Sunomono Salad

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“Sunomono” translates loosely as “vinegared things” in Japanese, and over the years I’ve tried a number of recipes to recreate restaurant-style cucumber sunomono at home. After several renditions, I’ve finally come up with my favorite version, which includes the addition of radish sprouts (not pictured but adds a really nice layer of texture and subtle flavor).

I’ve been making this salad a lot lately as the weather is finally warming up in the Bay Area, and we’re enjoying our “summer” as fall approaches.

Sunomono Salad

Ingredients:

2 ounces dried wakame seaweed, soaked in cold water for 5 minutes
2 Japanese or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 bunch radish sprouts, cut in half
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
4 tablespoons dashi broth
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin

1. Lightly squeeze excess water from the wakame and roughly cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Mix the rice vinegar, dashi, soy sauce, and mirin in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer to evaporate the alcohol and sharpness of the vinegar. Immediately remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

3. Arrange the wakame in a serving bowl and garnish with the cucumber and daikon sprouts. Pour dressing over and serve.

Greek Salad

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Greek salad is so basic that I almost decided not to write about it. There are enough variations on this classic salad though that it warrants a post, and this one is my version.

I like my salads acidic, so I’ve upped the lemon content, and thrown in a few extra pepperoncinis and capers for good measure. Although I question the Greek authenticity of this salad, it’s become one of my favorites.

Greek Salad

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice (preferably from Meyer lemons)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, halved and cut into 1/2-inch dice
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
6 pepperoncini, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. In a large serving bowl, whisk the olive oil with the oregano and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper.

2. Add the tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, olives, pepperoncini, capers and feta and toss.

Chawan Mushi

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I didn’t grow up eating chawan mushi, but it feels like comfort food. An egg-based custard dish, it’s simply flavored with soy sauce, mirin, and dashi and mixed with a few ingredients before being set to steam. It’s usually eaten as an appetizer in Japanese cuisine but I like to eat it as a snack too.

Chawan mushi literally translates as “tea cup steam” or “steamed in a tea bowl,” and I use a set of ceramic antique teacups to cook these in. Alternatively, you can use small ceramic ramekins. It can be eaten hot or cold; I prefer it warm.

Chawan Mushi

Ingredients:

3 cups cold water
1 8-by 4-inch piece kombu (dried kelp)
1 package katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), about 1/2 cup
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 small fresh shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
6 medium shrimp, peeled
1 green onion, thinly sliced

1. Bring cold water and kombu to a boil in a saucepan, then remove from heat and discard kombu. Sprinkle katsuobushi over liquid and let stand 3 minutes. Pour through a sieve and strain into a bowl.

2. Whisk together eggs in a bowl, then whisk in mirin, soy sauce, salt, and 1 1/2 cups dashi.

3. Divide sliced mushrooms, shrimp and green onions among ramekins. Divide egg mixture among ramekins and cover each ramekin with a piece of foil.

4. Arrange ramekins on rack of a steamer and add enough water to steamer to measure 1 1/2 inches. Cover steamer and bring to boil over high heat. Steam 2 minutes, reduce heat to medium and continue to steam until custards are just set, about 10 minutes more. Serve in ramekins.

Classic Hot Wings

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I know, I know. Hot wings are overdone. They’re on every party menu and come in a million variations. But these are baked! And taste like they’re fried! I guess you could call these healthy hot wings, except that they’re doused in their fair share of butter. Still, they’re tried and true, and I’ve been getting requests to make them for nearly every casual gathering lately.

Hot Wings

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 pounds chicken wings
3 tablespoons red hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 500°. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with vegetable oil. In a bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Spread the chicken on the baking sheet in a single layer.

2. Roast the chicken for 45 minutes, turning once at the halfway point, until browned and crispy. In a bowl, whisk the hot sauce with the butter. Add the chicken wings and toss. Serve warm.

Classic Lasagna

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I don’t know how else to put it: this lasagna is epic. There are a million iterations of lasagna: mushroom, bechamel, spinach, pesto – I could go on forever. This lasagna recipe is more traditional but be forewarned: it’s really hearty. It contains beef and sausage; ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan, for starters. It may be time-consuming to make, but it’s worth it. Plus, it makes enough servings to just about feed an army. (Well, a small army at least.)

Lasagna

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 28-ounce cans Italian peeled tomatoes, chopped, juices reserved
1 28-ounce can tomato puree
2 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
6 thyme sprigs, tied together with kitchen string
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
2 pounds ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoons dried basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound packaged mozzarella, shredded
1 egg, beaten
1 package dried lasagna noodles

1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the beef and cook over moderately high heat, breaking up the meat into large chunks, until no pink remains. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomato paste and cook until the meat is coated. Add the tomatoes and their juices and the tomato puree along with the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 7 cups, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet. Add the sausage meat in large pieces and cook over moderately high heat until browned and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Crumble into 1/2-inch pieces with back of wooden cooking spoon as sausage is cooking. Drain the sausage and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta with the parsley, basil and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Add two-thirds of the shredded mozzarella and season with salt and pepper. Beat in the egg.

4. Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of a large glass or ceramic baking dish. Line the dish with 4 overlapping noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture over the noodles, then top with one-third of the sausage, 1 cup of the sauce and another 4 noodles. Repeat the layering two more times with the remaining ricotta, sausage and another 2 cups of sauce. Top with 4 noodles and cover with remaining sauce. Toss the remaining 1 cup of mozzarella with the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan and sprinkle over the lasagna.

6. Bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp around the edges and the filling is bubbling. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving.