September 2009

The winner of the Izakaya Cookbook is... Mireia! Congratulations to Mireia, and thank you to everyone who entered. Look for more great giveaways on Just Hungry in the future!

A small update

I'm in the throes of frantic 'must-meet-deadline' mode for my own book. If I meet my first deadline (in less than 2 weeks!!!), I should at least be able to take a shower...I mean, pull my head above water for a bit and update here. Until then, please bear with me!

(Incidentally, doesn't it bug you when people say 'please bare with me'? No I don't want to take my clothes off with you. Geez.

I'm going off on a tangent. Back to work.)

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kuromame_burger1_450.jpg __From the archives. This is terrific freshy made and hot, but is even better cold, so it's great for bentos. Originally published in November 2007.__ Over the past couple of years as I've pursued largely vegetarian eating, I've gradually accumulated a small arsenal of small, round bean patties or balls, which are great as snacks, for bento boxes, and just for dinner, in my regular rotation. This one was inspired by one of the first beany-round thing I made, the samosa-like lentil snacks from The Hungry Tiger, and a Japanese vegan cooking book called _Saisai Gohan_ (Vegetable Meals) by Yumiko Kano. (Yumiko Kano is currently my favorite cookbook author in any language, and I'll talk more about her down the line.) I've adjusted a few things to make them gluten-free. These have the earthy, deep flavor of the black beans that is enhanced by the spices and the sauce, and they are delicious hot or at room temperature. Even diehard carnivores like them. They're really perfect for bento lunches, and I've used it in the all-vegan Bento no. 5 on Just Bento. I also used them as a pita-sandwich filling in Bento no. 6. I have described two methods of cooking these: in the oven, which is good for making them in quantity, and in a frying pan, which is perfect for making a few at a time.

So, I'm writing a book, and a deadline looms.

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Last night I finally got to see Julie and Julia. Here is my very long and otaku-ish take on it.

izakaya.pngWhen a Japanese person dreams of quitting his or her rat-race job and opening a restaurant, the type of restaurant they usually envision is either a kissaten or kafe (a café-restaurant) or an izakaya. An Izakaya (居酒屋)is a small traditional pub that serves food, rather like a Spanish tapas bar. Many are quite tiny, with just the counter and maybe a few tables. The best ones are run with a lot of passion and love, and have fiercely loyal customers.

Izakaya, the Japanese Pub Cookbook conveys the atmosphere and love of food and good sake that are hallmarks of good izakaya perfectly. Written by Mark Robinson, an Australian journalist who fell in love with izakaya establishments in Tokyo, with gorgeous photography in both color and black and white by Masashi Kuma, it is part cookbook and part ode to the cult of the izakaya. You don't just get recipes here, even though it's called a cookbook. There are profiles of izakaya masters, useful advice on izakaya etiquette, notes on sake types, anecdotes and a lot more. I think it can reside as happily on a bedside table as in the kitchen - a quality I look for when I buy cookbooks.

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I have not doing a lot of serious cooking lately, at least not the kind that results in a useful blog post. Most of my cooking energies have been expended on another project, which is wearing me down a bit (more on that at a later time). What I have been cooking for actual meals is very simple food, that requires minimal kitchen time, though not necessarily quick to cook.

The subject of this article is zucchini (courgette) slices that are slowly braised in a fragrant oil. It requires perhaps 10 minutes of actual kitchen time, but an hour or more to complete. Days even, if you choose one option. You don't need to hover over the pan for that time, but you do have to be nearby, to keep an eye on the hot oil, not to mention any errant pets, children or clumsy adults that wander in.

The wait and vigilance are worth it though. The zucchini slices, scented with the pine-mintiness of rosemary, become brown and sticky and almost caramelized on the surface, and soft and creamy on the inside. It's great as an accompaniment to roast or panfried meats or fish, or as part of a vegetarian meal (try it with pasta). I could have it every day, just on its own, if it weren't for the rather ruinous effect it has on my waistline, even if the oil is good-for-you olive oil.

This is the taste of late summer in Provence for me.

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