October 2017: Learn, Nosh and Nourish

Golden Leaves….

 

Fall has always been my favourite season ; I simply love the colours, the weather and the beautiful and delicious local harvests! I was overly excited and overextended myself a little with Thanksgiving family dinner and cooking classes (which I love!), I ended up catching a cold. Yikes!   Changing seasons is a very tricky time period, we should all be extra mindful in taking care of our bodies in order to prepare for the long winter season ahead.

And finally my blog post is up…..

Learn and Nosh at True Nosh

 

Snow Skin Mooncakes! I finished “third” place in the “mooncake beauty pageant”

A couple of months ago I came across True Nosh through Instagram, what I found intriguing about True Nosh is their focus on “no added sugar” cooking!  Coming from a family with history of diabetes (on my maternal side of family), I thought I could learn something new to even further reduce the usage of sugar in foods prepared for my family.

I browsed through their website and signed up for the Chinese Green scallion cake (one of my favourite Chinese snacks) class;  I think most of you by now know “working with dough” and cooking Chinese food is not my strong suit (Ha ha).

The class focused mainly on demonstration by owner and certified dietitian Ms. Renee Chan; only a small part requires hands on participation.

What is no added sugar cooking?   Ms. Chan finds a creative way to use the natural sweetness from fruits and vegetables to replace refined sugars in traditional cooking.  A lot of restraint is exercised by limiting the quantities so sugar content is lower and the dishes are lightly sweetened.

The menu for the evening also includes braised beef shank (which goes very well with the green scallion cakes) and mango mochi (without added sugar) as dessert. The dough was proof ahead of time by Ms. Chan and her team;  the six class participants helped to roll out the dough and shaped the actual pancakes while Renee would cook and teach us Chinese (simple Chinese words in Cantonese and Mandarin) at the same time, she certainly made it fun and relaxing for everyone.

What did she use to replace the refined sugar?  A small quantity of chopped red dates and apricots were used to create to a paste and added into the braised beef shank (picture not shown) as  sweetener. (The usage of this ingredient was featured at another vegetarian/vegan class which I attended later – see below). After a most enjoyable evening, I decided to sign up for her “moon-cake making” class.

The second class was held at her newest location (West 7th avenue and Ontario Street, very close to Main),  Renee and her team prepared all the ingredients and dough ahead of time, and participants only assemble and created the moon cakes with the beautiful tools provided. For the filling she has selected lotus (paste made from seeds) and red date (paired), mung bean and apricot (paired), red bean and purple yam to create the fillings, green tea powder and saffron were used as natural food colouring to change the “skin” colour.    The textures and flavors are definitely different from store-bought “snow-skin” moon cakes,  it is more rustic and not as sweet.

Renee and her team are helpful and friendly, I had the best time chatting with her about cooking and travel!  Her family was also present that afternoon and I was delighted to have met her mother, the atmosphere was very warm and personal.   All recipes were sent to participants via email with nutritional information.

Her company also offers a range of sauces and condiments with funky names and interesting flavor profile for Chinese cooking.  Check out her website for more information.  Thank you Renee and team for the connecting, see you at one of your classes another time!

I like her overall concept and support for a good cause (ending diabetes);  and I am already thinking how I can introduce this “no refined sugar” method to my family and friends.  I do think this a better option however it is still important to exercise personal judgement and stay well-informed on what suits your own dietary needs….As I always say, always cook with lots of care and love.

Learn and Nourish at Workshop Vegetarian Cafe (296 Pemberton Road, North Vancouver, BC)

My favourite dish : Kabocha and Corn Soup with crispy grains…created by Pokeman Vancouver !

In the past couple years more vegetarian and vegan restaurants have opened up in Greater Vancouver, even regular restaurants now offer more vegetarian and vegan options. Most of their flavor profile tend to be either Mediterranean or Middle eastern inspired, there are only just a handful of authentic Asian-flavored ( Chau Veggie Express) centric vegetarian friendly eateries operating in Vancouver.

The Workshop Vegetarian Cafe opened in 2016 and they well-known for their creative veggie bowls and signature ramen creations.  Owner Tak and his wonderful team have created a Japanese menu featuring fresh seasonal and local ingredients.   This delightful gem is very welcoming and cosy; it  offers a complete vegetarian menu, with gluten-free and vegan options available; inside they operate a “corner shop which sells produce,  frozen noodles (their in-house made udon/ramen), vegan and gluten-free condiments.   I first visited this cafe in September 2016 with my friend “Kanekic” and really enjoyed their avocado toast and ramen.

I came across their workshop information through Instagram, apparently they have started to offer special workshops almost on a monthly basis with different themes.

On a beautiful Sunday morning I attended their sake kasu workshop,  the focus is on the explanation and demonstration of key ingredient “sake lees” used in four recipes (which was given to us also), and a special five course lunch was included afterwards.

The demonstration was hosted by one of the chefs Oku-san, who is from Artisan Sake Maker at Granville Island, Canada’s first local sake maker (opened since 2007).   You may ask what is sake kasu?  It is the lees left over from sake production; it is a versatile ingredient which can be use as a marinade or pickling agent, adds lots of flavor to soups and sauces.  If you taste the kasu on its own, the flavor itself is actually quite strong, so very little is needed in all applications.

In the demo class he taught us how to create of amazake (Japanese New Years drink), Vegan Chocolate Banana Smoothie, Miso Marinade and Vegan Mayonnaise; we all get to sample them afterwards and we were all given a small tub of sake kasu to take home for our cooking experiments.

Sake Kasu Vegan Mayo – tasty!

The biggest surprise came when lunch was served; Oku-san and his friends, three other experienced chefs who work at different establishments in BC, they collaborated and created an exquisite five course lunch which exceeded my expectations.  The meal was perhaps could easily ranked as the best vegetarian I’ve had in Vancouver, it is so wonderful to see we have  high calibre chefs collaborating together and showcased not only their individual talent, but their superb team work; as a home cook, I left with not only a full stomach but also a very inspired mind.

I will be returning in November to attend a dashi-making workshop, I simply look forward to see what they have to offer next time.   Meanwhile if you are unable to make it to Vancouver, check out their postings on Instagram; their feed is very positive and inspirational.  Thank you very much Tak and team for the inspiration!

October 2017 Homecooking Snapshots: Cauli-Niku-Jaga, Mushroom Rice and Oden

Cauli-Niku-Jaga (my take on Niku-Jaga)

 

Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to your own and loved ones’ dietary needs, and the most important ingredients, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

One pot suppers season is back in full swing!!

If you have been following my Instagram account you probably notice my claypot has been making a few appearances in my feed since late September…

This month is all about Japanese comfort foods: Matsutake-Chanterelle mushroom rice, Japanese Oden stew and my take on the popular homestyle dish Niku-jaga, which literally means “Meat and potatoes” – I named my dish Cauli-Niku-Jaga (see picture above).

The cooking method for the “jaga” is exactly the same as the making of a regular Niku-jaga with a couple minor tweaks: barley fed pork belly slices were used instead of beef, the addition of two vegetable component : edamame beans and cauliflower florets were added (1-1 cauliflower-potato ratio and about 1 cup of beans);  I have also changed things up a little with the meat stewing process.  To soften meat I usually use orange juice, the usage of sugar to soften the texture of the meat is a more suitable and great tip from Chef Masa from Masa’s ABC Cooking.

Ingredients and Preparation (2-4 people): (Part of Recipe adapted from Masa’s ABC Cooking)

200 grams of thinly sliced pork belly (Sliced in half, marinade in 1 teaspoon of coconut palm sugar(*my preference only) and 1 Tablespoon of sake for 15 to 20 minutes, set aside)

Prepare all the vegetables: 1 onion (medium size, sliced), 4 potatoes (I’ve used medium size creamer potatoes (usually russets are used) – quartered, edges slightly”peeled”*to prevent breaking up while cooking, in Japanese the method is called “mentori”, then soaked in water for 10-15 minutes, drained), cauliflower (florets – about 1 1/2 cups (to your liking, chopped about same size as carrot), 2 medium carrot (peeled and chopped in rolling wedges, size slightly smaller than potatoes because it takes longer to cook),  1 package of shirataki noodles (blanched, rinsed and drained), 1 cup of edamame beans (frozen and shelled – blanched then shocked in cold water, drained and set aside)

Prepare the dashi stock (recipe in my archives or you can use water) – 700 to 800 ml  (I usually make extra just in case I need more, it not available, just use water).

Measure the seasoning: 3-4 Tablespoons Tamari or organic low sodium soy sauce (*can be substituted with regular soy), 3-4 Tablespoons sake, 2 Tablespoons of Mirin, 1 Tablespoon coconut brown sugar (**can be substituted; this is my preference)

Cooking Process all in one:

Over medium high heat, use a large pan (a braiser would be excellent, I used a Japanese donabe) and add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil (something neutral of your choice –  canola or grape seed oil), saute the pork slices until slightly browned, removed from pan and set aside.

Add slice onions and carrots, saute until they slightly browned.

Add potatoes to the pan, gently mix well with onion and carrots, then add the drained shirataki noodles, continue to saute, make sure the shirataki noodles do not lump together and do not mash the potatoes.

Add dashi stock to pan; make sure you have enough stock to cover all ingredients

Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and skim off the scum.  Add seasoning to pan, stir and mix well.  Cover the lid and let ingredients cook for approximately 6 minutes.

Remove the lid then add pork slices, make sure the slices are evenly distributed, then sprinkle the cooked edamame beans. When meat is cooked, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.   Remove from heat and let it stand for while before serving, the ingredients will absorb the flavours!

***Note: This is the step which I have tweaked to keep the meat tender.  You can watch his original video for his method and wonderful cooking tips (Masa ABC cooking on YouTube )

If you want a thicker sauce, you can turn up the heat and the sauce will reduce if you cook it a little longer.

For this dish the most difficult part would be balancing the sweetness and saltiness; just keep tweaking and you will find the balance to your liking, remember it also depends on what kind of sweetener you are using.  Do not make it overly sweet!

My sources in Vancouver for ingredients: Nikuya Meats (for the pork slices, in Richmond BC),  Sakura-ya (517 East Broadway, Vancouver, BC) and Whole Foods (various locations – for Delta’s Fraserland Farms Creamer potatoes).

 

You know Fall is here when matsutake mushroom (Japanese pine mushroom) becomes available; this year I changed things up a bit and added chanterelle mushrooms, and voila it really works.  Remember back in August 2016 I recommended Food Video Channel (in Mandarin Chinese) on YouTube (also on Wechat, Weibo) ?  Well the chanterelle mushroom mix idea is also from one the videos I watched on that channel, apparently somewhere in Yunnan province chanterelle mushrooms are also available and they usually saute them together with Chinese ham.

It is very difficult to purchase high quality cured ham here in Vancouver; last Fall I experimented with Italian cured pork jowl “guanciale” and lay them underneath the rice, then topped with sliced (torn actually) matsutake (doused with little sake earlier) and the kombu (kelp from the dashi making).  When rice is almost cooked (with approximately 10 minutes remaining), I used organic unsalted  butter to saute the remaining mushrooms then add to the rice cooker and let everything finish cooking together.   It worked beautifully and my family totally loved it.

This year I added the chanterelle mushrooms (thanks to a trip to Vancouver Farmer’s Market I got the fresh chanterelle) to cook with everything else initially in the rice cooker, repeat the same organic butter saute finishing process.  The chanterelle mushrooms were quite difficult to clean, however it added another depth of flavor to the rice and the results were beyond my own expectations.

Because the mushrooms are quite expensive, I use them sparingly.  For 3 cups of rice (I used Haiga rice), I use approximately 1/2 to 1 lb of mushrooms (depends on budget, grade and availability).

I used the rice cooker for convenience because my Zojirushi has the “Mixed Rice” setting; the rice is also cooked in homemade dashi, with the standard soy sauce, mirin and sake seasoning (3-2-1 ratio which works very well – always adjust according to your own taste).

My “hybrid” version (that’s what my friend “mydoctorgreen” called it) tries to retain the nuance of the original concept, keeping things simple without over-seasoning, just adding another layer of flavor to enhance and showcase the star ingredient, the matsutake.  The chanterelle also did not overpower and they co-existed together harmoniously.

Important notes: Remember the guanciale is a little salty so factor that in when tasting.   The rice should be cleaned and soaked prior to cooking; because you are adding mushroom, reduce the water (my experience at least 1/4 less liquid) and the guanciale should be removed before serving.  This mushroom rice simple recipe should work well with shimeji and maitake mushrooms also, be adventurous and experiment.

It tastes as good as it looks (OO).

My source for Matsutake mushroom in Vancouver: Fujiya Japanese Food Store on Clark Drive (East Vancouver).

