Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Remixed braised hijiki

I'm a big hijiki fan. Looking back over this blog's archives turned up numerous posts about hijiki, generally about the classic Japanese dish of braised hijiki (or some alteration to it). Recently I've been fond of braising hijiki with somen noodles, but I've had some baby red potatoes hanging around the kitchen lately. Then there was the lone shallot seeking a better fate than dwindling away into obscurity in SevenSoy Central's allium bin.

So I remixed braised hijiki a bit.

After hydrating the hijiki (which is sold dried in Asian markets), I let it dry on a paper towel. I heated some vegetable oil in a skillet, tossed in the sliced shallot and fried it over medium-high heat for about 30 seconds. I added the hijiki to the skillet and turned the heat down to medium. I fried the hijiki and shallot for a minute more, then added the thinly sliced potatoes and cooked for about three more minutes. Then I added the fluids: a cup of water, three tablespoons of shoyu, two tablespoons of honteri and a tablespoon of sugar. My standard recipe for braised hijiki uses three tablespoons of sugar, but I figured there was no harm in reducing the amount of sugar. Then I let everything simmer.

It took a little while, since the heat was at medium and I hadn't pre-cooked the potatoes in any way. By the time I gave in to impatience, the potatoes were still fairly crisp and there was a bit of sauce that had not reduced. No matter. The dish had a toasted flavor that was probably partly due to the initial sauteeing and partly due to the flavor of the shoyu. It wasn't as sweet as normal braised hijiki, of course, but the toasted  flavor more than made up for it. It was just sweet enough.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Vegetarian burritos

Last month, as is my usual wont, I headed up to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. The Dancer and I drove up on Friday night, since I couldn't take time off from work this year. Before we left, The Dancer made a quick dinner of vegetarian burritos. I was glad to see her method, particularly the assembly, since I've been getting curious about Mexican cooking lately.

First she heated up corn tortillas in the oven, then added refried beans, pre-cooked brown rice, salsa and grated cheddar cheese to the tortillas. After letting the burritos heat through in the oven, she brought them out, added fresh chopped lettuce and tomato for a garnish, and we went outside for dinner al fresco in her back yard. I was impressed with how quickly everything came together, and also with the fact that this would be a great use for leftovers.

A few days ago, I tried my own version of a burrito. The main difference was that I used a skillet on the stovetop, not the oven. I first toasted a flour tortilla on both sides in a little vegetable oil. Then I added refried beans, leftover salsa and grated cheddar cheese. Since I wasn't working from a recipe, this was cooking by guess and by gosh, but it turned out fine. The thing I liked most was the hot, crispy toasted tortilla. I'm sure to tinker with this in the future, but the initial results were quite promising. Since all my ingredients were out of jars, there's plenty of room for making my own refried beans and salsa, for example.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Only in Japan

Natto. Fermented soybeans. Very healthy, yet the sort of food that will make the unprepared run screaming into the hills. It's the slimy surface. Natto might be an acquired taste, but maybe it's more a food that you need to grow up with. It's the Japanese equivalent of lutefisk.

I had natto once, served with rice. The sliminess was difficult to deal with, of course, but apart from that, it wasn't bad. I keep telling myself I need to try natto again, but I haven't quite gotten around to it.

Natto has become the centerpiece of a great food scandal in Japan, because excessive health benefits were claimed for the slimy soybeans. Maki has a good post summing up the situation at i was just really very hungry.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Corn on the cob

It's that time of year again. When I drive around the area, I see cornfields full to bursting of tall cornstalks, their tassels waving in the wind. Although I live in a part of New Jersey that has more than its share of McMansions, townhouses and condo developments, some of the local farms are in farmland preservation programs. When one drives local roads, one has to be alert to the possibility of encountering a tractor tooling along the road like a tortoise. I'm sure others find that an inconvenience, but I don't. I think of it as something that adds value to the neighborhood.

There are farm stands scattered about of course, but in this area, even supermarkets sell corn and other produce from local farms. Yesterday I was at the supermarket and saw some corn from a farm in Monmouth Junction. After some hesitation (my corn-boiling pot is on the small side), I succumbed and got five ears.

Once upon a time, my dad told me the perfect length of time to boil corn. As I recall, this was in response to a Garrison Keillor monologue where Garrison divulged his perfect length of time to boil corn. My dad's response was, "Oh, no, absolutely not," or words to that effect. Maybe it was a cultural difference between Minnesota and Michigan (where my dad grew up). In any case, I wrote dad's recommendation on a piece of paper and promptly lost the paper. It's probably still here somewhere, stuck in a box full of other random pieces of paper.

So there I was last night, with two husked corn ears and a pot of boiling water, trying to remember the magic formula.

The ears themselves were a study in contrasts. They were a mix of white and yellow kernels. One was as regular as a city's grid street plan, while the other's rows wandered crazily across the ear. I'm tempted to say one ear was Midtown and the other was Downtown, in the oldest part of town, but comparing corn ears to the New York City street plan seems so wrong, in so many ways.

