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It's about food, restaurants, recipes and just plain eating.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What Do You Call These?

If you read my bento posts you know that tamagoyaki is practically my favorite part of any bento.  Another favorite is budo mame.  As near as I can tell, budo mame means soybeans simmered until tender then simmered in sugar and soy sauce until caramelized.  They are, in my humble opinion, delicious.  Sweet, tangy, toothsome and tasty.

Of course, they don't really get totally tender.  Either that or I have never let them cook long enough.  My recipe says 4 -5 hours.  I skimped on that last time and the beans were decidedly not tender.  Not crunchy, but with lots of texture.

This is a recipe I do not make often.  Not because it's difficult - it's actually remarkably easy requiring only a few steps (soaking the beans, simmering the beans, skimming and adding water as needed and simmering in sugar and soy sauce at the end).  No, I don't make them often because by the time I think of them it's too late to soak them overnight and to simmer them the required 4 - 5 hours.

Never mind.  You are much more organized and forward thinking than I and you will get the beans soaking and cooking well in advance of when they will be wanted. 

For an "official" recipe visit my very favorite bento web site.  The recipe is here.  Enjoy!

Quotable quotes; in the category Having Your Cake And Eating It Too Is A Snap Compared To This!

"Wishing to eat the fugu, but wishing to live too."  Japanese proverb

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's Not Easy Eating Greens

I have been interested in foraging and wild foods for a long time.  Several times I have attempted to cook and eat dandelion greens.  Somehow, there is something enticing about the idea of foraging for food, something you did not have to plant and cultivate, and having a  tasty dish for your trouble.

There is a reason Granny (remember the Beverly Hillbillies on TV?) served greens with possum gravy and pot likker.  They taste pretty terrible on their own.  Which is why I kept trying them but never actually got around to eating them.

According to some of the books and web sites I have read recently part of the trick is boiling.  And boiling.  And more boiling.  It apparently helps to remove, or at least tame, some of the bitterness.

I happened to have cooked some bacon that morning and had not yet washed out the pan.  I figured what better way to cook dandelions than in bacon grease, my Greek cookbook notwithstanding.  I headed out to the back yard in the cool misty drizzle (not really rain) and pulled a hefty handful of dandelion greens and a few sprigs of garlic mustard (there was not much that I could reach).

I doused the greens in a pot of water and swished them around, let them stand, then lifted them from the water to allow any grit to settle to the bottom.  Drained and rinsed the pan and repeated a couple times to make sure the greens were clean, then I chopped them coarsely (another tip to help with bitterness).  I added a fat pinch of salt, brought them to a boil and let them simmer about ten minutes.  I tasted and they seemed okay - not overly bitter.  Next time I will likely drain and boil them at least two or three times - the finished greens were decidedly bitter.

After boiling I drained them and tossed them into the skillet that contained the bacon grease (and luckily a few specks of bacon which had stuck to the pan).  I turned up the heat and let them go a good long time - maybe 20 minutes or so - stirring occasionally and seasoning them with a little more salt, pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes as well as a dribble of olive oil.  I would have added a splash of vinegar if I had thought of it.

They were bitter.  But not un-eatable.  Tender but still toothsome.  If I try them again I'll let you know.  For now I'll stick with kale and Swiss chard, challenging in their own way but a little easier to relate to.

Quotable quotes; in the category Nuts About Nuts Or Just Nuts?

"I look for natural ingredients in my food.  That's why Grape Nuts is part of my breakfast . . . Its naturally sweet taste reminds me of wild hickory nuts."

Euell Gibbons, American Food & Nature Writer, from his Post Grape Nuts commercial

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bent uh-oh

I brought a bento to work for lunch today.  I am not posting a picture of it because it is decidedly ugly.  I tried making a tamagoyaki (rolled egg omelet) with asparagus spears rolled up inside.  It failed dismally, falling apart and looking extremely un-photogenic.  I know from experience that tamagoyaki is delicious.  In fact it's usually my favorite part of the bento and I try to include one in every bento I make, so I'm confident that this ugly duckling will still taste great.

In addition I have beef strips with shitake mushroom and a sort of spicy chicken teriyaki.  I cooked the mushrooms the day before, then added them to the beef.  I also cooked some carrot, celery and radish (raw veggies from a couple days ago) and glazed them with the chicken.  In case you want to try them here are my "recipes".  I don't claim they are authentic but they are all based on recipes I have found at other bento blogs and cookbooks with my own adaptations imposed up on them.  Enjoy!

Simmered Shitake Mushrooms:  my recipe said to use fresh mushrooms.  I didn't have any so I soaked dried mushrooms in water, trimmed & discarded the stems, then sautéed them in sesame oil.  I added a drizzle of soy sauce, mirin and sake and a pinch of sugar and simmered until the liquid had cooked away and the mushrooms were glazed.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Sesame Style Beef:  slice any tender cut of beef thinly against the grain.  About a half dozen generous slices will make a nice serving.  Marinate 15 - 30 minutes in soy sauce, mirin and sake -  about a teaspoon or so of each.  Saute over medium high heat in sesame oil, then add the marinade and simmer, turning often, until the liquid has reduced to a syrupy glaze and the beef is coated.  Optional - you can add a pinch of red pepper flakes and garnish with minced green onion if you wish.  Add the mushrooms and finish the beef & mushrooms together.

Spicy Chicken:  use chicken breast or thigh, as you prefer, boneless, skinless or not.  Marinate in a little hot sauce such as Tabasco or Picante sauce.  Saute in sesame oil until browned on all sides then add a little teriyaki sauce or a dribble each of soy sauce, mirin and sake (are you getting a picture here?) and simmer until thickened and chicken is glazed.  Optional, include some celery, carrot and onion or radish, thinly sliced and cooked in sesame oil, soy sauce & mirin.  Alternately, toss the marinated chicken in a little corn starch or potato starch, omit the teriyaki sauce, and cook until browned and crusty.

Pack your bento with steamed rice, the beef, chicken and tamagoyaki, if you made one, and some extra spears of asparagus or steamed broccoli florets.  Add a couple cherry tomatoes for color.  Allow the bento to cool completely before placing the cover on the box.  This bento should require no refrigeration as long as it's eaten within a few hours of preparing.

For more bento ideas check out my favorite bento blog, Just Bento.

Quotable quotes; in the category This Way To Tasty But Ugly Tamagoyaki!

"Failures are the finger posts on the road to achievement."
C. S. Lewis