Tofu and Wakame Miso Soup

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There are countless variations of miso soup, and this is the one you’ll find most commonly on Japanese restaurant menus. It’s also among the easiest to make – the whole thing really only takes ten minutes. As simple as it is, though, make sure you have good fresh dashi stock on hand to really bring out the soup’s umami-laden flavor.

Tofu and Wakame Miso Soup

Ingredients:

1 inch piece konbu (dried kelp)
1 handful katsuo-bushi (dried bonito flakes)
1/2 cake silken tofu, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon dried wakame seaweed, reconstituted and roughly chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons miso

1. To make the dashi, soak konbu in a pot, in 1/2 cup of of cold water for 30 minutes. Heat up slowly until bubbles form in water. Remove konbu just before the water boils. Add in 1 more cup of water to bring down the overall temperature. Throw in the handful of katsuo-bushi and bring to boil for just a moment. Take pot off heat, and let the katsuo-bushi sit for 1 more minute, then filter through a sieve.

2. Pour the dashi stock into a medium cooking pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the tofu and wakame seaweed, and remove from the heat before coming to a boil. Add the miso gradually into the soup while softening with some stock and dissolving with the back of a spoon. Add the green onions and ladle into individual serving bowls.

Kimchi Salad

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Please don’t judge me, but this is a shortcut salad, meaning that it utilizes pre-made ingredients. That’s how it was taught to me though, and I’ve found that there are no whole ingredients that produce the same flavor in the final product. I first tried this kimchi salad at a Guamanian party, and I was hooked. Spicy, salty, sour and a little bit sweet, this salad incorporates all of my favorite flavors.

A little research revealed that this salad first became popular in Guam in the 1990s, as Guam’s Japanese and Korean communities introduced little bottles of kimchi base into the local cuisine. This salad is really easy to make but it needs a few hours to sit and let the flavors develop. Make sure its covered tightly as it develops a strong aroma.

Kimchi Salad

Ingredients:

2 Japanese or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 large mango, thinly sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 6-inch piece of daikon radish, thinly sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1/2 jar of kimchi concentrated base (about 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup rice vinegar

1. Add all the ingredients to a large glass or ceramic bowl and mix well. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

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.

Braised Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms

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Mushrooms and bamboo shoots are both common ingredients in Sichuanese cooking, which is known primarily for its fiery, bold flavors. This healthy vegetable dish is much more mellow than the spicy Sichuan dishes you may be accustomed to seeing on Chinese restaurant menus, but it’s just as satisfying.

This has become one of my favorite side dishes to make when I’m cooking a Chinese meal, since it’s easy to prepare and I’m a big fan of mushrooms. It reheats well too so it’s especially ideal for making ahead of time.

Braised Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms

Ingredients:

12 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 15-ounce can bamboo shoots (preferably tips), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons oyster-flavored sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 pound white button mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 slices ginger, crushed
1/4 pound snow peas, trimmed
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Soak shiitake mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 15 minutes; drain. Slice caps in half. Slice bamboo shoots lengthwise. Combine chicken broth, water, oyster-flavored sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, and brown sugar in a bowl; set aside.

2. Place a large saucepan over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic and ginger; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and button mushrooms; stir-fry for 1 minute. Add sauce and bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add snow peas and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Add cornstarch solution and cook, stirring until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute.