Saturday, September 18, 2010

More Fun with Food in Japan

Japanese cucumbers are the best tasting, non-burp inducing cucumbers on the planet. They are slim and very dark green, with very few bumps on the skin. In Japanese, they are called kyuuri, or きゅうり。(Please let me know if I wrote that incorrectly, nihon no tomodachi.)

What I didn't know is that Japanese cucumbers, when fresh, have a delightful little magic to them. My good friend Tamie-san told me she was watching a cooking show on NHK that said when cucumbers are extremely fresh, you can break them in half by hand and then stick the cucumber back together. Doesn't that sound like a fun thing to try with your kids?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Italy meets Japan in the Kitchen

This is called tatsoi. Oishiikatta ne.
If we are acquainted, you probably know I am a little bit of a food nut. Ever since I read Michael Pollan's books, The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, I have tried to really pay attention to the food my familly is eating. I buy local and/or organic produce whenever possible, and try not to buy processed food at all. I found an organic grocery delivery service - Radishbo-ya and I get a box of seasonal produce every week. Sometimes I am completely baffled by the vegetables I receive, as you can see by this photo.

It's been a great adventure, and a fun topic of conversation with my Japanese friends, who have helped me figure out how to cook these new vegetables. I still don't like the slimy mushrooms though, and I'm happy to pass them on to anyone who wants them.

Full disclosure: I admit, I'm still buying granola bars, senbei and pretzels.

In my pursuit of easy recipes using whole, unprocessed ingredients, I found a magazine over the summer in the US called Clean Eating, which subscribes to many of the principles that Michael Pollan outlines in his books. Trying new recipes keeps me from being bored in the kitchen, so I am always looking for something new to test on my family.

Well, this recipe from Clean Eating was a winner on all fronts. Tasty, easy to make, and good for you! I did need to substitute my local Japanese ingredients that were readily available rather than make it as written. So here is my version of an Italian favorite, risotto, taking a delicious detour through Japan.

Risotto with Kabocha and Edamame

Winter squash - I used 1/2 of a pretty big kabocha. I guess it was about 3-4 cups cubed. The original recipe calls for butternut squash.
1/2 cup Edamame, cooked and hulled
4 cups chicken broth
1 medium onion, diced
1 big clove of garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup parmesan
olive oil

Step one: Cube and peel the squash. Toss the squash with a little olive oil or mist it. Season with salt and pepper if you like. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 425° until tender, about 25 minutes. Stir from time to time. It's ok if it gets a bit brown - that will help it hold together when mixed with the rice. Set aside.

Step two: Heat broth in a saucepan on the the stove and keep warm.

Step three: Saute onion in 1 T olive oil until a little soft, add garlic and saute for one minute more. Add rice and stir to coat with oil and veg.

Step four: Add 1/2 cup broth to rice mixture, stir until absorbed by rice. Continue adding in 1/2 cup increments. Check rice when you've added almost all the broth. Rice should be tender but firm, not chalky. Continue adding broth until you only have 1/2 cup left.

Step five: Add thyme, sage, edamame and cheese with last 1/2 cup of broth, stir until cheese melts. Gently fold in squash. Serve.

Vegans could make this with vegetable broth, and skip the parmesan. It was so creamy before the cheese was added, and it wasn't that much cheese to begin with.

Sorry, I don't have any photos. This was soooo good and was eaten very quickly. When I make it again, I'll post a photo. The box of arborio rice that I found was 1900¥ - about US$23. So I'll definitely be making this again and not wasting any of that arborio rice! Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Weird Food & Beverages

In the local conbinis (convenience stores), there's always a new snack or drink appearing. Sometimes the new food is a seasonal offering - like sakura flavored KitKats during sakura season. Sometimes it's a new product being marketed. I am not sure what category this new drink fits into. I saw it at my local Lawsons when I went to pay the phone bill yesterday. It has been so hot and humid here, I am willing to try a new drink, especially if it sounds refreshing. However, this new drink just seemed strange.

Apple, Milk and Lemon? Wouldn't the milk curdle if you tried this at home? It makes you wonder about how they've stabilized it. Well, since I can't read the details on the ingredient list, I am not going to worry too much.

So I bought the Apple, Milk and Lemon, and offered it to the boys, who all sampled it. Here is Chris' reaction: