plus one tablespoon katakuriko, similar to potato starch, about 120 grams

Kuzu-ko tends to be clumpy, so it's best to use a spice grinder, a mortar and pestle, or even the back of a spoon to crush the kuzuko into a fine powder. For best results, whisk the cold soymilk with the starches until the solids are completely dissolved; otherwise, small translucent balls similar to gravy lumps tend to form during cooking.

Bring the solution to a boil, then immediately take off the heat and start stirring furiously with a sturdy spoon. Reduce heat to medium-low, and keep stirring like mad, making sure nothing sticks to the pan. Keep this up for about 30 minutes.

In many pans it's a bit tricky to keep things from sticking and browning at the bottom, but regularly pulling the pan off heat can help regulate the bottom of the temperature. In a pinch, if the bottom of the pan starts to brown, I've been known to pour out the mixture into another pan and continue the process; it's really hard to rescue the godoufu if things start sticking, so I do my best to prevent disaster.

Turn out the mixture into an airtight storage container. Some Japanese sites recommend placing a layer of clingfilm wrap on the surface of the godoufu to prevent a skin from forming.

Next, if at all possible, put the sealed container in an ice water bath for about 5 minutes. Refrigerate a few hours until set. (In a pinch, you can eat after about an hour, but it will hold its shape better if it's refrigerated longer).

In my experience, godoufu keeps reasonably well for about a week, but it must be kept in an absolutely airtight container.

 

Two typical sauces often used to top the godoufu include:

Irigoma sauce (Black sesame sauce)

  • 3 tbsp. ground black sesame seeds
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce

Bring ingredients to a boil. Simmer for a minute or so. Allow to cool.

Shouga no nerimiso (Ginger miso sauce)

  • 2 tbsp. miso (akamiso or shiromiso)
  • 2 tbsp. mirin
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

On medium heat, bring ingredients to a simmer, stirring regularly. Cook for about 5 minutes after the mixture comes to a boil, until it thickens.

This one is nice with a little finely chopped scallion.

 

Last night I also tried the godoufu with kinako and kuromitsu, which was very similar to a sweet called "tounyuu no warabi-mochi" the Hiromi and I ate in Kyoto a couple years ago. It should also be nice in zenzai (sweet red bean soup) in place of shiratama or mochi.

Listen to your produce guys

jason

This time of year, I usually completely ignore canteloupe (aka muskmelon). The taste rarely seems worthwhile in the winter.

If you should have the good fortune to have a competent greengrocer near you, though, it's possible to discover small produce surprises when you least expect them.

When one of the Sosio's folks told me that they had great canteloupe right now, I looked a bit askance at him. It just seemed too unlikely. He challenged my skepticism with a little taste from a fruit he hat already cut into, and I turned into an easy sale.

Canteloupe, whole Muskmelon, sliced

These melons are surprisingly sweet and flavorful. While they don't reach the insane greatness of the summer Tuscan melons I go out of my way for when the season hits, they're way more than I ever expect this time of year.

This isn't to say that it's a good idea to go out to the supermarket and buy any random melon you might see right now... Chances are it'll be rock-hard and flavorless.

No, the message is simpler: get to know the produce people where you live. The good ones will rarely steer you wrong. They may help you find some hidden gems.  They'll probably know a bit more about what's good than you will.

In the summertime, when so many things are plentiful and good, I've been known to walk in to Sosio's or a similar market and ask them what I want right now. They know what is at its peak.

I've said roughly the same thing before when I talked about late summer tomatoes, but it's good to remember that, even in the winter, you can benefit from the intimacy a good vegetable and fruit shop will have with what they sell.

Farro with purple carrots, hoja santa cheese

jason

Simplicity is magical.

Farro is a robust grain... flavorful and filling, the grains gently explode in your mouth when you bite down on them.

It doesn't take much to make farro appealing... I only needed to spend a few minutes preparing and finishing the dish, but it's somehow very comforting and pleasing in spite of very little effort.

I use the rice cooker to prepare it, but after it's done, I like to bring a bit of cream to a simmer in a saucepan and mix in the farro, season with a bit of salt, and let the cream coat the grains of farro, adding a bit of richness. On previous occasions, I've added diced celery, onions and carrots to the rice cooker, but today I left all that out and found the farro equally compelling.

On the plate, I've added halved purple carrots with shallots, and a little bit of hoja santa cheese, a soft goat cheese wrapped in a sassafras leaf. This cheese is velvety and herbal and slightly tart, and just a little is enough to add a pleasant contrast to the nutty farro. It's nice with a little soup and some greens.

Feeling a little Mediterranean

jason

I go through these mini-phases. Two weeks eating nothing but Japanese food. A pasta-heavy month. A week full of salsa and guacamole. A lot of tofu in a little time. A series of soups.

Sometimes it's just a matter of what I've been shopping for, and what's in the refrigerator at any given moment. Sometimes, though, I get the feeling that my body is telling me that it wants something. Maybe that's what's been going on this week.

Actually, I remember that I was craving falafel last weekend. It didn't work out; the place I went to was closed, and I ate something entirely different. But when I was going home hungry late Thursday night, I got an urge for hummus. So I grabbed some preservative-free ready-to-eat hummus, pita, and a cucumber at the Wallingford QFC, and went home and ate a light late-night meal.

Friday night, when talking about dinner with a colleague of mine, I suggested a couple of restaurant choices, one of which was Vios Cafe, probably Seattle's best Greek restaurant. I brought another friend along, too. So I had two nights in a row of pita... but wait, there was more! I still had to use up my hummus and pita from the supermarket, so Saturday's lunch was familiar.

