Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Veggie Stir Fry the Japanese way, plus a couple sweet treats to beat the heat

As I type this, I am sweltering in an unair-conditioned apartment in 90 degree weather. 90 degree weather on the last day of May in Cleveland, OH, where it would not be unthinkable to expect snow in May. To beat the heat, I am drinking the only beverage chilling in my frig at the moment, a bottle of Smirnoff's new Blueberry and Lemonade malt beverage, so before I move on to cooking vegetables the Japanese way, I thought I would impart a word of advice on the subject of this particular beverage.

It is, not surprisingly, lemony with a hint of blueberry and oddly tastes less like an alcoholic beverage even than the other Smirnoff malt beverages (Ice, Triple Black, and assorted fruit flavored Ices) despite it's higher percentage of alcohol content (and by higher, I mean one or two percentage points, depending). I would recommend it to those of you out there above the legal age to drink alcoholic beverages stronger than cough syrup, and I don't say that in jest. You're reading the ramblings of a gal who didn't touch a drop of anything faintly alcoholic in nature until she was nearly twenty-two.

Now, on to the Japanese.

Stir-fried Veggies
- ammended from a recipe in Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat -

8 oz firm tofu
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
2 T soy sauce
2 T sake
½ t salt
2 T canola oil
2 med carrots, cut into thin slices
1 bag Asian veggies - if your bag of Asian veggies includes carrots, you way omit the carrots mentioned above
2 c. of brown rice

  1. Make rice via rice cooker. You could go old school, but a rice cooker is the best kitchen invention since the microwave oven. It's just so easy and fool-proof.
  2. I read somewhere that if you place a block of tofu between two pieces of paper towel and set something heavy on top of it for an hour, the water will leech out leaving a more solid tofu. Tried it. Totally works. So do that. Then dice it.
  3. While the tofu is de-watering, put the dried shiitake in a small bowl and add 2 c water. Let that soak for 20 min. Then, take a 1/2 c of the shiitake soaking water and place it in a small bowl with 1 T soy sauce-pepper.
  4. Drain the mushrooms, cut off any stems, and dice the caps.
  5. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add carrots and stir fry about 3 minutes before adding the bag of frozen veggies and the sauce mix from the small bowl. Stir fry the lot until the veggies are hot. Then add the tofu, pepper, and remaining 1 T of soy sauce. Stir fry another minute or two.
  6. Now, you're ready to serve. Make sure to include a bowl of the rice to go with it.

It's optional, but this dish pairs well with a nice cup of green tea (Decaf. It's dinner, people). Even without the tea, though, this was very light and let the veggies be their own flavoring. Better still, the entire meal's leftovers make a delightful miso soup, just place in water and add miso and a sheet of nori cut into strips.

And because that soup looks hot, for your viewing enjoyment, another desserty, delightfully chilly beverage to cool you down and get you some extra calcium, in honor of the weather: The strawberry banana kale smoothie.

1 banana
3 frozen strawberries
3 T yogurt
1 t oatmeal
a handful of kale (more or less depending on preference)
a dah of cinnamon
a splash of fruit juice (to make it easier for the blender to blend)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until blended, adding juice as needed to move the process along. If you're feeling frisky, go ahead and plop on a dab of whipped cream. I dare you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cleveland Summer Garden 2011: Year Two

Despite a forecast of rain, rain with a chance of more rain, the skies were only slightly  cloudy this morning as the pseudo-husband and I drove through the rural (and wealthy) beauty of Chagrin Falls, ending in the parking lot of Lowe's Greenhouse. Last year, their selection of heirlooms was more satisfactory than the greenhouse in town, and this year, they didn't let us down.

We walked away with starter plants for two zucchini, two cucumber, one beefsteak tomato, one Purple Cherokee tomato, one heirloom cherry tomato, one monster sweet pepper, one patio red pepper (quickest to turn red of all the red peppers), one purple eggplant, one japanese eggplant, and one red russian kale plant. These we promptly planted and gave a smattering of water. Along with the starters, we put seeds in for red lettuce and edamame.

Of course, before all of this, we had to go out yesterday with a shovel, hoe, and rake, and turn over the plot by hand. This is not something I would do (or could do by myself with my bugs bunny biceps) again without a rototiller. There's a reason why back in the good ole days, they used mules to furrow the fields. However, the work done, the plot doesn't look half bad considering we did all of the tilling by hand. Next time I head over, we'll put up the tomato cages and stakes and I'll take some lovely pictures in celebration.

Another bit of good news: while tilling, I noticed one of the same breed as my devoted kale spiders from last year scuttling through the turf, carting a large white egg sack. Perhaps they will take to the new red russian kale plant with the same gusto as the more green-blue kale bush of last year. I'll keep my eyes peeled for arachnids.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

First of the Rhubarb

Art's grandmother makes a delicious rhubarb crumble. She also has her very own rhubarb patch. So here it is: a helping of rhubarb pie in celebration of spring. 

