recipe

Japanese basics: the essence of Japanese flavor, in a bottle

I’ve got an amazing bottle in my refrigerator now. It’s filled with a mixture that forms the base for just about any sort of Japanese food. It takes all the drudgery out of making a clear soup, or a Japanese style stew, or the dipping sauce for noodles. I can’t live without it anymore. continue reading...

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Julia

Julia Child passed away yesterday, at the age of 91. Probably most people who are passionate about food and cooking, and spent any time in the U.S. in the last 30 years or so, have felt her influence. I'm no exception - one of my standby cookbooks is her Way to Cook (a perennial recommended book in my sidebar here). continue reading...

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Zucchini basil muffins

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Rhubarb crumble pie

rhubarb_crumble

Rhubarb remains one of the truly seasonal produce items, only available in the spring. We're now at the tail end of the rhubarb season, so I'm trying to enjoy it as much as possible. Rhubarb has a distinctive tart flavor that is really wonderful, and quite different from any "fruit". (Of course, the edible part of the rhubarb is technically not a fruit, since it's the stalk, but it's treated as a fruit in culinaric terms.) continue reading...

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Early strawberries in balsamic vinegar

strawberries in balsamic vinegar

We are starting to get good fresh strawberries now. They are being shipped from places like Spain and Italy, which is not quite the same as the freshly picked ones that will be available from local sources in a few weeks. Still, they are much better than the real long-distance travelers from places like Israel and California with woody insides that are sold out of season. continue reading...

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How to make apple bunnies, to eat with a Camembert in Calvados

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On Easter, we had a selection of cheeses, one of which was this very interesting Camembert soaked and aged for a while in Calvados. Since Calvados is an apple cider-based brandy, apples seemed to fit well. And, since it was Easter, the apple wedges were transformed into apple bunnies. continue reading...

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Chocolate chip and almond cookies

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The usual image of homebaked chocolate chip cookies, at least in the U.S., is that of large, thick cookies with a soft, rather gooey center. The soft and gooey texture is so desired by many people that commercial cookie manufacturers even manage to maintain that in cookies that have been on the shelf for months. This to me seems very wrong. And, I don't think that gooey-soft necessarily indicates a good quality chocolate chip cookie either.

Sure, when you take the cookies out of the oven and eat them right away, they are sort of gooey and soft. But once they cool down, I prefer them to be rather crispy, even lacy, and delicate. For this reason I add a bit more butter than is normal in the traditional Toll House type of chocolate chip cookie. This makes the dough spread out more during baking, making the cookies thinner. Using slivered almonds instead of chunky nuts also makes them lighter and crispier.

If you prefer the gooey type of cookie though, use more flour or less butter.

I also use raw (light brown) granulated sugar instead of the fluffy dense brown sugar used in the traditional recipe. This is mainly because we can't get that "packed" sort of soft brown sugar here. Also, the dark brown sugar has a very pronounced molasses-like taste to me, which I don't think really fits for this cookie.

These are very adult chocolate chip cookies, because of the almonds and the dark chocolate chips. Of course kids love them also. I made these with the lemon bars in the preceeding recipe and meringue kisses for Easter, and boy were they popular. continue reading...

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Lemon squares revisited

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A while back I posted a recipe for lemon squares, a sort of cross between a cookie and a tart with a lemon-curd topping. Some people tried it out, and found it a bit too tart. I went back and fiddled around with the proportions of sweet to sour (lemon juice), and here is the result. There is more curd, which I think makes it even better. The curd is quite a bit sweeter with 1 cup of sugar, and the extra egg makes it creamier also. continue reading...

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mmm, anchovies

I love anchovies. I can't get enough of them. They are the perfect salty flavor enhancer, on pizza, pasta, and so many other things. One of my favorite pizzas is a simple margarita base (that's tomato sauce and mozzarella), with calamata olives and anchovies. continue reading...

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Cream puffs

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It seems that a new food craze in New York these days are cream puffs from a store called Beard Papa, on the Upper West Side. It's owned by a Japanese company. This makes sense to me, because cream puffs are a part of my childhood in Japan. continue reading...

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Basics: Choux pastry

Choux pastry is what is used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, and eclairs. It is also used to make such delights such as the Paris-Brest, a giant cream puff ring filled with flavored cream. continue reading...

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Dark chocolate peanut butter cups

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Is my blog burning: tartine edition (with a recipe for hummus)

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I wasn't too well prepared for the tartine edition (hosted by Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini) of Is My Blog Burning? (conceived by Alberto of Il Forno). I forgot to buy any special bread, so had to make do with regular toast bread and some pumpernickel.

