Monday, June 07, 2010

Taste the season: Japanese butterbur (FUKI)

 am not sure the proper English name but "Japanese butterbur" is what I got from the discionary. It's called Fuki in Japanese.

In my hometown Akita, Fuki is one of the seasonal vegetables that represent spring. When I find Fuki on the dinner table, I know the spring has come. 

This is the appetizer dish that my mother used to make a lot with Fuki in season. I really didn't care for it as a child but what kind of kids would like some green stems cooked with mushrooms and bean curd? Well, now I am glad that I have grown into an adult that can appreciate this wonderful seasonal dish.

This dish is great as is as an appetizer or side dish to add to a a main meal or a bento item, as it lasts long and tastes good when cold.
Local fresh Fuki 1~2 lb, as much as you like :-)
Dried shiitake mushrooms soaked in water overnight 8 ~ 10 or any fresh mushrooms
Fried Bean Curd (abura age) - pour hot water over and rince the curd briefly. Cut it into 2 inch squares.
Red chili pods 3 ~4
Dashi (or you can use the water used to soak shiitake mushrooms)

1. Peel strings off the fuki stems by hand
2. Boil water in a deep pot and cook fuki or about 30 minutes. You can see the color of the water turn brown while cooking.
3. Strain fuki and soak them in fresh cold water (you can store teh cooked fuki in water for at least several days in the fridge)
4. Slice soaked shiitake mushrooms, 1/4 inch thick
5. Cut Fuki into 1.5 inch long pieces
6. In a medium size pot, put in 1 tabelspoon of sesame oil and 1 tabelspoon of canola oil over medium-low heat. Add the red chili pods. Heat the chili until you begin to smell the heat from it.
7. Turn up the heat to High and add Fuki. Fry Fuki for about 5 minutes.
8. Add the mushrooms in. Add in dashi or shiitake water depp enough to cover the vegetables. Add 1/2 sake, 1 cup mirin and let alcohol evaporated.
9. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce and turn the heat down to medium.
10. Add the bean curd and cook until the liquid reduces down to about half an inch depth (for about 30 minutes)

Store the dish in the fridge and enjoy it with Beer, Sake or over warm steamd rice!

 On another note, I also talked about seasonal ingredients on the PCC podcast:

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Jammers at home!

My favorite bakery - The Grand Central. My favorite baking book - The Grand Central Baking book. It only makes sense, right?

Isn't it amazing that you can reproduce your favorite chocolate chip cookies, shortbread and Jammers at home, right on your table?! Yes, I like their Jammers, because they are not sweet, except for the fresh jam topping, which is the perfect company for the buttery & salty biscuits. But what I love most about the jammers is the flaky & crumbly texture! After all I realize I am a texture person too I guess.

So here it goes. My version of the jammers - extra crunchy outside.

(The recipe below is from "The Grand Central Baking Book")
Ingredients (10 to 12 jammers according to the book but I ended up making more than 20!)
4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cup buttermilk
Your favorite jam for the filling

1. Combine the dry ingredients (teh top five ingredients above).
2. Dice the butter into small cubes and blend them into the dry ingredients either by hand or using a stand mixer. There should be tiny pieces of butter remaining. That's the key to flaky biscuits! (You can store this dough in the fridge overnight if not baking immediately.)
3. Mix the flour mixture with buttermilk (1 cup first) by using a stand mixer or by hand in a bowl. The dough should look messy and come in a few big clumps.
4. Turn the dough on a floured working surface and pat it into 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick.
5. Use a biscuit cutter (2 1/2 inch diameter) cut the dough into circles.
6. Continue to work on the remaining dough by re-shapting and patting it to a sheet.
7. Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of the circle for the jam to be filled in.
8. Fill the indentation with 1 tablespoon of jam
9. Bake the jammer in the 350F pre-heated oven for 35 - 40 minutes.

you must have a cup of cafe Latte ready in time for the jammer out of the oven!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Grand Central Baking Book

Very easy recipe. The cookies are delicious, especially when they still warm right out of the oven :-)

I love Grand Cenral Bakery and love this baking book!! More recipes on the table soon!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kids Bento Box for Adults

Fumiko, another meat lover among my foodie friends, was craving meatballs. I didn't even ask her why, because the reason or her motivation was not important. All I needed to hear was "I want meatballs!"

I had made meatball stew in the past for kids party catering. So I reproduced the same recipe, although I was out of cans of Heinz demi glace sauce and made it from scratch by using my cheat tricks (canned tomatoes, onion, celery, red wine, etc). Meatballs are kids favorite items in Okosama Lunch (kids plate) at casual restaurants and cafes in Japan. Everyone has fond memories of Okosama lunch, but usually you have to be under a certain age (usually 6 years old??) to be "eligible" to order Okosama lunch (what's up with that!?)

Anyway, so here it is; my version of Okosama Lunch bento box for sophisticated adults :-)

Menu: meatballs with creamy tomato & red wine sauce, spaghetti with parsley, fried scallops and fries with hommade tartar sauce, butter rice pilaf with fresh English peas, shrimp toast, octopus wienies, tandoori chicken (this was just added sponteneously ;-))

(Photograghs by Fumiko)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Et tu, WANN?

Despite those negative reviews (well at least among the Japanese customers) in town, WANN has been one of my favorite IZAKAYA (Japanese tapas bars) for years, especially because of certain tapas dishes they have that you can't find anywhere else, and of course generous Happy Hour deals.

Happy Hour is still available. But it's time for me to say Adieu to my little felow WANN, sad but people have to move on sometimes.

I immediately noticed the changes when I opened the menu. It used to have Japanese translation to each item; now only in English. It wouldn't be that big of a big deal IF the selection had not changed that drastically. No baby squid sashimi, broiled hokke, fried yamaimo (Japanese yam), or pork belly stew....they are all gone from the menu. That hurt.
Trying to hang on to a small piece of hope, I ordered some "remaining" Izakaya items only to face more of the disaster.

Sukui tofu - should be a homemade soft tofu but it tasted just like a store-bought tofu with loads of okaka (bonito flakes)
Chamame - it's supposed to have the "Chamame" flavor but it was just regular edamame.
Gyoza - Thoughtlessly deep fried. It's a Korean style, not Japanese, unless the menu says "deep fried gyoza".

And I was speechless when I saw the Kurobuta sausage (it's a weiner style Japanese sausage with super crispy casing skin. The sausage is so juicy that when you have a bite you should feel a splash of melted grease). Look at the photo. Is it a testicle or something? Please...

The last but not the least, the sushi rice on spicy tuna rolls was squished so hard that rice looked almost like paste.That was the last straw.

It's depressing to see another good authentic Japanese bar turn into a fake, abused Japanese food source. This post might offend some WANN fans, but as a true fan of this once-very-attractive place to enjoy the Japanese tapas experience and proud Japanese foodie, I couldn't help sharing my thoughts with a desperate hope that this tough economy will not deteriorate the joy of the Japanese food pop culure in Seattle any more.

Issian, please do not change. I love you.