Sunday, June 29, 2014

Donabe Shio-koji Ratatouille with Sun-dried Vegetables

Here's another tomato-flavor dish with donabe!
My heart is so geared up for all the summer flavors. Ratatouille is one of the simple summer dishes I enjoy both making and eating so much. Jason loves my ratatouille so much that he says he can eat a whole donabe full of it himself.

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There are few points for the wonderful result in my donabe ratatouille. First, I sun-dry the vegetables for a few hours to half day. I'm not necessarily drying the vegetables, but I let them "sun-bathe" until they shrink a little and just the outside is dry when touched but inside is still moist. This process will make the dish less watery and flavors richer in umami. Also, the texture will be much better (less mushy), too. Also, instead of cooking everything in one pot, I pan-fry the eggplant and zucchini separately in a sauté pan until the surface is golden brown, before assembling with the other ingredients in donabe. This process helps preventing ingredients from collapsing, and makes the texture better, too.

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Once all the vegetables are in a donabe, add the crushed tomato, shio-koji (or salt is okay), and the remaining ingredients. Then, simmer for 15 minutes or so.

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The delicious ratatouille is ready. Shio-koji seasons the dish with rich round flavor. It's an excellent donabe dish.

Shio-koji Ratatouille
(for medium-size classic-syle donabe)

Ingredients: 4 servings

4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3" (8 mm) thick disks
6 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/3" (8 mm) thick disks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
1 orange bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
5 oz (150 g) shimeji mushrooms
6 oz (180 g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) crushed tomato (in a jar or can)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons shio-koji or 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Place the cut zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and shimeji mushrooms in baskets, and let them sun-dry until they are slightly shrank and dry on the surface (a few hours to half day). Rinse and pat dry. Cut off the bottom of the shimeji mushrooms and pull apart by hand.
  2. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven at 350F (180F) degrees. In a sheet pan, toss the cherry tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the zucchini until both sides are lightly browned over medium-high heat (about 1-2 minutes each side). Transfer to a bowl. In the same sauté pan, heat 3 -4 tablespoons olive oil and cook the eggplant the same way as zucchini. Add more olive oil, if necessary. Transfer the eggplant into the same bowl as the zucchini. Set aside.
  4. In a donabe, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the onion and fennel seeds over moderate heat until the onion is very soft (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add the bell peppers and shimeji mushrooms, and sauté until the bell peppers are soft (3-4 minutes).
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, shio-koji, zucchini, and eggplant and set over medium-high heat. As soon as the sauce starts boiling, turn down the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add a good pinch of black pepper. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Add the cherry tomatoes and gently stir. Turn off the heat and let it rest for a few hours. For even better flavor, transfer the content to a different bowl and let it rest overnight in refrigerator.
  7. When it's ready to serve, Add the basil and stir gently. Drizzle more olive oil. Serve cold or at a room temperature.
You can also see the recipe in toiro kitchen's website.
Happy donabe life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Year's First Hollywood Bowl Bento

Hollywood Bowl season is here. This year's first show for us was Janelle Monae. Our dear friends, Asami & Steve invited us to join them in their box seats.

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So, I made obento (boxed meal) for us! I made total 8 dishes, including onigiri (rice balls). But, I forgot to take any photo of my donabe rice onigiri. It was mixed with seasoned bonito flakes, shiitake, and kombu. I love making obento in the summer season, as these seasonal ingredients are so colorful and gorgeous.

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The top tear of the bento box included donabe ratatouille (the recipe will be introduced in the next posting). Roasted chicken tender, romanesco, and baby bell pepper in soy based marinade, dashimaki-tamago (rolled dashi filled omelet), and thinly-sliced burdock root, carrot, with hijiki in creamy sesame sauce.

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The bottom tear was roasted Saikyo miso marinated salmon, haricot vert & walnuts in black sesame sauce, and hatcho-miso kabocha.

And, here's the recipe for my burdock root, carrot & hijiki salad in creamy sesame sauce.

Salad of Burdock Root, Carrot, & Hijiki in Creamy Sesame Sauce


(for the creamy sesame sauce - enough amount to use for a few times)
1/3 cup (80 ml) white sesame paste or tahini
2 1/2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons usukuchi shoyu (light color soy sauce)
2 tablespoons or more kewpie mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grape seed oil

6 oz (180 g) burdock root
4 oz (120 g) carrot
1/2 oz (15 g) hijiki, rehydrated
scant 1/2 teaspoon kombucha (dry kelp powder), optional
shichimi togarashi

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sesame sauce. Set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the burdock root and carrot by using a slicer. Further cut them into very thin juliennes by a knife.
  3. Boil water in a pot, and add the burdock root. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the carrot and continue to cook for 1 more minute. Drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry.
  4. Boil water again and cook hijiki over medium heat for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the burdock, carrot, and hijiki. Toss in the kombucha (dry kelp powder). Add just enough amount of the sesame sauce and mix well. Transfer into a serving bowl and sprinkle some shichimi togarashi.
*The remaining sesame sauce can keep in refrigerator for several days. You can use it for different kinds of salads.

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The show was so much fun! It was the final evening for Asami and Steve in LA before moving to Nagoya, Japan for a few years (because of Steve's job). So, I became sentimental at the end. Thank you so much, and good luck to you both, A&S!! I miss you already.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Donabe Meat Sauce with Preserved Lemon

Another donabe dish with my "moshio" preserved lemon.
This time, I made the meat sauce to enjoy with spaghetti. I always loved my mom's spaghetti meat sauce when I was a child, and this variation I made still reminds me of it. The preserved lemon adds the fantastic depth and hint of lemony touch to the dish.

The process is pretty very similar to my last dish of chicken in preserved lemon tomato sauce. The main differences in ingredients is it's ground beef, and good amount of red wine is used.

If you can't get preserved lemon (whether homemade or store-purchased), you can make it without and simply adjust the seasoning with a little more salt.

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Of course, I made this dish with fantastic soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru" Nabe. I just love this dish so much.

Tomato Meat Sauce with Preserved Lemon for Spaghetti
(for large-size soup & stew doanbe, "Miso-shiru Nabe")

Ingredients: 3 - 4 servings

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-small onion, minced
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds, optional
1 clove garlic, thinly-sliced
1/2 medium carrot, cut into small dice
8 oz (240 g) white mushrooms, thinly-sliced
1 pound (450 g) ground beef
1 3/4 cups (400 ml) crushed tomato (or tomato sauce)
1/2 cup (120 ml) red wine
3 pieces preserved lemon, minced plus 1 teaspoon of its syrup (*each piece is 1/8 of medium-size lemon)
1 cube/ packet consommé, optional
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry oregano
a pinch of nutmeg powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
salt and pepper

Parmesan cheese

  1. In Miso-shiru Nabe, sauté the onion and fennel seeds in 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderate heat until the onion is very soft (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and carrot, and sauté until aromatic. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until they are soft.
  2. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the beef. Sauté until the meat is cooked through. Add the crushed tomato, red wine, preserved lemon with its syrup, consommé cute (optional), bay leaf, oregano, and nutmeg. Cover. As soon as it starts boiling, turn down the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. Skim as necessary. 
  3. Add the soy sauce and a good pinch of black pepper. Adjust the seasoning with a little salt, if necessary. Turn off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes.
  4. Cook spaghetti according to the package's instructions. Serve into pasta bowls and pour the meat sauce over the spaghetti. Serve immediately. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.
You can also find the recipe in toiro kitchen's website.
Happy Donabe Life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Quick Donabe Recipe...Shio-koji Chicken in Preserved Lemon Sauce

Ever since I made my first batch of "Moshio" (seaweed salt) preserved lemon, I've been crazy about it. Here's how I make "moshio" preserved lemon.

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I finished my first batch so fast last year, so the end of last year, I made more to fit in a large jar. The preserved lemon becomes ready to use after 1 month.

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After over 6 months, the preserved lemon is at its beautiful stage. The lemons are very nicely fermented in salt and covered in salty syrup. It's like lemon marmalade with no sugar. I learned that preserved lemon should keep for a few years when stored at a dark and cool storage, but I'm sure I would finish this big jar much sooner. The other night, I made simple chicken and vegetables in preserved lemon and spice sauce in my tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san". I will post the recipe soon.

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Last night, I made another chicken dish with "moshio" preserved lemon. This dish is super easy and so delicious. It's the collaboration of two fermented seasonings. Both shio-koji and preserved lemon add such nice depth and flavors to this extremely simple dish. It cooks really nicely in soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru" Nabe.

Shio-koji Chicken in Preserved Lemon Sauce
(for large-size soup & stew doanbe, "Miso-shiru Nabe")

Ingredients: 2-3 hearty servings

1 pound (450 g) boneless skinless chicken thigh, cut into large bite-size pieces
1 tablespoon shio-koji (can be substituted with 1 teaspoon salt)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium-small onion, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 clove garlic, thinly-sliced
2 tablespoons sake or white wine
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) crushed tomato (or tomato sauce)
2 pieces preserved lemon, minced plus 1 teaspoon of its syrup (*each piece is 1/8 of medium-size lemon)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry oregano
4 oz (120 g) green beans, cut in half
salt and pepper

  1. In a Ziploc bag, combine the chicken and shio-koji and mix well by hand. Tightly close (with the air out) and let the chicken marinade in refrigerator for at least a few hours to overnight.
  2. In Miso-shiru Nabe, sauté the onion and fennel seeds in 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderate heat until the onion is very soft (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté until aromatic.
  3. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the sake and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the crushed tomato, preserved lemon and syrup, bay leaf, and oregano. Cover. As soon as it starts boiling, turn down the heat to simmer. 
  4. Meanwhile, in a sauté pan, pan-fry the chicken in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned outside but not fully cooked to inside. Transfer the chicken (but leave the oil in a pan) to Miso-shiru Nabe and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Clean the sauté pan after chicken was transferred. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the green beans over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Transfer the green beans to Miso-shiru Nabe (but leave the oil in a pan). Continue to simmer for additional 2-3 minutes. Add a pinch of pepper and adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Turn off the heat and let it rest (with lid on) for 10 minutes. Serve into individual bowls at the table.
You can also find the recipe in toiro kitchen's website.
Happy Donabe Life.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Donabe Beef & Daikon Stew

This donabe dish is a very homey Japanese dish. You can make it with just a few main ingredients in a very simple process. With the thick-body and round shaped Soup & Stew Donabe, "Miso-shiru Nabe", the ingredients are braised effectively with the deep and round flavor result. I made it with sukiyaki slice beef this time, but sliced pork bellywould be also very nice. If you use sliced pork belly, you don't need to blanch the meat beforehand. You can cut the slices into bite-size pieces and add after step 1 in the recipe and sauté for a few minutes before adding the seasoning.

Beef & Daikon Stew
(for large-size soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru Nabe")

Ingredients: 4 servings
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 pound (450 g) daikon, cut into 3/4" (2 cm) thick discs and further cut into quarters
1 pound (450 g) thinly-sliced beef for sukiyaki, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons sake
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon raw brown sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) dashi stock
1 small knob, ginger, sliced into very thin shreds
some sliced or crushed chili (optional)
some sansho powders

  1. Heat the sesame oil in Miso-shiru Nabe. Add the daikon and sauté over medium-heat for 8 - 10 minutes until daikon is lightly browned.
  2. Meanwhile, boil water in a separate pot and add the beef to blanch for 10 seconds. Drain and set aside. Add to Miso-shiru Nabe.
  3. Add the sake, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and dashi stock. Stir. Spread the ginger on top. Line the surface with a piece of foil. Cover and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the daikon is tender. Turn down the heat if the broth starts boiling.
  4. Turn off the heat and let it rest for at least 30 minutes but a few hours will be better so that the flavors will nicely integrated. Reheat before it's ready to serve. Garnish with some chili.
  5. Serve into individual bowls with some sprinkle of sansho powder at the table.
The key is the resting time. This dish actually tastes even better the next day.