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Mushipan: steamed bread/cake

steamed cake

For Japanese kids, oyatsu is a big part of the day. It means snack time, and is usually in mid-afternoon. It's sort of like afternoon tea or elevenses in England. My mother usually was working when we were growing up so she didn't have much time to make us homemade oyatsu, but when she did one of the things she'd make was mushipan. continue reading...

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Stuffed bread

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This is the other thing served at at our Oscar-watching party. Since the show went on from 2 am to about 6:30 we were quite silly, so the food had to be low-stress, no utensils, and tasty. Both this bread and the soup (in the previous entry) were a hit. continue reading...

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Carrot-Ginger-Orange Soup

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We had a small Oscar-watching party last night, and the two things I served were this soup (in mugs) and the stuffed bread described in the next entry. continue reading...

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Jalapeño and cheese cornbread

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Although I do love baking as a hobby, the fact is that it's possible to get great bread from the local bakery or even the supermarket here in Switzerland. So, most of the day to day baking I do is of quick-bread type of things. continue reading...

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Nikujaga: Japanese stewed meat and potatoes

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There is a category of cooking in almost every cuisine, "mother's cooking". It means something that's simple, homely, filling, and invokes strong feelings of nostaliga. In Japanese this is called ofukuro no aji (mother's flavor). Nikujaga, or stewed potatoes with meat, is one of the mainstays of Japanese-style mother's cooking. continue reading...

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Is my blog burning?: Spiced Spinach Soup

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Here is my entry for the the soup blogging day proposed by Alberto of Il Forno. continue reading...

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Temple Food II: Zohsui (Japanese rice soup)

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Continuing on the theme of temple food - simple, easy to digest food that is gentle on the stomach and the soul - here is zohsui, or ojiya. Where I grew up, we called it ojiya, which is considered a more vulgar term. Whatever you call it, it's essentially a soup made of rice, various aromatic vegetables, egg, and sometimes some seafood or chicken. It's closely related to Chinese congee. continue reading...

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Temple food and braised vegetables

braised bok choi

I haven't posted here this past week, mainly because I have been very busy, and haven't had much time to do any sort of serious cooking. I've also felt that I'd overindulged a bit over the past weekend, what with my birthday and all. So I've been trying to have some simpler food to get back to some sort of state of balance. continue reading...

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Mousse au chocolat

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For my birthday dinner dessert, Max made his speciality - a melt in your mouth mousse au chocolat. Unlike many other mousse recipes, this one contains no cream, and no added sugar. It's just bittersweet chocolate, eggs, and a little butter. Of course, it uses a very Swiss ingredient, chocolate. continue reading...

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Saltimbocca and risotto

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Consider the omelette

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Sometimes making a particular dish takes a long time, involving several steps, but if you follow the directions carefully enough it's fairly easy. On the other hand there are things that only take a few minutes to prepare, but may take years to really get right.

One such item is a classic plain omelette. continue reading...

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Melange of mushrooms soup

We are a little past the peak of the mushroom season now, but it's still quite possible to get a whole variety of fresh cultivated and wild mushrooms. And what better way to have them than in a simple soup, that really brings out their flavor? continue reading...

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Homemade pizza

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Basics: pizza dough

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I have to admit, that a lot of the baking I do is quite time consuming - such as the desem bread. For me, baking bread is sort of a hobby, not something I just do for the sake of making bread, but it's not practical to bake things that require long kneading and hours of rising time frequently. But not all bread doughs like that. This dough, which can be used for pizza, foccaciaa, calzone, and the like, is very simple to make, especially if you have a food processor.

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Basics: tomato sauce

tomato sauce

I've been posting some of the basic building blocks of Japanese cooking, and I thought I would add some other basics too. While I like to experiment with a new recipes sometimes, for everyday cooking this isn't too practical. So I rely on a few basic recipes that I have more or less memorized, and vary them to produce different results. continue reading...

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Japanese basics: teriyaki

The term "teriyaki" is used a lot these days. Usually it indicates that a sweet-savory soy-sauce based sauce called teriyaki sauce has been used. However, teriyaki is actually the word for a cooking method - and it's very easy to do. continue reading...

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Ochazuke, rice with tea

ochazuke
ochazuke is rice, tea and a lot of very Japanese stuff.

Ochazuke combines two quintessentially Japanese ingredients, plain white rice and green tea. Ochazuke is commonly served at the very end of an elaborate Japanese full course meal. It's also favored as a midnight snack, a hangover cure, or just when you want something hot and filling. It's commonly made with leftover rice, though ideally the rice should be heated up if it's cold. continue reading...

