Archive for June, 2011

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June 30, 2011: Japanese Carrot Soup

June 30, 2011

Here’s an interesting variation to a standard carrot soup recipe: Japanese style! The main differences are adding kombu (a Japanese seaweed) and a white miso to the stock and finishing off with Chef Saito’s trick of topping off with rice crackers instead of croutons.

Japanese Carrot Soup:

Add a 4″ piece of kombu to 1 Qt. vegetable stock for 1 hour before making soup.

Chop 1 small onion medium-fine, add to medium pot with a little oil and cook until onions are caramelized. Halfway cooking the onions, add 2 finely chopped cloves of garlic. Wash, skin, and slice carrot to make 3C. Add carrots to onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add a little salt and white pepper, 1 bay leaf,  and 1/4C. sushi rice. Add stock with kombu to pot and bring to a boil. Add 1+1/2C. chopped celery, reduce heat and cook until veggies are soft (about 1/2 hour.) Remove kombu and bay leaf. Blend stock+veggies with an immersion blender or blend in a food processor. Add 1C. milk, cream, or soy milk and 2-3 Tblsp. white miso and blend. Serve in bowls and top with rice crackers. This soup is tasty, a little unique, and attractive!

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June 30, 2011: Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran”

June 30, 2011

Here’s a premise: take an ancient Celtic legend of a semi-mythical King of Britain (“King Leir”), then have this rewritten 500 years later by the bard William Shakespeare (“King Lear”), then let this steep in literary consciousness for almost 400 years, then have one of the greatest directors of the 20thC. rewrite the story, mixing in a real life 16thC. Japanese historical figure and a “Noh” theatric style. THIS is “Ran” (1985) directed by Akira Kurosawa, as his last truly epic film.

Much like “Saving Private Ryan” “Ran” is a film about a war, but focusing on the ultimate futility of war. Unlike the character of King Lear in Shakespeare’s play, who is basically innocent but gets caught up in the machinations of those around him, the King Hidetora in “Ran” is guilty of horrible crimes against his enemies. He  has built up a karmic debt for all the misery that befalls him and is eventually forced to revisit all of his past violent deeds. Also, unlike “King Lear” in “Ran” instead of daughters showing filial honor/dishonor, it is sons, neatly color-coded to be able to track their armies. Taro (yellow) is the oldest and is first bequeathed the kingdom by Hidetora. Second oldest is Jiro (red) becomes a contender to Taro’s inheritance. Both these older sons pretend devotion to their father, but the minute he relinquishes power, they try to totally exclude him from his own kingdom. Hidetora’s youngest son, Saburo (blue) is truly respectful and  loyal to his father, but is not perceived so by Hidetora, because Saburo tells his father the truth, not what he wants to hear.

Much like the Shakespeare play, “Ran” is full of delicious minor characters that flesh out the play. There is the clown, Kyomi, who has both funny and poignant moments. Lady  Kaede is truly Machiavellian: a physically and mentally worthy villain, and one of the strongest woman characters in cinema. As evil as she is, Kaede acts not without reason as Hidetora has destroyed her family. Kaede is offset by Lady Sue, while suffering the same loss at Hidetora’s hands, has adopted Buddhist ways and is a truly good and forgiving person. My favorite is Kurogare, Jiro’s vassal, who constantly gives the best advice (that Jiro foolishly never takes)  and pits himself against the evils of Lady Kaede.

“Ran” which means “chaos” or “revolt” has some of the best battle scenes in cinema. Grand in scale, it’s hard to believe Kurosawa could pull a film of this magnitude off in a pre-digital era, like: building a $1.5 million castle just to burn it to the ground! 1500 extras, 250 horses, beautiful costumes, gorgeous sets, “Ran” is huge!!! If you want to see a film the way they used to make them (and really never will again) see Kurosawa’s “Ran!”

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June 25, 2011: Tofu Salad

June 25, 2011

Here’s a delicious and healthy salad for summer weather. This is a cold dish and the tofu needs to be marinated overnight, then cooked, and then cooled. The salad prep takes a few minutes, the dressing a little more time, but you need to make the tofu ahead of time.

Put the block of firm tofu on a slanted board. Place a plate on top with a weight on top of the plate to allow the tofu to drain (for about 20 minutes.) While the tofu drains, make the marinade.

Marinade:  To 5 Tblsp. white miso, add 5 Tblsp. rice vinegar and 2+1/2Tblsp. mirin and 1 crushed clove of garlic. Cut the block of tofu into 8 sections and add to marinade overnight.

To cook tofu: blot each section of marinaded tofu on a paper towel, roll in potato flour (or regular flour, if you don’t have any potato.) Fry in corn (or any vegetable) oil in a pan over medium heat, turning each section about every 2 minutes. Briefly blot tofu on a paper towel (if you allow it to cool on the paper towel, the towel will stick to tofu.) Chill.

Dressing:  To 5 Tblsp. white miso, add and whisk 2+1/2 rice vinegar, 1 Tblsp. mirin, 7 Tblsp. olive oil, 1 Tsp. Dijon mustard and a splash of shoyu (soy sauce.) Chop finely 1 clove of garlic and add to dressing. Chill.

For the salad, I had Romaine lettuce, matchsticked carrots, and sliced radish. [Shredded daikon (Japanese white radish) is more appropriate, but the sliced American radish is more decorative.] Top with tofu, then dressing. I had toasted sesame seeds, so I added those. A light, delicious lunch for summertime. Good with a chilled white wine or warm sake.

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June 09, 2011: Iced Green Tea

June 9, 2011

Iced Green Tea is a perfect summer libation. The trouble with most of the consumer-made green tea that they sell at the supermarket is that it’s mostly sugar (oh! and that it’s fairly expensive.) Sugar adds unneccessary calories to this drink and tends to make you more thirsty! I like the clean, simple, taste of green tea and (if it’s made right) it’s a perfect summertime thirst quencher. I don’t want the empty calories of the excess sugar (and cost) of the supermarket stuff, so I make my own.

I buy bulk green tea bags from the store. In 2 Qts. boiling H2O I steep 8 bags of tea [I tie the bags to a chopstick to hang in the H2O] for about 5 minutes in a heat-proof container. Remove bags and compost. Before the tea cools I stir in about 1-1/2 Tblsp. each of honey and lemon juice and cool. Add ice cubes or have straight. Simple, cheap, flavorful, healthy, and best of all: very little sugar!

Try variations: add some herbal tea bags for a more complex flavor. Japanese make “mugicha” or a roasted barley tea that has no caffeine, served chilled. They do not add any sugar to this tea. An interesting variation to any tea recipe is to steep (in cool H2O) the tea, in a large, clear, covered, container  all day long in the sun. Add honey and lemon, then cool. This is “sun” tea. Kids enjoy making this as a summertime activity and enjoyment. It’s like drinking liquid sunshine!

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June 08, 2011: Dried Dill

June 8, 2011

Two of my favorite summer foods are my own potato salad and iced green tea. I’ll save the tea for the next post, but potato salad…quartered potatoes, sliced radishes, chopped celery, spices, mustard and mayo make a wonderful combination, but it is chopped fresh dill that makes it work. The trouble is that you can’t use the entire bunch of dill, unless you’re making enough potato salad for an army, and it goes bad soon. Solution: dry it. Now, this is old hat for those who have dried herbs before, but if you’ve never done it, it’s super easy to dry herbs that keep for much longer than fresh. You can also save a good deal of money: one bunch of dill dries down to about .3oz. of dried dill, which cost almost $6 at the store.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Remove the very ends of stems of dill. Wash and dry dill well in a salad spinner. Put whole dill (no need to remove stems before drying) and spread out on a cookie sheet with tin foil. Lower heat to 200°F and put tray in oven for about 20 minutes. Dill should be dry, crisp, but not burnt.  Cool. Rub dill to remove stems and discard them. The whole process takes about an hour at the most and you could do many different herbs at once.

1 Tblsp. Fresh Herb=1 Tsp. Dried Herb

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