Parenthetical note: I really need to get a digital camera. That way this post would've been adorned with a photo of cornfields and another of the two husked ears in all their contrasting glory.

I thought the magic number was either seven or eleven minutes, but eleven seemed too long, so I plunked the corn into the pot and went for seven. I suppose I could ask my dad for the magic formula again, but that would be too easy. At the end of seven minutes, the corn came out of the pot, steaming hot. I applied the butter and waited for the corn to cool off a little. I've been trying to reduce my butter intake lately, but I splurged for this meal. I know there are lots of other good things you can put on corn, but corn on the cob with butter is the way I grew up doing it.

When I bit into the first ear, I knew I'd chosen correctly. It was perfect.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The latest version of sesame noodles

I wrote about my fantasy of the perfect bowl of sesame noodles in this post some time ago. Last night I looked at the available ingredients in the cupboard and fridge, considered my lack of desire to cook, and decided to try Mark Bittman's "Cold Noodles with Sesame Sauce" from The Minimalist Cooks Dinner.

Bittman's sesame sauce consists of half a cup of sesame paste, a tablespoon of sugar, quarter of a cup of soy sauce, a tablespoon of rice vinegar and a tablespoon of sesame oil. Combine these ingredients; season with hot sauce, pepper and salt to taste; then pour over cooled, previously-cooked noodles. Garnish with sliced scallions.

Once I prepared this version of sesame noodles, I felt I was getting closer to the perfect fantasy, but the real sticking point that was bringing me crashing back to earth was the sesame paste. Even a smooth paste seems to have a bit of grittiness (if only a subliminal grittiness), and it really is astonishingly close to peanut butter. In addition to Lala's suggestion of using cashew butter instead of sesame paste, I may start trying sesame sauce mixes with a bit of sake or mirin to smooth things out and sweeten them up. Clearly the only thing that will do is for me to concoct my own version of sesame sauce.

On the other hand, the leftovers are on the docket for dinner tonight, and I expect they will be more than adequate for that purpose.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hijiki and mushrooms

Yesterday, I was in search of something light for lunch. Braised hijiki seemed like a good start, but I didn't have any abura-age on hand. What I did have was some sliced button mushrooms. I ended up using the normal recipe for braised hijiki, just substituting the mushrooms for the abura-age and sake for the mirin (I had some leftover sake, too).

This turned out to be such an easy and appropriate twist on the classic recipe that I'm almost embarrassed I didn't think of it before. Sliced button mushrooms, like abura-age, absorb liquids and concentrate flavors in sauces. Substituting sake for mirin made the sauce less sweet, which isn't always a bad thing. I poured everything over jasmine rice, which sopped up the sauce better than noodles would have done.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mushroom noodles

It seems like I've been living high off the hog lately (or at least been eating too much beef), so last night I went vegetarian. I topped some egg noodles with mushrooms and sauce. I sauteed some sliced button mushrooms in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until they were cooked through, then added half a cup of water, and shoyu and mirin to taste. This cooked down into a sweet sauce not unlike that in simmered hijiki with abura-age, a similarly light vegetarian dish. There was no recipe involved; it was just a matter of taking available ingredients and doing something simple with them.

I should insert the usual comments about tinkering with the seasonings because the sauce was a little on the sweet side, but I did find it tasty, and it served its mission of being a light yet satisfying dinner.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Masoor dal

A lot of my friends love Indian food. In central Jersey, there's an abundance of excellent Indian restaurants, so it's easy to get a great Indian meal if you're so inclined. But Indian food is one of those things that I'm still learning to like, although I've been eating it for years. My best guess is that the complicated suites of spices and flavors confuse my palate. My favorite "ethnic" food is Japanese food, which has a limited variety of simple flavors. I love Indian breads like naan, I like tandoori chicken, I like chicken korma and navratan korma and I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting about right now. But there are many Indian dishes that challenge my taste buds too much and leave me longing for something more "normal." I guess they pull me too far out of my culinary comfort zone.

I used to have a simplistic idea that Thai food was blazingly hot and nothing else. It took learning to cook Thai food for me to start understanding that there was much more to Thai food than heat. I have a lot to learn about Thai food and its complicated blends of flavors, but I feel like I'm going in the right direction. So I figure - if this works for Thai food, why not Indian? I should try cooking Indian food to get a better understanding of it, and maybe even learn to really like it.

I decided to try a masoor dal recipe since it is one of the quicker-cooking dals. I used the recipe in Linda Bladholm's The Indian Grocery Store Demystified. It cooked up pretty quick, as advertised, and was quite easy to put together. I had it for dinner the other night, and just finished up the leftovers for an afternoon snack. Once again, however, I find myself saying, "There's nothing wrong with it, but..." and thinking that spaghetti for dinner sounds awfully reassuring. It's kind of disappointing, in a way. It seems like admitting defeat to decide that I just don't like a lot of Indian food, especially when my friends do like it.

Oh, well. I guess I'll have spaghetti for dinner and try making chicken korma when I'm ready to jump into the fray again.