Popover

popover.warm2 popover13 Thirty years ago, my friend’s home-made popovers really impressed me. It was my first year in the U.S., and I didn’t know what a popover was.  They were like custardy croissants, crunchy outside and custardy inside, and I was excited to discover this new taste.  Since then I have tried popovers wherever they were available but they were always disappointing.  I also tried making them myself, using many different recipes.  They came out OK–but not great.  I forgot about popovers for a long time, but recently I started making them again.  Searching for recipes and tips is much easier than it was decades ago.  I have tried several methods, and at last I was able to make popovers as delicious as my first memory of them (maybe even better). Here are the tips: *Batter should be room temperature or warmer.  I use eggs straight from refrigerator and heated milk for the best results. *Never open the oven door until the end.  Opening the door deflates the popovers. * Eat right away. You can keep the leftovers and reheat them but they won’t be as good. Ingredients (for 12 muffin pan) Large eggs (3) Salt (1 teaspoon) Sugar (2 teaspoons) Milk (1 cup) Butter (2 tablespoons and more for the muffin pan) All purpose flour (1 cup) 1. Preheat the oven to 430F. 2. Coat the muffin pan with butter (using a finger is the easiest way). IMG_2305 3. Whisk eggs, salt, and sugar (about 100 strokes). popover1popover2 4.  Sift the flour. popover5 5. Put milk into microwavable cup and add 2 tablespoons of butter. 6. Microwave for 1 minute. The butter should be melted. popover3 7. Pour the milk mixture into the egg mixture and mix them well with the whisk. popover4 8. Add the flour and mix until they are incorporated. Do not over mix. popover6 9. Pour the batter into the muffin pan. popover7 10. Bake in 430F oven about 13 minutes. Do not open the oven door. popover8 11. Turn off the oven but keep popovers inside (without opening the door) about 5 minutes. popover9 12. Take the popovers out and prick them with a knife right away to avoid shrinkage. popover.warmpopover11There are other common tips I don’t follow because although they improve the popover shape, taste is sacrificed in my opinion. *Pre-heating the muffin pan gives it perfect shape, but the soft areas are less custardy. * A longer oven time preserves the popover shape but makes it dry. For ideal popovers, you have to choose between shape or taste.  I think commercially sold popovers are not good as homemade popovers because they give preference to shape.  My popovers are snail-like in shape (puffed though) and will shrink, but they are moist and custardy.

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Temaki Sushi

temaki8Temaki sushi is the most common kind of sushi that people make at home in Japan. It doesn’t require any special skills and actually tastes better than the rolls you may get in a restaurant because the nori is crisp and fresh. Everyone can customize their own rolls and you can use a variety of ingredients. My daughter calls this “Japanese taco night”, we set out all the ingredients separately on the table and everyone makes their own sushi however they like it.
Ingredients
Rice (2 cup)
Water (2 cup -2 tablespoon)
Sake (1 tablespoon) can be substituted by dry white wine
Konbu (about 2 inch square) optional
Rice Vinegar (3 tablespoon)
Sugar (1 tablespoon)
Salt (1 teaspoon)
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Filling ingredients whatever you like such as avocado, cucumber, sashimi, and even cooked meat.

1.  Wash rice very well until the water become almost clear (see how to make perfect rice), add water and konbu (if you use). Let it stand anywhere from30 minutes to 2hours maximum.

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2.  Mix rice vinegar, sugar, and salt to make the sushi vinegar. Heat the sushi vinegar in the microwave for 15 seconds and stir to dissolve the mixture.

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3.  Right before start cooking the rice, add sake, and cook on medium heat with the lid on. When it begins to boil (about 10 minutes, you can see steam coming out), reduce the heat to the lowest setting.

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4.  Keep cooking until all water is absorbed (about 5min). You can open the cover briefly to check it. Turn the heat off and set aside for 5 min (Keep the cover on)

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5.  Transfer the hot rice into a sushi oke (Japanese wooden rice bowl) or big bawl. Immediately pour the sushi vinegar the rice while it is still hot and mix with a big spatula. Try not to mush the rice. Cover with a dish cloth to prevent the rice from drying out.

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6.  Cut your nori into pieces for personal hand rolls (temaki).

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7.  Set all your ingredients separately on the table. In this picture, the temaki I made contains crab sticks, avocado, cilantro, and daikon radish sprouts. However, you can get creative and use other filers, such as sashimi, cooked meat, herbs, and vegetables. Have fun making your own rolls with family and friends!

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Apple Pie Roses

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These apple pie roses are currently popular in Japan because they’re both easy to make and cute. Here is an English version of the recipe, enjoy!

