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"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

an unagi rice bowl for supper . . .

dscn8600If some of you are partial to smoked eel (unagi) on sushi in Japanese restaurants, here’s what’s on deck for dinner tonight. At the local asian grocery store called H-Mart in Burlington the other day, frozen unagi was on sale for $2 off. I bought three of them and stashed them in the freezer for nights like this.unagi-rice-bowl

These smoked eel packages are so easy to prepare – keep frozen and take off the plastic wrapping just when ready to heat up: cover the entire piece with aluminum foil and seal well. Heat the wrapped eel on a cookie sheet in the oven according to the package instructions until it is warmed through and through. In the meantime, start your rice cooker with short-grain white rice (I like to use a pinch of dashi in the broth) and wait until it is cooked.

dscn8601If you have some persian cucumbers on hand, wash and quarter-slice a couple (hold knife at an angle, cut, turn cucumber a quarter turn, cut, turn, cut, turn cut) and put them into a shallow bowl. My recipe for this salad is to reconstitute dried wakame seaweed with boiling water, drain in cool water and add to the cucumber. Garnish the cucumber and wakame with a seasoned Japanese vinegar, a little soy sauce and sesame oil. Cover and chill in the fridge while the rice is steaming.

When ready to serve, place a fat ball of rice in a serving bowl for each person. Carefully open up the warmed eel on a plate to ensure that the glaze/sauce doesn’t escape. Cut the eel into serving portions and cover the entire top of the rice. Spoon the sauce over the eel on top. Serve with the cucumber wakame salad on the side.

Yum, and this very special umami-taste dinner couldn’t be easier to prepare!

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spinach salad with bacon and eggs. . .

NYTimes photo of Melissa Clark's salad. . .

NYTimes photo of Melissa Clark’s salad. . .

I’ve been avoiding eggs for weeks while taking a prescription to get my cholesterol numbers down. Later this morning, I’m visiting my doctor and will see whether my numbers have improved after six weeks of egg and animal protein semi-fasting.

Afterwards tonight, I plan to have a light dinner of a robust spinach salad made from Melissa Clark’s recipe that appeared in the NYTimes today. It looks like just what the doctor didn’t order – but which I’m going to have as a mini treat for having been so disciplined. Then tomorrow, back on the wagon again!

I remember making a warm spinach salad with thickly sliced fresh mushrooms and bacon in the 80’s. This one reminds me of that same recipe, even the vinaigrette ingredients. Maybe I’ll do that and skip the eggs tonight, whaddya think?

a sushi handroll feast! . . .

fullsizerenderOur family gathered yesterday for a sushi handroll meal. I cooked up a batch of brown and black rice, added vinegar/sugar while it was still warm and stored it in a wooden bowl with a damp kitchen towel on it before we used it to make sushi maki and handrolls. Other ingredients included: fresh tuna, salmon, beautifully ripe avocado, watercress, wasabi mayonnaise, shrimp tempura, and toasted nori sheets.

Made an eel sauce that we dipped some of the fish in before wrapping up with the avocado and other goodies. The shopping and pre-prep were time-consuming but the results were extraordinarily delicious! My favorite was a toasted sheet of nori cut in half, spread with brown/black sushi rice, crisp tempura shrimp, avocado and wasabi mayonnaise rolled up. It was crunchy, crispy, unctuous – the crisp contrasting with the unami flavor combo of shrimp, avocado and wasabi mayo. SCRUMPTIOUS!!

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an easy pasta night . . .

spaghetti-2While we’re on the subject of easy cooking that also tastes good and homemade, I took a half-pint container of spaghetti sauce from the freezer this afternoon. Cooking for just the two of us, I have found we can’t finish a regular size jar of spaghetti sauce – so I put the remainder in a plastic container and put it in the freezer for days like this when I don’t feel like doing much to make supper.

spaghetti-1My plan is to slice some mushrooms thickly and crush a bunch of garlic cloves (3-4) and brown them in some butter plus oil in a skillet. Then slice up some zucchini in similar size and shape as the mushrooms. Brown the whole thing and then pick out the garlic chunks. Unless you like it when you bite into garlic thinking it’s a mushroom!

Then add the tomato sauce and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add herbs (fresh or dried) that you might have on hand.

Boil up some thin spaghetti in copious amount of salted water and drain well. Nothing worse than watery spaghetti, right? I like to add the cooked thin spaghetti right into the sauce and simmer it all together. Then serve it in twirled nests with vegetables on top and pass the microplane and fresh chunk of parmesan cheese for each of us to put on as much as we like.spaghetti-3

A small fresh lettuce salad with buttermilk ranch dressing might be nice too.

