Thursday, January 29, 2009

stone soup (with lentils)

Did you ever hear the stone soup story when you were a kid? Whenever I make a pot of something, and I don't know exactly what I'm going to put in it or even what I've got in the fridge that could contribute, I think about that fable.

You start with a stone (i.e. a main ingredient - in this case, lentils), and you go from there.

I got the original recipe from a magazine (though I don't have the publishing details), and it calls for:
  • lentils
  • sweet potatoes
  • onion
  • celery
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • red bell pepper
  • chicken broth
  • spinach
What I actually used:
  • lentils
  • chicken
  • one sweet potato
  • carrots
  • onion
  • cumin (1 t.)
  • coriander (1 t.)
  • chicken bouillon cubes
  • turnip greens
  • splash of lemon juice (I actually forgot I added that until I saw Deb's lentil soup at Souper Sundays and it reminded me!)
So it was similar, but different, in a stony kind of way. It takes a village.

You just boil one cup of lentils with 4.5 cups of water, a few chicken bouillon cubes, and a bay leaf for about 20 minutes or so, then add the rest of the ingredients and simmer for a while, till everything's tender, adding the greens last, just so they wilt.

Submitting this to Kahakai Kitchen's Souper Sunday again. This fits in the souper category, for sure.

Oh, and don't forget your wheat-germ crackers. They'd be sad to miss the party.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

feeding mamatouille's toddler: onigiri

This is a lunch-time staple around here - very easy to make and seems to jump down Matthew's gullet all by itself and in no time flat. That can't be said for very many foods that come near him - quite a few end up facing a wall of resistance that could fend off a well-armed invading force of samurai warriors.

You take the frozen little fishies out of the freezer (chirimenjako - dried sardines):
They look almost too cute to eat, but oh well!
You chop 'em to little bits so nobody knows they're in the rice (but they're a nice source of protein so much needed)...
You get your rice, water, and little pack of multigrains and beans going in the rice cooker and you stir it all about...
You fold in the fishies and shake on some katsuo (bonito flake) and sesame furikake (or any kind you've got - sometimes we use the dried egg and toasted sesame flavor)...
Then you make little presents of dried seaweed (nori) wrapped around balls of rice, and you watch them disappear...
Matthew also wanted me to take pictures of the apple slices he ate and the water he drank, but they didn't come out very well. You'll just have to take my word for it.

That's what it's all about!

feeding mamatouille's baby: oatmeal

The second time around, I definitely wasn't going to make the same mistake I did with Matthew (our elder son): I gave him okayu (rice gruel) as his first food (as most Japanese mommies do), and even with the extra liquid I gave him, he still got clogged up, big time. Poor bean. And he wouldn't touch prunes with a ten-foot blankie, so we really were up a creek. (I'll spare you the gory details. This is a food blog, after all.)

So Joel got the better end of the deal. I started him off with oatmeal (though to be honest it was a box of the flaked stuff a friend gave me from the States, which was a lifesaver at the time). He's now on to the real thing, and per hubby's suggestion (I'm so glad he thought of this), I just grab some with a measuring cup out of our massive Costco-sized bag of whole-grain oats...

And whiz it up in the food processor before I cook it.
I store it in a zippy bag...
And cook some up when Joel runs out...
I use 1.5 cups of dust-ified oats with 3.5 cups of water, and that seems to work just fine. I then freeze it in ice-cube trays and defrost with whatever fruits or veggies he's having for his meal. I always make sure to puree the veggies in their cooking water so that not only do they get to keep their vitamins and minerals, but then I don't need to add extra liquid to his dish come meal time. Lunch today was spinach, tomatoes, carrots, and oatmeal for his main course, and then apples and prunes for dessert. Not a speck left. Joel can hoover it down, for sure.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

soup bowl? or not?

I'm sure all of you have been holding your breath, waiting to hear exactly what that Japanese "soup" bowl was traditionally used for!

Ready for the answer?

It's for natto - something I'm not very fond of (the flavor is fine but the smell and texture are not my cup of tea). I buy it every week for the hubster, but it's too slimy for me - a clump of fermented soybeans that you mix with soy sauce and hot mustard, stir it around till it's all stringy, pick up a glob with your chopsticks and twirl it around till the stringiness stops.

