Preparing for Thanksgiving – Sweet Potato Cashew Bake

Hey guys!  As we’re moving into pre-Thanksgiving preparation time, I’ve been dreaming up my ideal Thanksgiving meal… the one that’s going to make up for the last 5 years I’ve not had it in Japan!  I wanted to share some of the recipes with you.  I hope you’ll give them a try and they’ll become part of your yearly traditions as well!

One of my ultimate favorite things at Thanksgiving in sweet potatoes.  Of course we have sweet potatoes in Japan, but they’re actually a completely different vegetable!  And they’re definitely not prepared in the same way.

American sweet potato

American sweet potato - browny-red outside, orange inside. Japanese sweet potatoes are purple outside and white inside.

So in honor of the American sweet potato, here’s my favorite dish.  It’s from an old version of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which is a staple in our family, no matter how old it it!

Sweet Potato Cashew Bake (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium sweet potatoes (2lbs) or 1 2lb can of sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup broken cashews
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • An 8 3/4 oz. can of peach slices
  • 3 tablespoons butter

Instructions:

  1. If you’re using raw sweet potatoes, peel and cook them in boiling water until tender, then drain.  Cut crosswise into thick pieces.  If you’re using canned sweet potatoes, drain and give them a quick rinse.
  2. Combine brown sugar, cashews, ginger, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
  3. Drain peaches well.
  4. In a 10x6x2-inch baking dish layer half each of the sweet potatoes, peach slices, and brown sugar mixture.  Repeat layers.  Dot with butter.
  5. Bake, covered, in a 350 deg. over for 30 minutes.  Uncover; bake about 10 minutes longer.  Spoon brown sugar syrup over before serving.

MS the Younger’s notes:

The brown sugar can sometimes be a little much, especially if your potatoes are quite sweet.  I suggest cutting down a little – maybe 1/3 less.  And absolutely use salted butter to dot your potatoes, it balances the sweet nicely!

~MS the Younger

Food for Chilly Nights – Bratwurst and Sauerkraut Skillet

Bratwurst, King of Sausages! Sauerkraut, Queen of Cabbages!

Inspired by our the Steuben Day Parade viewing, we decided to sign up for a German cooking class at our local library.  Much fun was had by all, even though there was no beer ::le sigh::  I’d love to share with you the recipe we liked best from the class.  It’s for a hearty sausage skillet utilizing that wonderful meat, bratwurst!

Oktoberfest Bratwurst and Sauerkraut Skillet

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine (opt)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 lbs sauerkraut, rinsed and well-drained
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon granules
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb fresh bratwurst (about 5)
  • 2 medium apples, cored and sliced

Directions:

  1. Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, remove from pan, drain, crumble, and set aside.
  2. Drain off all but 2 tbsp of drippings (or use the 2 tbsp of butter or margarine if you prefer), add onion and garlic to drippings, cook over medium heat until tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in sauerkraut, potatoes, 2 cups water, apple cider, brown sugar, bouillon, caraway, and bay leaf.  Bring to a boil.
  4. Meanwhile, brown the bratwurst on all sides over medium heat in another skillet.  Slice.
  5. Add the bratwurst slices to the sauerkraut mixture when it comes to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are tender, stirring occassionally.
  6. Stir in the bacon and discard the bay leaf, then serve!

~MS the Younger

Ishikawa AJET Charity Cookbook

Congratulations to all the people in Ishikawa Prefecture who have finally finished their charity cookbook, “The Ishikawa JET Kitchen.”  They’ve spent the last 2 years developing and testing recipes that have been adapted for ex-pats living in Japan.

IJETcookbookSAMPLE

Are all the new foods you’re finding at the supermarket a bit overwhelming? Have you been wracking your brain trying to convert your favorite chocolate chip recipe to your metric measuring cups? Are you sick of not knowing which flour you need for what kind of cooking?

Cooking in Japan can be a challenge, but now it just got a little bit easier with The Ishikawa JET Kitchen, an interactive digital cookbook from Ishikawa AJET. This cookbook is the brainchild of former Anamizu CIR Leah Zoller. With the help of a dedicated group of recipe contributors and testers, the penultimate cookbook that every JET should own. Whether you’re new to cooking, or a culinary whiz you will benefit from the wide range of traditional Japanese and homegrown recipes from Ishikawa JETs around the world.

Recipes for people with dietary restrictions have been tagged for easy searching – so whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, or keep gluten-free you can find what recipe will work for you in no time.

For only ¥1000 you can get over your fear of the supermarket and use your kitchen like a pro. All proceeds from The Ishikawa JET Kitchen will go to Second Harvest charity. If you like the cookbook, make sure to tell your friends, family and coworkers!

The cookbook is beautifully laid-out, well-planned, and a great present for anyone looking to get into Asian cooking or a friend or family member who lives in Japan.  Head over to their blog to purchase a copy!

~MS the Younger

Food Experiments This Week

February Breakthrough!!  How could I have been living without a food processor for the past 26 years??

Broccolini, walnut and garlic pesto.  Woooha!

Broccolini, walnut and garlic pesto. Wooha!

Wow, this picture makes my amazing pesto look like a leftover from Slimer from the Ghostbusters ::le sigh::  There just ain’t no way to do good food photography at 9pm in the middle of February in Japan under a huge fluorescent light ^^;;;  But that having been said, this pesto was great!  A nice way to get your veg and a little pep into your system.  Be careful not to add too much extra garlic though (as I inevitably do) because this is a raw pesto…

Broccoli Rabe and Walnut Pesto (from Melissa Jacobson over at FoodandWine)

* 1/3 cup(s) walnuts
* 2 tablespoon(s) walnuts, combined with above
* 1/2 pound(s) broccoli rabe, trimmed
* 1 clove(s) garlic
* 1/3 cup(s) extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil, combined with above
* Pinch of crushed red pepper
* 1/3 cup(s) grated pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 3/4 pound(s) linguine

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 8 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden; let cool. Chop 2 tablespoons of the walnuts.
2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the broccoli rabe until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and let cool under cold water. Squeeze out the excess water and coarsely chop the broccoli rabe.
3. In a food processor, mince the garlic. Add the 1/3 cup of walnuts; pulse until coarsely chopped. Add the broccoli rabe, olive oil, and crushed red pepper and process until the broccoli rabe is very finely chopped. Add the 1/3 cup of pecorino and pulse until just combined. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the pesto into a large bowl.
4. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the linguine until al dente. Drain, reserving 3/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Add the linguine to the pesto sauce, then stir in the reserved cooking water and toss until the pasta is well coated with the pesto sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts and serve at once, passing more pecorino at the table.

Also this week was the (surprisingly late) foray into teriyaki fish.

Teriyaki yellowtail, garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed brussel sprouts.

Teriyaki yellowtail, garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed brussel sprouts.

There couldn’t be an easier way to cook tasty fish in less then 15 minutes.  What I cooked was a nice buri fillet, which I think is called yellowtail or sometimes amberjack in English.  Trust me here people, even if you abhor fish you will like buri.  Number 1: it has no “fishy” smell.  This is the only fish I cook that doesn’t leave me house stinking for 10 hours afterward.  Number 2:  It doesn’t taste like fish.  It doesn’t have that oily sea taste that people don’t like.  The flesh is firm, white, and juicy – but nothing at all like chicken.  It tastes great on its own or with a glaze or (the best!!) as sashimi.

Buri Teryaki from About.com

*Makes 4 servings.
Ingredients:

* 4 fillets buri (yellowtail)
* 2 tbsps sake rice wine
* 1 tbsp soy sauce
* For teriyaki sauce: 2 tsps sugar, 3 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsps mirin

Preparation:
Mix sake and soy sauce in a bowl and marinate fish in the sauce for 5-10 minutes. Wipe the liquid from the fish and set aside. Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry fish until browned. Mix teriyaki sauce ingredients to make teriyaki sauce. Wipe some excess oil in the frying pan with a pager towel. Pour teriyaki sauce over fish in the pan. Simmer the fish for 10 minutes over low heat.