 

Japanese Oden with Umeboshi flavoring – Recipe adapted from Masa’s ABC Cooking

My Japanese friends taught me how to make oden a long time ago without any specific recipe; just like any regular home cook/hobby chef, sometimes we just make something “on the fly” based on our existing knowledge.  When I try to make a new dish, I like to research a few recipes, apply my own skills and tweak things to our tastes, hence the creation of “hybrid” food (like my cauli-niku-jaga).

I don’t get to make oden very often at home because my husband somehow must have experienced a childhood episode which may have scarred him for life, he finds the idea of having oden repulsive.    Well that being said, I would cook it for myself when he happens to be away on business trips (Ha ><). The most recent creation happened a couple weekends ago when my friends came over for a gathering.

Recently I have been watching Chef Masa’s channel quite a lot; been busy comparing and tweaking my own recipes, learning new tips and applying new techniques.  Changes are also made according to our preference and dietary needs!  The more I study about cooking, the more I love it.

This is what I truly love to do during my down time at home.

I highly recommend you to watch his original video for wonderful cooking tips and methods.

This dish is really great for cold weather and the recipe is good for 2 people, be sure to try it out this winter!

Ingredients and Preparation for Soup base: 500 ml homemade dashi, 2 Tablespoons Sake, 1-2 Tablespoon Mirin (I used 2), 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon tamari (*my preference, use regular soy and don’t add too much because it will darken the soup), 1 teaspoon sugar (**I used coconut palm sugar) and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  

Add all the above ingredients in this particular order to the claypot (Japanese donabe), taste and adjust accordingly.

Oden Ingredients and Preparation:

Japanese daikon radish (peeled skin, sliced approximately 4 cm thickness, then use small knife and smooth the edge of the daikon (Mentori method as mentioned and used for the potatoes in previous recipe) – mark an “X” cut in the middle (do not cut through completely), using medium heat, at radish slices to cold water, bring to boil and cook until soften.   While daikon is cooking, prepare the other ingredients.  Check on the daikon periodically, when cooked through and softened, remove from pot gently and set aside.

Enoki Mushroom: 1 small package, ends cut, set aside.

Napa Cabbage : a small one would do, washed, sliced to bite size, blanched, drained.  Lightly squeeze excess water when napa is cool enough to handle.

Japanese firm tofu (approximately half a box, 200 g – slice into squares.  Using medium heat, brush the pan lightly with vegetable oil, sear and brown all sides of the tofu lightly.  It is easier to handle by using a small pair of tongs.

Japanese konjac (konnyaku): 1 small package, cut into square pieces (approximately 2 cm thick),  lightly scored both sides (think Cuttlefish Chinese way, the konjac will absorb the flavor).  Then sliced into triangular pieces.  Parboil konjac in hot water to get rid of the “fishy” taste, set aside.

Kombu (kelp):  The cooked kelp from the dashi making can be added to the oden.  Rinse and lightly scrub off the “sliminess”  without breaking the kelp,  cut into trips and tie into a bow shape.

Chikuwa (tube like fish cake purchased at Japanese food store) stuffed with asparagus: 2 pieces of chikuwa and 2 -4 stalks of asparagus  (ends trimmed, blanched, shocked in ice (to keep color) and stuff inside chikuwa. If the asparagus stalks are really thin, you may need two for each chikuwa).  Slice each chikuwa into 3 pieces, place 3 pieces of chikuwa on each skewer.

Eggs (2 large eggs) – boiled and peeled, set aside.

Lay all ingredients nicely  and get ready to cook in the donabe which you have used to prepare the soup base earlier.

Using medium low heat, keep the soup base in a simmer and add 2 umeboshi (store bought pickled plums – removed the seed);  put the napa cabbage, daikon, cooked egg, konjac, tofu and kombu in this order.  Turn up to medium high heat, cover with lid and cook the ingredients for approximately 4-5 minutes.

Remove the lid (be careful as it will be very hot!), check the ingredients and if necessary, cover again and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove the lid (again be careful) and gently add the chikuwa skewers and enoki mushrooms. cover again and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

The Delicious oden should be ready…once you open the lid,  steam will come through and you will see a nice bubbling action;  hear a “bub bub bub bub bub” bubbling sound…and smell a whiff of the pickled plums flavor….

**My Verdict: Chef Masa‘s idea of adding umeboshi to the soup base adds freshness and slight “tartness” which my friends and I enjoyed immensely.  This is such a wonderful idea which I am trying to work into other recipes.    Thank you Chef Masa for all your cooking tips!

Notes:

In the video he made Japanese napa cabbage rolls; I didn’t want any meat in this dish so I did not replicate the recipe.  The cooking time will definitely be slightly longer if you include the cabbage rolls.  Other fish cakes (can be purchased at Japanese deli) and Mochi bags (kinchaku – mochi stuffed in fried tofu skin) are great oden ingredients.  I avoid eating processed foods so I may skip the chikuwa next time.

I have a bigger size donabe so I was able to cook more ingredients at the same time, and I prepared more dashi.

**Potatoes and Daikon have sharp edges which need to be removed before cooking, otherwise when the pieces cook together in the pot, they will start rubbing and it will cause breakage.  The method is called “mentori”.

My sources in Vancouver: Fujiya (Japanese food store on Clark Drive in East Vancouver), Sakura-ya (East Broadway and Fraser in East Vancouver).

 

 

 

 

September 2017: Mangiamo bene in Settembre (We Eat Well in September)

 

Mangiamo Bene! Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella and figs, homemade salmon pate and bagna cauda, just a few of the dishes we enjoyed on our “Italian Night”

Over the Labour Day long weekend, I spent a wonderful Sunday evening with my pal James, hosting a group of our friends together at my home to our famous “Italian Night”.

For the past three years I always look forward to March and September when my dear friend James returns from Italy to Canada for a short visit; we have a semi-annual standing ” Italian cooking date”, a tradition which has a very special place in my heart.

Sweet and Special Delivery with love from Sabina, Casperia, Italy

Cooking and sharing with family and friends is the most beautiful way to celebrate relationships and bring people together.

That night we talked, we laughed, we cooked, we learnt and we shared; the memories we created together are priceless…

To my friends who joined us this time (you know who you are),  it was great seeing you all and catch up, Grazie!  And to our dear friends who missed the gathering this time (you also know who you are), we missed you.

To my dear friend and teacher James, I look forward to our next “date” in March, hope to continue this wonderful tradition for many years to come and one day we will be able to cook together in Italy…Alla Prossima…xxxooo

Remember the most important ingredients you will need to create a beautiful meal….Patience + Love + Kindness + Gratitude

Bagna Cauda: an aromatic “hot bath” for fresh vegetables and bread 

Have you ever had Bagna Cauda?  It is a dish originally from Piedmont, Italy.

Fresh market vegetables, both cooked and raw, are dipped into a flavourful warm sauce,  made of anchovies, olive oil, garlic and butter, enjoyed with scrumptious chunks of bread; this makes a wonderful sharing and wine-pairing dish for any dinner gathering, particularly during Fall Harvest Season.

I’ve only had this dish in restaurants twice here in Vancouver, once a few years ago enjoyed a Japanese “miso” version at Rajio (Izakaya on West 10th Avenue in beautiful Vancouver), and most recently a beautiful rendition at Osteria Savio Volpe.

Bagna Cauda (right) at Osteria Savio Volpe : my inspiration

It sounds very good already right?   The even better part, it is not difficult to make.

The key to make a beautiful bagna cauda is having the freshest ingredients and you are already halfway there; the rest involves a lot of meticulous cleaning and chopping! Oh one more thing… a fondue pot will be handy to keep the sauce warm.  I actually didn’t have the pot, so I just heated up the sauce right before dinner starts so it was ready to go when we were ready to eat!

I have roughly based the sauce recipe on Epicurious;  for my version I have reduced the quantity of the butter and anchovies (trying to be more health conscious by reducing the fat and salt intake).  Once you type in “Bagna Cauda”, you will be able to find many different versions for this classic Italian recipe (see also Food52  detailed write-up on its background and recipe).

Ingredients for dipping sauce: 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature), 6 – 8 cloves of garlic (chopped), 8 – 10 anchovies fillets.

Preparation: Blend the anchovies, garlic and olive oil in the blender until smooth.

Pour mixture into a medium saucepan and over medium low heat, cook the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, you must pay lots of attention garlic burns easily, you don’t want to brown it.  Before removing from the heat, stir in the butter until blended nicely.

Taste and season with pepper (if you like) and sea salt (if necessary, remember anchovies are quite salty).

Serve raw or cooked vegetables and bread; I prepared a tray of fresh vegetables (picture below) purchased from the farmer’s market: a selection of beans, tomatoes, cucumber, carrots, cauliflower and peppers.

My version of Bagna Cauda: All the goodness in a Huge bowl – Fresh in season vegetables purchased at the Farmers Market

Stringozzi with Peas, Pistachios and mint sauce 

We put all our friends hard at work this time making Stringozzi together!

Stringozzi is an Italian “peasant” pasta,  the shape of the noodles resemble shoelaces; all you need is water and some finest Italian “00” flour (we used “Caputo 00 flour” – see Saveur’s magazine article) 

The noodle making process involves everyone’s participation; our “pasta master” James mixed  the flour and water and we help a little to knead the dough.  The dough is then put in the refrigerator to rest (wrapped in plastic wrap tightly, rest for about 30 minutes to an hour).   We then take turns pulling the dough until it smooth (this is the most physically demanding part) and you can feel the “elasticity”.     When the dough is ready, we cut into small pieces and divided it amongst our group to “roll” out the pasta by hand.   We have to sprinkle a little flour on the noodles when we gather them together to keep them from sticking together.  The noodles are actually quite delicate and a bit chewy, my friends said they resemble a little like ‘handmade’ udon.

Prepare a large pot of salted boiling water to cook the pasta, the noodles actually cook quickly (just a few minutes) and you have to stir a little while cooking.  Do not “crowd” the pot by putting too much noodles all at once.

When the noodles are cooked 3/4s of the way through, transfer to the large pan already filled with the sauce of your choice, toss gently together and let the noodles to finish cooking through.  Please DO NOT toss out the pasta water, you will need to use it to adjust the thickness of the sauce.

Kneading, pulling, rolling and now ready to cook!

My friend James created a “pesto” sauce – a mixture of sweet gorgonzola, peas (we used frozen), basil and pistachios, all blended together smoothly in the food processor.  The sauce was transferred and cooked in a very large pan, use the pasta water to adjust the thickness of the sauce, when pasta was almost ready toss them into the pan and mix well, let the noodles cook through.

In the past we have created Stringozzi all’amatriciana (click to see recipe on Serious Eats – Tomatoes (preferred San Marzano), guanciale, red pepper flakes, wine and pecorino romano cheese ) which is one of my all time favourite.

Peas, mint, sweet gorgonzola and pistachio “Pesto” with Stringozzi – Ricotta cheese can also be used for this pasta sauce.

Notes:

Unfortunately I don’t have a specific quantity for this pasta recipe; I came across a general recipe which is very similar to what we have created on this blog:  Madonnadelpiatto 

If you are ever interested in learning how to make pasta, my dear Italian friend Peter (Pastaboy) is a wonderful teacher, click on his name for more details.

Some of my go-to shopping places for Italian foods/ingredients in Vancouver: Cioffi’s, Bianca Maria (2469 E. Hastings, Vancouver), Les Amis Du Fromage and Oyama Sausage Co. 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2017 Homecooking Snapshots: Tomato Potato and Bean salad, Baked pork chop “rice” and Shiso Lemon Drink

Here are some of the dishes which I have been cooking at home in September!   Autumn is definitely my favourite cooking season (OO)

This month I am featuring three recipes which you may have seen on my Instagram account @mygoldenapron

Follow me for more recent updates; remember always adjust the seasoning and ingredients according to you and your loved ones dietary needs, and the most important ingredient, COOK with LOTS of LOVE and PATIENCE (OO).

Italian style Tomato, Green beans and Potato Salad (Adapted from September 2016 edition of  Food and Wine)

I have adapted this simple and nutritious recipe from last September’s Food and Wine magazine; every six months when my dear friend James return from Italy to Canada for a visit, I always go through an Italian cooking phase!

Ingredients and preparation: You can change the produce according to seasonality; I find the balsamic vinaigrette works very well with savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts, so use your imagination and work with the flavours.

1/2 pound baby potatoes: In medium saucepan, covered with cold water and bring to a boil, add a pinch of sea salt and simmer over medium low heat until potatoes are tender. Drain and let cool, then slice in half.

1/2 pound green beans (or any other colourful beans you can find at your local market) – trim the ends; bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water.  Add the beans and a pinch of sea salt and blanch until the beans are crisp yet tender, under 2 minutes.  Drain and transfer beans to ice bath to cool.  Drain again and dry thoroughly.

1 whole shallot – thinly sliced, you can use red onions or add more shallots

1 -2 ears of fresh corn: remove the husk (you can freeze and save it for later use to make vegetable broth) and silk, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, add corn , cover the saucepan and return it to a boil.  Cook until corn is tender; drain and let cool. Place the corn on a clean cutting board, trim one end of the corn so it stands flat, use a knife to slice the kernels off the cob.

1 Tablespoon capers, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh basil and 1/4 cup chiffonade (thin strips) of fresh parsley

1 pint mixed cherry tomatoes, halved

In a large mixing bowl, whisk 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey (optional).  Add the potatoes, beans, tomatoes, corn, shallots and capers and toss gently.  Fold in the basil and parsley, season with salt and pepper.

*To increase our vegetable intake, I added some mixed greens to the dish.  When making a vinaigrette, use a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

A Healthier Baked Pork Chop “Rice” (with cauliflower, carrot, rice) with homemade tomato sauce with onions, red and green pepper:

Baked pork chop rice is one of my favorite childhood dish, I made a version of this Hong Kong style dish using boneless pork loin (from one of my favourite butcher shop Petes Meats crusted in toasted panko (panko precooked before breading the pork, method adapted from Ms. Namiko Chen’s Just One Cookbook method)

Prepare the Panko Crusted Pork:

Preheat the oven to 350 F (place oven rack on top).

I have chosen a good quality pork and pound it evenly, prepare the toasted panko (1 cup panko and 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil  (enough to coat two pork loins) – Combine the oil and panko in a frying pan, and toast the panko over medium heat, stir once in a while to ensure all panko bits are toasted until golden brown and evenly. Set aside and let cool down, keep 1 to 2 teaspoons aside and use as “sprinkle” when ready to bake the dish.

Let the toasted panko cool before you start coating the pork loins.  Coat the pork loin one at a time: dip pork loin into beaten egg mixture, make sure you get rid of the excess egg mixture.

Using your dry hand, coat the loins with toasted panko.  Lightly brush the flakes to cover the pork loin, then lightly press the panko flakes, make sure they adhere and the fillet is coated evenly.  Place the coated pork loins on the baking sheet.  Baked the pork loins until 3/4 ways cooked through (approximately 8 – 9 minutes). Remove from the oven.

Prepare the cauliflower, carrot and rice combination: I do not have specific measurements for this recipe, however for the two of us, I have prepared one cup of cooked rice (I used Japanese Haiga rice), 1 cup of finely chopped cauliflower, 1 small carrot (finely chopped) – First I cooked the rice in the rice cooker, when it is ready, remove from rice cooker and let it cool (you can use “overnight rice”).  In a frying pan, add 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil), sautéed the cauliflower (you will need to add a little water otherwise it will burn, you will need to cover pan for a short time to “steam” and soften the cauliflower), add carrot when cauliflower is half-cooked, add the cooked rice and a pinch of sea salt (season to taste), mix “cauliflower rice” and rice very well, when vegetables are cooked through, remove from heat and set aside.

Prepare the Tomato sauce: You can use canned tomato sauce and add onions,  red and green pepper.  For my sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil to sautéed three medium size San Marzano tomatoes (I got from the Farmer’s Market, they are so flavorful: chopped and seeded), you can use more tomatoes if you want to make more sauce), 1/2 to 1 cup filtered water and a clove of finely chopped garlic. Using medium low heat,  cook the mixture until tomatoes are soft.  Turn off heat, working in small batches, spoon mixture into blender, remove the centre cap from the lid of the blender.  Cover the lid with a folded clean dishcloth and hold it down when you are blending.  Repeat until you are done.

Using the same sauce pan, add another 1/2 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil to sautéed one chopped (bite size) onion until slightly caramelized. Add one chopped red pepper (thin sliced) and one chopped green pepper (thin sliced), cook for 1 minute, return puree tomato sauce to pan, mix well and using low heat, simmer until sauce is thickened  (20 to 25 minutes), season with sea salt to taste.

Preheat the oven to 300 F. Using an oven proof casserole or baking dish, spoon the “rice” in the bottom, then add a layer of the tomato and pepper sauce, place the panko crusted pork loin, then spoon more sauce and cover the pork loin, make sure you have some onions on top, and sprinkle the remaining toasted panko.  Baked in the oven for 8 to 12 minutes, or longer if you want the sauce to brown nicely, remember the pork loin must cook through.

***You can use the “broil” feature to really brown the sauce, cheese can be added to achieve a “bubbling” effect.

***The Extra Virgin Olive oil which I use for sauteed or stir fry dishes is suitable for everyday cooking usage.

Shiso Lemon Water: Recipe from YouTube “Food Video”

Pretty in Pink: Shiso Lemon Water

Since last year I started watching the “Food Video” channel on YouTube; this channel is based in Shanghai, China and feature some professional and home chefs.This channel is so much fun to watch: the videos are short and stylish; the cooking demonstrations and instructions are simple to understand.

Do you like shiso (perilla leaves)?  It is commonly used in Taiwanese and Japanese cooking, particularly used to flavor and pickled plums, and often it will appear on your sashimi order. If you have read my other posting (August 2017: Cheesecake and Salad Rolls with Cooking Buddies), my friend Phung has shown us to add shiso leaves to homemade salad rolls; I have also used shiso in my duck breast dish (September 2014 posting).

Shiso has its medicinal benefits and two recipes are featured on this video: the one I have tried is a very refreshing drink, a great digestive aid and helps to reduce the “dampness” (Chinese medicine term) in your body.  The flavor is very subtle and drizzle of honey is used to sweeten the drink.  When the lemon juice is added to the purple shiso water, it changes into a very pretty pink colour.

I have made this drink a few times and I really enjoyed it!  You only need three ingredients: fresh purple shiso leaves, lemon juice and a little honey (I used a drizzle of manuka honey).

Below is a translation of the recipe: 

In a large sauce pan, add 80 grams of chopped purple shiso leaves to 1 litre of filtered cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

Set aside and let it cool.

Add 50 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, the shiso water will start to turn “pink”.

Add a drizzle of honey as sweetener.

You can drink as is or add ice / ice water if you prefer the drink to be slightly diluted.  Enjoy (OO)

 

 

 

RECIPE: Vegetarian Soba Salad with Lemon Miso Vinaigrette

 

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I have been following Ms. Sonoko Sakai the last while on Instagram since I came across photos of her soba making workshops; it is on my “bucket list” to make it to LA one day to attend her classes and learn how to make soba  You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I read Francis Lam’s article “Sonoko Dreams of Soba” in March edition of Saveur; there is was..a beautiful photo of her soba salad with lemon-miso vinaigrette, and it has all the flavors which we love: lemon, miso and ginger! Since I don’t know how to make the noodles, I used packaged organic soba;  it is still a little chilly here in Vancouver, at this time I prefer to have a warm salad so I lightly sautéed some of the vegetables, and added different ingredients to our liking and dietary needs. Ms. Sakai, thank you very much for the inspiration; I just have to fly to LA to take your soba workshop sometime soon.

Ingredients (serves 4):

For the salad: Small Radicchio leaves (about 6 to 8 pieces), 3 to 4 stalks of kale rabe*, 16 small variety of cherry tomatoes (roasted)*, 2 small carrot (peeled), 1 medium English cucumber (thinly sliced crosswise), 50 g (about 1/4 package) of sugar snap peas, green onion (1 stalk, finely chopped), a package of organic buckwheat noodle (200g, you can use less noodle), drizzle of olive oil

For the dressing: 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 1/2 Tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 1/2 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon white miso paste, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil*, 1-2 teaspoon maple syrup*, juice of one inch piece ginger (peeled), kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

*these are my substitutions and additions: kale raab is actually very delicious and sweet

Here’s the link for the original recipe:

http://www.saveur.com/cold-soba-salad-miso-vinaigrette-recipe

Preparation:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Wash the vegetables, strain and dry thoroughly
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes into halves, toss lightly in drizzle of olive oil on shallow baking dish.  Spread them out into one layer and season lightly with kosher salt. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until tomatoes are soft.  Set aside.
  • Tear the radicchio leaves and chop the kale rabe into medium bite size pieces; set aside
  • Using a simple vegetable peeler and cut the carrot into ribbons (they will be curly); slice the cucumber thinly; set aside
  • In a large bowl, prepare an ice bath. Remove and discard the stem end and string from each sugar snap pea pod.  Place them in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes,  transfer them into the ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Drain the peas thoroughly, toss together with cucumber and carrot ribbons. 
  • Using a microplane set over a fine sieve (or tea leaf strainer) set in a bowl, grate the ginger into the sieve, then using a small spoon, press on the ginger solids to drain as much as juice as possible.
  • In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil with lemon juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce, miso paste, sesame oil and maple syrup.  Pour 1 teaspoon of ginger juice (I used more actually) and mix well with the dressing.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, whisk until emulsified.
  • In large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles according to package instructions; treat it like pasta and cook until they are al dente.  This step requires your full attention as soba noodles can be overcooked easily.  When they are done, rinse under cold water (until water is no longer murky), toss and drain the noodles thoroughly, set aside.
  • In large saute pan, heat a teaspoon of the dressing over medium high heat; add the kale raab, cook for 2 to 3 minutes (until it is wilted), add radicchio and cook for another minute; use a pair of tongs to toss the vegetables together.  Keep in mind you would like to keep the vegetables “cooked” yet crunchy.
  • Using a large bowl, mix the vegetables and soba noodle; assemble the salad onto a large platter or divide into 4 serving plates with dressing on the side.  Garnish with chopped green onions and roasted cherry tomatoes. Enjoy!
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I made the dish and served family style at my father-in-law’s birthday party.

Note: If you like soba noodle salad, go to my blog archives and check out my Mushroom Soba Salad with Yuzu Ponzu dressing, published in February 2014. Store leftover dressing in a mason jar (I just love them!), should be good for 1 to 2 days.  I used it the next day with sauteed kale rabe and granny smith apple bits, it was absolutely delicious.

February 17 Radio Show: Stay “Warm” with Noodles and Stay “Cool” with Icecream

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Happy CNY! Chinese New Year’s Eve Dinner at home: Broiled Threadfin Bream from Seafood City, Japanese style braised mushrooms on pea sprouts, eight grain rice with cauliflower and garlic stems, Crispy Siu Yuk (Roast Pork), Soy Sauce Free Range Chicken and Duck

Happy CNY! How’s your 2016 so far?

On February 17th I will be on Ms. Deborah Moore’s radio show on Fairchild Radio 1470 at 10:30am sharp!  Here’s an outline for the program (subject to change and not in particular order): Stay warm with “noodles” and stay cool with “ice-cream”.

The most talked about vegetarian ramen on instagram, it’s really delicious: Ramen Man  841 Bidwell Street, Vancouver, BC

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Aosa “sea Lettuce” Ramen and it’s all about chicken broth: On the same street at a different block: Marutama Ramen 780 Bidwell Street, Vancouver, BC

http://www.japanesenoodle.com

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Is it worth the wait? Tsukemen at Sanpoutei Ramen: 160-4328 No. 3 Road (the newest building next to Parker Place)

http://www.sanpoutei.ca

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East Meets West = West Coast Cool  at Tangram Creamery (check my blog review), 2729 Arbutus Street, Vancouver, BC

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Old time favourite: Xiao Long Bao  and Tan Tan Noodles at Top Shanghai Cuisine 120-5880 Ackroyd Road, Richmond, BC

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…Coming in March and April:

http://www.centre.nikkeiplace.org/sushi

http://www.dinnerpartyyvr.com

 

 

 

 

RECIPE: WAFU Tomato Orzo Soup


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Post holiday season “cleanse” at home with lots of soup and vegetables….I have used this tomato soup base for different dishes (seafood pot, hot-pot base, just to name a couple); today I add orzo and kale, it turns into a healthy wholesome meal… Enjoy (OO)!

Serves 2-4

Ingredients: 8 medium tomatoes (vine tomatoes for this recipe), 1 clove of garlic (peeled and finely minced), 1 large onion (thinly sliced), 2 Tablespoon Extra virgin olive oil, 4 cups of katsuobushi dashi, 1/2 cup of orzo (or pasta of your choice), 1-2 Tablespoon white miso, 2 Tablespoons of kaeshi (see recipe under “Vegetable Curry Udon), kosher salt (to season tomatoes for roasting), kale (handful, stalks removed and  finely chopped), savoury seaweed flakes (for garnish).

Preparation:

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Prepare the tomatoes: wash, core and cut them into halves, toss in 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, lightly seasoned with kosher salt, lay them evenly on baking tray, roast them for 25 to 35 minutes, or until caramelized.  Remove from oven, set aside and let them cool.
  • Prepare the onions (thinly sliced) and garlic (peeled and finely minced).
  • Prepare katsuobushi dashi broth (can be done 1 to 2 days ahead, reheat refrigerated broth and keep it warm for later use, use kombu broth only to make it entirely vegetarian).
  • In large pot, using medium high heat, heat remaining Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, saute onions, stirring constantly, until onions become soft and turn translucent. Add the 1 Tablespoon of miso to the onions, continue to cook, stirring constantly and mix well, do not burn the miso.
  • Add the roasted tomatoes to mixture, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add warm dashi broth and 2 Tablespoons of kaeshi to the pot, scrape the bottom, cook for 2 to 3 minutes and bring to a boil.  Skim off any fat or scum from the mixture, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 25 – 30 minutes.
  • Prepare the kale for garnish.
  • When soup is almost ready, boil water in a different pot to cook the pasta (usually 100 grams of pasta to 1 litre of water), add kosher salt to boiling water,  then add the orzo and cook according to instructions.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning of the soup (if necessary), put orzo pasta into bowl, ladle the soup, garnish with chopped kale and seaweed flakes, now ready to serve and enjoy!

Note:

I have used the Rustichella d’Abruzzo’s orzo pasta for my recipe (available at Gourmet Warehouse on East Hastings, Vancouver, BC), the savory seaweed flakes is from Cornish Sea Salt Co (also available at Gourmet Warehouse).

See “Vegetable curry udon” for kaeshi recipe – I have used the kaeshi (instead of just soy sauce and mirin) which I made for the curry udon as seasoning; you can even add a dash of sake when cooking the onions and tomatoes, add red chili pepper flakes to make it spicy, be creative!

Katsuobushi dashi broth – made with kelp and dried bonito flakes

I added leftover cauliflower to the soup and use less orzo, it is always a great idea to have more vegetables.

http://www.gourmetwarehouse.ca

http://www.rustichella.it

 

 

 

RECIPE: Korean Japchae (Vegetarian Version)

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Cooking requires tremendous focus and patience; some dishes require more patience than others to prepare and japchae is definitely one of them. The most time-consuming part is the food preparation and final assembly.

Preparing this dish certainly presents a perfect opportunity to work on your own knife skills; all ingredients must be cut finely, cook and seasoned separately, and in the end mix together by hand.

Yes you heard it right, it is by hand and this is exactly what I’ve learnt at the Korean cooking school in Seoul back in 2007. The final assembly requires the cook to mix, taste and adjust seasoning at the same time. The dish is not supposed to be oily, too sweet or heavily “doused” with sesame oil.

Most of the traditional recipes consist of shiitake mushrooms, onions, carrots (cut into matchstick strips), cucumber peel (skin only finely sliced), egg, scallions and sometimes beef, garnish with sesame seeds and slivers of chilli. Seasonal vegetables are added and the colours are chosen very carefully to make the dish pleasing to the eye.

My vegetarian version uses less noodles, three different kinds of mushrooms, red pepper, green pepper (Thanks Sofei for your own organic produce), yellow onion and green scallions.

So what is your combination then?  (OO)

Ingredients: (Serves 2 to 4)

4 ounces of korean sweet potato noodle (dangmyeon), 1 large Portobello mushroom (gills removed, thinly sliced), 1 package of white shimeji mushrooms (ends cut off, separate each stem), 10 dried shiitake mushrooms (rehydrated, thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves (finely minced), 1/2 red bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1/2 green bell pepper (cut into thin strips), 1 small yellow onion (thinly sliced), 1 egg (egg yolk only), 1 to 2 green onions (cut crosswise into 1 inch long pieces), grapeseed oil, roasted white sesame seeds, organic Japanese (or Korean) soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, maple syrup, fresh ground black pepper for season to taste.

**Note: quantity of oil used is provided below, keep in mind it’s not supposed to be greasy!  As for the sweetener,  as I do not use refined sugar at home, maple syrup is my preference.  As it has a different flavour, please use sparingly or you can substitute with brown sugar.  You can always adjust the quantity of vegetables used according to your own preference.

Preparation:

– In large bowl filled with hot boiling water, completely submerge sweet potato noodles, cover and soak until they soften; stir a little to keep them from sticking together, drain thoroughly. This process takes less than 10 minutes, do not over soaked the noodles as they must remain firm and chewy. The noodles are quite long; using scissors cut them a few times, set aside.

– In small frying pan, add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, swirl it around and wipe off the excess with paper towel (not over the stove!) so you can see a very thin layer of oil on the pan.  Return pan to heat, add beaten egg yolk mixture into the pan.  Tilt it around so it spreads thinly, let it cook using residual heat in the pan for 1 minutes, then flip it over and cook for another minute.  Let it cook and slice into thin strips.

– Using a skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil over medium high heat, add onions and scallions and pinch of kosher salt. Saute until onions become translucent, it takes approximately 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove from skillet and set aside.

– Using the same skillet, heat another teaspoon of grapeseed oil, add red pepper strips and saute for 30 seconds, then add green pepper strips, mix well and saute for another minute, remove from skillet and set aside.  The pepper strips should remain crunchy.

– Using medium high heat, heat the same skillet with another 1 to 2 teaspoons (mushrooms absorb oil) grapeseed oil, add Portobello, shiitake and shimeji mushroom mixture, add minced garlic, saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are softened and lightly browned (You will also hear a squeaky sound when cooking the mushroom). Remove from skillet and set aside.

– In a big mixing bowl, prepare the seasoning mix: add 1 to 2 Tablespoon soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and fresh ground pepper (a couple of grinds). Add all the ingredients to bowl and mix together by hand (please wear disposable gloves). Taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

– Add the egg strips and toasted sesame seeds, mix all ingredients thoroughly; garnish with more scallions if desired.  Transfer to plate and serve.

 

 

RECIPE: Wafu Whole Tomato Rice

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Wafu Whole Tomato Rice with Fried Egg

 

As soon as I saw Hong Kong food blogger “Foods Sensei”‘s  (also on Facebook) Wafu Tomato rice posting, I wanted to make it immediately! Apparently the original Japanese Whole Tomato Rice recipe by “Ochikeron” is a huge internet sensation on YouTube (her page also on Facebook).  

It is nutritious and easy to make: using only the rice cooker, this is the Japanese version of rice pilaf. There’s only one catch: you must account for the water content from the tomato and reduce the quantity of cooking liquid (whether you are using water or dashi) by approximately 20% (it all depends on what type of rice or tomato variety you use, there are no set rules).  I have used even less liquid because I added an onion.

My version is a combination of both recipes; I have used a white+brown rice mix and added the onion; my garnishes are green scallions and seaweed. I had the rice for lunch with a sunny side up fried egg, the egg yolk oozed and blended so well with the rice, it was a very satisfying and delicious meal.

Thank you very much to Foods Sensei and Ochikeron for your wonderful original recipes! (OO)

Ingredients: (serves 2)

1 large tomato, 1/2 small yellow onion, 1/2 cup long grain jasmine rice, 1/2 cup long grain brown rice, 1 Tablespoon olive oil, 1 cup Japanese dashi broth, 2 teaspoons organic soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Japanese mirin, 1 fried egg (optional), nori and chopped green scallions for garnish.

*As usual I used my own homemade dashi, you can get dashi powder at Japanese food stores.

Preparation:

– Wash the jasmine rice grains and brown rice grains thoroughly

– Using the pot from your rice cooker, measure the dashi up to the mixed rice setting level (in this case it’s for 1 cup mixed rice); I then poured the dashi broth into a measuring cup and remove approximately 25% (or up to 30%) of the liquid; then pour the rest back into the rice pot.

– Add the rice grains, stir in olive oil, soy sauce, mirin and black pepper, mix very well.

– Wash the tomato and remove the stem; peel and slice the onion, then place them into the pot

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Place the ingredients!

 

 

– Put the pot back into the rice cooker, you must choose the right setting (mixed rice) and start to cook

– When rice is ready, using the rice paddle, “slice” through the tomato and onions, toss and mix the ingredients with the rice lightly.

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Rice is ready!

 

– When rice is almost done, prepared the sunny side up fried egg **this is optional.

– Serve the rice in dish or bowl, garnish with nori and chopped green scallions.

Notes:

Here are the links to the original recipes; Foods Sensei is a Chinese food blog. Enjoy (OO)

http://foods-sensei.com/2014/11/16/

http://createeathappy.blogspot.ca/

RECIPE: Wafu Kabocha Soup (Japanese Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Seaweed)

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RRRRRR…It’s only mid-November yet it feels like we are already “deep” into the winter season; it might be chilly but I am not complaining as we have enjoyed some fine sunny days, which is quite unusual here in Vancouver…

So out come the Dutch oven and my Blender as Hearty Soup season is in full swing!

We don’t have kabocha very often in our household as it is not Andy’s favorite, I cooked it only once in a while for my own enjoyment, prepared either in Japanese (simmered in dashi and soy) or Chinese way (stewed with pork and soy).

I was so inspired by my friend Haruko’s creation; she made the most delicious and elegant version by keeping things simple, using fresh in-season ingredients (kabocha, onion, homemade chicken stock, milk)  and let them shine; I feel this is always the best way to cook.

I decided to incorporate my favourite “Wafu” style (yes again) into this recipe; the idea of the toasted nori came from Canadian food blogger “The First Mess”; she adapted the kabocha + chestnut soup recipe from Amy Chaplin’s cookbook ” At Home In the Whole Food Kitchen”, this cookbook is on my Christmas wishlist…any takers?? (OO)

Ingredients: (serves 2 – 4)

1 medium size kabocha, seeded, peeled, chopped into small cubes, 1 large yellow onion (thinly sliced), 2 garlic cloves (thinly sliced), 1 Tablespoon sake kasu (optional), 2 Tablespoon olive oil, 3 1/2 cups Japanese dashi broth*, 1 to 1 1/2 cups regular almond milk, 2 teaspoons Japanese mirin, 1-2 Tablespoons organic soy sauce, sea salt and freshly ground pepper for seasoning to taste, nori seaweed (**optional, toasted for garnish). 

Preparation:

– Prepare the kabocha squash: sliced it open into two halves. Remove the seeds, then cut into thin wedges; remove the skin then cut them into small even pieces

– Prepare the onion: peel and slice thinly

– In a 4 quart pot reheat the dashi broth, bring to a boil, lower heat and keep it simmering (if you are using pre-packaged dashi powder, prepare the stock according to instructions on package)

– Using a different heavy pot, heat the olive oil using medium high heat.  Add the onions and saute until they become soft and golden (6-8 minutes), add the sliced garlic and saute until it becomes fragrant.

– Add the kabocha to the same pot, add 1 teaspoon mirin and gently mix all ingredients; add reheated dashi broth, 1 Tablespoon of sake kasu and bring mixture to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat (medium low) and simmer until kabocha is tender (you can use a fork to test the texture), approximately 20 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, skim off any scums.

– While soup is simmering, prepare the nori – remove from package, lightly brush them with olive oil/mirin (1:1 ratio) mixture. Using medium low heat, place seaweed on small fry pan and toast them lightly using dry heat. The seaweed should be toasted on both sides, be very careful not to overheat and burn them.  Set aside.

– Using an upright blender, working in small batches, process and puree the soup until smooth (be mindful to fill blender jar less than half way). To prevent the liquid from splattering, remember to allow heat to escape by removing the blender’s lid centre insert (cap), hold a kitchen towel over the top when blending.

– Return puree soup to stock pot, over low heat, stir in the almond milk slowly till mixture is combined, do not let the soup boil.

– Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

–  To serve: ladle soup in bowls and garnish with toasted nori.

*Notes:

Dashi is a fundamental ingredient to many Japanese dishes; it is used in miso soups, noodle soup, stews (oden) and sauces.

For your convenience, you can purchase the instant bonito stock packages which are readily available at Japanese food stores, and follow the instructions.

I choose to make my own awase dashi (basic stock) on a regular basis as I used it quite often as a substitute in many recipes. It is a combination of kombu (kelp) and katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and I have been using the recipe from Practical Japanese Cooking (by Shizuo Tsuji and Koichiro Hata) ; you can also find recipes available online.

You can substitute dashi broth with either vegetable stock or kombu stock (without the bonito flakes) to make the soup a completely vegetarian dish, or use chicken stock.

Sake kasu is optional, it adds lots of flavour to soups and stocks.  In Vancouver you can purchase at Fujiya Japanese Food Store or Artisan Sake Maker (Osake) in Granville Island.  

Always taste and change the ingredients according to your liking and dietary needs.

Here are links to other versions of kabocha soup:

http://www.thefirstmess.com/2014/10/29/vegan-kabocha-squash-chestnut-soup-kale-sesame-leaves-recipe/

http://www.justonecookbook.com/recipes/kabocha-squash-soup/