Click here to see our friend April's reaction when she tried it.

And be sure to read my surprising stomach-problem recovery story when I ate some as a last resort.

Thanks for guessing, guys! They were good ones.

Monday, January 26, 2009

feeding mamatouille's baby

Ice-cubed homemade baby food: turnips, peas, carrots, apples, and prunes

Most mothers in Japan are stay-at-home mommies and they make their babies' food. First of all, it just seems to be more the traditional thing to do here, and also, if you read the labels on the commercial stuff, you'd know why they do it themselves. Not only is it prohibitively expensive, but it's also full of salt and sugar, neither of which I want to put in my little bundle's mouth. There's not a lot of choice here, either, and the stuff you can buy in the store mostly comes as mixtures (such as potatoes and carrots together). But if you're watching for food allergies, especially as you start feeding your baby solids, you want to wait at least a few days in between introducing new foods. I try to do it one at a time, so I make my own, too. You know what you're putting in your child's little tummy and you save money as well.

It's not hard work but it does take planning, energy, and time, and if I was working outside the home I'd probably throw in the towel. It's not rocket science, though - anybody could figure it out, and maybe I'm posting this just for posterity's sake. (Joel, if you're reading this in the future, know that you do like spinach. In fact, you guzzle everything I give you! Mama's amazed! The only thing you don't like is if I don't feed you quickly enough.)

This is the first of a series I'm starting, and each post I'll introduce one or two foods to you that I'm feeding to my little sweetpea. Bon bebe appetit! (I'm just guessing at the French here and hoping I'm not saying something wacky like go out and eat a good baby.)

"Helping" his mama make special baby food in the kitchen

Saturday, January 24, 2009

going to deutschland, having the creamy carrot curry soup

Hey, guys! It's me again. I haven't fully recovered from my overdose of cranberry-lemon bread pudding, so I thought I'd make it again tomorrow since we've got some friendies coming over for an early supper. Maybe a little bit more of it will help me get it out of my system - that's my theory, anyway, and I think it's a darn good one. And of course I want to share the pudding wealth.

In the meantime, I realized I've got two events coming up that I wanted to join, and the soup I made for lunch today will work for both. Yippee! It's definitely yummers enough for double dipping, so don't diss it just because it shows up at two parties in the same dress.

Joan over at FOODalogue is still on her round-the-globe cyber-culinary-journey (helping BloggerAid along the way) and I'm joining her in Germany to have some of this luscious curry-fied soup. It's got a kick, but not so big that your toddler doesn't guzzle it down his gullet. I hung out with Joan in Norway with my lemon loaf and am also planning on joining her in the Deep South, if not before.

Deb is hosting another Souper Sunday tomorrow, so I'm headed to Hawaii to hang out with her in her Kahakai Kitchen, ready to learn some new recipes there and share my tested-and-tried-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-for-the-last-six-years carrotty soup.

And here's the recipe for the soup from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook. In German it's called Mohrrubensuppe, but I don't speak that particular language so it's just "carrot soup" for moi.

You'll need:

3 T. (45 ml) margarine
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 T. (15 ml) sugar
2 T. (30 ml) flour
1/2 t. (2 ml) curry powder, or more to taste
2 c. (500 ml) chicken or beef broth (I use 2 c. hot water and 2 chicken buoillon cubes, cheaper and less waste, and the only place I could buy canned broth here in Japan is at Costco anyway)
salt to taste
1-2 T. (15-30 ml) sour cream or yogurt (I use plain yogurt - sour cream is very expensive here)
2 T. (30 ml) white wine (I add one teaspoon to each adult's bowl and stir it around, and obviously don't give any to my toddler)

Do this:

Melt the margarine in a large pot, then add and saute the carrots. Sprinkle the sugar over, then add the flour, curry powder, and broth. Bring it all to a boil while stirring and cook until the carrots are tender. Turn off the heat and purify in your regular blender (how I used to have to do it) or with an immersion blender (much easier and quicker and less washing up afterward). Add salt to taste, the sour cream or yogurt, and the wine. Serve immediately. I added some snipped parsley to mine today and it added just the right flavor.

