Fall Snacks no. 1 Togarashi popcorn

Togarashi shichimi is a complex Japanese seasoning blend. It is complex with different peppers, ginger, sesame. I make my own blend and cut down on the salt, cayenne and use regular toasted black peppercorns. This seasoning can be bought at many Asian food stores. I have nori (seawood sheets) on hand because I love vegetable sushi and make my own. This is a different popcorn. With all the trendy flavors out there: salted caramel or chili flavored chocolate, this is an old favorite Japanese seasoning that has stood the test of time.

When you are serving visitors or family at your next sports viewing event, movie or game night, casusal party, try this popcorn. Or make your own kettle cooked potato chips and season with togarashi. Add it to sour cream for a different flavored dip for veggies or chips.

I like to make my miso grilled corn on the cob and add a very light sprinkle of this for a change.  This seasoning lends itself not only to this popcorn, but is a great flavoring for grilled seafood, chicken, or pork. Reduced fat margarine can be substituted for butter. If you need to reduce your sodium, leave out the salt.  Use this for anything you would use a standard seasoning salt on to flavor.

どうぞめしあがれ (douzo meshiagare) Bon Appetit! (this is said by the cook before the meal, to those eating it).

Togarashi Popcorn
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon shichimi togarashi seasoning***

Directions
Melt butter in small sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir one minute. Remove from heat and keep warm.   Heat kernels and oils in a large covered pot over medium-high heat. Cook until almost all popcorn has stopped popping. Transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle garlic butter over the popcorn and toss to coat. Sprinkle with togarashi seasoning and toss to mix again.

***Homemade Togarashi Seasoning
1 1/2 toasted, crumbled nori sheets
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
finely grated zest of 2 tangerines or lemons
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon toasted Sichuan peppercorns
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons toasted white or black poppy seeds
large pinch of cayenne pepper

Directions
Grind toasted, crumbled nori sheets in a spice mill or similar grinder. Add toasted sesame seeds, lemon or tangerine zest, kosher salt, toasted Sichuan peppercorns, ground ginger, toasted white or black poppy seeds, and cayenne pepper. Pulse to a uniform spice blend but not to a powder. Store air tight at room temp.

public domain images Togarashi seasoning

public domain images Togarashi seasoning

public domain images

public domain images

Thoroughly Yummy Thursday – two eggplant recipes

Two very different recipes for eggplant are offered for you.  It is high summer and things like squash, tomatoes, beans, eggplant are coming in fast and furious.

For the Japanese sautéed eggplant – 茄子 Nasu, you can use regular eggplant.  Japanese eggplant I think has a less acidic taste and it just the right size to slice into “coins” dust with seasoned flour and fry or for stir frying.  I was given this recipe from an engineer from Osaka. It is tasty and a bit exotic and takes simple eggplant to another level.  Good side dish with chicken or pork or on its own.

For the homey and spicy Creole Eggplant recipe, regular eggplant is used.  You can use the Japanese eggplant but it will be skinnier and baking times adjusted.  This recipe utilizes fresh summer tomatoes and is an excellent vegetarian meal.  Leave off the cheese for vegan.  When I was doing a stint in Nawlins as a chef, one of the kitchen workers invited us all to his aunt’s home for Sunday Supper.  This was one of the dishes served. This is not one of those highly seasoned, luxurious recipes. It is earthy, basic and excellent with a good French bread slathered with butter, a glass of Southern style sweet tea, and a slice of buttermilk pie. (HINT) I do not always cook in the eggplant shell but add foil to the baking dish so I can remove the casserole, allow to cool, and then wrapping well and freezing. While eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers are cheap; this is a good use of end of summer bounty.

Eggplant #1
茄子 Nasu
5 Japanese eggplants (long and thin cut shortwise into “coins” about ½ inch thick or: 1 medium
regular eggplant diced into similar size pieces.)
1 – 3   cloves minced garlic – to taste
1   quarter sized slice fresh ginger (I use a fresh ginger that is grated and sold in a tube
produce section – about ¾ tsp. This way I always have fresh ginger on hand)
¼ c.    soy sauce or low sodium soy sauce
2 tsp.  mirin, more if you want it sweeter
2 tsp. sake
1 tsp.  sesame oil

Combine Soy sauce, mirin, minced garlic and ginger in a bowl. Slice the eggplant thinly. Toss eggplant into hot pan with small amount of vegetable oil and add the sauce mixture. Saute’ at a medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add a little water if necessary to keep the eggplant moist if needed. Garnish with finely cut green onion and toasted sesame seeds. Serve with steamed rice or udon, or not!

eggplant - Japanese

Eggplant #2
Matant Livia’s Baked Eggplant
Eggplant – depends on size and how many you want to feed (One medium can serve 4 regular folk or two hungry ones)
The Creole Holy Trinity – onion, bell pepper, celery, chopped finely
Fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c. Grated parmesan cheese
Few dashes of Tobasco
1/2 tsp of fresh lemon juice
1 – 3 Chopped tomatoes Depending on size and taste preference. I use at least two. (fresh summer tomatoes are
always best for everything!)
1 – 3 tsp Worcestershire sauce (Lee and Perron’s as they say)
Cooking spray

OPTIONAL: Seasoned or unseasoned bread crumbs are good tossed with a bit of butter/margarine and the parmesan cheese, sprinkled on top for last 15 minutes to get all toasty

Take an eggplant, wash well and pierce skin with fork all over. Cut the eggplant in half and spray with cooking spray. Place both halves, cut side down on a cooking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and bake at 350 until tender. Amount of time varies with size of the eggplant.

Remove from oven and carefully scoop out cooked eggplant and coarsely mash. Add to this the Holy Trinity, parsley, peeled and chopped tomato(s), parmesan cheese, some shakes of Worcestershire sauce, Tobasco, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Let sit a few minutes and taste. Adjust seasonings to taste. Pile back into eggplant shells (or into a sprayed baking dish) and bake until warm and steamy. Add some grated parmesan cheese over top. NOT: Start with smaller amount of seasonings and add more to taste. Creole cooking frequently is “add this, some of that, splash of that.”  Use your taste buds.

creole eggplant

 

Japanese Miso Grilled Corn on the Cob 味噌バターコーン

grilled corn 2

It is no secret – I love Japan – food, culture, people…I have visited several times and have always been delighted  A couple of friends over there led to more friends and I was invited to all kinds of meals and occasions.  But in Japan, I have had one major disappointment – corn.  Yes, corn トウモロコシ(toumorokoshi).

One smells it cooking on the street – sweet, smoky, exotic seasonings.  One purchases an ear with nice bits of char and dripping with butter.  Then the first bite:  like a waxy, starchy, tough satire of itself.  It is not the fault of the cookers, it is the corn.  And the Japanese enjoy corn, even to having sweet corn soup in vending machines at internet hangouts.

The corn had a lovely caramelized coating seasoned with miso.  Out of sight of the proud vendor, I licked the flavor off the ear of corn and tossed into a trash can.  I had been teased by the potential of this food.   But Japanese corn is best fed to farm animals, not people.  A friend of mine had fallen in love with fresh summer corn when he came from Japan to live here for awhile.  When he returned to Japan, I would receive sad emails asking me about the summer crop of corn.

When I returned home from my trip, I made the miso corn with fresh pulled, tender summer sweet corn.  All I can say is “yowzer!!”  The result of some experimentation was a grilled corn coated with a caramelized layer of earthy miso and rich butter.

I wowed some friends last week with the corn, my favorite sunomono, ginger/garlic/sesame grilled chicken wings.  Green tea ice cream for dessert.  I think you will like it as much as we.  Easy: two minutes to prep and about 10 minutes to cook.  One ear is one serving. NOTE: I keep a tube of miso paste in my fridge for frequent use and convenience and instant miso soup or udon noodle soup, or a miso baked chicken.

Ingredients
4 ears sweet corn
3 tablespoons butter – unsalted softened
3 tablespoons white miso paste
3 tbs honey
1 small clove garlic grated

Instructions
Peel away the husks and silk of the corn, leaving the stem attached to the cob. Use a damp paper towel to rub off any stray strands of silk. Put the corn on a hot grill or in a hot broiler, turning periodically until there are some charred specs on every surface of the corn. In the meantime, add the butter, miso, honey and garlic. Use the back of a fork to mash the mixture together. When the corn is done, spread a generous amount of miso mixture onto each ear of corn and return to the grill. Grill, rotating regularly until the miso has caramelized onto the outside of the corn. Remove from the grill to serving dish and chow down.   Note: I place a piece of pierced foil under the corn at this point to keep rolling the ears around in the good stuff that drips off. I use tongs so as not to burn myself.

fresh cprn

 

Twofer Twosday – Karaage Chicken and Sunomono

East meets South in this Japanese version of fried chicken and a kinda sorta cole slaw – actually an easy pickled vegetable dish which is a perfect side dish.

