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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Zaru Soba (笊蕎麦)

The Japanese have some pretty creative ways to deal with the heat. Many Americans probably have never tried a cold noodle, with the possible exception of cold pasta salad at picnics. So this dish may seem novel to you, but I urge you to give cold noodles a day in court. Zaru soba combines cold noodles with a zesty dipping sauce that is easy to make and easy to eat in the summer's heat. The name "zaru" refers to the bamboo baskets that the noodles are traditionally served in.

Since Southern California pretty much is always hot, I love this dish year-round but it is especially refreshing during the tail-end of summer. Last week seemed like fall was upon us; the weather was the epitome of autumn sweater weather. So naturally, as soon as I start dreaming of hot cocoa, this week is back to sweltering. Sounds like a great time for some zesty and cool zaru soba!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tsukimi Ramen (月見ラーメン)

Last night was the Harvest Moon! That means it's time for moon-viewing festivals and the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival!

The Japanese version of the Mid-Autumn Festival is called Tsukimi (月見), or the honorific Otsukimi, which literally means "moon-viewing." It's definitely toned down compared to the Chinese festival, but both are celebrated around the same day: the 15th day of the 8th month according to the lunar calendar, also known as the full moon that occurs closest to the equinox.

Traditionally it is celebrated with seasonal autumn food such as chestnuts, green soybeans, taro, and sweet potatoes. Another important tsukimi food is tsukimi dango (sweet rice balls), which are often placed on an altar along with sprigs of susuki (pampas grass) and sake as an offering to the moon to pray for an abundant harvest.
The Tsukimi Burger looks pretty good!

While the full moon has come and gone, there's still plenty of moon out for you to party under! My one Japanese professor at UCLA told the class really, the whole week is an excuse to drink sake outdoors under the moon.

You can make your own moon-viewing treats at home, just by putting an egg on it. Tsukimi udon and soba are two traditional bowls of noodles that feature an egg that gets poached in the hot broth. The yellow egg yolk is supposed to resemble the moon, hence the name. McDonalds in Japan even gets into the spirit of the occasion and has their tsukimi burgers, which feature a fried egg.

Here's a quick and easy recipe for your own moon viewing party. You can definitely use soba or udon instead, I just chose ramen because it is by far the easiest Japanese noodle to find here in America. Plus I love ramen.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Yuen Yeung Popsicles

I wasn't kidding when I told you I was obsessed with popsicles recently! I've been trying to create fun flavors that I can't buy in the supermarket. My latest brainwave was taking the drink Yuen Yeung and turning it into a dessert!

Yuen yeung, also known as yuanyang, yinyong, or yinyeung, is a super tasty and easy to make drink. Yuen yeung, named after the opposites-attract nature of Mandarin ducks, is milk tea and coffee mixed together, and can be served either hot or cold. This drink hails from Hong Kong, where it was originally served with street food, then it graduated to being served in tea cafes. In fact, this drink has become so popular that Starbucks in Hong Kong had a Yuen Yeung Frappuccino!
I so want to try one!

Since the coffee/tea hybrid is usually made with Hong Kong-style milk tea, it can be very rich because it is made with evaporated or condensed milk. I usually prefer frothier and lighter bubble milk tea when served chilled because that uses milk instead, but I knew that Hong Kong-style milk tea was totally the way to go in this case because it would make the end result totally creamy like a fudgesicle!

Of course, I couldn't resist throwing in a twist and adding in some spice just for a little stronger tasting ice pop. I threw in a couple star anise in with my tea, but I think cinnamon or even cocoa powder would be a great addition!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Karē Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけご飯のカレー)

I promised you that I would have a curry tamago kake gohan variation this month! I've written many times about how much I love Japanese curry, known as karē, so it only make sense to make a TKG version.

Early this month, I introduced you to tamago kake gohan, which literally means "egg over rice": a very simple dish were a raw egg gets mixed into steaming hot rice for a quick tasty rice bowl. The raw egg cooks a little in the hot rice, for a creamy luscious sauce that coats the grains of rice. It may sound weird, but once you try it, you'll love it too.

As I mentioned last time, since this uses raw eggs, you need to be able to trust your egg source. After all, the heat from the rice does not cook it enough to kill anything creepy. If you don't have parents with heirloom breed chickens in their backyard whose husbandry you trust, there are pasteurized eggs available. However, if the idea of raw egg still makes you queasy even if they are pasteurized, consider how many times you have eaten raw cookie dough without a second thought to the origin of the eggs, or the last time you ordered sunny-side up at your local greasy spoon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hatch Chile Pepperoni Pizza

Check it out: my first time making pizza from scratch! I've been wanting to dive into the pizza-making world for the longest time, but anyone who follows this blog regularly knows my oven is capricious on a good day, homicidal on its worst. The oven doesn't even go up to 500°F that is usually recommended. I even bought a Boboli pre-made crust as emergency backup, that's how much I feared this endeavor.

