Friday, October 24, 2008

aubergine yummylicious casserole

Had some eggplant/aubergine in my fridge that needed using and I thought about making an easy version of moussaka, but wanted something a little different (and I had some wilting celery that needed some attention as well). In my always-used More with Less I found this casserole, one of the author's own recipes, but I thought it looked a little bland. I jazzed it up the mamatouille way, and oh my oh my oh my, we loved it! (The Toddler Bean wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, but what's new? Oh well, his loss. More for ME! My precious.) The different vibrant veggie colors and tastes were amazing.
Here's the basic recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 F/180 C. Combine in a bowl - 15 crushed soda crackers and 2 T. melted margarine. Take out and reserve 1/4 c. for later.

Add to remaining crumbs - 3 c. cubed eggplant/aubergine, 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheese, 1/4 c. chopped celery, 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper, 1 c. evaporated milk.

Spoon into a greased casserole dish, top with the reserved crumbs, and bake for 45 min.

Here's what I did differently:

I added 3 beaten eggs, garlic powder, onion powder, 1/4 t. extra salt, celery salt, fresh chopped spinach, and quartered cherry tomatoes.

Here's what I'll do differently next time (and there will definitely be a next time):

I'll do all of the above, plus add a few drops of Tabasco sauce for some kick, and I'll sprinkle some parmesan on top, below the cracker topping layer.

It was like a glorified crustless quiche the way I did it, and every bite was gorgeous. You could probably use any veggies you like (yes, I know, technically tomatoes are fruit!), so go ahead, try it. Mikey might even like it. (But no promises that Matthew will.)

cool-hand mama

Have you ever made meatballs with ground beef that's just thawed enough not to be a frozen rock anymore?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

nsoso ya muamba (aka chicken with peanut sauce)

We're all about equal opportunities for food in this household. The UK hubster's DNA screams for Marmite (and I've learned to like it, too), and my born-and-reared-in-the-South genes demand peanut butter, lots and lots of peanut butter. Hubby's tried it and for some reason still prefers natto over it! OK by me--leaves more for little ol' moi.

And it leaves more for this recipe. Yum.

I even buckled down and stirred up my new jar just so I could make this gorgeous meal from Zaire. It's better with chunky if you can get it, but around these parts, I'm happy just to find any sugarless PB, even if it is creamy.

I first made this back in January 2002 (according to what I wrote in my cookbook - Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook) and even though Stephen's not into PB, he does love this dish. It got a 9 out of 10 rating and a big "Yummmmmm" from us, written in the margin.

Heat 2 T. oil in a big pan and then add 3 lb. (1.5 kg) chicken pieces (I use 2 or 3 boneless skinless chopped breasts or about 8 tenders and have found that about 1 lb. of meat works well with the amount of sauce it makes). Cook through and then set aside on a plate. Add more oil if you need to and fry 1 large sliced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic.

Add 1 c. (250 ml) fresh or canned tomatoes, 1/4 c. (50 ml) tomato paste, 1/2 c. (125 ml) peanuts ground in blender or chunky peanut butter.

Add 1 c. (250 ml) of water gradually to make a smooth sauce.

Then add 1 bay leaf, 2 T. (30 ml) chopped celery or celery leaves, and 1 t. (5 ml) salt.

Cook a few minutes, then add the cooked chicken, stirring well. Cook over medium heat about 15 minutes, adding more water if you need to, and then serve it with rice. Enjoy!

Just don't invite Mr. Peanut to dinner--I don't think he's into cannibalism.

Monday, October 20, 2008

kaki season!

Autumn - bring it on! I love the colors, the smells, the flavors, and my birthday's in October so you know it's all good.

It's also the season for kaki (persimmon), one of my favorite fruits. I didn't know this until I moved to Japan (back in 2001) because I'd never actually seen one before (and therefore had obviously never tasted one, either). When we used to live in Aichi prefecture, it seemed like everyone there either had a kaki tree in their yard or was related to someone who had one, so we almost never had to buy them then. Here in Hyogo it's so urbanized that hardly anybody has their own garden, so to the co-op I must go.
I found these at our local co-op today, hangin' around, lookin' shifty, so I decided to buy 'em and bring 'em on home.

I'll be doing lots of munching on these orange beauties, and I just might have to buy some more to make kaki cake! So stayed tuned to mamatouille for the latest kaki-madness report, coming to you (semi-) live from Nishinomiya!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

guacamole-smothered mexican burgers

In first grade my teacher used to eat an avocado every day for lunch and I remember (very tactfully) telling her that my mom said they were fattening. Now I know that they're full of good-for-your-bod fats, though, so it's all happy-clappy and fine, in my books. Which is a relief, because I love those puppies.

My mom made a Mexican meatloaf as I was growing up that we all clamored for, and when I crave it, I do it her way (with a few minute changes), but this time my creative juices got flowing and I decided to do them as burgers. I had a couple of very ripe avocados in the fridge that needed dealing with, and that's how it all happened.

So first, here's the meatloaf recipe, straight from my mama:

1 lb. ground turkey
15 oz. tomato sauce
1/3 c. crushed tortilla chips
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 T. chopped green pepper
1 package (1 1/4 oz.) taco seasoning mix (or if you don't have access to that, or want to save money, use 1 t. Worcestershire sauce, 1/8-1/4 t. cayenne pepper, 1/2 t. chili powder, and 1/2 t. salt)

Mix it all together, reserving 1 c. tomato sauce, and bake in a 9x5 loaf pan in a 350 F oven for 45-50 minutes. Heat remaining sauce and pour over.

My meatloaf version: I never add the green pepper and I do add chopped black olives and minced garlic.

My burger version: I added less tomato sauce, used ground pork instead of the ground turkey that I can't get here in Japan, used an off-brand Doritos look-alike instead of the hard-to-attain plain tortilla chips, and I added an egg and some panko (Japanese bread crumbs) to make it all stick together.

The verdict? MAKE AGAIN AND AGAIN!!!

OK, now for my guacamole:

2 avocados, mashed (and put the pits in the guacamole as a natural anti-browning agent - just don't eat them!)
dollop of plain yogurt
lemon juice (I can't get lime juice, my preference)
Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper
minced garlic

I served the burgers with the guac, a bit of plain yogurt, salsa, and some dried garlic slivers that I toasted in a dry nonstick pan on the stove, jiggling them around the whole time so they wouldn't burn.

And on the side, we had a spinach salad and some warm refried beans with melted cheese. Very filling and very delish. Mikey likes it!

Friday, October 17, 2008

simple applesauce snack

This one's for a fussy toddler--a sugar-free applesauce base with a dollop of plain yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I sometimes make homemade applesauce because you can't buy it in Japan, but this time I happened to have some from an import store. (I personally like my own homemade version much better! Kudos to moi.)

Right now, though, The Bean is munching on some shrimp senbei (rice crackers) that a new neighbor brought over as a moving-in gift. I've gotten used to this Japanese custom (which is the opposite of how it is in the U.S.--in Florida (theoretically) the established neighbors take gifts to the newbies), but sometimes the presents are a bit more prosaic than food (like laundry detergent). We never say no to free stuff, though, even if it's not edible.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

singapore satay

Our UK friend in Yokohama, Andy (who's also the godfather of our first son), loves to cook and eat and having grown up in Bangladesh is a bit of a curry connoisseur. He also visits Singapore regularly and we recently got a spice packet in the mail from Yokohama. Yummers! I can't get some of those special spices here (tamarind, lemongrass, blue ginger, etc.) so it was nice to have it all in one box. Thanks, Andy-blokey!

And man, it was heavenly stuff. Peanut sauce you just want to dip your finger in and slurp just as it is (and of course I have absolutely no experience of that whatsoever - as if! - I'm totally mannered).

You marinate the chicken overnight so it gets really tender, and I always soak my bamboo skewers in water for a while before I grill them--they still get black but they don't ignite. Phew.

Because we live in a second-floor apartment we don't have an outside grill (the tiny balcony is all about laundry drying), but we have a little grill under our stove that I use for just such occasions as this.

