Thursday, February 28, 2008

tandoori tofu

i've been doing a lot of experimenting with tofu lately. it's not something i'm familiar with, so i have failed pretty hard more than once. but i'm getting better, and i'm discovering that patience is really key. wait for the tofu to drain, wait for it to marinate, wait for it to cook. it really pays off in the end, and if i plan ahead, it's no problem.

this meal was really, really good. it takes a lot of spices you may not have lying around, but if you like indian food, they're a good investment. the marinade recipe is a bit large--i had some leftover, but it can be reused, and will keep for as long as the yogurt is good. also, as i discovered while waiting for everything to marinate, it makes a great carrot dip.

1 pack prebaked tofu (1)
250 mL yogurt
30 mL lemon juice
1/2 onion, fine dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp grated ginger (2)
2 tsp turmeric (3)
1 tsp curry or garam masala (4)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (5)
1 tsp paprika (6)
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds (7)
1/2 tsp cumin (8)
1/2 tsp nutmeg (9)

(1)焼とうふ, やきとうふ (2)しょうが (3)ターメリック (4) カーレ、ガラムマサラ (5)チリーペッパー (6)パプリカ (7)コリアンダー (8)クミン (9)ナツメグ

i got everything from e-town in kosugi

i listened to fresh air while making this.

let's go!
1. first of all, you will really help yourself out if you get the prebaked tofu. it will have little brown marks on the top, and the packaging will have やき or 焼 written on it. if you can't remember the yaki kanji, just look for the fire (火) radical on the left side. anyway, the prebaked tofu is a lot firmer and will really suck up your marinade.

2. take it out of the package, put it on a plate, and put another plate on top of it for about an hour.

3. while your tofu is draining, you can make the yogurt masala. this part is really easy--just mix everything together. about the spices--garam masala and curry are both spice mixes, and one is not necessarily like the other. so my measurements work for what i have, but you should definitely taste, and adjust accordingly. also, note that cayenne pepper is sometimes labeles chili pepper. you you'll notice that it's not the red color that you may associate with tandoori food. if you really need to, you can add a few drops of red food coloring, but i think the natural color is very pretty.

4. pour off the tofu juice. cut the tofu into strips about 1.5 cm thick. cover with the marinade and let it sit for a couple of hours. overnight is best.
5. cook in your fish broiler on the med-hi setting until the tofu starts to brown. this only took about 4 minutes on each side, but i've heard that my broiler cooks a lot faster than most. just keep checking on it. look at the picture below, for another "learning from disco's mistakes" moment.

i left a lot of marinade on the tofu while i broiled it. this caused one side to stay kind of mushy. the other side had a little marinade on it, and browned really nicely. i would suggest brushing some of that off before broiling--you can always spoon some of the sauce on later. after it browns on both sides, you can spread a little more on the top and throw it back under the broiler for a minute.

this was really spicy, so i ate it with some lettuce and yogurt. perfect. also, i reheated the rest in the microwave at school the next day--still delicious.

saag paneer

saag paneer is my fallback indian restaurant order. it's different at every restaurant, and finding a definitive recipe is almost impossible. i pulled this together from several different recipes. i also wanted to make it without ghee, buttermilk, half&half, or any of the other fatty things that make it really creamy (and delicious). i was actually pretty amazed at how yummy this turned out to be.

2 warnings: (1)this is a pretty time consuming dish--i will definitely make this again, but never again in such a small quantity. (2)you will need to watch the pan. this is not the kind of thing where you can walk out of the room, check your email, have a smoke, and come back to check on things. keep things stirring, and adjust your heat if need be.

2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 bunches fresh spinach (1)
1 onion, diced
2 cm. ginger, grated (2)
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground coriander seeds (3)
2 tsp cumin (4)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (5)
1/2 tsp turmeric (6)
1/2 tsp garam masala (7)
250 mL plain yogurt
100 g paneer

(1)ほうれんそう (2)しょうが (3)コリアンダー (4)クミン (5)チリーペッパー (6)ターメリック (7)ガラムマサラ

i got everything from e-town in kosugi.

i listened to car talk while making this.

let's go!
1. make the paneer. i have read that crumbled tofu or ricotta cheese can be used instead, but i'm skeptical. paneer has a really mild taste, but it still has a taste. i think you'd really be missing that with the tofu. ricotta is not the same thing, but it might work. if you can find it in toyama, let me know. cut the paneer into little pieces and toss in a bit of oil & turmeric. set aside.