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Here's the variation of the dish. I added chicken and shiitake mushrooms instead of the beef and increased the amount of the dashi stock a little more so that it's more like a soupy stew. Since I found nice mustard greens, I added some at the end to finish cooking. It was great, too.

Happy donabe life.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Back in Japan (May 2014)...Elegant Lunch at La Bonne Table

Nihonbashi district is one of the historic commercial towns in Tokyo. You can find shops and restaurants which have been in operation for generations there. In the past recent years, this area has gone through major developments with new shopping complex and hotels.

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There is Coredo Muromachi which now has 3 buildings with select shops, restaurants, and theaters, and attract many people.

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At a newly opened Coredo Muromachi 2, Chef Shinobu Namae of L'Effervescence opened a new restaurant called, La Bonne Table, just a few months ago. He told us about this new restaurant when we visited him for a photoshoot for our donabe cookbook last November, so I was really excited to visit there for the first time. La Bonne Table is a elegantly casual French restaurant focusing on artisanal local ingredients. They offer prix fixe menus for both lunch and dinner. I met a friend, Yukari-san (Yukari Sakamoto), who is an author of a book called, Food Sake Tokyo (great book!), and she also gives tours of food scenes in Tokyo for English-speaking visitors.

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We were first served a shared plate of seasonal vegetables from local farmers. What a great start of the meal. Then, I had fresh bonito appetizer dish. Yukari-san had baby onion soup.

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For the main course, I had isaki fish with burdock root sauce. Yukari-san had braised beef in red wine, which was wrapped in pie crust. My dish was really great with Chablis.

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Dessert was also fantastic. It was triple fig (fresh, compote, and ice cream) plate with sweet azuki beans. After the dessert, there was a surprise "takoyaki" style warm chocolate cake! We had such a wonderful time. The food, service, and ambience were all superb and it made me feel so welcomed.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Back in Japan (May 2014)...Donabe Duck Shabu Shabu Dinner

Every time I come back to Japan, ever since Akomeya Tokyo opened in Ginza last year, I never miss lunch there.

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Daily set of assorted seasonal dishes included meji maguro sashimi with grated daikon, baby ayu fish and vegetables fritters, mackerel tartare, etc., the donabe rice was from Saga prefecture. Really nice.

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For dinner, I was back in Ebisu. I met Akiko at BeTTei, who specializes in duck and Kamakura vegetable dishes. We asked for their omakase course.

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Vegetables from Kamakura were really great. One of vegetable dishes was steam-roasted vegetables with shio-koji oil sauce.

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Charcoal grilled duck from Aomori prefecture was perfectly cooked to medium rare and served with yuzu-kosho. Duck "menchi-katsu" (fried breaded minced duck) was so juicy. We were told that the inside was only minced duck with nothing else! Mozuku seaweed in vinegar sauce was refreshing between duck dishes.

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The main event for me was duck shabu shabu in a beautiful hand-crafted donabe. So rich and tasty.

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Of course, the "shi-me" (finishing course) was soba in the rich duck broth. We drank a lot of sake for the entire evening. We started with white wine, then had 7 to 8 different kinds of sake from different breweries.

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Dessert was their homemade "warabi-mochi". It's a Japanese traditional dessert, made from bracken plant's starch and covered in "kinako" (roasted soybean powder). The texture was like extremely fine jiggly jelly and great. We had such a wonderful time together.