I usually triple or quadruple this and then freeze some, and it works beautifully. Plenty to chow on the first day, a bit of leftover the next, and then the fruits of your labor pay off later when you're craving it again but don't actually feel like peeling and chopping and boiling.

(BTW, if you can tell me what kind of bowl that is in the above photo I'll blow you a kiss from Japan! It's a traditional Japanese bowl for eating...what? I'll give you a hint. It's not for soup.)

Guten Appetit!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

cranberry-lemon bread pudding with plum-wine sauce

You must, must, must forgo your New Year's resolutions and make this. It's perfect, it really is, if I do say so myself. (My hubby says so, too, and he's not the least bit biased.)

It all just happened spontaneously as I had some frozen yucky sliced white bread from the convenience store leftover from making cornbread dressing at Thanksgiving (the recipe I use for that calls for cornbread hunks and little cubes of white bread as well). I also had two lemons I got on sale for the amazing price of 70 yen (that's a bargain in Japan!). That got the rusty wheels in my little noggin turning. Bread. Lemons. Bread pudding? What would be lovely with that? YES! Cranberries. Mmmmm hmmmmm.

I'd never heard of any bread pudding like this so I just used a regular old recipe (which is not to be sniffed at) from my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook (it calls for raisins and cinnamon that I left out). I've made a rum sauce to go with bread pudding before (in lieu of the traditional whiskey sauce), but I didn't have any rum or whiskey, and I knew that my homemade plum wine had helped make the homemade cranberry sauce at Christmas really special, so I went for it!

The lemon and egg mixture in the pudding almost came out cheese-like in its creamy sourness, the inebriated plumminess of the umeshu (plum wine) and the sweet-sourness of the dried cranberries all made for a taste-bud-heaven match.
Forgive me, but I just couldn't put my camera down. This stuff was just so darn photogenic, and stayed put, to boot (unlike squirrelly kids who can only be photographed when trapped in a tunnel).

The original recipe didn't say to, but I oiled the glass dish first.

OK, so here's what you've been waiting breathlessly for.

You'll need:

4 slices of cubed bread, either really dried out or toasted
2 lemons (I used the zest of both and the juice of one, but hey, if you're feeling frisky, use the juice of two)
enough dried cranberries to spread over the top (about 1 c.)
4 beaten eggs
2 cups milk (I used full-fat just to make it that much tastier and to really break any vestiges of any resolutions hanging about)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla

Do this:

Grease your dish. Heat your oven to 325/165 . In a mixing bowl beat the eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, milk, and sugar. Place your cubed bread in the dish, plop on the cranberries, and pour the liquid mixture over the top. Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (OK, I didn't actually test this and nobody died of salmonella. It was all toasty on top and not too jiggly so I figured that was good enough.) Serve warm with the following plummy sauce.

For the sauce (adapted from the whiskey sauce recipe in Better Homes and Gardens):

Go buy some plum wine at your local Asian shop, or make some yourself and let it sit for approximately two years to get all gorgeous and sloshed. Ready? Good. Grab an egg yolk, beat it up (or if you forget this part like I did it's all good anyway), melt 1/4 c. margarine in a pan and add the egg yolk, 1/4 c. sugar, and 2 T. water. Cook and stir constantly, about 5 or 6 minutes until it boils and the sugar is dissolved. Turn it off and add your 2 T. alcohol.

Spoon it over individual servings of bread pudding, let your hair down, grab a cuppa, and never make any other kind of dessert ever again. This is it, folks.

*The only thing I'd do differently next time is something hubby suggested: Soak those dried cranberries in some warmed plum wine first before you bake it. They'd be nice all juicified.
**Since you don't cook the alcohol in the sauce, obviously don't serve it to your kiddiewinks. Our toddler, The Maffilator, loved the bread pudding as is, no sauce required. He sucked it up like an elephant in a drought at a newly discovered water hole.
***I know lots of other foodie bloggers out there are kicking the holiday-calories goodbye and making lovely dishes like healthy stews and veggies, but you know, I'm breastfeeding and taking care of two kids ages two and under, so don't hate me, but I can eat loads of this kind of puddingy stuff and still lose weight. Brag brag. (Hopefully this won't bite me in the butt when Joel is weaned.)

A whole pan of yumminess. Quick, honey, bring me my fork.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

guest blogger: maffew-bean makes eggs

Maffew do it.

My mama, Mamatouille, was busy making lots and lots of baby food to freeze for my brother (see those carrots and all that oatmeal?), so she asked me to make the scrambled eggs for our mid-morning snack the other day. I happily obliged because eggs are one of the few proteins I will actually let past my lips. Discriminating taste is a good thing for a chef, I've heard.

I'm really good at stirring.

And I really really really like to twirl the whisk. It's my new hobby.

Mama says I'm scarily good at unscrewing bottle tops now, and she let me add the seasoned salt to the egg mixture. It was pretty salty that day but Mama says every once in a while, a little saltiness won't hurt anybody.

Joel's awake. Whale song, again.

How do you like my bed hair? When Daddy saw these pictures, he called it Eccentric Chef Hair.

I know how to open the fridge door, get stuff out, take the top off, shake it (turmeric is good for getting pretty, bright yellow spots on your clothes - you should try it sometime), screw the lid back on, put it back in the fridge, then take it out again, leaving the fridge door open till it beeps.

More senbei, please.

Smelling spices is another of my new hobbies, and I like basil better than oregano. Mama does, too, so I guess that's where I get it from. Mama tries hard not to laugh (I see it in her eyes though she does try to hide it, bless her), but when I "smell", I actually blow out air from my nose. Makes it all less tickly, somehow.

I also added some shredded mozzarella cheese to the eggs ('cause that's what Mama had in the fridge) and a splash of whole milk, then Mama selfishly decided that she wanted to be the one to cook what I had so carefully mixed together. It came out OK anyway, even though she took over, and I had mine with some ketchup, which is the only way to eat eggs, scrambled or fried. Mama's weird and for some odd reason likes salsa on hers.

Parents. You gotta wonder sometimes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

nobue-san's seafood soup

My friend Nobue made this for us one time, and of course I asked for the recipe as soon as the first spoonful passed my lips. It's good stuff, so good that I'm entering it in the Souper Sundays event this week over at Kahakai Kitchen, which I found out about through K and S.

Here's the recipe, in Nobue's own words:

1. Cut fish (either Tara “cod” or salmon) into bite-size pieces, season with salt and pepper, dredge in flour and fry.

2. Cut onions into fine strips.

3. Cut carrots and potatoes.

4. Cook onions with 2 tablespoons of butter until wilted.

5. Add another 2 or 3 tablespoons of butter, put carrot and potatoes, and cook more. Add 4 tablespoons of flour and reduce heat to low for 2-3 min.

6. Pour bouillon soup and bay leaf and boil gently until the potatoes is cooked. Add seafood and fish, add some milk, and cook gently.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Bon appetit!


I also added some little baby frozen shrimp. Man alive, this is more-ish! I can imagine it with some of those little stop-sign-shaped crackers they used to serve in restaurants with fishy soups. Remember those?

doing donuts

The Okinawan-black-sugar-donut Sirens wooed me to the stand outside the grocery store where the man was making them fresh.

I do find Japanese donuts a bit drier than I prefer, but with a glass of milk or a cuppa, it's all good.

The Sirens say so.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

fusilli-ed pumpkin curry stew

(Hangs head in shame.) This is actually from last October, folks! But I was looking through my food-photo folder for something with pasta (to enter into Pasta Presto Nights #96, this time hosted by Ivy at Kopiaste) and something good for cold weather, and I thought this fit the bill.

It all started innocently enough as pumpkin curry soup (I cut the recipe out of a magazine years ago and didn't keep the publishing info - sorry!), but sadly, it was too spicy for us weaklings.

So I just embellished the leftovers into a thick cold-weather stew, adding some stewed tomatoes, chopped fresh carrots, kidney beans, plain natural yogurt, and fusilli pasta. And for serving, I added an extra dollop of plain yogurt on top and some toasted pumpkin seeds I'd made earlier (leftover from the whole kabocha pumpkin I'd bought back in the fall and my toddler had tried to kabocha-nap). Presto chango! Hearty enough for a main meal and calm enough for even the wimpiest taste buds (but definitely not lacking in flavor).

The magazine's original pumpkin curry soup was so simple.

You'll need:

4 c. chicken broth
15-oz. can pumpkin
2 t. curry powder
1/2 t. onion powder
sour cream (I used plain yogurt)

Do this:

Just bring it all to a boil for a minute, until hot to your liking, and then top with the sour cream or yogurt.

And for the leftovers, I added:

the soup from the day before
chopped carrots
a can of kidney beans, drained
a can of stewed tomatoes with all the juices
a handful of fusilli pasta
plain yogurt

Just bring it all to the boil and simmer till the carrots and pasta are tender, then add the yogurt and beans last (next time I'll add some fresh spinach, too). Top with more yogurt and a few toasted pumpkin seeds (just toast in a pan or in the oven with your oil of choice and whatever spices you like--I couldn't get mine as crunchy as I'd have liked them, so next time will do it in the oven instead of on the stovetop).

And hopefully once you've tasted the stew, it'll curry some favor with the partakers. I have no doubts of this.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

been to norway, got the t-shirt...

Remember I mentioned Joan at FOODalogue was going to be cyber-visiting loads of locales around the world? I joined her in Norway and you can read about it here.

Her next stop is Poland, and I don't have any Polish food up my sleeve, but my next planned meeting with her is in the Deep South. Yum and fun. Fun and yum.

(OK, I might make an unplanned pit stop somewhere else along the way--I probably can't stay away!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

krabby wraps

My own dear mom, Mamatouille the First, got me a subscription to Taste of Home's Quick Cooking magazine back in 2002 (now it's apparently called Simple and Delicious). I found this wraps recipe in their January/February issue and I've never looked back--I make it for all kinds of gatherings and I always, without fail, get asked for the recipe. So this time it goes out to Takako and Chisa. This one's for you!

You'll need:

1 package (8 oz. or 230 g) cream cheese, softened (if you forget to leave it out for a while, just give it a quick zap in the microwave)
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
1 package (8 oz.) imitation crabmeat (you know, krab with a "k"), flaked
8 flour tortillas (10 inches or 25 cm) - I always use 5 tortillas because that's how many fit rolled up in my baby oven
(I also add sliced green onions and sliced black olives, though the recipe didn't call for these)

Do this:

Just combine everything in a bowl (except for the tortillas and salsa, of course). I use a fork or a rice-cooker paddle to mix it up, and while the mixture's in the bowl, I divide it into five portions to make sure there's roughly the same amount in each wrap. Spread each tortilla with some of the mixture, roll them up, place them on an ungreased baking tray, and at this point I usually cover them with plastic wrap and slide them into the fridge overnight. Makes party prep the next day that much easier.

Bake at 350/180 for about 20 minutes, though it usually takes less than this, even straight from the fridge. Then slice 'em up after they've cooled for a couple of minutes.

I buy these green onions already sliced from the grocery store. Can you get those where you are? SO convenient.

I've lost touch with Western food prices, but 8 oz. of cream cheese here in Japan costs about US$3. I don't buy it very often because of that! How much is it in your neck of the woods? (Helpful hint: It is worth it for these wraps, though!)

I recently made them for a mochitsuki party for two of the blokes who don't enjoy mochi! Me? I had some of both. (Figures.)

bloggeraid and foodalogue

I just found out from Ivy at Kopiaste about a joint event held by BloggerAid (a site dedicated to ending world hunger) and Joan over at FOODalogue. Joan will be "traveling" to quite a few countries via her blog and is looking for entries to celebrate local meals from each of those places listed in her post here. Well, it just so happens that I've posted recipes recently for two of the locales she'll be "visiting", so be sure to check out BloggerAid, FOODalogue, my Norwegian lemon loaf recipe, and my Deep South New Year's food post inspired by my 91-year-old Georgia-peach grandma. Enjoy your trip!