2. now, the spinach--baby spinach is too delicate for this dish, so make sure you use grown-up spinach. separate the leaves from the stems and wash them. spinach is notoriously gritty, so do this well. blanch the spinach--bring water to a boil, turn off the heat, and throw in the spinach for about 30 seconds. the spinach will turn a pretty green color. put the spinach in ice cold water. drain. squeeze as much water as possible out of the spinach and set aside for later. the spinach below is pre-squeeze--if yours still looks like this, there's too much water in it. squeeze!!!

3. saute the onion and garlic in vegetable oil until your onions start to caramelize (turn brown).

4. add the lemon juice, spinach, ginger, and all the spices except for the garam masala. stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

5. process the spinach in a food processor or blender. don't puree--pulse to make sure it's still a bit chunky. if you don't have a blender, don't worry about this part. really, don't worry. calm down.

6. mix in the yogurt and garam masala stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

7. add the paneer. stir (but not too hard) over medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes.

this meal made me moan out loud. truth.


i was so excited to make this. there's a lot of science in cooking, but i think you have to really know your stuff to make cheese. this is a good starter, i think--nothing really complicated. but it does take some time. i was kind of in a hurry when i did this, so i skipped the last step. still, the texture and flavor were great, and it totally worked. next time i'll do it like this person so i can actually cut it into cubes.

i made this to use in saag paneer, but hopefully i'll be using it in the future to make more indian food. just so you know, this is a really mild cheese that doesn't melt.

1 liter whole milk
juice of one lime

i got everything at e-town in kosugi

let's go!
1. bring your milk to a boil. do this slowly, and stir frequently. this is important because you want to avoid two things: 1) forming a skin at the top, and 2) scorching. the proteins will stick to the bottom if the pan, and the sugars will burn. your milk will taste gross, and you will never get that pan clean. just be patient, and it will pay off.

2. when your milk comes to a boil, turn the heat down a little and let it bubble for a couple of minutes. take it off the heat, and immediately stir in the lime juice. wow, science! the milk will separate into white chunks and a clear liquid with a greenish tinge. remember little miss muffett? this is curds and whey.

3. now pour everything into cheesecloth. i was really excited about this part--i've never used cheesecloth to make actual cheese. i doubled up the cloth so i wouldn't squeeze the curds through the holes.

4. now rinse the curds really well in cold water. squeeze the liquid out, but not so hard that the cheese starts squirting through the cheesecloth.

5. hang the cheese up for a couple of hours.



Sunday, February 24, 2008

mixed mushroom soup

i really can't get enough of the all the mushrooms here--there's so many different kinds, and they're so inexpensive. the last time i was at the grocery, i grabbed a pack each of eringi, buna-shimeji, and maitake in a fit of mushroom love. then i forgot about them, and was kind of forced to throw something together rather quickly on a sunday night before they went bad. it turned out really good, and was amazing in my bento the next day after everything had mingled.

10 mL olive oil
500 g mushrooms (1)
1 leek
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500 mL chicken broth
20 mL soy sauce
10 mL mirin (2)
2 tsp fresh shredded ginger
12 sprigs mitsuba (3)
salt to taste

(1) エリンギ、ブナシメジ、マイタケ (2) 本みりん (3)みつば

i got everything from e-town in kosugi.

i listened to yoav-charmed & strange while making this.

let's go!
1. cut the leeks into decent size chunks. to prepare the other mushrooms: for the eringi, cut the tough part off at the base (about 1.5 cm), and cut into cubes. for the shimeji and maitake, cut the spongy base part off and just kind of separate the individual mushrooms. this is a little weird for the maitake; just do your best. but no need to cut into tiny pieces.

2. soften the leeks, garlic, and mushrooms in the olive oil. don't brown them, just cook until they get soft. you can do this in the same pot you'll cook the soup in, but it might be easier to do in a saute pan. just slide everything into your soup pot, and that includes the juice that comes out of the mushrooms. you have to wash the dishes, so it's up to you.