I’ll have to post my brussel sprout recipe one day, I just can’t stand when people think they only way to eat the little buggers is boiled into oblivion ::shakes fingers at imaginary over-cookers::  So what are you all cooking to keep away the February blues?

~MS the Perpetually Hungry

Winter Treat: Sweet Potato Boats

Sweet Potato Boats Recipe

A sweet, healthy, delicious treat!  Try something new for your Christmas dessert selection ^^

Sweet Potato Boats - the finished product!

Sweet Potato Boats - the finished product!

Ingredients:

  • 450g (about 2) Japanese Sweet Potatoes
  • 30g (~2T) butter
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • 60g (~5T) granulated sugar
  • 4 T milk
  • a little water
  • Optional:  cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

Mr. T says "I pity the fool who doesn't hand mash their taters, foo!"

Mr. T says "I pity the fool who doesn't hand mash their taters!"

Directions:

  1. Peel and cut up the sweet potatoes.  Put them in a pot and cover with water (quickly!  Japanese sweet potatoes go brown much faster than the American ones).
  2. Boil until tender.
  3. Drain well, put back in the pot, and mash.
  4. Add butter, milk, sugar and mix well.  Add spices if you’d like.  If your potatoes weren’t dried out by the residual heat in the cooking pot, put them over low heat and stir until they’re almost dry.
  5. Cool and add egg yolk.  Mix well.
  6. Shape tablespoons of potato like a canoe and put on cookie sheet.  They don’t really change shape while baking so don’t worry about putting them close together.
  7. Mix the second yolk and a little water together.  Paint over the top of the boats (if you don’t have a pastry brush, use your fingers like me ^^).  Sprinkle with cinnamon.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes at 180C/350F.

On with the egg and cinnamon!

On with the egg and cinnamon!

Notes:

Japanese sweet potatoes are really, really sweet.  I couldn’t put in all the sugar… I’d suggest adding half the sugar to the mashed potatoes and tasting before adding the rest.  I’m sure these would be interesting with a more American twist, like sweetening with maple sugar or adding other spices!  Also, Japanese sweet potatoes are much drier and less… mushy?… than American ones, so you might get a different result with American sweet potatoes.

~MS the HUNGRYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!

PS:  IshikawaAJET blog has an interesting pumpkin (kabocha) cookie recipe, go check it out!

Virtual Advent Calendars for Christmas 2009!

The Annunciation

It’s that time of year again – the countdown to Christmas has started!  And soon after we hit the “first day” mark all the kids will be wiggling in excitement as Santa makes his list of good and bad girls and boys.  One of my favorite things about this time of year is my Advent calender – as a kid I rushed in the door from school, tossed all my stuff on the floor and carefully opened that little cardboard door each day, waiting to see what cute picture and (delicious!!) piece of chocolate was hidden behind it.  And while this year I found German advent calenders in our local import store (OMG!  My inner child is so doing a jig right now!) I still want MORE DOOR TO OPEN!  We did a little feature on virtual Advent Calendars last year… but here are this year’s choice picks!

Musical Advent Calendars:

Foodie Advent Calendars:

Art Related:

Just Fun/Awesome/Interesting:

Religious:

~MS the Younger

RIP: Gourmet Magazine

RIP

gourmet-magazine cover

Victim to current circumstances is one of my favorite food magazines: Gourmet.  Blaming the bad economy, Gourmet’s publisher, Conde Nast, announced its shut-down on Monday as well as 3 other magazines in their repertoire.  It’s a sad day for foodies.  Back in the day I thought Gourmet was about exactly that: food snobs and recipes that can’t be made without importing ostrich eggs from Africa.  Only after getting hooked on the website (and not having to leaf through all those awful advertisements that seem to clutter up 90% of magazines theses days) did I see what Gourmet was really about: living frugallyTreating animals and farmers wellEating locally.  Bringing the impact of eating (political, social, and environmental) to an audience that usually doesn’t like to think about the results of their actions.  All wrapped up in a fancy wrapper with amazing food photography.  While all the Gourmet recipes are going to go onto the BonAppetite website (which is essentially a database with a search box, so much for quality), their own website with its collection of great writing is in limbo.  It sounds like it will be up during the “transition period” but who know how long that will be, so pop over there while you still can!

~MS the Gastronomically Distraught

Best Foodie Books and Movies

Saw a great article today on Good called “Sex, Heaven, and Peaches” about human’s obsession with food, which they say is related to its sheer sensuality (and the fact that fruit is the direct result of plant sex ^^;;;;).

Spiced Honey Cake with Carmelized Figs - this kind of picture certaintly turns me on XD  From Chow's Fall Food Recipe collection.

Spiced Honey Cake with Carmelized Figs - this kind of picture certainly turns me on XD From Chow's Fall Foods Recipe Collection.

Western mystics also knew about transcendental fruits. Thoreau, for example, spent his sunset years trying to find heaven in wild berries. As he writes in a lost final manuscript reprinted recently under the title Wild Fruits, “My profession is to be always on the alert to find God in Nature—to know his lurking places.” Thoreau believed God liked to lurk in fruits: “Nectar and ambrosia are only those fine flavors of every earthly fruit which our coarse palates fail to perceive—just as we occupy the heaven of the gods without knowing it.”  ~Excerpt from Sex, Heaven and Peaches

Since I’m one of those foodies who craves food media as much as the the real article, I was happy to find a list of best food movies and books at the bottom of the article:

The top 10 films and books about food obsession.

The Sex Life of Food (St. Martin’s Press, 2007)
Countless crumbs of edible erotica are sprinkled throughout this study of culinary carnality by Bunny Crumpacker.

Tampopo (dir. Juzo Itami, 1985)
A quest for a perfect bowl of ramen, punctuated with surrealist food-sex vignettes.

Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet (Weinstein Books, 2008)
Soft-focus shots of Padma Lakshmi are as suggestive as personal food reminiscences. Some pretty good recipes, too.

Comfort Me With Apples (Random House, 2002)
From pre-AIDS Californian hippy sex antics to gluttonous Parisian flings, a tantalizingly honest page-turner by Ruth Reichel.

The Anatomy of Dessert (Modern Library edition, 2006)
This reissue of Edward Bunyard’s 1929 masterwork is a fetishistic handbook of fruit exaltation.

Wild Fruits (W.W. Norton edition, 1999)
When Henry David Thoreau sees apples at the market, he doesn’t just see fruit—he sees “Iduna’s apples, the taste of which keeps the gods forever young.”

Big Night (Dir. Campbell Scott, Stanley Tucci, 1996)
The final scene alone, of Primo and Secondo eating eggs in silence, is a moving testament to the power of food in storytelling.

Babette’s Feast (dir. Gabriel Axel, 1987)
After eating the best meal of his life, the hero says: “There comes a time when our eyes are opened and we come to realize that mercy is infinite. We need only await it with confidence and receive it with gratitude.”

Candyfreak (Algonquin Books, 2004)
Steve Almond explains how our obsessions “arise from our most sacred fears and desires and, as such, they represent the truest expression of ourselves.”

What’s Up Tiger Lily? (Dir. Woody Allen, 1966).
In his directorial debut, Woody “Sex Is Like Having Dinner” Allen overdubs a Japanese spy flick with racy sex gags about the world’s most delicious egg salad.

Sadly I haven’t seen or read a single on of these selections!  Can anyone comment on them?  I wouldn’t mind recommendations of which to start with ^^

~MS the Food Obsessed

PS:  A lot of readers have been suggesting other great food blog lists/sites.  Here are some of them:

Missed out on the first installments of food blog posts at MS?  Find them here:

The Art of Summer Reading

What’re you reading this summer?  I’ve broken down and treated myself to a box of books from Amazon.co.jp (thank goodness for online English book shopping) as my part of stimulating the economy XD  Here’s what should be arriving in a few days:

Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food”

Mark Bittman's cookbook - coming to me soon!

Mark Bittman's cookbook - coming to me soon!

I learned of Mark Bittman through another food blog and have come to respect his straight-forward, honest, down-to-earth, passionate approach to food and life through his blog, Bitten.  He’s written several cookbooks, all of which will one day be mine(!) but for the moment I’ve decided on the vegetarian cookbook to start with.  Bittman makes a great statement in his later book for “part-time veganism” where he asks people to think about eating vegan for 2 meals a day as a way to reduce their impact in the environment as well as their own bodies.

“You don’t eat any, or much, in the way of animal products or processed food during the day. At night you eat what you want,” he explains. “In some ways it’s stricter than veganism in that there’s no junk allowed. In others it’s easier — milk in coffee is acceptable, and breaking the rules occasionally is okay. The basic line is this: no matter how you do it, you [and the planet] will benefit if you eat a higher proportion of plants and a lower proportion of everything else.” ~Mark Bittman, Food Matters

Since I’ve come to Japan I’ve become 90% vegetarian at home anyway, so I’m looking forward to learning some new tricks of the trade.  All of his recipes have come out excellently.  I’m particularly fond of his simple take on palak paneer, an Indian spinach and cheese curry, in this case made with tofu.

“Dororo Vol. 1″ by Osamu Tezuka

Dororo vol. 1

Dororo vol. 1

Classic manga by the writer of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion (among many others).  I saw the awesome movie that came out here in 2007 (you might have seen the trailer) and was hooked.  Basically, a warlord is losing a war badly and calls up a troupe of demons for help.  The demons promise to give him power to win the war, but in return they demand his body parts.  Of course it would be hard to rule a country without a body, so the warlord promises the body of his unborn child.  The child is born (without innards, arms, legs, ears, tongue, etc) and abandoned down a stream.  He’s picked up by essentially a mad scientist who creates replacements for the parts he’s missing – including some pretty awesome katana instead of hands.  The story follows him in his attempt to kill the demons who have taken his body parts and  reclaim them to become fully human.

Interestingly enough, this movie/manga also introduced me to Tuvan music, a kind of folk music from Tuval region, north of Mongolia and east of Russia.  It’s characterized by a kind of “throat singing” in which singers can harmonize with themselves.  The opening track in the movie is performed by Huun Huur Tu, one of the only internationally performing Tuvan groups.  You can see the first 2 minutes of the movie with the Tuvan song in this video:

“Pompeii: Life of a Roman Town” by Mary Beard

Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town

Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town

Pompeii explodes a number of myths – from the very date of the eruption, probably a few months later than usually thought; the hygiene of the baths which must have been hotbeds of germs; and the legendary number of brothels, most likely only one, to the massive death count which was probably less than ten per cent of the population. Street Life, Earning a Living: Baker, Banker and Garum Maker (who ran the city), The Pleasure of the Body: Food, Wine, Sex and Baths, these chapter headings give a surprising insight into the workings of a Roman town. At the Suburban Baths we go from communal bathing to hygiene to erotica. A fast-food joint on the Via dell’Abbondanza introduces food and drink and diets and street life. These are just a few of the strands that make up an extraordinary and involving portrait of an ancient town, its life and its continuing re-discovery, by Britain’s leading classicist.

Sounds riveting, but so often historical writers are as dry and dead as the objects they study (for example, Liza Dalby).  I hope her writing lives up to her research capabilities!

Sing to the Sky by Ayaka

Sing to the Sky - by Ayaka

Sing to the Sky - by Ayaka

Awesome CD by a smooth, talented Japanese singer.  A great way to ease into Japanese pop music.  Ayaka’s voice is extremely flexible and her laid-back easy rock style makes her CDs great to have on in the background any time of day.  Sadly she’s been recently diagnosed with Graves’ Disease (a kind of hyper-thyroidism) and her career has been put on hold for the moment.  Hopefully she’ll come back in the future with more albums for her fans!

Listen to my favorite of her songs, “手をつなごう” Let’s Hold Hands:

Lyrics here.

永遠ってコトバ あるのかな?
未来を想うと 怖くなるけど
ずっと ずっと 続く夢があるから
手をつなごう

Is there really such a thing as words that speak of eternity’s meaning?
When I think of the future, I begin to grow frightened but
Because it has always been a continuing dream through all this time…
Let us join hands and face tomorrow together.

~MS the Younger

The Art of Staying Cool – Japan style

Now that the rain is finally clearing up here in Ishikawa (hellooooooo rainy season that was 3 times as long as normal) the dog days of summer are moving in… or as they say, the days of 夏ばて, natsubate, “summer exhaustion.”  So what’s the best way to keep cool in Japan?

1)  うなぎ – eel

Delicious unagi kaba-yaki!

Delicious unagi kaba-yaki!

Delicious and fatty, the nutrients and oil in eel fortifies people against summer heat.  Try unagi, fresh-water eel, or anago, salt-water eel.  Most popular is delicious kaba-yaki donburi, or roasted eel with sauce over rice.  Sadly eel is on the list of badly pressured fish populations, but once a summer is ok, right?  ::drooling foodie guilt::

2)  甚平- jinbei

DBZ jinbei for your favorite otaku.

DBZ jinbei for your favorite otaku.

Traditionally men’s gear, jinbei is essentially a pair of matching shorts and a gi top (familiar to anyone who’s practiced judo, kendo, aikido or karate).  Today it’s branched out to ridiculously bright character patterns including Hello Kitty, anime, and Rirakkuma themes.

Even babies can get in on the action!

Even babies can get in on the action!

Kids love to wear them to festivals as a yukata alternative.  Light fabrics and air-holes make them great pajamas in summer!

Popular character Rirakkuma makes his clothing debut.

Popular character Rirakkuma makes his clothing debut.

3)  風りん – fuurin

Wind chimes are hung all over the place as soon as the heat sets in.  Unlike most chimes from back home which make a series of tuned notes, many Japanese fuurin are made of glass or ceramic and make a gentle “clink clink” that is supposed to distract your mind from the heat.  Surprisingly effective!

Beautiful glass fuurin distract your mind from summer suffering O.o

Beautiful glass fuurin distract your mind from summer suffering O.o

4)  扇子 – sensu and 団扇 – uchiwa

Flat uchiwa fans.

Flat uchiwa fans.

Sensu are fold-able fans and uchiwa are flat, round, un-foldable fans.  Folding fans were invented in Japan in the 8th century and subsequently taken in China.  Talk about a reversal of the normal order of things!  Today they’re mass produced but in the past beautiful handmade fans helped indicate status in Heian Era courts.  The more ribs your fan had, the higher up you were.  Folding fans also hold very important ritual significance in Noh Theatre, Shinto religious ceremonies and for traditional dancers.  Uchiwa on the other hand came straight from China.  Traditionally made of bamboo and thick handmade paper, uchiwa are handed out on street corners with advertisements for shops and promotions alongside their more traditional cousins.

Folding sensu.

Folding sensu.

5)  Cold foods

The best part of summer!  Try your hand at soba:

Soba (buckwheat noodles) served cold with dipping sauce.

Soba (buckwheat noodles) served cold with dipping sauce.

or kakigohri (shaved ice and syrup, condensed milk or sweet red beans make great toppers too!):

No red beans here...

No red beans here...

~MS the Hotter (and stuck in rainy season)

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