Sunday, August 31, 2008

the cabbage challenge and cabbage meal #1: fancy coleslaw with chicken and mint

You probably won't believe why I bought this head of cabbage, and maybe it's TMI for some people, but what the hey, I'm just gonna tell you anyway. I was having a wee bit of trouble breastfeeding (my son is teething and not nursing on his old schedule, so I got kinda clogged up), and I heard from an American nurse and a Japanese breastfeeding consultant that cabbage leaves can be good for that kind of thing. I was pretty skeptical but tried it anyway, so I was walking around our apartment with cabbage leaves in my bra! No lie, people.

OK, so now you know. Don't run away just yet, though, because I used the leftover (non-bra-stuffing) leaves for some different recipes. That was my own challenge: How many meals can you make from one head of cabbage?

A lot, if you use one of these huge suckers.

I have big hands, but that thing couldn't be held down! (It must've been one of those tough WWF cabbages that are on the circuit lately.)

A friend of mine had taped a Nigella Lawson show from Japanese TV about six or seven years ago (and I probably borrowed and watched it about five years ago), and one of the dishes Nigella made was her own version of coleslaw, without any mayo (yea!). I've wanted to make it for ages but have had all kinds of other things that have crowded it out of my mind, but when I had all this cabbage sitting around, acting big and bad, I knew I had to do something with it before it got out of control.

1 1/2 T veggie oil
1 1/2 T fish sauce
1 1/2 T rice vinegar
bit of garlic
small bit of sugar
1 chili
1/2 onion (cut in half lengthwise and then into little half moons)
juice of 1/2 lime

Mix all of the above together and let it sit for half an hour.

For the salad, thinly slice a cold cooked chicken breast, grate some carrots and cabbage, and chop a handful of mint.

Toss all of the above together and add more mint on top.

OK, now cross out almost all of the above ingredients and start over, 'cause I didn't have much of what she called for and that's what I did. Substitutions, baby. I didn't have fish sauce, so I used soy sauce. No rice vinegar in the house, so apple cider vinegar had to work. I don't buy chili, so a shake of cayenne pepper took its heated place. And I've almost never seen lime juice for sale in Japan so I substituted lemon instead.

I didn't slice the chicken breast, I shredded it with a fork instead. I did use cabbage, carrots, and mint, and somehow, even with all my changes, it fused and worked. Even better the next day after it's all been partying in the fridge together, but beware, the mint turns a brown color, so I wouldn't serve it to guests unless it's just been made.

My toddler son even ate a bit of it, and that's a true miracle. This must be really good stuff.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

oil & vinegar

OK, does anybody know if you can use different kinds of oils and vinegars after their expiration date is up? I can't imagine them going bad...

And my bottle of balsamic vinegar doesn't even have an expiration date on it at all.

What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

guest post: oh, baby!

So my mama asked me what I was doing, and since I couldn't give her any answer better than drooling, she decided to put me to work on my first essay ever.

She said I had to write about my favorite food.

That's not a hard one.

It always looks the same, kinda white and liquidy, but man, the taste varies from meal to meal. Whatever she eats (and she loves curry and garlic and spicy stuff like that), I get to eat ex post facto. It's usually pretty yummy, and always different.

And you know what they say - variety is the spice of life.

(Sorry I couldn't get a photo of the food or where it comes from, though it's produced locally. Very eco-friendly. But Mama said some people might not appreciate pictures. I think my daddy probably would.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

yummy movies

Food and movies are two of my favorite things, and when the two collide - even more funtastic!

Partially inspired by this post on The Conscious Kitchen blog (though I'm not making any of this), I offer you a few of the best food scenes in movies (in my humble opinion):
  • Moonstruck is full of yummy-looking Italian-American meals and lots of champagne-drinking to boot. I love when Cher's mom is in the Italian restaurant and the professor-guy at the table next to her gets a glass of something thrown on him (for the umpteeth time) by a much-too-young thing. Olympia Dukakis tells him how it is (with her flair for deadpan humor) and they become friends.
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding is my go-to film for starches. How could anybody forget the huge mound of potatoes the mom is peeling for the family get-together to meet the daughter's new fiance?
  • Anne of Avonlea has a scene where Anne is defending her short story that she wrote (which Diana has sent off to the Rollings Reliable Baking Powder Company for their short-story contest). Describing a cake-making scene in her story, Anne says something like, "It is well known that the ladies of old knew that the culinary arts also fed the soul." Amen, sister. (And I want to try making Marilla's plum puffs someday.)
  • When Harry Met Sally takes the cake when the sandwich-eating Sally demonstrates faking the big "o" for an incredulous Harry and other deli-goers.
What's your favorite film food scene? Come on! Share already! We're waiting...but no pressure. Well, OK, a little bit of pressure.

what's up, doc? carrot salad, rabbit!