You'd think that'd be enough, but with two more pita to go, I realized today that the hummus wouldn't be the end of things.

After having a semi-Cajun lunch at the Pike Place Market, and indulging on little donuts not long after, I thought it would be nice to have a simple dinner tonight. I went to the gym to work off some of the damage, and bought some big marinated gigandes beans and grilled marinated artichokes to take home.

I roasted a red pepper, made a little cucumber salad, and brought out some pickled peperoncini from the refrigerator. Even though the pita are store-bought, I used the restaurant trick of refreshing the bread by grilling the pita a bit, which made them soft and fluffy again. Then I brushed the pita with really good olive oil, which just makes them indulgent.

I still have some of the gigandes and the grilled artichokes, but now that I've finished up the pita, I think I've satisfied any lingering cravings for flatbread. Maybe tomorrow I'll make a little farro.

Oh, a pronounceable domain name

jason

After trying painfully to spell out my domain name to someone who was interviewing me last night at a fun geek-friendly event called Ignite Seattle, I realized repeating the spelling of blog.jagaimo.com to everyone I meet could become painful.

Personally, I like the name Jagaimo, and anyone who knows even a little Japanese has little problem recalling or spelling the name, but it certainly doesn't "roll off the tongue" for most English-speakers. So I finally caved in and registered PursuingMyPassions.com, which should require far less explanation. Ironically, it's a longer name, but it's certainly quicker to communicate... at least to the average English speaker.

Sometimes I wish I had a last name that people tend to spell correctly... Alas, I'm not so blessed, so this is a good alternative.

I'm inclined to continue to use blog.jagaimo.com and just forward all requests for PursuingMyPassions.com here, but I'm toying with the idea of going the opposite direction and sending everyone to the new domain name.

I'm certainly no marketing genius. What do you think  should do?

Molten chocolate cake and seville-orange mascarpone sorbet

jason

Molten chocolate cake and seville-orange mascarpone sorbet

When I received an order for some fresh California-grown yuzu a few weeks ago, I had this grand ambition of making a yuzu mascarpone sorbet, much like one I tasted in Osaka a couple years ago. It turns out that I immediately sold almost all of the yuzu to some local restaurants and a supermarket, and I really only had two or three usable yuzu for myself. The big California freeze happened and I had little prayer of getting any more yuzu, so my carefuly laid plans never quite had a chance to materialize... I made nabe instead, and froze some of the peel for later use.

Well, it turns out that Seville oranges are in season, too, and readily available in Seattle. So I juiced about four oranges and chopped the peel finely, cooking the peel in a syrup of sugar and honey for a couple of hours until the peel had broken down a bit. I occasionally added more water to keep the mass from becoming candy. When the orange peel was soft, I let the "marmelade" cool down to room temperature, and added some mascarpone and the juice I had previously set aside.

Tonight I took it a step further and made a little chocolate cake, full of molten chocolate goodness. I actually used honey instead of sugar, and not much of that, so it's a really intense chocolate flavor. It's made with a combination of grated dark chocolate and cocoa powder. Even though I only made a small cake, I could only manage to eat half tonight, but it was the perfect thing to go along with the Seville orange sorbet.

Seville orange-enhanced martini

jason

I promise: This is not one of those fruity, syrupy drinks masquerading as a martini. No, it's not traditional, but it's also only the slightest departure from the standard martini.

Seville oranges, also known as bitter oranges, don't seem to be tremendously juicy... at least not this time of year. I know the flavor well, but this is the first time to play with the fresh fruit. In Japan I've also encountered daidai, which are somewhat similar, but I remember them as smaller.

I'm quite happy with an old-school martini, which to me means gin AND vermouth. I don't understand the "dry vodka martini" cult, because it seems to me just to be an excuse to put straight vodka in a pretty glass.

Shaken or stirred? I'm not religious about that... I usually shake, which tends to make for a somewhat cloudy martini thanks to all of those ice crystals, but it still tastes nice.

The drink is 2 scant shots Quintessential Gin (complex but not very intense; a little drier than the average dry gin), 1 half shot Cinzano vermouth, and whatever juice I could extract out of one seville orange. I used a dash of Peychaud's bitters. I did a channel-cut from the skin of that nice seville orange for the garnish.

Because this type of orange is not sweet, the overall flavor highlights the gin itself, but the citrus flavor adds a nice accent, and brings out some of the hidden aromatics.

Savory chickpea and kale pie

jason

Savory chickpea and kale pie

I keep craving savory pies. This never seems to translate into me making a savory pie. I never go out for savory pies, except the occasional piroshky in the Pike Place Market.

Somehow, I finally overcame inertia and made this nice, if somewhat flawed pie, and on a weeknight to boot.

The pies would have benefited from Hiromi's superior crust-making skills, but I managed to throw together a passable short crust in about an hour. The filling consists of some canned tomatoes, chickpeas, and some salt-rubbed kale, along with garlic, and some onions sauteed in garam masala, mustard seeds, and turmeric. I think some chilies went in there but it's not incredibly spicy; it's just a nice moderately complex flavor.

I also added a bit of mozzarella to the pies before folding them. That's a great cheese for this purpose, because it adds a lot of texture, doesn't compete with the flavor too much, and doesn't overload the pies with so much fat that the butter and cheese combination becomes overwhelming.

It's rather difficult to resist the temptation to overstuff these. However, it's a bad idea to put too much filling in there, because it becomes rather hard to seal the pies, and then all sorts of leaks want to happen. Yeah, I fought the leaks, and sometimes the leaks won.

I served a couple of small pies with a little broccolini sauteed with garlic, tossed with parmesan and crushed red pepper flakes, topped with a fried egg. But let's just say I was too hungry to stop for a picture...