Monday, February 25, 2013

February's food.

Well here we are...February 2013 almost over!  I can't believe it's nearly March, and I've only done a few posts.  That doesn't mean I haven't been busy in the kitchen and around the house.

I included this picture just because I chopped all this garlic and ginger up so finely.  Usually I just leave things in chunks and throw it in.  What's it for, by the way?

This chicken is for the same dish...a ginger-garlic marinade with yogurt.  Can you guess what it ended up as?

Chicken Tikka Masala, with cumin-scented jasmine rice.  I was really impressed with this meal, and for once I followed the recipe nearly exactly, except for one small change:  I used a can of tomatoes instead of fresh ones.  Gasp!  Tomatoes are so crummy at this time of year, it definitely would have ruined the dish.  Not to mention canned tomatoes are just so delicious I could probably eat them by themselves right out of the can.

Speaking of canned tomatoes, last week we had Ms. T's spectacular tomato soup. We ate it with a small salad, and topped it with Parmesan and Sheep Mizithra cheeses.  I put my own twist on it, but I checked out her favorite type of tomatoes for this dish, Muir Glen Fire-Roasted.  

Last night was the dinner to end all, though.  I finally got around to cooking one of the dishes out of my favorite and most inspirational cookbook:  Japanese Hot Pots.  I've had this book for over a year and every single dish in it looks absolutely delicious and beautiful, but I've never attempted anything until now.  Even the one where you cook a fish whole in the pot looks good.  I started, however, with one of the easiest dishes:  Yudofu (p. 45).  According to the book, this dish comes from traditional Buddhist vegetarian cuisine, or shojin ryori.  Most Western-style vegetarians won't find this dish particularly suitable, though, as the broth comes from dashi flakes, which come from fish (produced by a fairly scary process, I might add.) If that single component were replaced, with say, vegetable broth, this dish would be completely vegan.

My end result, however, was probably the most authentic-tasting Japanese dish I've ever created.  It was amazing.  I followed the recipe exactly, making my own stock from dashi flakes.  I replaced the negi with regular green onions, because I forgot to grab some at the store while I was at Uwajimaya.  This meal is cooked in a thin broth made of water and seaweed(kombu), then the vegetables are removed from the cooking water and eaten topped with a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin and dashi stock.  Without getting too techincal, this sauce is very similar to the dipping liquid you would get at any Japanese restaurant when ordering tempura.

Yes, I have my warijoyu in a gravy boat.
We even had the shime, which consisted of rice zosui.  Shime is a concept in Japanese eatin' where you finish your meal with an extra, starchy food.  We added rice to the remaining (delicious) broth that the veggies were cooked in to create a fairly sensational soup.  This makes the meal really, really filling.  That's good because you're basically eating boiled vegetables.  You can eat and eat and still not make it up to the calories of a burger and fries.  

If this all sounds very foreign, remember that I studied Japanese language and culture in college, which is why diving into this kind of thing is foremost in my interest.  If you're not so inclined, the beginning of the book has a section which nicely explains all the components of the meals, including instructions for things you may not know how to do, like create your own dashi stock (almost as easy as making tea).  This book is widely available at many Asian bookstores as well as western ones (I got mine at Powell's Home and Garden location on Hawthorne).  

Last but not least (phew, this is getting long) I made kimchi last night.  I am using an experimental packet from Noh foods.  I have used their seasonings in the past with average results, but the lure of supercheap supereasy Kimchi is just too much for me.  I have made my own from scratch before, however I felt the flavor left something to be desired that time.  I added my own peppers, ginger and garlic to the mix.  If you decide to go the packet route, be forewarned that opening it MADE. ME. COUGH.  You're thinking, "dummy why did you open it so close to your face?"  I didn't.  In addition my husband walked by the counter while I was mixing the cabbage and HE STARTED COUGHING, too.  Just put a towel over your face or something.  We're talking powdered hot peppers, here.

The packet calls for five pounds of cabbage but I used probably two and a half, considering I bought three pounds, and used some for the hot pot.  In the end I got about two and a half pint-sized jars of kimchi packet experiment #1.  It's still fermenting in the fridge, I'll be around with the update in 2+ days.