We ate it with extra appreciation. She's not fairing too well healthwise and it is likely the last pie Art will ever eat made by grandma. But it won't be the last time he eats her recipe. We have it safe in the recipe box and I'll be sure to make it next Spring. Sometimes the best memories you have, you get back just by eating the right combination of ingredients in the right dessert.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tofu and Carrots done Japanese Style

So I was perusing my library's cookbooks in search of Japanese, and I happened upon what I humorously consider the sequel to French Women Don't Get Fat. It is, you guessed it, Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat. It's by Naomi Moriyama and her hubby William Doyle and includes recipes more often than not pulled directly from Moriyama's mother's recipe book (not that she has a literal recipe book but you get the idea). As such, the recipes, thus far, are absolutely fantastic, producing better-than-restaurant quality Japanese right in my own kitchen. This is no small feat.

The problem: to get the recipes, you have to withstand (or ignore) a lengthy diatribe on why eating the Japanese way is the healthiest way to eat (including how it's best if you invest in new Japanese tableware). Now, I'm not saying Japanese isn't healthy. It's loaded with seaweed and miso paste and I just can't get enough. I just get a little sick of hearing how everybody has the secret for THE way to eat a healthy diet, and everybody thinks they're right. I also find it troubling to try to convince people to exclusively eat foods that have to be imported, rather than showing them ways to use the food that grows right in their own communities. Lastly (and then I will end this mini-rant and get on to the good stuff), I find it unfair that homecooked rural Japanese food is being paired against, rather than homecooked rural American food, fast food American food, as though all of us here in the states know only how to use a McDonald's drive thru and the number of our favorite pizza joint. It made for a bit of a straw man argument, even if the book did make some good points and reveal some kickbutt recipes.

CarrotyTofu with Sesame
-adapted from Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat-

what you need:
1 block extra firm tofu
2 T cider vinegar
2 t sugar
2 t white wine
2 t soy sauce
1 t salt
1 T canola oil
5 carrots, matchsticked
1/3 c toasted ground white sesame seeds
2 c. brown rice

  1. Make rice via rice cooker or the more intensive stovetop method. While it's cooking, cut up the tofu, season (if desired) with allspice and pop it in the oven for about 20=30 minutes, flipping once during baking. Cut tofu into cubes.
  2. Combine vinegar-salt in small bowl until sugar is dissolved. (Of course, the wine should be sake, this being a Japanese dish, but lacking that, I opened a bottle of white wine spritzer from, I believe, Africa. Consider my version African-infused Asian.)
  3. Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add carrot and tofu and sauté until carrots are tender, 3 min, Reduce heat to med-low and add sauce mix. Cook 2 more min. Turn off heat and add sesame seeds. Toss it all together.
  4. Serve with rice, and if you want to be Japanese about it, serve them in separate bowls.

My table setting ended up quite lovely if I do say so myself. And because I opened that spritzer, I enjoyed a glass of bubbly with my repast.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Strep-land, population 2, and the impending garden

This week, I have witnessed a return of my childhood foe, strep. I got this horrible sore throat illness about five times a year growing up. It really didn't help that I also had very large tonsils that, when swelled, nearly sealed together to block my entire airway. Fortunately, my mouth has grown into my tonsils. Unfortunately, to find that out, I had to undergo strep as an adult. And inadvertently pass it on to my partner.

I'm on the mend, but neither of us has done much cooking (being unable to swallow it for several days). I do have a fabulous Japanese dish to share from last week that celebrates the start of May, our family's Japanese month 2011.

Another plus, I had plenty of free time while recooperating (I couldn't concentrate on work when every time I swallowed it felt like my head might explode) to finish the last of the amigurumi vegetables.

The Pea Pods!

The open pod enough folds up to look identical to the closed one, just with peas peeking out.

As enchanted as I am with the knitted veggies though, I'll be excited to start growing some real ones. Growing season is upon us. The forecast looks like rain until friday, but if there's a break in the clouds on tuesday, we'll be out in our garden, breaking it in for summer. Tomatoes, here I come.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Winter Omlette

Some of life's pleasures come in small packages. Like the egg. Your humble blogger, it seems, has overcome her egg hatred brought on by one-to-many illness-inducing undercooked egg fiascos. In celebration, I give you the meal I have been making myself for the past two weeks on nights when I get home late and the boys have already eaten.

Carrot Spinach Omelette

What you need:
cooking oil spray
2 eggs
1 T pancake mix
a splash of milk
2 general handfuls of spinach (or kale)
1 carrot, diced
1 slice of cheese, any variety

1. Mix together the eggs, pancake mix, and milk. The pancake mix might seem odd, but I heard somewhere that adding pancake batter to their eggs is how IHop ends up with such fluffy, large omelettes. A positive side effect of this: the egg becomes much easier to flip without ripping.

2. Spray a small skillet with oil and pour egg mix in pan, heating on the stovetop at med-low heat. The egg will be ready to flip when the top starts to firm. Flip and cook about another minute. Remove the omelette to a plate and place the cheese on top.

3. Spray same skillet with oil and heat to med heat. Add carrot and spinach and stir fry until carrot is tender and spinach is wilted. Then dump the veggies on top of the cheese and fold the omelette over. Voila.

The great thing about this omelette is it uses the veggies on hand in the winter, but still retains a similar feel to a tomato, spinach, and pepper omelette I so love in the warmer months. It will probably be a winter staple in my kitchen for a long time coming.