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

Tag: dashi

dumplings and noodle bowl for dinner. . .

There’s a lot of cooking purity out there – you know, make everything from scratch all the time. I must admit I can be like that some of the time, but sheepishly, I confess to taking more and more shortcuts while maintaining a homey feel to a dish for dinner.

Tonight, I’m feeling a little lazy, having put on an impromptu eat-in last night for friends and family. So we’re going to go light tonight – both in the amount of effort on my part and the amount of food. I picked up a packet of asian chicken soup dumplings at Trader Joe’s this morning. I plan to steam them up and serve them, eating each one nestled in a large pottery soup spoon with dipping sauce so as not to lose the precious soup inside each dumpling.

Separately, I’ll cook a handful of somen noodles – very thin Japanese noodles that are usually eaten cool in the height of summer, dipped in a cup of sauce. But tonight, I’m going to add the cooked somen noodles into a dashi/chicken broth with some sauteed bok choy hearts.

It turns out that this was one of our anniversary dates that we celebrate (March 7 when we eloped and May 11th when we held a ceremony and party for friends and family.)  G. surprised me with roses and a card late this afternoon: I had completely forgotten about it! Instead of running out to an expensive restaurant in town, we enjoyed our light, simple and very tasty supper at home. Wouldn’t you?



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. . .


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.


ramen bowls for dinner! . . .


For the past weeks, I’ve been making bone broth in my new Instant Pot and also reading about how to make appetizing ramen one-bowl suppers. So today, I’m combining what I’ve made and learned for our first try at a customized ramen bowl for dinner. Here’s what I have to start with:

  • a lovely piece of char-sui pork (barbecued) from the Asian market that I’ll heat up in the broth before slicing and serving;
  • a container of bone broth to which I’ll add a scant spoonful of dashi powder and a spoonful of Ohsawa soy sauce for the “ramen soup base”;
  • fresh Chinese spinach – unlike Western spinach (see photo) – which I will stir fry, drain and cut up before placing with the other ingredients on the bowl;
  • 6-minute jumbo eggs with yolks that are still slightly runny, braised in a red-cooked sauce (soy, sherry, sugar) and cut in half just before serving;
  • fresh Chinese noodles from the Asian market – boiled ahead of time, rinsed and drained before adding to the ramen broth

I happen to have all of these ingredients on hand to prepare ahead of time and assemble to make our noodle bowls for dinner.

Here are some photos along the way ~

chinese spinach and fresh chinese noodles

chinese spinach and fresh chinese noodles

Chinese spinach (raw and cooked) to add to the ramen bowl



Char sui pork (barbecued) from the Asian market & braised 6 minute eggs




freshly cooked Chinese noodles

freshly cooked Chinese noodles

penultimate ramen bowls . . .

penultimate ramen bowls . . .

a quiet day . . .

flowers with rice cookerHere it is, almost the official day of Spring this week, and it’s gently sleeting outside. One of the heaters is on the fritz downstairs (we have geothermal heat pumped up from a well underneath the house) and sometimes the compressors of the individual units decide to act up. It’s the vagaries of living in a complex of living units that needs to be tuned up just like pianos, some of the time.

I’ve been experimenting with cooking rice, Japanese style, as introduced to me by my daughter, M., who lives in Minneapolis. She gave me the idea of mixing different kinds of rice and keeping a rice cooker humming so that dollops of rice can be had any time of the day, even for breakfast with a soft-boiled egg on top. After trying different combinations including chicken broth, I think my favorite mix at the moment is half Chinese sweet rice (sticky) and half Lundberg’s short grain brown rice. I heat up some dashi broth and add about four short bursts of Ohsawa soy sauce. Mix it up and add twice the amount of broth as rice. Turn the cooker on, and soon afterwards, I can smell fragrant steam rising from the pot.

Yesterday for lunch, I had a small bowl of rice along with one preserved salted duck egg (from the Asian market) and a few pieces of pickled cucumbers. Satisfying, simple and low in calories. Last night, I cooked a dish I made up combining pieces of raw shrimp, minced green onions, baby spinach, stemmed and sliced beaten into fresh eggs. I heated up a skillet with grapeseed oil and made small pancakes with shrimp, spinach and onions in each patty. Turned them over when crisp and served with a dipping mixture containing oyster sauce, Japanese seasoned vinegar, a little soy and a tiny bit of agave nectar. Bowls of the sticky rice with these crisp shrimp and spinach fritters and some pickled cucumber made up our table. Filling and enough flavor to satisfy our appetite. Sometimes, I also add fresh bean sprouts and fresh cilantro to the shrimp mixture. Good both ways!

Afterwards, I came across the Schubert four-hand Youtube clip that I appended to the last post. G. reminded me of another piano duo, Anderson and Roe, that we have enjoyed listening to in the past. Their arrangement and rendition of Michael Jackson’s song, “Billie Jean” is fun to watch and listen to, as is their playful outdoor medley filmed at a Texas University campus.

“Billie Jean” link:

“Viva la Vida” link:

My life seems to revolve around food and music. I guess that’s not such a bad thing, is it? The other day, I heard about a recipe for making huge black pepper and gruyere popovers from an Austin, TX restaurant clip on the Food Channel. I’ve written about making popovers earlier and can’t wait to try these out, served as a meal with a salad. Maybe I will make them as the main feature for Easter dinner, along with an arugula endive salad with glazed walnuts and pink grapefruit segments. Yum!

temple food . . .

So yesterday, while I had some free time to myself in the quiet of the house and kitchen, I took out my books on food and solitude, Japanese Zen temple dishes and recipes for preparing somen noodles since it’s been so hot and humid. Somen noodles are thin white noodles that are eaten cold, dipped in a sauce with dashi, soy, mirin and a little sugar. Once cooled, the dipping sauce is enhanced right before eating with strips of nori, some grated ginger and some prepared wasabi (horseradish). Dipping bitesize helpings of the cool noodles in the piquant sauce was not only delicious, but also calming and peaceful.

I had a small eggplant in the refrigerator that I poached in a similar sauce to the dashi dipping sauce, slits made lengthwise to allow the vegetable to soften and take on the flavors of the simmering broth. At room temperature and drained of the cooking liquid, I made a marinade of Japanese flavored vinegar, sesame oil, a little soy and sugar with some freshly grated ginger, which I poured on top of the eggplant after slicing it diagonally into pieces easily picked up by chopsticks.

Finally, my daughter had told me a couple of weeks ago about a dish she had made of matchstick sliced Japanese yam and hijiki seaweed, soaked ahead of time. Having scoured our local vietnamese grocery and natural foods stores for hijiki to no avail, I had to resort to ordering it online at! It arrived yesterday and this afternoon, I sauteed the vegetables with a little of the hijiki soaking water, soy, mirin and sugar until the dish cooked to a golden brown.

Tonight, there have been thunderstorms, lightning and rain. Our days seem to be filled with the same kind of intense activity plus lots of knitting and watching the olympics on TV. The sun is now shining on windows streaked with rain. The evening is coming to a close led by this peaceful and tasty repast drawn from Zen temple food traditions. Another way to change my life, I thought to myself.

commonplace journals. . .


my commonplace journals

Today is Wednesday (“why I love wednesday and thursday mornings“) and I just cut out a recipe for Japanese sake-steamed chicken from the NY Times Dining section. The description of a small chicken steamed gently over sake and water, rested, succulent slices covered with a sauce made of ginger, soy, garlic, lemon, orange and rice vinegar sounded like the perfect thing to make for dinner tonight.

A Japanese kabocha squash that has been languishing in the wooden bowl on the counter will be cut up into chunks and  simmered in a dashi broth with a little soy added. Bowls of white rice will accompany the chicken and the squash.

These recipes will be added to the current volume of scrapbooks that I have been creating for years. In them, I have assembled everything worth keeping that refreshes my spirit and stimulates my appetite for cooking, reading, writing, anything that I want to remember and think about more. For example, the article about the lady who put in plants with plumes that mimicked the exotic roosters is saved in one of these books(“why i love wednesday and thursday mornings”.)

Last year, as I was doing research about Ralph Waldo Emerson, I read about his habit of keeping what he called “Commonplace Journals.” He used them as a way to capture one’s thoughts and to collect and savor the things that appealed to him. He encouraged this practice because the journals were a tangible tool and handbook for trusting your own intuition and being self-reliant (“emerson and the heart“).

The photo above of my scrapbooks illustrates the kind of collage that I put together to represent where my head was at the time for that particular volume. Although there were many images of wishes and desires in these volumes, they represent much more than that. Their pages captured something intangible, an energy or a kind of longing that embodied my spirit as it hovered around in those days. It was a way of putting together a pastiche of where I wanted my life to be going, or perhaps end up, a way of awake dreaming for what my life could be.

I believe that making imagery visible makes what you hope for more tangible. At least that’s what these journals have been for me. Paging through them, some of them from twenty years ago, I can see the person I was back then. Somewhat dated, to be sure. But the spirit of who I was and what I wanted to realize still comes through loud and clear.