October 2009

I know that I have sadly neglected this blog for some weeks now, as I struggle with completing the first draft of my book. (My main problem is I keep revising the recipes...but that's another story.) I know that digging up things from the archives does not really constitute true updating! Anyway, I do have an idea for a regular theme or event of sorts, to commence probably in the new year (or when the book is further along in the birthing process).

The tentative title of the theme/event is Japanese Ingredient Focus Seminar (too formal?). I know that many Japanese ingredients are unfamiliar to non-Japanese readers. So the goal will be to become as familiar as possible with it, in a specific time period, say 2-3 weeks. I'll announce the ingredient beforehand, so people have time to get a hold of it. Then we will try various recipes using that ingredient, from simple to not-so-simple.

How does this sound? Let me know if this sounds interesting to you. I'll also accept suggestions for ingredients to tackle.

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Miso Basics: A Japanese miso primer, looking at different types of miso


[From the archives. This miso primer was published here last September (2008). I've added some notes about miso-based blends, especially sumiso or miso with vinegar.]

This is a post that has been a long time coming. I kept on holding it off until I had a good variety of miso on hand to show photos of. I can't say I have a comprehensive selection to show you, but I hope you will find this article useful anyway.

Miso (味噌、みそ), as you probably know already, is a naturally fermented paste made by combining cooked soy beans, salt, and often some other ingredient such as white or brown rice, barley, and so on. The texture can range from smooth to chunky, and the color from a light yellow-brown to reddish brown to dark chocolate brown, and the flavor ranges from mildly salty and sweet to strong and very salty. It is packed with umami and protein, not to mention all sorts of nutrients.

Miso-like fermented bean products and pastes exist all over Asia, but here I will mainly limit myself to the most commonly used Japanese misos.

Type:  feature Filed under:  basics japanese ingredients miso


My niece Rena tucks into teuchi udon (handmade udon).

I am occasionally asked via email or Twitter or even in person, to post a recipe that is Asian but not Japanese. In most cases, I have to say that I have no idea how to make it. Well that wouldn't be exactly true: I could look it up online or in cookbooks and replicate a recipe here. But then, so could you. So could anyone.

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[From the archives. These sesame cookies with matcha icing look and taste quite dramatic. In leaf shapes they are rather spring-like, but try simple rounds or squares for year-round appeal. Originally published in April 2007.]

Flavor wise black sesame seeds aren't that different, if at all, from white or brown sesame seeds. But there is something about their dramatic black-to-grey color that is quite exciting. At the moment I'm quite enamored with black sesame seeds, and have been using them instead of the regular brown ones in everything from sauces to salads.

These leaf shaped cookies contain toasted and ground black sesame seeds, dark brown muscovado sugar, and whole wheat flour, and are decorated with matcha (powdered tea) royal icing. The sweetness is quite restrained, both in the cookie and in the icing. You are first hit by the tea-flavored, very slightly bitter icing, followed by the nutty darkness of the cookie. It's an intriguing combination. They are a wonderful accompaniment to tea, black or green, hot or iced. If the ultimate cookie to you means something very sweet and gooey you may not like these. They are quite adult cookies.

I had to shoot the pictures in a hurry, because they were disappearing faster than almost any other cookie I've made recently.

Since I don't have a leaf shaped cookie cutter, I just made a simple paper template and cut the leaves out with a knife. You can cut them out into any shape you'd like of course, though given the coloring leaves seem appropriate. Quite spring-like, in fact.

3 years ago, I mentioned a handy list of produce ranked by how much pesticide is used to grow them. The higher (=more pesticides) the ranking, the better it would be to stick to organically grown.

I recently got a new iPhone (yes...I'm the very opposite of an Early Adopter of tech gadgets) and discovered that the same list is available as a free iPhone app called DirtyProduce. Here's a screenshot of the opening page:


It doesn't do much beyond list the Dirty Dozen (the most heavily pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables), the Clean 15 (the last pesticide-used) and the full list of 47 produce items, but it's handy to have around with you. Who knew for instance that peaches were the most pesticide-laden fruit or vegetable? I tend not to peel my peaches, and I ate, oh I don't know, a few tons of them over the summer. I may start peeling them next season, or look for non-treated ones.

Anyway, if you do have an iPhone, take a look. And if you don't, there is still the PDF list to print out and carry in your wallet.

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A problem has cropped up in the last couple of days with login on Just Hungry and Just Bento. Previously, you were able to log into either site, and you'd be logged in on the other. This is not working as it should at the moment.

The workaround for now is to log in separately to either site. If you have a problem logging in, please let me know (via the contact form for the offending site) and I'll try to fix it manually. Sorry for the inconvenience!

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