 

 

‘easiest homemade vegetable soup” . . .

vegetable-soup-1In these turbulent times, it’s comforting to make a simple vegetable soup from whatever you happen to have in your fridge and pantry. I made a pot after breakfast this morning that is simmering on the stove right now. Here’s my recipe:

  1. Look in your fridge’s vegetable bin for an onion, carrots, celery, squash (yellow or zucchini).
  2. Chop up a half (if small) Vidalia onion and cook on low heat in a stockpot drizzled with a little olive oil.
  3. Chop up 2 carrots into bite size pieces; ditto for the peeled yellow squash or unpeeled zucchini squash – use half of the vegetables if they are good-sized.
  4. Take the leafy parts of celery hearts, rinse and chop up – add all to the pot and stir.
  5. Open a can of Del Monte stewed or diced tomatoes without salt with garlic and oregano. Pour into the pot and add two cans of spring water.
  6. Use a container of Knorr beef broth gelatin and add to the pot. Stir well – or use a can of beef broth instead.
  7. Put on the lid and simmer for a couple of hours so the soup has a chance to soften and meld together. Taste for saltiness and add more water if needed to correct the seasoning or if the soup is too thick. Add a handful of small macaroni or pasta 20 minutes before serving if desired.
  8. Serve bowls of soup with toasted dark pumpernickel bread – which crisps up beautifully on the surface and remains chewy in the middle. I butter my toast with unsalted Kerrygold butter. Serve the toast alongside the soup.

Benefits of this soup are that you usually have all or most of the ingredients already in the fridge and pantry without having to go to the store so that you can make it on the spur of the moment. Other vegetables such as beans, lima beans, peas, corn, tomatoes can all go into the pot. What I have to watch out for is that I’ve laid up a few cans of the stewed tomatoes and the beef broth (either in gelatin or can form) in the pantry beforehand.

Goodness in a pot. Honestly, it will make you feel better, no matter what kind of day you are having.

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an austere post-election Sunday dinner. . .

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I’ve been making an effort to cook semi-macrobiotic food for a couple of weeks now. It isn’t always easy to put together an appetizing menu but tonight, I think it’ll be tasty although the idea of it is rather austere:

  1. kabocha nimono:  squash slices parboiled in a dashi/soy broth; then broiled in the oven with maple syrup glaze;
  2. Minnesota wild rice with mushrooms and onions
  3. carrot and hijicki nishime: sauteed carrot sticks with soaked hijicki seaweed braised together in a soy and mirin based dashi broth
  4. roasted chestnuts after dinner to eat along while watching the Patriots game against the Seahawks at 8:30 EST.

KABOCHA SQUASH RECIPE: I took a chance buying a small squash with a dark green skin and when I cut it open, the bright orange flesh inside told me it was indeed Kabocha. I scooped out the seeds and, using a very sharp knife, cut the squash into wedges. I made a dashi stock and added a tablespoon of soy sauce and simmered the squash with the cover on. It cooked through in just about 20 minutes which surprised me. I took it out and drained it on a baking sheet to hold until I brushed on a little maple syrup before running it under the broiler to brown before serving. The texture of kabocha squash tastes a lot like sweet potato too.austere-4

CARROT & HIJICKI NISHIME: It took me about ten minutes (much to my chagrin) to locate where I had put the Hijiki seaweed in the pantry that I had ordered on Amazon. It’s sometimes hard to locate at Asian markets and I had ordered two packets of it. I used half a packet for this dish. It was a little harder to cut the carrots by hand into thin matchsticks before sauteeing the carrots in a little sesame oil in a skillet. While the carrots cooked, I added the hijiki after rinsing it well under running water to remove any impurities (and having soaked it in boiling water.) Mixing the carrots and seaweed together, I added a mixture of 2 tablespoons of Ohsawa organic soy sauce and 1 tablespoon mirin, a touch of splenda for a little sweetness and some of the dashi broth that I used to poach the kabocha squash to austere-2promote the umami taste of the dish.

WILD RICE & MUSHROOMS: I like cutting up large button mushrooms into quarters and sauteeing with some chopped shallot in unsalted butter before adding a packet of wild rice and spice packet, letting it steam for about 20 minutes before dinner, removing the lid and letting all of the liquid to absorb and crisp up the rice.austere-3

I’m impressed by the umami tastes of the kabocha squash, the carrot and seaweed nishime and wild rice mushroom dish. It seemed like a rather austere menu in the abstract when I first decided to make it. But it turned out to be quite complex in flavor and very flavorful with varied textures to boot. It’s also a water-based cuisine so very refreshing to eat and savor.  Definitely a keeper!

Rather cheery outcome, especially in light of the world spinning around us!

a World Series ‘dutch baby’ . . .

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Well, tonight, we were going just to snack on some almonds while watching the 6th game of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland. But after the Cubs got three quick runs in the very first inning, my instinct was to make something quickly for us to snack on while we watched the rest of the game.

So, I heated the oven to 425 degrees and melted half a stick of butter in a 10 inch skillet. In a small bowl, I mixed up a half cup of flour, 3 eggs, a tablespoon of sugar and a half cup of milk (actually some cream with some water because I was out of milk.) Whisked it all together and waited for the oven to preheat and then heated the skillet with the melted butter in the hot oven for 3 minutes before I pulled it out quickly and poured in the batter.

I set the timer for 20 minutes. After about 12 minutes, I walked over to take a peek in the oven window. Imagine my astonishment when I saw the ‘dutch baby’ had risen gigantically! At 20 minutes, I turned it down to 300 degrees for 5 more minutes according to the recipe I followed.

