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!


  1. Yummy. I can do this one! Thanks for sharing. I'll look for that magazine too.

  2. Go for it, Denise! It's right up your alley!

  3. Hi Pamela! I'm so glad you commented on my blog because now I can see yours, which is amazing! :) we have so much in common!
    I've been in japan awhile so maybe I can help you find stuff or answer some general questions.
    like for chocolate chips, you can buy a bar of 70% or above dark chocolate for about 100 yen and smoosh it with a rolling pin, and it's pretty good.
    Nice recipe, I'll have to try it!