Sunday, August 31, 2008

Salad Fix: Apple, Cucumber & Shiso

I do love this salad. I think I learned it from my slightly eccentric neighbor who was always cooking up a storm & insisting that come over & eat with her. But I loved it & have been making it for the last 7 yrs.

Ao-shiso is one of my favorite Japanese herbs. It's called Beefsteak in English (I have no idea why) but it's got a light, fresh & clean taste. It goes great with everything from salads, dressings, to onigiri, tempura & sushi. It's so pretty too for garnish. Better fresh than cooked and grows like a weed with very little care. And you ought to if you like it cuz' they sure charge for it at the store. Don't mistake it for red shiso which is mainly used in making umeboshi.

So hopefully this salad can speak for itself. Grate the cucumber, Salt with a few pinches & leave for about 5 min. then squeeze by handfuls to drain the liquid. I like doing that part, (this is a much used Japanese way of making quick pickles, the cucumber will keep the salt so don't overdo it with the salt) add sliced apples (keep the peel for color) & about 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar) a tbsp of granulated sugar or honey (if you're so inclined) chop the shiso & mix thoroughly & that's it. You may want to adjust the taste according to your preference. Nothing to it! I think this goes great with a light summer meal like, dashi maki, sushi, tofu etc..

Gosh, that looks good.

PS: this doesn't keep too well in the fridge so better try to pawn it off in one sitting. Maan, this is making me want to eat cucumber & wakame salad too, or moyashi & wakame...ooh....or daikon & wakame......hey....and there's that new korean one I found with Daikon & carrot....OK, that one I HAVE to post. (yeah right, school is starting in few days, I'll be lucky if I can make myself instant coffee) Catch you later!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Frozen Delight!

I can’t believe summers almost over and I’ve only used my ice cream maker 3 times. And only once for actual ice cream. But I’ve discovered the simplicity of frozen yogurts. If you can believe it Japan is not really big on this upper yummy alternative to ice cream. Though secretly I'm not as into the health properties as I am into the simplicity of preparing it. But I’ve found that all I need is a carton of yogurt some fruit & a frozen ice cream maker “canister”.

This is my Raspberry/passion fruit frozen yogurt. First I made the Raspberry part. 1 500ml carton of yogurt, ½ c of frozen raspberries thawed, & a couple tbsp of honey. Then I made the passion fruit part with another carton of yogurt ½ c of passion fruit jam, and a little yellow food coloring for good measure. Give them a little toss together & put them in the freezer to set but not harden. And that was a nice little after-dinner dessert with a guilt free conscious for mommy! This one was a simple blueberry one. (In the first picture) As we all know, fresh blueberries are pretty expensive in Japan but I found some that were grown in our prefecture for 200Y for a cup, not bad! Smashed a few, left a few whole & blended with yogurt & honey. Voila! I would’ve actually thought adding some swirls of blueberry jam when it was already firm would’ve been ideal, but this was great anyway.
I’m scheming to make some watermelon/vodka sorbet with the remainder of the sweet enormous watermelon DH got us. I just need a hot day to justify it. We’ll see.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Midevial NOT Capon salad

I wanted to write something dramatic & romantic about this salad. I mean look at it? Who cares if it was just one dish out of 250 dramatic & romantic dishes on the table that night. That just looks good to me!

Well, I guess, to the untrained eye it can be construed as a pile of over boiled chicken breast with bloated raisins smashed on top. And maybe I'm the only one who can really look at & appreciate the time & effort it took.

Before I tell you about this venture let me just clarify that I did NOT find capons. Which I'm sure you knew already, is(and I did too once I googled it & nearly spewed coffee all over the computer) a castorated male chicken!! So yeah, I would've felt awful about using capons, as if their life wasn't bad enough already, poor guys!!

The recipe was roughly 2 pages long. I normally stay away from long lists & instructions but I couldn't help it, it was just fun from start to finish. I started this dish 4 days before the party. First off I prepared a broth with a bouquet garni of Italian Parsley, rosemary & laurel leaves (from my garden, and the neighbor's laurel tree, eh-hum), 10 whole black pepper corns, 2 onions, & 4 celery stalks, 4 carrots. I feel medieval already, grrr. Oh, mustn't forget the 1 kg worth of chicken wings.
After an hr or so the broth looked like that -- and it smelled sooo good! At this point I indulgently poured 1/2 a bottle of white wine in & simmered some more. (As if it didn't smell good enough already) Now comes the part where we give the chickens a nice warm bath (one at a time of course), for about one hour & then set for another 2 till cooled. Skimming off the top. See, this picture makes me want to skim, see that gunkus on the right side? Tsk tsk!
Now to dry off. Well, not so glorious looking now are we? Into the fridge and then stripped down to the bone. Of course I got to hog the broth strained & froze it and I'm saving it for a cool rainy day to make a great soup, just you wait. (though it stands great on it's own, with just a little sea salt, DH kept coming back for samples)
Oh goodie, here's my favorite part. I just felt so happy making this. And I will use this dressing regularly. Peeled the rind of 2 lemons & 2 oranges, 2 cinnamon sticks & 3 laurel leaves, 1 c of red wine vinegar, 1 c raisins, 1 tsp crushed pepper, 3 tbsp powdered sugar
Bring this all to a ever so slight simmer to infuse the vinegar, then leave to soak for a while, discard the laurel & cinnamon sticks. (or if you have a silly 2 year old let her walk around the house sucking on them saying "I'm eating cinanin bark"). Toss the chicken & dressing & let the flavors mature for 3 whole days. Yeah, you heard me, I guess that's the medieval part, huh? Garnished with 1 c of pine nuts, 1/2 c of chopped Italian parsley & 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil. If you happened to be there & taste this, I hope it was any good. I sure enjoyed it. It was the fact that the orange & lemon rind gave it an extra zing & the raisins were quite soaked through with the vinegratte that made me love it. Not to mention the chicken itself was tender & flavorful. Mind you, I don't know if I'll ever make it again. As you can imagine it's not a very cheap salad. But that's my story & I wanted to tell it.

Oh & PS: if any one has a good "why-did-the-castorated-male-chicken-cross-the-road" joke I'd love to hear it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thanks Aimee!

Here is the Christening of the new muffin tin. Happened to be a hasty morning corn muffin making, but who cares! They were great & slipped right out of the baking tray" nice & neat" like. Anyway, I sure do appriciate it. Hope you & the girlies can come again. Erika still talks about Kiki being her "big girl friend". Give us a ring if you're around the area! Thanks again! Those were some GIANT muffins!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I can't believe I'm promoting Macha-ole, but YES, -- Elaina, you were right. And now this is my new drink of the day! It's shamelessly girly, but terribly smooth & calming! I like green tea straight when it's hot but iced, It must be milk. If it's about 1/4 milk, the green tea comes as a subtle aftertaste.
About 2 tbsp of tea. (Well, I wanna be awake don't I?)
Let it cool.
Now I don't care where you come from, that's just yummy looking!
Add the milk............. OK....add a little more...............
Must not forget the ice............ & VOILA!! Make sure your kids are still asleep & enjoy before breakfast crazed toddlers come down with wild hairdos.

PS. My DH felt like a daft fool for taking pictures of me pouring milk into a mug. He was rolling his eyes the whole time as if he had just partaken in some ludicrous act. (You know, the ones where the magician calls up someone and makes them stand in some questionable position & they feel all retarted & wonder why they ever came to the circus.) Bless his heart!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Salad fix: Coleslaw

Coleslaw! When I was a kid I couldn't stand it, now I love it. There was a moving conversion involving a pregnancy & a KFC craving. OK, so this is all pretty standard stuff, but I've done it enough time to toy with the mayo mix to get it the way I like it which is a little more vinegary & of course, sweeter.

The pics speak for themselves, I hope.

Our Veggies! Chop chop!! Don't forget to get rid of those huge, really thick cabbage stems. Cut it Smmmmmaaall! No, smaller than that.....really small.
Yeah, there you go!
Grate the carrots not your fingers please. And now for the mayo-mix. Here are the ingr. Mayo (duh), honey, salt, apple cider vinegar & nutmeg
These are pretty rough estimates but I'd say about 1 c of Mayo, 3 tbsp vinegar, 3 tbsp honey, 1/2 tsp nutmeg & a few pinches of salt. Blend Blend!

And of course raisins go on just before serving unless you like those bloated soggy raisins, I don't!

Every once in awhile I use dried cranberries, which are even better (I think) cuz' they are more tart than raisins.

BTW @ 83% of my kids love coleslaw.

Happy Lunchy-munchie

Thursday, August 14, 2008

School's Out at My House

I’m not sure I’m thrilled about closing up the school year. On one hand it means no more late night corrections & memos to “pencil-happy” children to "stop doodling pictures of stick people doing the tango in the margins of your Arithmetic", on the other hand it means…..well, you know what it means, it means no more school.

Not that I’m a stranger to ad-libbing, but it is kind of nice to rely on books to keep your kid still for a few hours. But now there’s talk of art projects, cooking projects, inventions & experiments. I know, I know, what kind of a home schooling parent are you if you don’t like creativity & the tendency to expand on the given material? Well, I like creativity just fine, when it’s something I do PART TIME!

But all day loooooooong? OK, have you ever seen me panic? (Don’t answer that question, obviously you have) well…..I’m not panicking, I’m just thinking about organizing the school shelves, putting together the kids’ portfolio pages & worst yet sifting through the “Art Drawer”.

Ah, the Art Drawer. What started off as a handy place to put half-finished coloring pages & color pencils & extra erasers has digressed considerably.

Let’s just call a spade a spade, if you’ve been to my house you’ve no doubt unearthed the “Art Drawer” and gotten that uneasy feeling that you’re staring into the bottomless pit of which there is no return & Satan will be falling perpetually through crayons & glue stick lids for 1000 years. But let’s be honest, everyone has an “Art Drawer” in their house. If you’ve lost anything at my house, a sock, wad of play dough or one of your small children, that’s where you’d most likely find it.

My favorite part of organizing this drawer is, of course, throwing things away. This may be a rare hereditary condition passed down (obviously) from my mother’s side. It’s quite simple really, there is no greater joy than throwing away as many things as you can in the shortest period of time. I have fond memories of when my Dad would come tearing into our room picking up Lego pieces and shouting “Don’t you know LEGOS ARE MONEEEYYYYY!!!”, followed closely by Mom on the warpath with the garbage bag.

I’m still waiting for the day I have a broken stereo so I can give it the same fate Dad’s poor stereo got when he unwisely left the house one day when Mom was on the rampage. Har har!! Who can forget, hey Dad?

Well, it must be done & this year... I’ll do it in style by getting my kids to help me with their own portfolios & choosing what artwork to keep & what to trash. And somehow or another we’ll have a successful summer, though I loose every last one of my frizzy hairs. (Which would not really be such a bad thing) Ideas are welcome.

Till I update again, let me leave you with this one thought:

What does a crowd of Japanese people looking up the sky say about the weather?

“Oh my gyaaaa, It’s bery crowdy today!”

That was brought to you by “Al-&-co’s-corny-dinner-joke-creations”. Sadly, there’s more where that came from!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tomato & Mozzarella

Isn't it the most gorgeous/ simple combination of perfection on God's Green Earth? Red & white with a little green. I've told my kids the Italian flag is green, white & red because of basil, mozzarella & tomato. Correct me if I'm wrong Italians? (Hey, I also teach them Japan's flag is a obento with an umeboshi in the middle. Don't get me started on other countries)

This salad has my husband's stamp of 100% approval on it.

The story goes like this: The first time I invited Josh to dinner at our home was for Christmas Dinner so I was going all out trying to impress him. (of course I was) After working all day in the kitchen and then trying to look like I hadn't been working all day in the kitchen, I believe he was genuinely surprised. (you know, that face where he's impressed but trying not to look impressed? He didn't know I could) The part though where he decided to marry me & live happily ever after was when only a few guests nibbled at the tomato & mozzarella salad & by the end of the meal when everyone was packing in those last few desserts, he was contentedly sitting with two plates of tomatoes & mozzarella before him & happily scarfing down all the remainder. Murmuring his approval as he tilted the plate & downed the dressing as well.........and then of course we went & had 6 kids. THE END!!!

Juuuuust kidding!

Well, if you can't get it by looking at the pictures I don't really know how to help you. Slice it, arrange it, sprinkle plenty of salt & pepper on it, rip some basil onto it, drizzle olive oil over it & that's it. Generally it's proper to use red-wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil but I agree balsamic vinegar will do great too if you like that strong-manly taste. The above picture has some mixed nuts left over from my another dish but I thought it was purty.

Here's the alternative "summer veggie salad". Which I'm sorry to say did NOT get the DH's stamp of approval. Due to the presence of eggplant & zucchini. Slice & saute the veggies in olive oil & add them to the process. Roughly 75% of my kids liked it. (that's lemon thyme in the middle & I bet it would taste awesome sprinkled over the salad in place of basil.)
And if it's winter & you don't have any fresh basil, I wouldn't substitute the dry basil with it's "sawdust" consistency on top, it really doesn't go over too well. Just have it as is! (Note the black balsamic vinegar)

Note: Don't refrigerate too long before eating if you've salted it or a lot of the tomatoes juice will drain out. Plus it looks so nice with that "I-just-took-a- shower-in- olive- oil" look.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Can We Make It? Yes We Can!

So one upon a time, my handy-dandy sister who is the culprit of all things daring/brazen & bizarre in the kitchen asks me if I'd try this ice cream. Wonder of wonders I happened to stumble across this person's blog already when looking for Lebanese recipes and it just happened to be when she was on a deadly 20 days of ice-cream "thing"! (shied your eyes, ice cream fans)

Well, I finally found the time and with a little help from my friends we did indeed make Olive-oil Ice cream.

It was a basic custard/cool/churn recipe. Which you can find here. I slapped the custard together while making dinner. This is it in it's baby stage. See, check out the olive oil, all glistening & golden on top.
I must be honest & say that I did try the balsamic chocolate sauce. But it was a bit of a boo-boo. (scratch that it was a raging, hard core, painful, catastrophe.) I think that when it says "good quality balsamic vinegar" it really does mean that. Check the label. When your vinegar has "caramel color" in it, it's not a good sign of quality. Or it could have to do with the fact that my baby just happened to have a massive poopy & I washed & changed him & came back to a sulfuric-nose-biting mess. (hey, if you want a real thrill, take a big nose-whiff of boiling balsamic vinegar. GOOD MORNING!) that went down the drain.
Of course the best part about this venture is the fact that my sister coincidentally happened to come by & visit the very morning that I happened to complete it with the kids. We got this ice cream maker last year but only used it twice.Here they are looking all useful & solemn.

"I'm useful"

"I'm solemn"Not everyone wanted to churn......somebody wanted to climb into the sink!The result was a shockingly great flavor, everyone who tasted it thought it had a nutty aftertaste, so once Elaina showed up we chopped up some walnuts & mixed it in. And while the daddies & Uncle Dan-dan got sun-stroke at the park with the kids -- sisterly love continued in the air-conned dining room where two happy ladies indulged in a good chat & some nice Olive Oil Ice-cream.

.......and they all lived happily ever after! (of course the kids got some too)

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Well....I wasn't. I just dropped my art & ran home to make dinner! Now my kitchen is short on, all my serving dishes & glassware/baking pans & ice cooler! But at least I have space in my fridge

Chala, I'm still going to quiz you later to make sure you ate what I made.

I hope you got eat "Big Bill's" Nina, thanks for helping with the kids here.

Here are some more snippets & I hope to put up a salad recipe or two later. That's right! I shall remain true to my word. Lets all live on salad & ice cream till autumn comes to rescue us. And Elaina, now that my freezer is open I shall take you up on that ice cream. BELIEVE IT!!


Tell me you like the pattern, Elaina??? I thought of you!

NO, it's not a mayonnaise cake.

Trifle for the Brits!!

And it's a wrap for now!!