Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Leeks and Pasta

Creamy Bacon and Leek Pasta via the Pioneer Woman Cooks

When you go to the grocery store in Japan, one thing you will always notice is the giant green stalks of leeks sticking out of everyone's shopping baskets and grocery bags. Leeks, or welsh onions are a big part of Japanese cuisine. I've talked about this Creamy Bacon and Leek pasta before and was reminded at how easy and filling this dish is when remaking it this week. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Quinoa and Fried Onions

Lemon-y Quinoa with parsley and pine nuts (made it up)
Paprika dusted salmon with mint mango salsa (mom's recipe)
Spicy Broccoli in olive oil and fried onions (tried to copy a dish i liked from a restaurant)

I'm especially proud of this meal because it helped me get rid of an entire package of quinoa and the last of my fried garlic, plus it was a healthy Sunday night meal. Even though I hardly ever used it, I'm really going to miss our Japanese fish fryer. It is the epitome of "set it and forget it. Marinate your fish however you like, then turn on the fish fryer and it does the rest - 8 minutes later, you'll have a perfectly cooked and crusted fish filet. 

Shout out to the black flower coaster my mom just crocheted me. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Cleaning Out the Kitchen :: Powered Sugar and Walnuts

I've finally started thinking about all the practicalities of moving. I had a mental block on it all month but there's really no hiding from it now. It's happening and it is happening soon. Oddly, one of the first things I thought of was cleaning out the kitchen. What am I going to do with all this stuff? Do I take it? Leave it?  Give it away? I did a quick inventory of our cupboards and wow, we are really weird. Why do we have 2 boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese (saw it on our first trip to an international market and were probably feeling homesick), 2 kg of cous cous (because we thought eating cous cous made us healthy and fancy) and Betty Crocker instant mashed potatoes (odd Christmas gift from younger brother). 

I'm a bit of a spoiled cooker. I tend to pick something I want to make and just go out and buy what I need without thinking about how practical a whole bag of shredded coconut may be, despite only needing 1/5 of the bag. I blame my mother. I don't blame her for a lot of things because she is wonderful, but I definitely blame her for allowing my sister and I to have anything and everything we wanted from the grocery store. We would just wander the aisles and throw random things in the cart. Shark Bites? Score! Ritz Crackers? Yes please! Alcoholic Strawberry Daiquiri Mix even though I'm 8 and my sister is 13? Obviously. This kitchen cleaning task will be a really great practice in Home Economics and Resource Allocation. actually seems kinda fun. 

Tonight, I made a dent in the 1 kg bag of powdered sugar I had leftover from holiday cookie extravaganza 2010 and a bag of walnuts I bought for the 1 salad I made last week. 

The result? Nut Ball Cookies

P.S. - Ok, actually, there were a few things my mom did NOT let us have. Mostly, Kudos Bars, any cereal that was the color of rainbows and brown sodas. Though I despised her for these rules at the time, I now see the error of my ways and am thankful that I do not have metabolic syndrome. You're the best mom!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hokkaido New Year

17 days ago, we rang in the New Year in Hokkaido, Japan's most northern island. We only made as far as Hakodate and even though it was cold and everything was closed for oshogatsu, we had a great time. On New Year's Eve, we rode the ropeway up snowy Mt. Hakodate to see one of the "top 3 night views in the world." I don't really know what that means, but it was very pretty. 

We spent the night at a Japanese onsen so that we could enjoy some natural hot spring baths in the cold snowy scenery. After we warmed up with our baths, we had our in-room dinner. And because it was New Year's, we were treated to an unholy amount of food.

This is osechi. Like most Asian cultures, the New Year is the most important holiday of them all. Japan celebrates the New Year (oshogatsu) according to the western calendar, while other countries like China, Vietnam and Korea celebrate according to the Lunar Calendar. (This year, it is on January 23rd) 

During oshogatsu, families are not supposed to cook or clean. But you still gotta eat, right? That's where osechi comes in. It's a 3-tiered bento box filled with food that can keep for 3 days without spoiling. Families order their osechi meals in early December and pick them up just before the New Year, and they don't come cheap. The contents vary and are heavy on fish and pickled veggies. Many of the contents are symbolic, such as fish roe for fertility and beans symbolizing good health. 

(yes, those are gold flakes on my salmon)

We were treated to a single tier of traditional osechi foods at the Hanabishi Hotel in Hakodate. Some of it was good and some of it was...not so good (I'm looking at you slimy thing I still can't identify). But it was a really cool way to ring in the new year, one last time in Japan. 

In addition to our bento, we also had mini-hot pot 

Fresh sashimi
Roast beef and potatoes

Hairy Crab

Miso soup

Sake and fresh fruit

What I'm trying to say is that it was a lot of food and I rang in the new year completely satiated and relaxed. If it's any indication of the things to come, I think it's going to be a good year. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Momofuku Cornflake-Chocolate-Chip-Marshmallow "Cookies" :: Toffee x Cookie Time

I finally now have in my possession, copies of the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. Yes, copies plural. My love of all things Momofuku is so widely known that I've made it dead-simple for people to shop for me. To all of you that gifted me with the Milk Bar cookbook, one million thanks to you. I will probably need all 3 copies, somehow, someway. 

People rave about the compost cookie and everyone is obsessed with the cheeky crack pie. Those are amazing, yes. But me? I love the Cornflake Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Cookies. It is everything I love in a cookie. Super chewy, super buttery, not too chocolate-y and has a nice texture. So naturally, when I got the book, I flipped right to this recipe and started gathering everything I needed. 

And that didn't take very long since I had everything but cornflakes on hand. This is a pretty basic cookie recipe...sort of. Before you start creaming your butter and sugar, you have to make the Momofuku Cornflake Crunch. Basically, you toss a box of cornflakes with sugar, milk powder, salt and melted butter, then bake until you get golden brown crispy clusters. It's not hard, just an extra but necessary step. If you've been to Milk Bar, this is the stuff they crumble on top of their soft serves as a salty-sweet topping. And yes, you can just eat it plain. I know because I've tried. 

After you have the cornflake crunch, it's pretty easy. I would highly recommend refrigerating the dough for at least 3 hours. The book says just 1, but these cookies spread like a motha'f*#%^ in the oven. Mine came out a little funky texture wise: crispy like toffee on the edge but gooey and cookie-like in the middle. Not necessarily a bad thing though! I brought a batch on a ski trip over the weekend and we renamed these "Tookies". 

Here's the recipe online, but get the book! It's filled with a lot of great stories and recipes.