• Spinach With Walnuts And Miso (Horenso No Kurumi-Ae)

    Spinach With Walnuts And Miso

    Spinach With Walnuts And Miso

    It may not sound like it, but to us, this dish is essentially “Japanese creamed spinach”. Just lighter, and probably healthier. What you get is sweet, earthy spinach with rich umami flavors and a creamy texture. This was not what we expected when we made the recipe, but we will take it. This dish is a very pleasant surprise. As Carolyn said “I could eat this every day”.

    spin4spin5spin6And I am certainly happy about that, since the recipe came from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s excellent cookbook “Japanese Farm Food“. The cookbook was a Mother’s Day present for Carolyn and she chose the recipe. It is always good when the first recipe you try is a winner (particularly if the cookbook is a gift). And we can’t wait to try more of the recipes, a bunch of them look amazing.

    spin7spin8spin9The story behind the cookbook is also very cool. Nancy Singleton Hachisu is an American expat (from Norcal) living in northern Japan with her Japanese husband and children. They run an English language school and grow, cook and preserve their own food. Her cooking is pure, clean, simple and beautiful. This is what she serves her family. Good enough for us.

    spin10spin11spin12This recipe is also a good example of the keys to Japanese home cooking (at least, in our opinion, we do not claim to be experts). A few well-chosen ingredients matched with proper technique give you a dish that is way more than the sum of its parts. In this case you need to quickly blanch, chill and then completely drain the spinach. Squeeze out the moisture more than once. The other trick is to take your time making the dressing and then tossing/folding it into the spinach. But the attention to detail is worth it, this dish is a treat.

    spin3spinSpinach With Walnuts And Miso (Horenso No Kurumi-Ae):

    (Adapted from Nancy Singleton Hachisu)

    Notes Before You Start:

    • How you cool your spinach may depend on your kitchen layout. Just be sure to cool it quickly and squeeze out as much moisture as you can.
    • Using a mortar is the more traditional approach and is easier to control (but also takes more work). If using a food processor, chop in quick pulses.

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  • Golden Beet Sliders

    Golden Beet Sliders.

    Golden Beet Sliders.

    Or as a simple salad. If you don't want the bread.

    Or as a simple salad. If you don’t want the bread.

    Best to get this out upfront. This recipe is inspired by some beet sliders we saw on a rerun of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Yes, we love our cookbooks and yes most of our inspiration for cooking comes from the garden (and other blogs). But we still like a good burger joint or seaside clam shack, and we do occasionally indulge and watch Guy Fieri do his thing. And in this case, he visited a place called Gatsby’s in Sacramento and they featured beet sliders. We do love beets and sliders, so at some point we had to make this. And we just got some beautiful baby golden beets at the farmers market, so Carolyn made the call. Golden beet sliders for dinner.

    bslide2bslide3bslide4While we were inspired by the Gatsby’s dish, we changed the recipe substantially. We use golden and not red beets, roast rather than boil the beets and use an orange vinaigrette for the sauce instead of green goddess dressing. We also add goat cheese for tang (and some bacon and pecorino as an extra option, yum). And, of course, we use King Hawaiian rolls for the bread, simply because everyone likes them. But while we changed a lot of the dish, the fundamental idea stays the same: sweet beets are a very good substitute for beef in a burger. These sliders are good, really good. Not just a good “vegetarian dish”, but a “good dish”, period.

    bslide8bslide5bslide6The only downside of this dish is that it takes time to cook beets. There is no way around it (even if you microwave them you are looking at 25-30 minutes). Our only suggestion is that when you roast beets, roast a lot of them and put them in salads over the next 2-3 days. Otherwise, just roast the beets for 60 to 90 minutes, depending on their size. Wrapping in foil will speed things up a bit and makes for easier cleanup. When you can easily pierce the beets with a knife and the skins peel off easily, they are done.

    bslide7bslide9bslide10Once you roast and skin the beets, making the rest of the dish is easy. Make a quick vinaigrette with some orange juice and zest (oranges and beets are a great mix) and dress some bitter greens like arugula. Then season and sear the beets for a minute or two on each side. Then lightly grill or toast the buns. You assemble the sliders with a bed of the dressed greens, then add the beets, a little goat cheese, more greens and the top of the bun. Most people can easily eat 2 or 3 of these. And if you want to add even more flavor, a little bacon and some grated pecorino add some umami and salt flavors to the sweetness of the beets. Either way, it is hard to go wrong.bslide11

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  • Spiced, Roasted Cauliflower

    Spiced, Roasted Cauliflower.

    Spiced, Roasted Cauliflower.

    Before we start, we apologize for the slightly monochromatic look of the blog these days. Between last week’s roasted parsnips and this post for spiced, roasted cauliflower, we are cooking a lot of white-ish veggies. But what makes for somewhat challenging photography can still be good food, and such is the case with this cauliflower dish. As anyone who knows their vegetables will tell you, roasted cauliflower with a touch of oil and spices is terrific, and for what it lacks in color, it more than makes up in flavor.

    cauli3cauli5And the rest of the world seems to agree. From India to Europe and here in America, many cuisines embrace the cauliflower as a healthy, flavorful vegetable. And it is worth noting that cauliflower comes in many shapes and sizes. You can find orange, purple and green cauliflower in many markets along with the fractal geometry shaped Romanesco variety (very tasty in salads, btw). In all cases cauliflower is nutrient-dense, particularly vitamin C, and has very high fiber. This stuff is good for you and tastes good. Now you just need to cook it right.

    cauli7cauli8And that is where choosing the right cooking method makes a difference. You can certainly steam or boil cauliflower and serve it with butter, salt and pepper. And cauliflower, cream, cheese and a touch of herbs makes for a lovely (if somewhat less healthy) dish. But oven roasting is where cauliflower really starts to sing. Cauliflower is naturally earthy and sweet and when you roast with a touch of oil and seasoning the flavors concentrate and you get a touch of caramelization. If you add some strong, aromatic spices to the roasted cauliflower like cumin or curries, then you suddenly get a truly complex and flavorful dish. We prefer to use a bit of cumin and coriander, but curry certainly works well, as do savory herbs. Feel free to adjust this basic recipe to your taste.

    cauli2cauli9The recipe is very simple and only takes about 30 minutes. You just make a paste of olive oil, salt, pepper and spices or herbs. We use ground cumin, cumin seeds and ground coriander. (FYI, you can briefly warm the spices in a dry pan over medium heat to “wake them up” a bit, this is worth the effort). Besides the spices you use, the only choice is how you prepare the cauliflower. You can cut off the florets and toss them in the oil and spice paste, put them on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Or, you can cut thick slices or “steaks” from the cauliflower and brush the spice paste onto each side, and then roast in the oven (another good cauliflower “steak” recipe here from the SF Chronicle). We like both methods, the only extra work is to be sure to flip the “steaks” halfway through cooking.

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