Archive for February, 2011

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February 23, 2011: Japanese Broccoli-Raab

February 23, 2011

Last weekend I made dinner for Teja, the girls, a friend of Katie’s and her parents. I made:

  • Breast of Chicken cooked in Lime-Butter; topped with a Spicy-Mayonnaise
  • Broccoli-Raab and Pasta (see: November 04, 2010 article)
  • Butternut Squash Glazed with Butter and Brown Sugar

The whole dinner went off well, but especially the Broccoli-Raab. I always think of Broccoli-Raab (otherwise know as “Rapini” a close relative of the turnip) as an Italian vegetable, but the truth is that it is known not only through the Mediterranean but also in the East. After a little research, I found that the Japanese sometimes use it as well. Here is my recipe for Broccoli-Raab, Japanese style.

Japanese Broccoli-Raab

  • 1 Head Broccoli-Raab (Rapini) washed, remove last part of stem and chop coarsely
  • 1 Hot Red Pepper, seeds removed and sliced thin
  • 1 Package (10oz.) Wheat Asian Noodles
  • 1/4C. White Sesame Seeds
  • 2Tblsp. Each Shoyu (soy sauce) and Mirin

Toast sesame seed in a non-stick pan over medium heat, turning often until they turn a caramel color. Grind sesame in a mortar with a pestle until fine (OR you can grind them in a coffee grinder…just be sure to clean it well, before and after!) Add shoyu and mirin. This is your topping sauce. Boil broccoli-raab in H2O that has been lightly salted and 1 teaspoon of oil for about 2 minutes. SAVE H2O, but remove broccoli-raab and immediately rinse in cold H2O. In a large saucepan, add a couple of teaspoons of vegetable oil and saute the peppers for a minute and add the broccoli-raab and saute for a few more minutes, stirring as it cooks. With the pot of H2O back on heat, cook noodles for less than five minutes. Strain, run a little bit of cool H2O over noodles, strain again. Add broccoli-raab/peppers to noodles, top with sauce. Enjoy!

Teja tells me that Japanese sauces are usually not as thick as this, but he thought the dish to very delicious. I found the nutty sesame flavor, the ever-so-slightly bitter broccoli-raab, and the little heat of the peppers to be a fine combination. A very healthy dish that’s a little on the exotic side.

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February 15, 2011: Miso Soup with Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms

February 15, 2011

Here’s a tasty, easy, and healthy miso soup recipe. There are probably hundreds of variations of miso soup. Here’s mine:

Miso Soup with Tofu and Shiitake Mushrooms:

  • 5 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 5 Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms (sliced thin)
  • 3.5 Oz. (1/4 block) Firm Tofu (cubed)
  • 1/2C. Chopped Kale
  • 2 Scallions (slice thin white and pale green parts)
  • 4 Tblsp. Miso Paste (I used “shiro” or “white” miso)
  • 4C. Veggie Broth (or Dashi)

Soak the dried shiitake in 1C. H2O for about 1/2 hour. Slice thin and add back to H2O for another 1/2 hour. Put these mushrooms+H2O in small pan and bring to a boil. Reduce until you have 1/2C. of shiitake broth and remove the mushrooms. Add stock, kale, fresh mushrooms, and tofu and bring to boil. Reduce heat, take 1C. stock and mix miso in a seperate bowl and then add back to stock [DO NOT BOIL MISO] Top with scallion slices. Add a little shoyu (soy sauce.) Enjoy!

This recipe will serve two.

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February 11, 2011: Grilled Tofu w/ Veggies

February 11, 2011

Here’s another wonderful, healthy Japanese dish. Admittedly, this one takes a tiny bit longer to prepare, but it’s worth every step, particularly if you a fan of tofu or looking to cook that really special meal that one will appreciate. I promise, this one will appeal to a tofu fan.

First you have to make my sauce. I pictured a dark, tangy, slightly sweet and a little hot, sauce for this dish. I haven’t come up with a good name for it yet (Readers? Any suggestions?) For lack of a better title:

Steve’s Tangy Sauce:

In a small saucepan add 1/4C. shoyu (soy sauce) with 1 Tblsp. Brown Sugar and bring to a quick boil. Reduce heat to simmer and whisk in 1/2 Tblsp. Potato Starch, 1 Tsp. Ground Red Pepper and 1 Tblsp. of Dashi OR Shiitake Broth and cool slightly. Whisk in rice vinegar, just before serving, to get a pourable sauce.