Friday, January 9, 2009

i did it norway! lemon loaf

Even though the holidays are technically over, I'm still in a major baking mood. I don't get to indulge myself very often so I really do grab my chances when I can. I'd been wanting to make this Norwegian lemon cake for a while, and I realized I had a precious lemon in my fridge I bought from the produce shop the other day. The rest of the ingredients are kitchen staples, so off I went!

It was a gorgeous tart concoction (with a little addition here and there from moi), the way a lemon cake should be, and it turned out even better than I had hoped. I was worried it might be dry, but not a bit. It wasn't moist enough for me as leftovers, though, so if you're having a party and a crowd, it will be gone right away and you won't have that problem. If you do end up having some left and hanging around looking shifty, just do what I did: I heated up a bit of honey, marg, and lemon juice in a bowl in the microwave, mixed it well, and drizzled it over a slice. And don't forget your cuppa.

I know loads has been written about how to stop cracks from forming on your cake tops, but I like mine that way. What does that say about me? Wait, don't answer that.

Norwegian Lemon Loaf (adapted from Extending the Table: A World Community Cookbook)

You'll need:

2 c. (500 ml) sugar (I usually cut back on the sugar but didn't this time, and it was perfect with the lemon)
3 eggs (I halved my recipe, but you can't really use 1.5 eggs, so I used 2)
1 c. (250 ml) margarine, melted
1/2 c. (125 ml) potato flour (I used cornstarch as the book suggested for a substitute)
2 1/2 c. (625 ml) white flour
2 t. (10 ml) baking powder
1 c. (250 ml) milk
rind of 1 lemon, grated (even though I halved the recipe, I added all the rind of the lemon)
(And I also added about 3 T. lemon juice from a bottle in my fridge to make the cake tarter and moister and I'll definitely do that again next time, too.)

juice of the lemon and confectioner's sugar for a glaze

Do this:

Beat the sugar and eggs until thick. Add the rest of the ingredients (except for glaze ingredients) and mix until blended. Pour into two loaf pans that have been greased and floured only on the bottom, and put into a preheated 350/180 oven for 50-60 minutes (if you only bake one cake then watch the time--I did mine for 45 minutes and should've checked earlier). While still warm, glaze with the juice of the lemon and the confectioner's sugar that you've mixed together to make a thick paste.

I can imagine this with some fresh strawberries, though they're not in season at the moment. Darn. I'll just have to make this again in the summer.

brekkie fave

This new delight is so simple: Just fry an egg to your liking (I add a wee bit of oil to the pan and stir my yolk around so it breakdances with the white), toast some fresh bread from the bakery and slather it with marg, add some Worcestershire sauce sprinkles to the bread, top it with the hot egg, and use some seasoned salt on all of it. Don't save it for the morning; heck, have it for dinner if that's what your little pea-pickin' heart desires.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

souper-duper microwaveable miso soup

This recipe comes via a Filipino recipe book (Quick N Easy Microwave Meals) that a dear Filipina friend brought back for me recently from her home country.

Yes, miso soup can be done in the microwave! Hooray! And it was just as good this way as the stove-top version.

You'll need:

1 shiitake mushroom, stemmed and thinly sliced (I used sliced dried ones - they rehydrated well)
4 cups fish broth (dashi)
1/4 c. miso paste
100 g tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used soft tofu)
2 pieces scallion, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths (I used thinly sliced green onions)

Do this:

Combine first 2 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until mushroom turns soft. Stir in miso paste and tofu. Cover and microwave on high 2 minutes, or until hot. Sprinkle with scallion and serve.

I served mine with multigrain rice on the side for a warm and hearty winter lunch.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

salsa dancing with fried tofu

I've got this recipe written on the back of an English conversation worksheet from when I taught middle schoolers in Japan several years ago. One of the Japanese teachers brought this (Japanese) cookbook into the teachers' workroom and of course I asked to borrow it for a few minutes. I wrote this recipe down during a break, thinking I'd make it soon, and "soon" turned into about four years. But it was worth the wait.

I love me some fusion food. Bring it on! The crunchy fried tofu pairs with the cool balsamic-infused tomatoey salad so well that it makes me want to do a bit of a salsa. Eat it and see what happens in your dining room. Maybe a Latin dance set to shamisen music. Funky happens.