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Oranges and lemons, with lemon squares

oranges, lemons, limes

[Update:] A few people found this recipe to be not sweet enough. If you like your lemon bars to be a bit sweeter, try this recipe instead.

It's winter now and not much is in season fruit-wise. Of course we can get any kind of fruit and vegetables year-round now, but a winter strawberry is pretty tasteless. Fortunately, we have citrus fruits, shipped from warmer climates. continue reading...

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Bagels and baguettes have to be eaten fast

There is a great article in the New York Times about bagels, the quintissential New York bread. It made me feel quite nostalgic. continue reading...

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Tonkatsu, Japanese deep fried pork cutlet

tonkatsu, Japanese deep fried pork cutlet
tonkatsu, breaded deep fried pork cutlets

Tonkatsu is a typical Japanglish word - ton is pig or pork, and katsu derives from the word cutlet. Tonkatsu is one of the western-style Japanese dishes that can be classified as yohshoku. However, tonkatsu is so popular in Japan that there are even restaurants that only serve tonkatsu and similar items such as kushikatsu (bite-sized fried bits of pork and other things on a skewer).

One of the key ingredients for tonkatsu, or any breaded deep-fried item in Japanese cooking, is panko. In recent years panko has been adopted by the trendy world of cuisine, but it's not anything special - it's just dried bread crumbs. The thing that makes panko unique is that the flakes are bigger and crunchier than the kind sold by non-Japanese food manufacturers.

You can buy panko ready-made at Japanese food stores, or make your own. To make your own, take off the crusts of day-old good white bread. Flake the white part of the bread by hand, not the food processor, which would turn the bread into powder. Spread out the bread crumbs on baking sheets and dry in the oven at a very low temperature until the crumbs are thoroughly try - not colored, just crunchy. You can store this in tightly sealed plastic bags or containers for quite a long time. continue reading...

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Blini, caviar and local sparkling cider

Happy new year!

Last night, we had two favorites for our little New Year's Eve party - blini with caviar and smoked salmon, with a local speciality called Blauacher Chlöpfmoscht. continue reading...

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Desem, the final chapter

This is the final chapter of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

My desem is now about three weeks old, and is quite mature. How do I know it's mature? Because, after it's been fed some fresh flour and water, it turns quite spongy within a few hours. It also dissolves completely in water, leaving no strings of gluten in my hand. continue reading...

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Chutney, and old-fashioned flavors

Palm Digital Media has been giving away a free ebook a day for the "12 days of Christmas". One of the free books was Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. I hadn't read it in quite a long time, and it was like visiting an old friend from my childhood to do so now. Its slightly preachy, rather sappy and quite Victorian tone is really perfect for the Christmas season. continue reading...

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Desem, Second Baking

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project. continue reading...

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The Care and Feeding of Desem, Week 2

So, once you have a desem, how do you take care of it?

For the second week (that is the week after it's been born, then grown in the in the incubator flour bed), it has to be fed every day. The thing to keep in mind is that you shouldn't feed it more flour than is already in it. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 8-9: The First Loaf

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

I am writing this somewhat bleary-eyed after a late night...

The process of making the first loaf of desem bread is very long, and it's easy to miscalculate the time needed. That's what I did. Here's how it went... continue reading...

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Japanese basics: thin omelette (usuyaki tamago)

(This is a revised and expanded version of a recipe that I posted when Just Hungry was brand new.)

Japanese people love eating eggs in many ways. One of the most popular uses for the egg is to make a very thin omelette called usuyaki tamago (literally, thinly cooked egg). Usuyaki tamago is used julienned as a garnish, or as a wrapper for sushi rice and other things.

chakin1.jpg continue reading...

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Handrolled sushi

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Desem, Day 7

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project. continue reading...

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Desem dosas

Yesterday, I took the cut away desem and made desem dosas. I had never made dosas with desem that was so young before, it but it still came out great. continue reading...

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Desem, Day 6

This is the continuation of my accounts of making desem bread, which is made with just flour, water, salt and nothing else. It's somewhere between regular baking and a science project.

The desem has spent its final day covered with flour in the incubator-pot. Today I take it out to start it on its way to being a "mother", for many delicious desem breads to come. continue reading...

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Fishfinger buttie

I grew up in Japan, England and the U.S., so all the good and bad of the food culture of each country is part of my food vocabulary. While I like to try out new things as much as any enthusiastic cook. "comfort food" to me means things that I used to eat when I was little. continue reading...

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