3. now add your chicken broth and bring to a boil. reduce heat. add the soy sauce, mirin, and ginger. simmer for 2 minutes.

4. now add the mitsuba. it took me about a year to use mitsuba in anything, i think out of spite. when i first arrived, i kept mistaking it for cilantro from across the produce section. if you've never used it before, it's a kind of parsley--it has a kind of nutty flavor, a lot like watercress. tear the bottom part of the stem away from the more tender part of the stem with the leaves attached. you can chop that up, but it's not necessary. throw it in right at the end, or you'll lose the flavor.


i ate the soup over some noodles, topped with carrot and dried red pepper rings.

if you're not a big fan of mushrooms, you should reduce the amount because i used a lot in proportion to the amount of broth. i think this would be awesome with some spinach or with chicken. it definitely benefited from the red pepper rings--i think a bit of hot sauce would be good, too.

napa cabbage & bacon

i hated cabbage when i was a kid, but now i really like it. and it's a good thing, too--this stuff is everywhere in japan: served raw at yakitori joints, shredded under fried pork cutlets, swimming in your yakisoba.

i had some leftover from a nabe dinner and needed to get rid of it. this took about 5 minutes and was quite tasty. also, i didn't actually use bacon with this one--just bacon bouillon, so this is a pretty healthy dish.

1/4 head napa cabbage (1)
1 bacon bouillon cube
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup water

(1) はくさい

the bacon bouillon is from coroção do brasil in takaoka. everything else is from e-town in kosugi.

i listened to temple of sound & rizwan-muazzam qawwali while making this.

let's go!
1. you're probably not going to find bacon bouillon at the supa. i got my bacon bouillon at the brazilian grocery--i highly recommend this place for all things meat and beans. if you don't have bouillon, you can use real bacon--just chop it up and cook it before adding the water.

2. in a large skillet, dissolve the bouillon in boiling water.

3. add the cabbage, cover, and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, or until the yellow leafy parts have wilted, and the hard white parts have softened a little bit (they will still be really crunchy).

4. remove from heat and mix in the soy sauce.

linda seemed to really like this dish--"it's like eating stew without going to the trouble of making stew." well said, linda.

part of this balanced dinner.

Friday, February 22, 2008

carrot & daikon salad

mmm...carrots. one of my favorite jams. if i could, i would walk around gnawing on a carrot all the time, like bugs bunny. instead, i have picked up a more socially acceptable smoking habit.

after a nabe party, i had some leftover carrot and daikon, so i decided to make this super-easy, super-tasty salad. it's perfect for a bento, or even just a snack.

2 medium carrots
15 cm daikon
35 mL sushi vinegar (1)
20 mL mirin (2)
15 mL soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame seeds

(1) すし酢, (2)本みりん

everything is from e-town in kosugi.

i listened to burial--untrue while making this.

let's go!
1. julienne the carrot and daikon. shredding is ok, too. peel that daikon first, btw.

2. toss the carrot and daikon in a bowl with some salt. let that sit for about 20 minutes.

3. to make the dressing, mix all three liquids together. i used the premixed sushi vinegar because i just happen to have some around, but if you don't, you can make your own. just mix 20 mL of rice vinegar (米須), 10 mL of caster (very fine) sugar, and 5 mL of salt. you could probably even go a little less on that sugar because of the sweetness of the carrot and mirin. you just want to cut that vinegar taste a bit.

4. toast the sesame seeds. you might be thinking about skipping this part, but really it just takes a minute. does bread taste like toast? no. your carrots and daikon need to sit for a little bit longer, anyway. here's how. let a small pan get hot over a high flame. throw in your sesame seeds, and keep them moving. once you hear them start to pop, remove from heat. seriously, less than a minute--don't be lazy.

5. rinse the carrot and daikon well. add the dressing and let it all sit for a couple of hours, or even better, overnight.

6. when you're ready to eat, mix in the sesame seeds.

oh, how did this get here? this is actually a picture of desert from the night i made this salad. why yes, those are reese's peanut butter cups. from america. oh yeah.