But I had to try this combination of toppings. I have heard so much about delicious green chile pizzas in New Mexico I knew that it was worth a try to create at home, even with zero pizza skills. With Hatch chile season going strong, it was a man-up moment.

Of course, I had a little bit of trepidation with the dough. I obviously did not use nearly enough flour, made the rookie mistake of not picking the dough up and loosening it after spreading and before applying toppings, and as a result my pizza stuck rather badly to the sheet and my nice thin round pizza ended up being thick and crumpled because I needed a spatula to pry it off onto the pizza stone.

Also, I don't have a pizza peel, or even an rimless baking sheet. In fact, I have one baking sheet to my name, and I'm pretty sure it's older than me. So I flipped it over and used the bottom to spread my dough out. Which in retrospect was a dumb idea, because the 1" sides made it elevated above the pizza stone and my dough crumpled even more when transferring because of it, and the toppings fell off a bit.

I possibly shouldn't go on and on about my lack of pizza-making skills on my own blog. I should pretend that I wanted my pizza to look rustically handmade/asymmetrical and I wanted my pizza to have a thick crust.

Whatever. It still tasted amazing, and both the Bro-chi and Mr. Mochi were very impressed with my first attempt. The pizza was gobbled up in seconds, and I plan on stealing a rimless from my mother to perfect my technique. Just goes to show you can make a great tasting pizza that isn't very pretty, so don't fret if yours doesn't look perfect. If you're serving guests, just pretend that's what you were going for.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Arnold Palmer Popsicles

It is blazing here in Southern California, with lots more humidity than we are used to. It's 103ºF here, and feels much hotter due to the sticky swamp-like humidity.

Like eat-ice-cream-for-dinner, sweating in front of the computer hot. So hot that my local grocery store was out of big stick popsicles. So hot my coworkers and I wasted like 10 minutes at work giggling over the innuendo involved in professing our undying love for big sticks.

Much love!

To get myself out of morbidly considering whether or not Miss Mochies can actually melt in a puddle, I busied myself making popsicles with the Zoku quick pop maker Mr. Mochi gave me for Christmas. I never had enough room in the freezer before this, so this is actually the debut recipe of the Zoku Quick Pop Maker for this blog.

Which I can totally say I'm now thoroughly addicted to. I made 4 radically different pops in one day, and we are in danger of this becoming a popsicle blog if this heat doesn't quit.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Hatch Chile and Smoked Cheddar Cornsticks

We're taking my Oklahoma Modern Choctaw Cornsticks a little Southwest! Hatch chile season is in full swing, just in time for grilling during this heat wave we've been getting here in Southern California. (My birthday was on Labor Day, and it was sweltering here!)

 Here's a little back story on Hatch chiles if you're not sure what the hype is about: Hatch chiles and New Mexican peppers, usually green, are actually the same as the Anaheim pepper found here in Southern California, but they are usually much hotter.  Hatch chiles are not actually a type of pepper, but simply named for being grown in the Hatch Valley, New Mexico. The hot days and cool nights make for a famously delicious group of chiles, but anyone in New Mexico will tell you that New Mexican peppers in general are special.

Most commonly, the peppers you see in the market are several different varieties of New Mexican green chile, which is how farmers can sell Hatch chiles by grouping them "hot, medium, and mild." Watch out, the hot varieties are hotter than jalapenos! Here's a list of cultivars developed by New Mexico State University.

You can google a list of roasting locations in your area, or pick them up fresh from the market. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful aunt that gave me two vacuum packs of freshly roasted flash frozen Hatch chiles!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Caprese Sandwich

Like I mentioned in my caprese skewers post, I am wild about caprese. Insalata Caprese is my  favorite Italian dish, and I especially love the versions with balsamic vinegar. Actually, I'm really just a rabid cheese fan (a Wallace-style obsession) as well as a lover of vinegar and fresh tomatoes. I'm prone to eating any of the key ingredients plain by themselves, so this dish that combines them all was made for a person like me.

I have to say that the success of this dish hinges on having fantastic tomatoes. And since right now the farmer's markets have the end of season's tomatoes, I recommend you start assembling this sandwich before summer's end.