On the table, I placed a jar of raspberry preserves, some butter and maple syrup. We can figure out how we’d like to eat this baby after it comes out of the oven – enough nervous energy dessert to watch the rest of the game!  JUST  STUPENDOUS!!

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shakespeare? . . .

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 I’ve been thinking a lot about the latest “bombshell” in this troubled campaign and am impressed by the Shakespearan tragedy notes to the latest developments: It seems that either Huma Abedin (Clinton’s surrogate 2nd daughter) was careless about sending State Dept. emails to her private email at home so that she could print them out there (she has a 5 year old child) to give to Clinton the next day; or somehow her weird house-husband, Anthony Weiner spied on her and somehow purloined those emails onto his laptop. Either way, she’s not supposed to have sent them to her home. So that’s not sounding too good for her regardless of what the content might be.

Plus, they would never have surfaced anyhow if good ol’ Weiner hadn’t been so dumb as to be sexting (and getting caught) a fifteen year old with his young son beside him while he took photos of himself. Honestly?!

Meanwhile, Obama and the Democratic cheerleaders (Biden, Sanders?, Michelle Obama) will be making a blitz throughout the Swing States this coming week, come Hell or Highwater. Monday, Comey has been requested to reveal more information by four Democratic Senators in a letter sent to him this weekend. Oh, and a former White House lawyer has also sued Comey for violation of the Hatch Act.

Trump is dancing around as though he’s going to make up the shortfall that he has created for himself across the board. So, since we can’t do anything about any of this (at least I know I can’t because I already voted – and I would not change it) I’m going to let go of all my angst and just see how it all plays out. It’s WAY BEYOND any of us at this point, don’t you agree? Except to go and vote if you haven’t already done so.

P.S.  But I gotta to say that I’m not watching Kellyanne Conway even one more time on TV. I’ve had enough!

edamame dip . . .

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I was reminded by a FB post I made a year ago to make a new batch of edamame dip to serve with kale and spinach chips for the Patriots game against the Buffalo Bills today. I’m making it because Rex Ryan, the Bill’s coach is always so outspokenly obnoxious in his remarks, together with the fact that the Bills are the only ones who have defeated the Patriots so far this year during Tom Brady’s absence — so that we’ll enjoy having some extra refreshments to watch them play this afternoon.

The recipe goes like this:

Take a batch of fresh edamame beans and put them into a small food processor. Add chopped garlic, chopped red onion, olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice. A pinch of cumin and some chopped fresh cilantro leaves. Process it together and taste for seasoning. Add some cracked pepper and a dab of chili paste (siraicha) if desired.

Cover and let it sit in the fridge for an hour before serving with kale/spinach chips or Sun chips.

Addendum: When I made it today, I discovered after adding the lemon and lime juice plus some olive oil that the “dip” wasn’t emulsifying enough. So instead of adding more olive oil (flavor) I opted to add a little lite buttermilk to the mixture. It became smoother and the taste was tangy and full of flavor. I sprinkled some cracked pepper on top – and we’re going to have it as a spread on toasted pumpernickel bread to eat along with our clam chowder for lunch.

GO PATS!!

 

 

millet! . . .

cooked millet with zucchini and onions. . .

cooked millet with zucchini and onions. . .

Well, I’ve been reading about millet for quite some time and even bought some once. I didn’t get around to trying it out though and bought a new batch this week. It’s one of those grains like barley and brown rice that macrobiotic recipes contain every once in a while. It sounded a little bland to me though, cooking it with just plain water.

All the recipes suggested that you dry toast the millet in a pan before

raw millet toasting in the pan. . .

raw millet toasting in the pan. . .

adding liquid to cook it. So, I did that and could smell the little particles moving around the pan that was heated to medium. I made a separate broth with instant dashi and a little soy to use as the cooking broth. After toasting for about 8 minutes, I added the broth, turned the heat down and put a lid on the pot to cook and simmer the millet.

cooked millet, fluffed up in the pan. . .

cooked millet, fluffed up in the pan. . .

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Meanwhile, I cut up some onion and a medium sized zucchini, stir frying it in a little olive oil until it was cooked through, adding just a little pinch of Maldon salt. I thought this vegetable mixture might go well, served on top of the millet when the grain was finished cooking.millet-2

The other part of our meal consists of roasted butternut squash – cut pieces brushed with melted butter and maple syrup before roasting in a 400 degree oven.

butternut squash glazed with butter & maple syrup. . .

butternut squash glazed with butter & maple syrup. . .

So this is as close to macrobiotic I’m going to get tonight. I’ve been reading that it would be good to cut out all animal and vegetable oils from cooking but haven’t gotten there – at least not yet.

dscn8474All I’m hoping for is that this meal will be satisfying to eat – both with regards to taste, mouth feel and satiety of our appetites. Oh yeah, tasty would be nice too!

Postscript: Our supper was very tasty – and the flavors of the zucchini, millet and glazed butternut squash went well together. We were both pleasantly surprised!

Postscript 2: With about a cup and a half of millet left over, I’m thinking about making millet croquettes for lunch tomorrow: chopped green onion, egg, parmesan cheese, shape into balls and fry in vegetable oil until crispy on both sides.