Simple Saturday – Sunomono and Miso Baked Chicken

300px-Sunomono[1]

I buy white miso paste in a tube so I can always have it on hand and keep in the fridge after opening.  This is a yummy dish and tasty any time of year.  In the summer, to avoid oven heat, I will prepare in a well seasoned, oiled cast iron skillet.  I start on medium heat and after about 3 minutes, turn heat to low.  Because of the mirin and sugar content, be aware of food burning easily.  You know your stove so cook accordingly and keep an eye out.  This is also good room temperature.  I slice the chicken and add over mixed greens, julienned carrots and celery, green onion,with a zipper ginger vinaigrette.  This Japanese home cooking at its best.  Something you may not find in a restaurant, but certainly in someone’s home.  You can grill of course, but again, beware of the burn factor.

Sunomono is kept in my fridge all summer for a cool snack or quick cool addition to a meal of anything!  The little Persian cukes, Japanese cukes, or the English cukes work well. If not available, use regular pickling cukes or use standard ones, as thin as possible, with the seeds taken out.  You can also use celery, snow peas, edamame, spinach, or mix a couple of veggies together.  I like with cucumbers best!  Photo courtesy of Wiki Images.

douzo meshiagare, y’all

Sunomono – Cucumber Salad
4 Japanese cucumbers or 1 English cucumber
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4  – 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame seeds
small sprinkle of chopped cilantro and green onion

Slice cucumbers as thin as you can or use a mandolin or similar slicer. Put in large non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with salt, mixing with your hands. Let sit for about 5 minutes then, using your hands again, squeeze water out of cucumbers (I use my handy dandy Japanese pickle maker for this – you can also view my post on Quickles). Rinse well and squeeze out water.  Discard water. To the rice vinegar,  add soy sauce and  sugar, mixing well. Pour over cucumbers and mix. Let sit in fridge to blend flavors about 30 minutes. Add sesame seeds, cilantro, and green onion. Great small side dish any time of the year.

Miso Baked Chicken/Fish

1/4 cup white Miso paste
3 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp Sake
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
4 chicken thighs (or nice chunk of salmon or other firm fish)

Mix Miso, Mirin, Sake, and sugar (almost kind of sounds like a recipe rap, hey?) in a non-reactive bowl. Marinade chicken thighs (or fish) in marinade for 30 minutes to one hour. You can put the marinade and meat in a plastic bag to marinate as well.
Preheat oven to 425F. take chicken/fish from bag and place on a plate and use a paper towel to wipe excess marinade liquid well from chicken/fish. Place chicken/fish on oiled aluminum foil spread over a sheet pan. Bake for 15 (8 minutes or so for fish). Turn chicken over and bake 10-15 minutes until cooked through.  I like to use chicken wings or chicken breast fillet and garnish with sliced scallion and sesame seeds.  Serve with steamed sticky rice and sunomono.

Quick Pickles – Quickles

I have been promising (and I know you all have just been waiting in deep anticipation) a treatise on quick pickles – quickles I call them. Some factoids: Cucumbers have been around forever and go back as far as Mesopotamia 2030 BC. Quickles are not marinated vegetables. They are brined or salted the same as long process (slowckles) are. The word pickle comes from the Dutch pekel which means salt or brine.

Quickles are a great way to use up some excess summer veggies, brighten up winter veggies, add a quick bit of zing to a dull meal, be a unique appetizer, or in some cases, add an authentic bit to an ethnic meal. Seasonings and vegetables themselves can give a local or ethnic flair. Add daikon to cucumbers and onion. Or add some curry to cucumber, onion, celery, red radish. Crushed mustard seed, turmeric, celery seed, and sugar make the ubiquitous onion and cucumber mixture quick bread and butter pickles (recipe in a previous Keep It Simple Saturday) post.

Quickles give much satisfaction with little effort.  They are great with sandwiches, sides for meat, rice….on their own.

Equipment is as simple or exotic as you choose: a colander, plate, weight or a specialized pickle press. I bought a dandy one at a local Japanese food store for $4.99. Ingredients are the same way: salt (uniodized or sea salt), spices, herbs, veggies. The process may take a few hours but you don’t have to babysit and can do other things. Once made, they will last for several weeks in the refrigerator. I do hope you all will experiment with quickles. They’ve been a part of my life since I was born. On a hot summer day, cucumber quickles from the fridge cooled and refreshed a hot little girl. Other kids could have a Koolaid freezer pop – I wanted quickles!! They are a regular feature now in my bento.

QUICKLE BASICS

Cucumbers (English, Kirby, Persian, Japanese) Peeled (if waxed) and very thinly sliced
Onion red or white, thinly sliced
Carrot thinly sliced
Radish red or daikon, thinly sliced
Cabbage – thinly shredded

Seasoning: bay leaf, mustard seed, turmeric, srirachi pepper, split Thai pepper, cilantro, garlic, sugar, salt, red pepper flakes, fresh cayenne, fresh jalapeno pepper, sesame seeds, toasted seaweed bits, ginger
Vinegar: cider, white, rice
Extra vegetables: turnip, celery, napa cabbage, zucchini, cauliflower

One Method: The above is my go to veggies for quickles. Add or subtract. It’s up to you to determine how many you want to make. I usually use a standard size cuke, a small or medium onion, a rib of celery, a carrot, several red radishes, about ½ c. sliced daikon, about ½ cup shredded cabbage. In a colander, toss well with several tablespoons of uniodized salt. Place sauce or plate, depending on size of colander and add weight to the plate. A half gallon empty clean milk jug or gallon jug of water works well. Place in sink or on another plate to catch liquid from vegetables. Vegetables will end up being limp but still crispy due to this process. Use a mandolin or sharp knife to thinly slice vegetables. Add seasonings of choice. ALWAYS use non-reactive pots, pans, bowls for vinegar/acid based foods.

Obviously, the vinegar and seasonings will determine the “flavor” of the pickle. I like a Japanese quickle to use with everything.

Recipe – Japanese Sunomono (sweet)

english cucumber

½ small onion

1 cup water

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tbsp kosher salt

2 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp minced ginger

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the cucumber. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Wash the cucumber and slice it very thin using a mandoline. Add it to the bowl of liquid, give it a good stir, and then take care to submerge all the cucumber slices. Refrigerate for at least half an hour (but no more than a couple hours) before eating. Drain before serving. Garnish with toasted seaweed and sesame seeds. To add another layer of flavor to this simple pickle, add about ¼ – ½ tsp. dashi soup granules and/or seeded and slivered chili pepper (not much for this amount of cucumber).
Japanese Sour Pickles
1/2 cucumber
1/6 carrots
7 oz. water
1 1/3 tsp. soy sauce
1/4 oz. (dried bonito)
5 oz. daikon radish
2 2/3 tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
Sliced ginger
Combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar and soy sauce. Add bonito and sliced ginger and stir slowly until sugar is dissolved. Cut cucumber, daikon and carrot into strips. Put vegetables in a jar and pour the mixture over them. Let sit in refrigerator for a couple of days for flavors to blend. Keeps about 10 days.

Thai Quickles a friend gave me this recipe and she uses pounds for measurement
2 ¼ rice vinegar
½ pound onion sliced
1 pound carrots, sliced
1 pound cucumbers, sliced
4 green chilies sliced
2 tsp. salt
3 tbs. sugar
Put the vinegar in a non-reactive pan and heat. Add sugar and salt and stir to dissolve. Let cool. Put vegetables in a bowl and cover with vinegar mixture. Let sit for one half hour. Keeps in fridge for several days.

Quick Indian Carrot Pickle
5 medium carrots
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground mustard seeds
1 teaspoon chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon mustard oil or olive oil
sliced green chili, sliced the long way

Peel the carrots and thinly slice them about 2 inches long (should be about two cups). Wrap the sliced carrots in a dry towel, ensuring the carrots don’t have any excess water. Mix all the ingredients together with the carrots and put in a glass jar. Keep the jar in the sun for a day. Pickle is ready the next day. Pickle can be refrigerated for about two weeks.

Quick Bread and Butter Pickle
(recipe posted in Keep it Simple Saturday Recipe post)

quick bread and butter pickles

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