Monday, June 27, 2005

another meme

i've been tagged by obachan to participate in this little cookbook meme. i'm supposed to tell you all a little bit about my cookbook collection and the like. but first the disclaimer: with one or two exceptions, i've never bought a cookbook anywhere other than at a thrift store. which means that most of my culinary guides were deemed garbage by someone else. the notable exceptions would be some of my vegan cookery guides, which, this being san francisco and all, don't very often end up at the goodwill or whathaveyou.

total number of cookbooks i've owned: hmmm, about 35 not including the little booklets.

last cookbook i bought: beard on bread (and i paid only two dollars for it!)

five cookbooks that mean a lot to me: well, none of them mean all that much to me but they all tickle my fancy for one reason or another.

1. cookin' with dr. pepper

by the fine makers of dr. pepper: this little guy i found on the street. inside recipes for such haute cuisine as dr. pepper spareribs and dr. pepper minute steak await the gentle reader.

2. the now and zen epicure

by miyoko nishimoto. this cookbook blows my mind. it's a vegan cookbook written by a japanese woman emulating french dynasty-style (as in the tv show) late eighties cuisine. there's a rockin' glamour shot of the chefesse on the back with full-on perm and wind-machine action. crazy stuff. if you don't believe me, just look at this:

drool over this lovely, um, non-gelatine gelantinous mold of i'm not sure what, but it looks scary in a 1950's sort of way. note that i paid only three dollars for this book and have yet to muster the huevos, the ganas, the....well, let's just say it....the male testosterone producing sacks, to try any of the recipes.

3. nonna's italian kitchen

by bryanna clark grogan: full of delicious vegan italian homestyle recipes by one of my all-time favorite vegan cookbook authors. the recipes never fall short on flavour and she's provides lots of options for those looking to avoid soy or gluten and such things.

4. the ultimate uncheese cookbook

by joanne stepaniak. okay, we're getting kinda' weird here, right? yeah, but as long as you don't really expect these "uncheese" recipes to really replicate the taste and texture of cheese you're gonna be alright. take a deep breath and repeat that, "i'm gonna be alright". the dishes are the ultimate comfort food in a cold and cheeseless world. plus, it's better for you.

5. little foods of the mediterranean

by clifford wright. i love the concept of this book. hundreds and hundreds of little dishes from all around the mediterranean. lots of recipes for everyone.

which five people would you most like to see fill this out in their blog?
i don't know five people who live on my block, much less five people out there in the blogosphere, so here goes:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

agedashi tofu

this dish is pretty and tasty and a lot easier to make than you might think. it always impresses. somehow hot oil never fails to impress my friends. especially when it's spitting at me like a machine gun and making me do that crazy little crack dance. just kidding, what with the cornstarch coating and the tofu pressing, there is very little molten splats coming your way.

tofu agedashi
1 tub firm tofu
1 cup dashi stock
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon mirin (or sake)
1 Tablespoon potato starch (or cornstarch) mixed with 1 Tablespoon cold water
salt to taste
1-3 teaspoons grated ginger (to taste)
1 Tablespoon thinly sliced green onion
potato or cornstarch for dusting tofu
oil for frying

wrap tofu in papertowels and sandwich between two cutting boards or plates. place a weight on top and let sit for at least 20 minutes to expel some of the water. place konbu dashi, mirin and soy sauce in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. if you like a thicker agedashi stock add the potato/cornstarch mixed with water and stir quickly. this will thicken the sauce. sometimes i add the starch to thicken, sometimes i don't. in the picture above i didn't, so your sauce will look a little cloudier but will stick to the tofu much better. once the tofu has been pressed, pat dry and cut the cube in half. you may also cut into triangles or cubes, as you like it. dredge all sides in cornstarch and fry on each side until golden brown. to serve, place each serving in a seperate bowl and pour heated sauce over the top. garnish with a small blob of grated ginger and thinly sliced green onion. i usually put the ginger in the sauce and garnish just with the green onion.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

sweet simmered kabocha squash

here is a favorite snack of my moms, simmered japanese pumpkin. it can be served at room temperature as a side dish to a japanese meal, or my way, which involves a midnight visit to the fridge, bum scratching, eye rubbing and deeply profound mutterings all in a walking sleep state.

that remindes me of a time when one of my neighbors in an apartment building across the way got up in the middle of the night, flipped on her flourescent overhead lights, and gorged on a pint of ice cream. buck naked. which in turn remindes me of another time in college when one of my neighbors, a big, hairy guy with an uncannily kabocha like gut decided to watch some late night tv. nude. very considerately he drew the shades most of the way down. only the base of his belly and bobbly bits were exposed. the worst part was that he was channel surfing without a remote control. back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, like ducks in a shooting gallery. it was awful.

now that i've ruined your appetite, lets get back to the food. just in case you don't know what a kaboch squash looks like, here it is in it's natural state.

simmered sweet kabocha
2 lbs. kabocha squash, peeled and diced into 1"x1" cubes (approx. 6 cups)
1/2 cup water or dashi
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
pinch of salt

depending on the state of the skin, you can either peel completely or partially peel the green outer skin into strips. remove seeds and cut into 1 inch cubes. place water, sugar, soy and salt in a sauce pan, followed by diced squash. bring to a boil and place lid on pan, turning down heat to a low simmer. depending on the size of the pumpkin cubes you may need to add more water to prevent scorching. cook until done (when a chopstick easily passes through the flesh but still retains it's shape), about 15 minutes. the squash should have a chestnut like texture, not soggy or watery. if there is too much liquid left in the pan, remove the squash and reduce the liquid until slightly thickened and pour over kabocha.

Monday, June 20, 2005

miso soup

ah my dear friend miso soup. you can be so mediocre. you can be so heavy handed. so fishy. so salty. so overly miso-y. yet deep within your murky depths you have the potential to be more, so very much more than a finger-bowl for the tastebuds.

you are more than miso and water. you are sake. you are wakame. you are negi. carrot and maybe daikon too. but mostly, to me, you are kombu-dashi.

before continuing to the rest of the post, click here for some bizarre news, japanese-style.

this is my secret weapon in my japanese arse, i mean, arsenal. as a vegetarian i eschew the hondashi, the fish based stock that is japanese cuisine. as a hungry realist i close my eyes and look the other was when eating out at japanese restaurants. but when cooking at home i use kombu dashi, which is a vegetarian seaweed stock. it can be made at home and i will later post a recipe for it, but the dried version that can be purchased at japanese and asian groceries is way, way better. the brand i buy come five to a bag each serving is wrapped in a green cylindrical paper. they kinda look like short, fat pixie sticks. just ask for konbu dashi.

the other very important point is the miso. i've found it to be important to use a combination of miso types. i use about one half the red miso paste and one half the lighter, sweeter white miso paste. when trying to get the balance right it is tempting to throw in more miso but beware this can overpower the soup. a few sprinkles of salt will usually bring up the flavors without making the miso flavor too ham-fisted.

miso soup
5 cups konbu dashi (i use 5 c. water plus one tube of dried dashi stock)
3 Tablespoons miso (half red and half white, or all white but you will need to add extra salt)
dried wakame seaweed
1/4 carrot, sliced into thin rounds
optional: daikon
2 Tablespoons sake
1/4 cup tofu, cubed very small
2 scallions, finely chopped (yes! use the green part too)
salt to taste

bring stock to a boil and add sliced carrot. you can also buy these pretty little flower shaped cutters (like cookie cutters but for vegetables) at asian grocery stores and make pretty little shapes. pretty little flower-y shapes. if you like you can also add a little thinly sliced daikon. daikon is that huge, long, snow white radish. in japan the mean boys used to call girls with thick legs "daikon ashi". ashi, as you probably guessed, means leg. not nice.

put the veggies into the stock and simmer for a few minutes. add cubed tofu. add wakame... just a small amount (1 Tablespoon dried - it really expands) and snipped into short sections with a scissors. immediately add sake and miso. i usually take some of the stock water and mix it into the miso so it incorporates more easily into the stock. now, turn off the heat. "they" say you shouldn't boil miso soup. swish everything around and adjust seasonings to taste. you may be tempted to add more miso paste but wait and try just a few sprinkles of salt instead. serve with thinly sliced green onion.

Friday, June 17, 2005

all about me me s

so i've been seeing these things around, these memes. i picked up this meme theme from becks and posh - it's hosted by, which is a pretty site so you should check it out here. and join in the all about me me me fun. sooo answering the general call to reveal a little something about myself as a cooker and an eater and a spastic (though not ill-intentioned) humanoid and to share in this community of other cookers and eaters, spastic or not, here it is. the next post will be back to food.

What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own? making a batch of homemade brownies when i was seven. memorable because my long hair fell into the batter and got caught in the egg beaters which wound their way up to my scalp leaving me with bizarre brownie batter caked hairdo. also memorable because, as i was crying imagining my life as a bald child, my father and brother just laughed and laughed and pointed and laughed. then they asked if there was still enough batter left to make the brownies.

Who had the most influence on your cooking? my moms, of course. she who was learning how to cook classic american (yep, white trash) cuisine, being neither a cook nor an american. think japanese renditions of american classics created by someone who'd never so much as scrambled an egg. scary.

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it? there is very little photographic evidence of my existence as a child. according to visual records i began to exist at about the age of nineteen. usually with eyes half-lidded and drunkenly dangling a cigarette from a gibbering saliva coated mouth curled into an idiot's grin.

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat? any meats on any grill. beef jerky anyone? no? i also do chicken jerky, turkey jerky and fish jerky.

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown? my vitamix and kuhn rikon pressure cooker i dearly, deeply, madly love and use almost daily. between these two gadgets teeth are really superfluous. my biggest letdown has been my soymilk maker. the truth is, i don't really like soymilk. should've thought of that before i bought the damn thing.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else! not weird in australia or england, but i like vegemite spread very thinly on lightly margarined toast. in the olden days, when i worked in a dingy london pub in bayswater, i used to put together the most god-awful yet delicious concoction of vegemite, a slice of cheese, thousand island dressing and a few potato chips between two slices of white bread and toasted in one of those sandwich presses. pure artery clogging badness. do i need to mention that alcohol may have played a part?

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without? garlic, bread (preferably steamy fresh puffy blistery nan bread, but wonder and bimbo brands also please), and movie theater popcorn with imitation butter flavoring. really third place would've been beer but the question isn't for drinkables. and no, i was not raised in a double wide. it was a triple wide.

Three quickies:
Your favorite ice-cream: sorbets - mango and lychee.
You will probably never eat(again): sigh, my much beloved bacon.
Your own signature dish: seitan cutlets.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

wanko no lube sheep desu

this will be the last crazy "engrish" post, i promise. at least until my next trip to ichiban kan, the 100 yen shop in japantown. it's next to the bank in the eastern wing of the kintestsu mall, if you're wondering.

my cupboards are filled with many cute yet disturbing little cups, saucers, plates and notebooks. just like this one:

this poor fellow has been named "wanko". hmmmm, i wonder just how he got that black eye? he brings me much joy. but not as much joy as this latest acquisition.

please to meet bobbin of the clickety click club. this beauty is a double decker plastic food storage container. yummy. you might note that this is a "lube sheep" item. i'm sure they have a diverse and interesting product line.

all of this has really gotten me into the mood to cook up a mess of japanese food. if you'd like to see more "engrish" (thanks for the link keiko) go here. for little strange news morsels from the mother country (or rather mother's country, as in my poor old moms who i mercilessly tease) go here. check back in a few days for the first post of my series on japanese cooking.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Couque d'Asses, anyone?

while dodging old asian ladies wielding mountainous carts of spikey vegetables and croaking live toads in an asian supermarket out on clement street a few days ago, i came across this package. it stopped me dead in my tracks. a tiny little old lady who bore an alarming resemblance to my mother speared me with what might have been a jackfruit. five points to the lady in the leopard sweater and ruffled sweatpants. it would've been ten if she'd gotten me with the toad.

now i've come across a lot of weird japanese to english tranlsations, like "for your joyful tasty lifestyle" and "mother and child good feeling water club" but i've never come across a food product with the word asses in it. now i know this is french and since i don't know french i couldn't say if it is a perfectly reasonable concept, in said language. it might be. however, i do know english. just a little bit. and in english i know what an ass is. as for the couque part, well, phonetically speaking it's a complete disaster. wasn't there someone in headquarters who might've said "asses, yes well, i'm not sure we want to put that word on the packaging of a chocolate filled cookie".

and in typical japanese fashion, each cookie is individually wrapped with gold foil emblazoned with the couque d'asses logo. each and every one. hours of snacking entertainment. or as the japanese might say, "warm sentiments for your crunchy good times feelings".
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