You'll need:

1 cake momen (firm) tofu
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
10 cherry tomatoes
1/4 onion
1 branch parsley
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1/2 T. soy sauce
3 T. olive oil (for salsa) + 1 T. for frying
basil leaves

Do this:

1. Wrap tofu in paper towel and press to extract water.
2. Wash tomatoes in cold water, drain, and quarter. Rinse parsley, drain, and pluck off leaves. Peel onion, and chop onion and parsley finely. Rinse basil and dry.
3. Mix vinegar, soy sauce, and 3 T. olive oil in a bowl, then add parsley and onion and mix well.
4. Cut tofu in half. (I cut it in half horizontally and then vertically as well to make 4 pieces. I figure the more surface area for frying the more crunchy bits you'll get to enjoy. That's my theory, anyway, and it worked for me.) Wipe again before frying. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Heat 1 T. olive oil in frying pan over medium heat. Fry both sides of tofu till browned.
6. Arrange tofu on a plate and pour sauce over. Garnish with basil leaves.
7. Grab your partner and do the funky tofu salsa.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

deep south new year's food

My Georgia-peach grandmother used to cook black-eyed peas for "good luck" every New Year's Day (I don't believe in luck but I like the food anyway!). Our co-op delivery guy has asked me about three times if I need to order the traditional Japanese new year food and is shocked every time I tell him I make my own. Of course the Japanese meal is much more time-consuming to pull off (though prettier), but I really do miss my family and making food that they eat helps me feel a little bit closer to them. My grandparents don't have a computer, but they do have a very nifty Presto machine that allows them to receive emails and pictures. I just might have to send my grandma my black-eyed peas photo--wish I could share the real thing with her today.

I had a 1-lb. bag of dried black-eyed peas from the U.S. that I'd been saving, and I soaked them overnight last night to prep them for cooking and chowing today. I usually just boil them with some bacon, onions, green beans, salt, and pepper, but this time I also added some cayenne pepper for a bit of heat, and some garlic, seasoned salt, and chicken bouillon for extra flavor (inspired in part by a recipe on that I cannot locate now for some reason).

No black-eyed peas are ever complete without cornbread. My cornbread recipe is so easy I could do it in my sleep, and I just about had to this morning after two weeks of a teething baby waking me up at all hours every night. (He's darn sweet and I don't mind having extra quality time with him, but I do wish that tooth would come in and we could share our days together and not our nights.)

(From More With Less)

You'll need:

1 c. cornmeal
1 c. flour (I have used whole-wheat flour before and it worked out well)
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 T. brown sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 c. milk
1/4 c. oil

Do this:

Mix the dry ingredients together, then make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk, and oil. Stir just until smooth, pour into a greased 9x9 inch pan (mine is 8x8 and it's totally fine), and bake 25 minutes in a preheated 400 F (205 C) oven.

I sometimes make a half-batch for 6 muffins (you will have to decrease the cooking time, though).

And if you've got cornbread and black-eyed peas, you must have turnip greens to go with. No ifs, ands, or buts. Southern cooking usually requires a hamhock, bacon grease, or some such heavy meaty flavoring (which I'm not averse to but I just didn't have), so I decided to lighten mine up with a joke (cue British hubby and his fun sense of humour). No, actually, I found this recipe for Italian-ized collard greens with tomatoes, and of course I did it MY way (I must be related to Sinatra). I didn't hanker after any Italian seasonings for a North American Southern-style meal, so I just wilted my turnip greens with some garlic, seasoned salt, a little bit of soy sauce (at hubby's suggestion--and it added just the right touch), two fresh chopped tomatoes, and a chicken bouillon cube that I smooshed over it all. Usually my grandma would have a plate of sliced tomatoes on the table that we sprinkled with Goya Adobo or Nature's Seasons, so I knew I had to have tomatoes in some form for this meal. I never thought of putting them in with the greens until I found the above recipe, but it worked, honey.

I'm grateful this year for new beginnings and the blessings of family, friends, and plenty of good food on the table. Happy New Year, everybody! May 2009 bring you laughter and joy like you've never known. (I'm so sappy that I'm going to cry now, so I'd better stop here, for safety's sake. I don't know how our keyboard would handle salt water.)