Ingredients
Apples (2 *the bigger the better)
Sugar (2 tablespoon)
cinnamon (dash)
Honey (1 tablespoon)
Pie crust dough

1. Preheat the oven to 420 F
2. Take your apples and slice the skin around the apple’s circumference. The space in between the slices can be quite wide, this step is just to prevent the skin from getting stringy once it’s cooked.

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3. Core your apples, and then cut the apples very thinly (depending on your knife or skills, this may be as thin as you possibly can go) as shown in the picture below.

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4. Mix the cinnamon and sugar together, and then cover the apple slices in the cinnamon sugar mix. You may want to do this somewhat carefully, because the thin apple slices will be quite fragile and break easily.

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5. Microwave your apple slices for two minutes on high to soften them. When they’re ready, they should be soft enough to bend without breaking (this will be key later!). After they come out of the microwave, mix the apple slices to even out the heat distribution.

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6. The apple slices will be a little watery after being heated, so use a strainer to drain the water out of the apple slices. Don’t squeeze or press them—just let them strain on their own. Make sure to save the liquid from the apples—you’ll use this later!

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7. Let the apple slices cool completely.
8. Cut the pie crust dough into ~1 inch wide 7~8 inches length strips.

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9. Line up the apple slices on the edge of the pie crust strips as shown in the picture. Then, roll up your slices and place them into cup cake liners.

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10. Place your apple pie roses in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes.

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11. Meanwhile, take the juice you strained from the apples earlier, and place it in a small microwaveable bowl. Add honey, and then warm this mix in the microwave for 1 to 2 minute to thicken. This will be your glaze!
12. Check on the apple pie roses. When the edge of the pie crusts are beginning to become toasted, they’re ready to come out of the oven.

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13. Use a brush to lightly glaze the baked apple pie roses with the glaze from step 11.

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Cauliflower Salad

califlowerI made this for my Thanksgiving dinner. Everybody loved it. One of my young friends requested for the recipe.
Cauliflower is not so popular vegetable. I actually didn’t care about cauliflower until I found this recipe years ago. This recipe makes cauliflower really tasty and crunchy. Not bland and mushy. You can make this ahead of time and enjoy for a few days. Keep  refrigerated.

Ingredients
Cauliflower (1 head)
Fish flakes (1 package) for dashi*
Vinegar (3 tablespoon)
Soy sauce (2 tablespoon)
Salt  (1/2 teaspoon)
Sugar (1 teaspoon)
Olive oil (2 tablespoon)
*Dashi is Japanese fish stock. It can be easily made from fish flakes. You can also use dashi-no-moto, powdered fish stock. If you use dashi-no-moto, you can skip steps 1 and 3. Make a cup of dashi as directed on the package of dashi-no-moto.

1. Make the dashi for the dressing. Put a package of fish flakes in a measuring cup or a bowl and add a cup of boiling water. Set aside for a few minutes.

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2. Meanwhile, wash a head of cauliflower and cut it into bite-size pieces.

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3. Strain dashi (from step1) through strainer. Using a spoon, squeeze out all liquid. Discard the fish flakes.

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4. In a big bowl, mix dashi, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, sugar and oil. Stir until the salt dissolves.

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5. In a large pot, boil water. Blanch cauliflower in the boiling water for 10 to 20 seconds. It is important to keep the crunchiness. Do not overcook.

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6. Drain well and toss in the bowl and mix well.

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7. Leave it for a few hours to allow the dressing to soak into the cauliflower. Mix a few times to distribute dressing evenly.

Mapo Tofu

mapoMapo tofu is a Chinese dish which is very popular in Japan. This is my way of making mapo tofu. It may not be the authentic Chinese way but everyone in my family loves it.  Even people who think they don’t like tofu will love this dish!

Ingredients
Tofu (1 package)
Vegetable oil (1 tablespoon)
Garlic (1 to 2 cloves)
Crushed red pepper (½ teaspoon)
Ground meat (2 to 3 oz) any kind
For vegetarians, substitute more mushrooms instead (may use more than one kind)
Scallion (4 stalks or more)
Ginger (½ tablespoon, chopped)
Mushrooms (½ cup or more, chopped) any kind (shiitake is the best though)
Seasonings:
Soy sauce (2 to 3 tablespoons) or miso (2 tablespoons)
Brown sugar (1 teaspoon)
Balsamic vinegar (½ teaspoon)
Sesame oil (1 teaspoon)
Sake (1 tablespoon)  (Dry wine can be used as substitute.)
Optional seasonings : miso (1 tablespoon), doubanjiang (1 teaspoon).

Corn starch (1 teaspoon) mixed with 1 tablespoon of water

  1. Get all ingredients ready.  Mince garlic, ginger, and mushrooms.  Thinly slice scallions.  Cut tofu into bite-size pieces. Mix all seasonings together except crushed pepper.  Separately, add 1 tablespoon of water to corn starch and mix (it will not dissolve, but don’t worry).mapo1
  2. In a pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil, the garlic, and the crushed pepper, then turn on high heat.  Do not preheat the oil before the garlic is added, as the garlic may scorch before imparting flavor to the oil.mapo3
  3. When the edges of the garlic are slightly toasted, add ground meat.mapo4
  4. Stir fry until the meat is browned, and add scallion and ginger. mapo5
  5. Add the mushrooms.  Stir fry until all vegetable are cooked (about 1 to 2 minutes).mapo6
  6. Add the seasoning mix and stir for 10 to 20 seconds. mapo7
  7. Add tofu and lightly mix.  Keep cooking until tofu is hot (about 2 to 3 minutes). mapo8
  8. The tofu releases water as it heats, so it’s okay if the mixture looks a bit watery. Mix the cornstarch and water solution and pour into the pan while mixing with a spatula.  Cook until the liquid thickens, stirring constantly.mapo9

Mapo tofu is very forgiving. You can add or substitute seasonings as you like or for your convenience. You can use either soft or firm tofu. Actually, my mapo tofu is not always the same. But it is always delicious its own way.

Stir Fried Bok Choy

choySimple stir fried bok choy is the most popular vegetable dish in my family.  It is so simple and quick but requires some tips to make it crunchy and tasty.  The stir frying process takes only a few minutes.  It is important to prepare everything in advance to avoid overcooking.

choy1Ingredients
Bok choy  (Get baby bok choy if you can.)
Garlic (1 to 2 cloves)
Soy sauce (1 tablespoon)
Balsamic vinegar (1/2 teaspoon),
Optional seasonings : oyster sauce (1 teaspoon), brown sugar (1/2 teaspoon).  You can use both or just one.

*Use a thick flat base pan. The pan can be cast iron or stainless steel but avoid skinny non-stick pans or woks.  A thick bottom is important for heat retention to make crunchy bok choy.

1. Cut the bottoms of the leaves and separate.

choy22. Wash leaves under running water in a big bowl.  Watch for sand, which sometimes collects at the bottoms of the leaves.

choy33. Separate the leafy parts from the thick parts.

choy44. Cut the thick part lengthwise if the leaf is big.

choy55. Keep the leafy parts and bottom parts separate.

choy66. Mince 1 to 2 cloves of garlic.

7. Mix the soy sauce and balsamic vinegar. If you add optional seasonings, mix them together with the soy sauce.

choy78. In a pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and the garlic, then turn on high heat. Do not preheat the oil before the garlic is added. If the oil is hot, the garlic will scorch before imparting flavor to the oil.

choy89. When the edges of the garlic are slightly toasted, add the thick parts of the bok choy.

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10. Keeping high heat, stir fry until the bok choy is coated by the oil (about 20 to 30 seconds).

choy1011. Add the leafy part.  Stir fry until all the leaves are almost wilted (about 20 to 30 seconds).

choy1112. Add the seasoning mix and stir for 10 to 20 seconds. Transfer to a serving plate. Avoid overcooking.

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Tofu made of chickpeas

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I encountered this recipe while searching for Japanese ways to cook chickpeas.  Chickpeas are not common in Japan.  I found this recipe in several blogs written by Japanese living outside Japan.
Soybean-based tofu is difficult to make, as it requires a special ingredient called nigari to solidify the soy milk. Skill and experience are also needed. Chickpea tofu is simple, though, as the only ingredients are chickpeas and water–that’s it.  Note that the chickpeas must be dry beans (canned chickpeas don’t work because they are already cooked).
Unlike most beans, chickpeas are high in starch, so chickpea “milk” thickens when heated and solidifies like tofu when cooled.  The texture is a little different from tofu, but the flavor is very similar.  Actually, the natural sweetness of the beans makes it taste sweeter than regular tofu.

1. Rinse dried beans and soak in plenty of water over night.

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2. Place peas in a blender with water.  Add water as per picture.  (The water amount does not have to be too precise– around 2 to 3 cups per half pound of chickpeas).

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3. Puree the chickpeas.

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4.  Spread a thin but fine cloth on a sieve on a pot and strain the chickpea puree through the cloth.  Squeeze the chickpea solid over the pot to gather as much liquid as possible.

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5. Now, you have chickpea milk and solid leftover.  We will use the milk part only for now.  (Some day I will post a recipe for the solid part.)

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6. Cook the chickpea milk on medium low heat.  Stir constantly to avoid scorching.  It takes time.  You may think it will be a failure–don’t worry!  Keep cooking, it will start thickening eventually.  Keep cooking until the consistency is like a loose pudding.

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7. Pour into any container.  Cover and cool.  When cooled, refrigerate.

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Unlike regular tofu, chickpea tofu will melt when heated.  So it is best to eat cold or at room temperature.