Ingredients for Tofu:

  • 1/2 block Firm Tofu
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 Tblsp.(+ a sprinkle) of Potato Starch
  • 1 Tsp. each of  Shoyu (soy sauce) and Mirin
  • Matchsticked Veggie of your choice (I used carrots, red peppers, fresh shiitake mushrooms, kale, and scallion)

The first part is to half a block of tofu and get all the moisture out. [This is very important, as you will add this to a hot oiled pan to grill. Tofu remains very wet after you take it from packaging. You need to remove as much the H2O as much as possible so you won’t have splattering and a potential fire!] I did this by putting the tofu on a plate, in the sink, and adding a weight (mine was a flat plastic container filled w/H2O.) I wedged a small piece of wood under the plate so that the water would drain. After this I layed the tofu between double sheets of paper towels with the weight on top, layed flat, a couple of times.

Matchstick veggies. In a small bowl, whisk together egg white and 1 Tblsp. Potato Starch, 1 Tsp. each of shoyu and mirin. Add veggies to this.

Heavily oil (I used corn oil) a grill pan [one that can be placed in the oven] and heat to medium high heat. At this point, turn you broiler on to start heating. When the pan is hot, add the tofu. Grill and turn. Turn off heat. Sprinkle a little bit of corn starch on the top of the tofu. Dredge veggies in egg white mixture and top tofu. Grill under broiler until veggies are toasty. Top with sauce and furiake. Mmmmmm!

Alternative topping: Toasted, crumbled nori.

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February 03, 2011: Review of “Silk”

February 3, 2011

Every once in a while it’s good to review a film that maybe not everyone will like or even appreciate. Such a film is “Silk” (2007) directed by François Girard and starring Michael Pitt as Hervé Joncour and Kiera Knightly as his wife, Hélène.

Set in the 1860’s and starting in Eastern France, the story is of the struggle to get silk production going in France. The French silkworms are dying from a disease and the only option is for someone to go to the orient to obtain a new crop of eggs. Under the direction of the local silk weaver, Baldabiou (Alfred Molina) the town sends the mayor’s son, Hervé, across Europe, through the steeps of Russia and clandestinely into Japan. There, Hervé meets the local daimyo (local samurai leader) and a mysterious girl that he is drawn to. The first trip is a success, but future trips by Hervé are needed, each time leaving Hélène behind, Hervé also faces increasing dangers as a rebellion starts up in Japan. It is clear that for each of these trips, Hervé is falling more and more for “the girl” (he never learns her name.)

Classifying this movie is challenging. Mmmmm…well, take a Merchant/Ivory film, throw in a little sex, OR take “The Last Samurai” and remove every single action sequence and cast the lead as a sort of “anti-Cruise.” One of the films biggest problems is Michael Pitt as the lead Hervé. I don’t ever remember a lead with more of a deadpan, stale delivery. Susie Figgis has cast many a good many leads in her career, and I guess everyone has her off day, but what were you thinking casting Pitt against the likes of Knightly and Alfred Molina. There’s one scene where Molina does more with a cigar and his eyebrows than what Pitt can dig up with his spoken lines!

OK, so one poor choice doesn’t have to ruin the whole film. I haven’t read the book (by  Alessandro Baricco, which I understand is much better than the film…as they usually are) but the story is OK. Again, think Merchant/Ivory. If you like those you probably will like this one. One thing: the film is shot beautifully! The steeps of Russia, Winter in pre-industrial Japan, Summer in the East of France…just gorgeous! I liked the music choices, costumes, the general high production value, and I even appreciated (after a few seconds) the deliberate choice NOT to have subtitles of the Japanese, which made the story more authentic.

So.”Silk.” Not for everyone. A decent rental. Make it a weekend when you have had plenty of sleep and settle in for a slow-moving, but gorgeous film with a few flaws.

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