I served the chicken and sauce with some cukes and maters, and with some coriander rice from Soy and Pepper's arsenal of awesomeness. You first cook the rice in chicken stock. I don't have access to fresh coriander so I used powdered, but I did use some really perky spring onions and it was pretty delish with the chicken. Mmmmm.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

meatball soup (sauer klops)

I was wearing shorts and a tank top as I made and ate this, but hey, it's one of my favorite dishes of all times! It comes from one of my most-used cookbooks, and one that I got from a lovely college professor of mine when I got married--More-with-Less Cookbook. Every recipe I make receives a rating of one out of ten, and this got a ten, so you how we feel about it.

Meatball Soup (Sauer Klops) apparently comes from a Prussian tradition and is still served in many North American Mennonite homes. I love the tiniest hint of sourness that comes from adding a bit of vinegar right before you serve it. (I love anything that's sour!)

To make the meatballs, combine:
1/4 lb. lean ground beef
1/2 c. finely rolled cracker or bread crumbs (I use panko)
1/2 c. evaporated or whole milk
1/2 t. salt
dash pepper

Form into balls 1.5 inches in diameter, and I put them on a plate in the fridge for a few minutes while I get on with the rest.

Combine in a big pot on the stove:
2 c. cubed potatoes
1 small onion cut in half (though I go ahead and cut mine into little half moons)
7 kernels allspice (I don't have access to this so I add a few shakes of ground cloves)
chopped parsley
1 carrot, sliced (I cube mine)
2 c. water
1 t. salt
dash pepper

Bring to a boil, then add the meatballs and cook it about 6 minutes in a pressure cooker (wish I had one of those!) or 20-30 minutes in the pot on the stove until everything's tender.

Then add:
1/2 c. milk or cream
2 t. vinegar

Skim the fat off the top if you need to before serving it up. We like to have "inaka" (countryside) bread from the bakery down the road with ours. Hubby's a ripper and a dunker but I like to pull off chunks, butter them as I go, and have it on the side with my bowl (or two) of soup. Remember Sally? "On the side" is a big thing with me. I just like it the way I like it.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Kabocha, a Japanese squash/punkin' sort of deal, doesn't last long around our house. Just check this out!

All mama wanted to do was a quick photo shoot of the food in question, but suddenly, in the blink of a camera shutter...

And here's the silhouette of the kabocha-napping perp...

Who could it be? Gotcha! Caught redhanded. Of course, none other than a toddler in a Thomas T-shirt...

Finally, everything's settling down...

Until the chick-with-a-new-birthday-knife gets hungry...

And then poor kabocha had no chance.

But folks, lemme tell ya, this is the BEST way I've ever had this squash--baked in a lemony, olive-oily, parsley-fied sauce until soft and creamy on the inside and a wee bit crunchy on the outside. Oh my word. To chop for!

I got my inspiration from Coffee and Vanilla's recipe for roasted celebration squash, but I didn't have carotino oil, so I substituted olive oil instead, and added coarse salt instead of regular plus some ground pepper.

I used half a kabocha and sliced it into wedges before baking. It took almost no time to do the prep and about 25 minutes on 180 C.

Wow. That's all I can say.

relish revisited

If you've got a much better memory than I do, you might recall I made pickle relish recently, using Kim's recipe. We gaijin girls in Japan just don't want to pay big yen for imports in the su-pa- (supermarket) for something so simple and yummy!

When your wallet's in doubt, DIY!

This time, however, I put my new birthday knife to good use and chopped it all into crunchy little bits, like the storebought stuff (instead of grating it like last time), and I added 1/2 cup sugar instead of the 3/4 cup I originally used. Also, I used six skinny and willowy Japanese cucumbers instead of four, and I've decided that this is how it's gonna be from now on around these parts--my way or the hotdog highway.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the pw's yogurt-marmalade cake

This is the third time I've made The Pioneer Woman's yogurt-marmalade cake, and each time I tweak it a bit more. Look here to see what I've done differently in the past.

