Spinach Steeped in Dashi

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gohan

despite this entry’s lack of written substance, i’m hoping that at least the photos (somewhat) make up for it, at least until i have something more definitive to write about:


soy-braised hijiki and carrots


soy-stewed chicken with vegetables


foxy soup noodles


spinach steeped in dashi


silken tofu topped with mushrooms


dark miso soup with roasted eggplant


crisp fried sole in spicy vinaigrette


rice cooked with ginger

a number of the japanese dishes i’ve been learning to cook seem to be missing something by the time i’m done cooking it. i don’t know where i’m making a mistake, but i need to work on the seasonings. practice makes perfect, i guess.

Here’s the recipe for the spinach steeped in dashi:

1 bunch spinach, washed and drained
1 cup dashi (you can make this homemade with kombu and katsuo-bushi or purchase at any Japanese grocery)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
katsuo-bushi flakes and sesame seeds for garnish

1. Blanch spinach in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain and squeeze out excess water. In a seperate bowl, mix dashi broth and soy sauce.

2. Arrange spinach on a serving platter and gently pour dashi mixture over the spinach. Garnish with katsuo-bushi flakes and sesame seeds and serve.

Banana Wontons with Coconut Cream Sauce

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What I’ve been cooking: banana wontons with coconut-cream sauce:

Ingredients:

For the filling:
2 bananas, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon sweetened flaked coconut

For the sauce:
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
wonton wrappers
vegetable oil (for deep frying)

Directions:

1. Stir the bananas, sugar, cinnamon, and coconut together in a small bowl, lightly mashing the bananas as you mix. The mixture should still be a little chunky.

2. In a small sauce pan, bring the milk and coconut milk to a boil then remove from the heat.

3. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl until pale yellow and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Stirring constantly, gradually pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then stir the yolk mixture into the milk mixture remaining in the pan. Over medium heat, stir the milk mixture constantly until thickened, about 2 minutes. Strain the sauce into a medium bowl. Let cool to room temperature, then cover the bowl and chill until cold.

4. Place a heaping teaspoonful of the filling in the center of one of the wonton wrappers. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a fingertip dipped in water, then fold the wrapper in half to form a triangle. Pinch the edges together firmly to seal. Pull the opposite corners of the base of the triangle, moisten one of the corners with water, and press the two corners firmly to seal. Repeat with the remaining wontons and filling.

5. Pour enough vegetable oil into a wok or 2 quart saucepan to come to a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat to 350°F. Slip a few of the wontons into the oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining wontons. Serve cold, with the coconut cream sauce.

Tehrangeles

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i’m back from yet another quick weekend trip to southern california. like the last, i spent a considerable time stuck in the notorious los angeles traffic. this time around, however, i played tourist. i didn’t take nearly enough photographs; in fact i only snapped a few on saturday afternoon.

on friday i took the scenic route down along highway 101, and although it meant spending a couple extra hours in the car, it was nice to look out of the window and see san luis obsipo and santa barbara as opposed to endless overcrammed herds of cows. by the time i reached the hotel, i had just enough energy to have dinner at california sushi roll in west la. i’d been (and still am) craving authentic japanese food, but i willingly obliged and went with japanese-california fusion instead. i was pleasantly suprised. my house special maki of salmon wrapped around seaweed, rice and fried fish cake was pretty good, and the beef gyoza’s offbeat hint of lemon was a good match.

the next morning i set out for lunch at the infamous roscoe’s house of chicken and waffles. my fried chicken was seasoned well and the syrup-laden waffles were yummy too, but i’m sure my arteries were begging me to stop.

afterwards i set out with a friend to the museum of contemporary art to check out their new exhibit, ecstasy: in and about altered states. to my dismay photography was not allowed, but i was really impressed. in particular i enjoyed olafur eliasson’s, erwin redl’s, and fred tomaselli’s pieces.

Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art

i spent the early evening in santa monica along the beach, and continued along to the third street promenade.

Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Pier

that evening i ate at korean char-b-que with a friend. i mistakenly ordered naengmyon. i’d accidentally ordered it a few weeks ago at another korean restaurant and found it to be anathema to my favorite flavors prominent in korean cooking. to my misfortune, the menu we ordered from on friday night didn’t have english translations, only pictures. i ordered what looked good yet recieved something quite different. the slushy ice water, flavorless beef and rubbery noodles and slices of pear made me wish i had ordered something else.

we redeemed ourselves by going to westwood to grab a mango hookah and mint tea at habibi cafe. i was in awe most of the time; almost everyone was iranian. i’d never been around so many iranians in public outside of iran at the same time. i don’t quite know how to say this politely without generalizing, but a lot of iranians i saw were, how should i put this, special. glitzy clothing and makeup, glitzy cell phones, glitzy attitude. everything seemed a bit overdone. i wondered if any of them had ever been to the iranian countryside, to ramsar or tabriz, to isfahan or shiraz. it seemed so far-removed. still, i had a great time people-watching. the music was great, as was the hookah, but the tea was a sorry mug of lipton with a couple of crushed mint leaves thrown in.

sunday was spent having lunch at farmer’s market. we met up with another friend for brazilian at pampas grill churrascaria. little did i know how delicious brazilian food is. the hearts of palm and cucumber salad, fried bananas, okra stew, and grilled garlic steak were all mouthwateringly perfect.

after a quick stop for shakes (i had banana flavor), it was time to say goodbye to los angeles and its sunny weather. tony toni tone was right; it never rains in southern california.

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akhareh taabestaan

this week’s cooking:


black-bean-stuffed plantain croquettes with tomato sauce


veracruz-style shrimp over tortillas in pumpkin seed sauce | coconut, caramel, and rum flans


creamy tomato soup with buttery croutons | mushroom dumplings in parmesan and sun-dried tomato sauce


warm soba in broth with spinach and tofu | garlic chive and beef potstickers


hawaiian-style butter-coconut mochi

i finished reading life of pi last night. i loved it. its brilliant, but i’m still not sure if i understand the end properly (or at least which version to believe).

i also saw promises last night, and i highly recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the israel-palestine conflict. the special features were just as interesting as the documentary itself, namely the updates on the children.

here’s the recipe for the mochi (this one is super easy and yummy):

1 lb mochiko
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
5 eggs
1/2 stick melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. preheat oven to 350F.
2. whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. mix together wet ingredients in another bowl. add coconut mixture to flour mixture, whisking until batter is combined.
3. pour batter into an ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan, and bake until top is golden and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, about 1 hour and 25 minutes. cook cake completely, about 2 hours. cut mochi into squares before serving.