My mom was on a major health-food kick when we were kids - no sugar, no chocolate, no ice cream (enter plain natural yogurt that she dubbed "ice cream" and we believed her - suckers!), no birthday cake at parties, no bleached white flour. All natural. All organic before it was trendy to eat anything that wasn't processed to within an inch of its life.

All my sister and I wanted was a piece of cake that wasn't made of carob or honey. We finally got our way and some junk food when Mom went back to work when we were in middle school and she didn't have time to make loads of from-scratch stuff.

And now all I crave is wholesome organic food, but if you want it over here in Japan, you pay a HUGE premium. I've given up on the "green co-op".

I've been asking Mom for some of her recipes lately, and this carrot salad is gorgeous served cold in the summer. You just grate some carrots (or in my case, I used my hand blender chopper attachment and just chopped 'em up tiny), add some raisins, chopped pineapple (I chopped it really finely but you could buy the crushed kind if it's available in your neck of the woods - it's not here), honey, a little lite mayo (I never liked American mayo but Japanese mayo is not sweet like its American counterpart and therefore more palatable to me), and some lemon juice. You could also add chopped apples, which I do sometimes.

Mix it all together, slam it in the fridge, and a little while later you've got yourself a juicy, tasty hot-weather treat (the raisins get plumper the longer you leave it). You could even put some in your lunchbox, which I did for the hubster.

Do you have a favorite salad recipe from yo mama?

give me some sugar, baby

OK, I don't know if you can technically call this "food" per se, but man, it's one of my Japanese faves (yeah, I know, everything is my fave).

They call it "black sugar" caramel and it's made from Okinawa dark brown sugar - yum yum yum. It's got a really deep molassesy flavor that grabs you as you chew.

And chew you have to do with these babies, but they're not too hard. Just the perfect sweetness and perfect chewiness that would be awesome to watch a movie by.

Maybe I'll do that. First, wean the baby (in about a year from now), second, head to the cinema with these suckers stashed in my bag. I'll have to go on a Wednesday night, though, because that's ladies' night and it's "only" 1,000 yen (about $10) for a ticket (as compared to the usual 1800 yen price). Good thing the candies only cost 120 yen (about $1.20).

Saturday, August 23, 2008


One of my all-time faves is the pork and Korean kimchi onigiri that you can buy at 7-11 recently here in Japan, though it's probably one of those kisetsu gentei things (only available for a limited time) and I doubt it will be around long. I keep my fingers crossed and my taste buds salivating every time I head for the store, hoping beyond hope that it will still be there. It's the kind of thing that gets dried out and gross if you keep it for more than a day (like manna, I guess) so you have to grab it while you can.

Basically it's a rice triangle with filling inside, wrapped in crunchy salted Korean seaweed, and all surrounded by a plastic jacket (in case it gets cold in this summer weather).

First you pull the #1 (obviously) down from the top and around the back, all the way to the top again.

Then you start pulling on #2 and #3, out to the sides, until they come off completely.

And there you've got yourself one fine filly of a snack.

They come in all different flavors (tuna, salmon, pickled plum, etc.) but I love me some kimchi! Bring it on! (I found out today that Matthew loves it, too, so next time I'm getting him his own so he'll keep his grubby paws off my food. You don't wanna get between a breastfeeding mama and her chow.)

first of all...

As I was just saying on my family blog the other day, food is my fourth love (after Jesus, family, and friends), and if it ever cools off enough to go back into my minuscule Japanese kitchen, if my two little dudes can ever go ten seconds without needing diaper changes, and if I ever learn how to use our camera properly, I'll get a little foodie blog of my own.

Well, what the hey. I've gone and done it anyway.