And this time? Well, I went one step further and added THREE lemons' worth of zest for even greater zingy highs and I cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (half of what PW calls for). I still can't get my version to rise as high as hers, but my friend Chisa here in Japan told me that the less sugar you put in a cake, the flatter it will be. Maybe that's it. But as Chisa said, I'd rather have less sugar and less rising because it means more fruity yogurty flavors get to shine through. (I usually put way less sugar in recipes than they call for anyway. All I have to do is put my finger in the batter and voila! Perfect sweetness. And perfect humility.)

My friend Kim at Kim's Kantan Cooking recently made this cake her way: She turned it into a fall conconction with chopped sweet potatoes, apples, raisins, and walnuts instead of the orange flavor. I wish she lived closer because I would definitely be inviting myself over for a slice of that!

tea for one

I used to think that Celestial Seasonings Canadian vanilla maple decaf black tea was my absolute favorite (and it's still up there), but I discovered their Bengal Spice herb tea lately and I'm feeling torn.

Of course I'm not endorsing their company nor do I get any kind of kickbacks for this post, but man, drink a cup, sit back, relax, inhale (yes, I admit it - I inhaled tea steam), and turn into a pile of ooze. It's that good.

(If you look closely enough in the tea cup, you might see your future in one of the two trees squeezed in between our apartment building and the neighbors' house, and if you squint you might catch a glimpse of their TV antenna on the roof. I wonder what that bodes.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

korean lettuce wraps

I use the term "Korean" loosely here because even though I live next door to Korea, and I have been there as well, I don't know for sure whether these are 100% authentic. No matter, they're pretty darn tasty anyway. Try 'em, I think you'll like 'em, too.

A friend of ours, before she and her hubby moved back to America, had lived in the apartment we moved into when hubby and I first came to Japan together. Our friend left a few of her recipes for us, and this marinated pork was one of them.

400 g thinly sliced pork
3 T soy sauce
2 T sake
2 t grated fresh ginger
(And I add garlic and sesame seeds because even if it's faux Korean, you gotta have loads of garlic and sesame.)

Marinate the pork for at least ten minutes, then fry it up in a bit of oil in a pan.

I serve it with lettuce, add a bit of rice in the lettuce cup along with the meat and some kimchi and extra sesame seeds. If you have some way to keep the meat warm at the table, even better.

And if you don't have access to kimchi, Japanese pickles work well, too.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

somethin' to chew on

What separates you from the animal kingdom: getting a really cool ergonomically correct kitchen knife for your birthday and deliberately finding extra veggies to chop up just for the heck of it.

Friday, October 3, 2008

peter's caper salad

If you know me, you know I HEART Greek food. I mean, I'd probably do some rather stupid things to get some, but let's not test that theory, OK? I'm just telling you that's how much I love the stuff.

I first fell in love with the real thing (outside of Greek restaurants I'd been to in the U.S.) on a Greek ferry from Brindisi, Italy, jetting over to Greece in 1997. They had a little cafeteria on board and I pigged out in a major way. The best thing was the fish roe salad (taramosalata), such a beautiful shade of pink and the flavors were all lemony and olive oily and absolutely perfect. I had to buy a cookbook while I was there, too, and fortunately it's in English (otherwise it's just Greek to me). Greek Cooking: Traditional Recipes (by Chef Tasos Tolis) is wonderful - full of lovely photos and equally beautiful recipes that tempt my taste buds - chickpea balls (revithokeftedes), cucumber and tomato salad with oregano (salata aggouri - domata me rigani), potato salad (patatosalata), and so much more.

It's not hard to imagine how I pore over Greek food blogs, then - Peter at Kalofagas and Ivy at Kopiaste always have me drooling and wanting to go hang out in their kitchens.

When Peter posted his caper salad recipe recently, I knew I had to try it, and pronto.

I didn't have any red onion (really expensive in Japan) and I can't buy dill or chives, so I just substituted fresh chopped spring onion and parsley.

Oh man oh man oh man. Don't even get me started on how the flavors livened up my taste buds and made my day. And there were leftovers that were even better the next day. Can you believe there was actually anything left after my first tasting? I still can't, but I'm glad there was. I had to borrow one of my infant son's drooling bibs for this one - OK, not really, but even looking at the picture now, I want to go make some more, and more, and more...

Quick, somebody help me! I've fallen into the caper-salad pit of ecstasy and I can't get up!