Karaage fried chicken is a very popular food in Japan – it is served in restaurants similar to tapas restaurants, as a street food, a snack with beer in local bars, picked up and taken home for dinner – but it is an easy and different take on fried chicken. Recipes call for chicken thighs but I use similarly sized strips or chunks of chicken breast meat. it can also be made with firm fish, but usually when the term karaage is mentioned, it refers to chicken.

Tebasaki Karaage – is a variation. Disjointed chicken wings are used and are my favorite. Use the standard recipe using 10 wings and deep frying for – 10 minutes.

I have posted sunomono before. it is a wonderful cooling dish as a side, salad, accompaniement to fried foods, grilled foods, baked foods. Usually made with thinly sliced cucumbers, it can also be made with thinly sliced celery, radishes, and/or sweet onion. I feel like the more the merrier so I add different veggies to mine.

So enjoy your un-Southern Fried chicken and Japanese un-slaw. Good eating for parties, lunch, bento lunches, TV watching food. I have often been asked to bring my fried chicken to get-togethers. “Some ask for the regular and others ask for the Japanese. I always take half and half. It all disappears.

public domain picture

public domain picture

Kaarage Chicken
4 chicken thighs or equivalent of chicken breast
2 Tbsp Sake
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp garlic, grated
1-2 tsp ginger, grated
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup corn starch
salt and pepper
oil for deep frying (Unless you have allergies or family with allergies, peanut oil is the best oil for deep frying having a higher flash point. A pure vegetable oil such as Crisco is second best.)

Instructions
Cut a chicken thigh into 3-4 pieces (or breast into more pieces/strips).  In a medium size bowl, mix Sake, soy sauce, salt, garlic and ginger with chicken.  Let it sit for 1/2-1 hour. The longer it sits, the more salty the chicken will become.
Mix flour, corn starch and some salt and pepper in another bowl.  Coat marinated chicken pieces with flour mixture.
Heat oil at medium high heat (350F).  Deep fry for 5-8 minutes depending on the size of meat. Drain on paper towels, serve while hot with a few squirts of fresh lemon juice.

public domain images

public domain images

Sunomono
3 Japanese or 4 Persian cucumbers *English cukes can be used. Also thinly sliced celery and/or radishes and/or sweet onion can be added
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame seeds
Instructions

Instructions
Slice cucumbers/veggies as thin as you can. Stir in salt, and let it sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze water out from cucumbers.
In a small bowl, mix rice vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce together until sugar dissolves.
Add vinegar mixture and sesame seeds to prepared cucumbers and mix well. Chill for about 1 hour for flavors to marry and veggies to chill.

 

 

 

 

Sesame-Miso Green Beans/Sandomame goma-miso ae

It is getting to be that wonderful time of year when all kinds of fresh vegetables are making their way to produce stands and coming out of back yard gardens.  Juicy red tomatoes, full of acid, are my most favorite.  After that, they are all rated No. 2.  I grew up eating vegetables.  It was none of this coaxing and threatening.  There was one simple rule – eat what was offered or make do with bread and milk.  Because I was started on veggies as a toddler, I had no problem with that rule.  A backyard garden added to the appeal of veggies. The garden was not only a source of fresh food for us, it provided us home-canned and frozen veggies to take us through to next garden season. Summer meals often consisted of nothing but vegetables and of course, a big ol’ glass of sweet tea.

As a child, the vegetable garden was often a magical place to play. Warm, soft earth caressed bare feet, tiny frogs hiding under leaves, lady bugs, butterflies, birds pulling worms from the soil or grubs eaten off plants – except time spent with a book, this was one of my favorite places to be and thing to do. I helped weed and pick the vegetables. I was taught respect for the plants, the earth, the food, and the value of hard work and a job well done. A ripe tomato, or cucumber, or a few green beans pulled right from the plant made an excellent snack.

Veggies picked that morning were on the table for lunch and supper that same day.  Garden to table is still the best way.  That isn’t always possible but consuming veggies picked within a few days is next best.  Always choose the freshest you can find of what is in season.  Seasonal fruits and veggies save money and when at their peak, has a flavor that beats frozen/canned/weeks old veggies hands down.  Pulling down the shucks of ears of corn, with dew still on the shucks is a sensual delight.  The silky feel of the husk, the green smell of the husk as it exposes the lush yellow, white, bi-color kernels, the pop of the kernels when you bite into them or slide a paring knife down the ear separating kernels from cob…I can go on and on about corn.  And don’t get me started on tomatoes, okra, squashes, green beans, butter beans, cucumbers…

But I digress.  We started off with a recipe about green beans.  There are many different varieties: blue lake, tender green, Kentucky Wonder, Tenderette, and many more.  Then types: bush, climbing, half runner, flat, pole beans, , Italian, French, and…Hannibal Lecter’s F-f-fava beans .  Different textures, flavors – green beans are not your plain old green side dish.  Barely cooked and bright green and crisp, cooked with bacon or ham or fatback until melt in the mouth and flavored with the meat, pickled (!), cooked in the manner of different cuisines using tomatoes, garlic, sesame, onions, peppers, soy – they bring international flavor to your plain old everyday meal.

I enjoy green beans many different ways.  One of my favorites is quick cooked and then tossed with a creamy sesame and miso sauce.  A plate of these on their own is a quick dinner for me.  Some on the side of teriyaki chicken and rice makes a fancy meal that is not your same old meat, starch, vegetable supper.  Mixing these with freshly made and cooked udon is another of my happy place dishes.

You can find the ingredients in Asian food stores or sometimes, in specialty sections of a grocery store.  If you can’t find the sesame paste, tahini can be substituted and in a pinch, smooth peanut butter, but the taste will be very different. This recipe is fairly common. The version I use comes from the Hakone area.

Sandomame Goma-miso Ae
1 1/2 tablespoons white sesame paste (shiro neri goma)
1 1/2 tablespoons shiro (sweet, white) miso
dash of low sodium soy sauce
good squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons daishi or water, or water from cooking green beans
16 ounces green beans, whole or cut into 2 inch pieces or sliced in diagonals
1 1/2 tablespoons white sesame seeds (optional)

In a bowl, mix the sesame paste with the miso, soy sauce, and lemon juice. Stir with wooden spoon or non-reactive whisk to blend completely. Taste, and if it seems too sweet, adjust the seasoning with salt. Blend by hand again until smooth. Thin the mixture with stock or water, one spoonful at a time. Set aside.  Clean the green beans, snapping off the ends. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the beans and cook for 3 minutes or until bright green. Drain the beans then let cool at room temperature.

Toss the green beans in the sesame-miso sauce just before serving and garnish with sesame seeds. I always like to add a light sprinkle of thinly sliced green onion. Serves 4 (maybe).

imagesJU6OK8VT

 

Homemade Udon 饂飩 Noodles

Homemade udon are cheap and easy – but labor intensive. The fun part is, you knead the dough with your feet! Udon is comfort food. It is food of the soul. I found a beautiful video on YouTube about a Japanese farmer/chef who has been making udon for 45 years. I hope you will watch it. It says everything I feel about cooking, food, the earth, and our relationship to each other. Video follows recipe and instructions and recipe. you may even want to watch first – get an idea of the kneading, washing, rolling, cooking.

Udon flour can be found at Asian food stores. If your resources are limited, use a high gluten bread flour such as King Arthur (I am not endorsing the flour or the company. I am just speaking from experience). I have only been making udon off and on for about 30 years but still have much to learn – a simple food that becomes more than the sum of its parts. For me, making udon is a meditation. I empty myself so I can fill myself with the joy of creating. And then, the joy of eating and sharing. Although similar to fettuccine, udon are chewier. Masters of udon making say that about 20 to 30 minutes after the noodles are made, they “die”. So cook your noodles quickly after making and enjoy udon that are alive!

There are tons of recipes for udon noodle soup from simple to complex.  I like to use a basic miso soup recipe and add the noodles to it.  I posted a recipe for miso soup on my blog already(kanzensakura.com/2013/10/11/miso-soup-味噌汁-japanese-soul-food). While the soup is hot, add the noodles and cook until thoroughly thawed and heated.  When putting into bowls, divide the noodles up first, then add the broth.  Garnish with thinly sliced scallions.  A slight (or more to taste) dusting of hot pepper powder adds a great zing.  If you don’t have that, add a shake or two of hot sauce.

You can also make a simple broth with soy sauce, some sake, grated garlic and ginger.  There many different varieties of udon dishes – off hand I can think of about 35 different hot, cold, and regional varieties.  The simplest and most fun is eaten in the heat of summer:  cold noodles on a dish with pieces of ice!  My dipping sauce?  Rice vinegar, bit of sugar, grated carrot and radish, thin scallion, bit of ginger, touch of soy.  As the Japanese say “bari uma!” Tasty, delicious, tastes awesome!

Ingredients:
1 tsp salt (I use Kosher salt)
2/3 cup water
2 1/2 cups udonko (Japanese udon flour) OR high gluten bread flour – not whole wheat.
Extra flour for dusting and kneading

Directions:
1. Dissolve the salt into the water.
2. Mix the water into the flour in a large bowl.  Save a few tablespoons out.  If you need more water, add  it at the end.  Dough will be raggedy at this point.
3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes.
Fun Part!!!
4. Place the dough into a large freezer bag ( I suggest at least a one gallon size), squeeze out
air, and step  on it to flatten it with shoes off. I put a towel underneath to cushion as my
floor is linoleum. Basically, you are using your bare feet (socks are nice)  and body weight to
knead the dough.  Put on some music – I like a nice cha-cha or rhumba for this.  If you have
kids, let them help at this point.  Foot knead the dough to the shape of the bag.
5. Remove the dough from the plastic bag and roll it out.
6. Fold the dough in half and then in half again to make a smaller rectangle.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 a few times.
8. Let the dough rest for a few hours.
9. Roll the dough out until it is about 1/8 inch thick.
10. Fold the dough 2 or three times and slice into thin strips.
11. Cook the noodles in boiling water for about 10 minutes.
12.  Lightly dust dough with flour as needed to keep from getting sticky/sticking.

After I cook the noodles, I will freeze up several bags of them to keep on hand.  Let your noodles thoroughly drain, but not dry out.  Add while frozen to boiling broth.

Udon Noodle Soup うどん

Udon (oo-dahn) are thick Japanese noodles made from wheat flour and salted water, kneaded and cut into strips. Often in cold weather, udon are eaten in a simple broth of dashi, soy, and sake and/or mirin. In the summer, they are eaten cold with a dressing or in salads. Udon can be purchased, depending on your area, fresh, frozen, or dried. Homemade is the best of course and after that, fresh then frozen noodles. Dried noodles are fine too. They are thick and have a soft, chewy texture. In the summer, I’ll toss the cooled, cooked noodles with a soy and ginger dressing and put over a salad of crisp greens, celery, matchstick carrots, and slivered scallions. Chunks of cooked chicken or drained white tuna adds a good, lean protein to the mix. Good, but not necessary. I have also used cubed marinated tofu with delicious results.

As an ingredient in a soup, they are filling and homey. Chunks of cooked chicken, beef, whatever added with some al dente veggies cooked in the broth are tasty, warming, and comforting. A bowl is a good one dish meal. Regional differences abound as to ingredients, broth, etc. In the western region of Japan, broths are usually dark brown; in the east, lighter broths are preferred. Regional differences are also found in the noodles themselves.

Find what suits you best by using more soy, beef, chicken, dashi, miso for the broth. I have previously posted a good basic miso soup that would make an excellent broth for udon. I actually prefer it.  It is a warm and slurpy soup.  You may want to wear a napkin around your neck!

If any of you express an interest, I will do a post on making your own udon. Cheap and easy!!!! So – get cracking on this soup. Add or subtract ingredients: chopped cooked meats, poultry, seafood, eggs; scallions, boy choy, slivered snow peas, carrots…Become the udon king (or queen) and have it your own way! Dependent on how you divide this up, makes two to three servings.

どうぞめしあがれ douzo meshiagare, y’all!

Ingredients
2 packages frozen Udon (use frozen or thawed) or
equivalent of dried (package will give equivalents)
4 cups Dashi , chicken, miso, vegetable broth
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp Mirin (Japanese cooking wine)
2 Tbsp Sake
1 chicken breast (cut into bite size pieces)
4 green onions (thinly and diagonally cut)
1/4 slivered celery, napa cabbage, or spinach
a bit of grated ginger
good sprinkle of red pepper powder (optional)

Instructions
Cut green onions or other veggies thinly and diagonally. Set aside some greener parts for garnish. Heat broth to a boil. Add salt, soy sauce, Mirin, Sake to Dashi, then chicken. Skim fat and other particles from the surface of the soup if there are any. Simmer veggies al dente. Add Udon to the soup and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. Put in most of green onions including white parts, immediately turn off heat. Divide noodles and soup into bowls and sprinkle on the rest of the green onions and red pepper powder if you like.

udon soup

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