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Monday, June 17, 2013

Bento Is As Bento Does

I've been playing with bento, mostly from leftovers, the last few days.  We had some leftover kabobs with chicken, beef, pepper, onions & mushrooms.  I decided they could be repurposed as bento dishes.

For the first reincarnation I sliced a few pieces of the beef & chicken and sliced the pieces of pepper, onion & mushrooms.  I sautéed them in a little sesame oil and finished with the little bit of teriyaki sauce left in the bottle.  It was pretty good.

I paired that with some leftover macaroni & tuna salad.  I mean if you're gonna do leftovers, don't discriminate!  Besides, there are many versions of a macaroni salad in the bento books.  Some watermelon chunks added a "dessert" and helped fill my teddy-bear bento box.

For the next recreation I tried something I had read about - minced meat cooked until saucy and served over rice with a sort of scrambled egg and a vegetable dish.  I minced the remaining beef & chicken in the food processor and sizzled it in a little sesame oil, drizzling with soy sauce and mirin until it was tasty.

Likewise, I "scrambled" an egg, beaten with a little soy and mirin, by holding several chopsticks in my hand and stirring constantly until the egg was cooked and crumbly.  These two "sprinkles" were spread over a bed of rice.  The remaining pepper, onion & mushroom was sliced and cooked as before.  These were accompanied by a quick zucchini pickle.  There was enough of the meat and vegetable left for yet another bento the next day.

For this third and final version, I simply reheated the meat & vegetable (separately) adding a little more soy & mirin and spread them over the rice.  I made a one-egg tamagoyaki and also made a dish of carrot, onion & celery, julienned and cooked in sesame oil with soy and mirin and a little red pepper flakes.  Don't be deterred by using the same "dressing" ingredients in every dish.  For some reason, each retains its own unique flavors, complemented by the sauce ingredients.  They don't all taste the same.

Go ahead and use leftovers in your bento.  Indeed, go ahead and use just about anything in your bento!  From peanut butter sandwiches to marinated artichoke hearts to tuna casserole, anything goes.  And if it tastes good otherwise, it will taste good in your bento!

Quotable quotes; in the category Yes The Bento Lunch Is Tasty But What's For Supper?

"I'm the kind of girl who thinks about what she's gonna cook for dinner when she's finishing her lunch."  Padma Lakshmi, Cookbook Author, Actress, Model & Television Host.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Bento Calling My Name

It's time for another bento.  I'll make one tomorrow.   I have some leftover rice in the fridge so I'll make fried rice.  Easy and tasty.  I also have leftover ham from this week's sandwiches so I'll dice up some of that for the fried rice and maybe a couple of those mini cocktail wieners that I like so well.  If I had any bean sprouts I'd use those too, but I don't so I won't.

I have lettuce so a little salad would go nice with the rice.  I have some cucumbers so maybe I'll make a quick pickle too.  I haven't decided if I'll make my favorite tamagoyaki or if I'll just scramble an egg into the fried rice.

Fried rice is easy.  All you need is leftover rice (cold is best) and something else to put in it.  Even sliced garlic will do (and boy is it good - check this out).  My recipe is not authentic.  It's just good.  Try it and see.

Heat some oil in a skillet.  Use a little sesame oil for extra flavor.  When it's hot sauté a little chopped onion and/or garlic, if you wish, then toss in the rice.  Break up the clumps with a wooden spoon and stir and toss until the rice is pretty even and pretty much heated through.  You can push the rice aside and add other ingredients - diced ham, leftover bits of chicken or shrimp, vegetables and bean sprouts - use whatever you like and whatever you have on hand.  When those ingredients are heated through mix them all together with the rice.

Now push the rice over to the side again, add a little more oil to the bare spot in the pan (easily done with a folded bit of paper towel dipped in oil) and break an egg onto the oiled spot.  You can scramble it first or just crack it right into the pan.  Stir it around with a pair of chopsticks to scramble it as it cooks.  When it's pretty well done but still soft and tender, mix it in with the rice (if you like it cooked firmer, go ahead).

Now add some sauce.  You can just pour in a little soy sauce or you can use a bottled teriyaki type sauce or if you have some leftover dipping sauce from your soba noodles or dumplings, use that.  If you want to get fancy mix a little soy sauce with some mirin and sake, or just add these separately, a few dribbles at a time.  Stir and toss so the sauce gets mixed all through the rice and you're about done.  Serve this garnished with minced green onion or toasted sesame seeds and you're off!

To make a quick pickle, slice cucumber (or zucchini) thinly.  Sprinkle with a hefty pinch of salt and toss it around in a bowl, squeezing it to get the salt working.  You can weight it with a plate, put it in a pickle press or just leave it for about 20 - 30 minutes.  Now squeeze out the excess water, rinse and drain and squeeze again.  Dress with a little rice vinegar, or cider vinegar or even lemon juice.  Add a pinch of cayenne or red pepper flakes or a few thin slices of chili pepper, toss and serve.  Pickles like this will last a few days in the fridge so make enough for your next couple bentos and you're all set!

I won't try to tell you how to make a tamagoyaki.  Instead, here is a link to my favorite bento web site where you can learn her technique much more easily than by trying to decipher my instructions.  Enjoy your bento!

Quotable quotes; in the category Does It Make Me Feel Good Because I Like It Or Do I Like It Because It Makes Me Feel Good?

"Japanese food makes me feel particularly good."  David Mitchell