December 29, 2008

New Year's Day/元旦

Today is December 29th, but I had some osechi for supper tonight. The reason for this is that I have to be away from home for a few days to visit my parents, leaving my wife and children at home.
Osechi is a generic term for any special food for New Year. We had kamaboko (fish cake) and kuromame (lit. black beans).

I also had this special sake, which contains gold foil.

December 24, 2008

Christmas in Japan/日本のクリスマス

People outside of Japan may not readily believe it, but the Japanese celebrate Christmas, although Christians account for only 1% (according to one survey) to 6% (according to another) of the total population of Japan.
You may want to know the reason why, but I don't have an immediate answer. Search elsewhere for an answer.
On Christmas eve, we had two types of pizza for supper.

sausage, corn on the cob, and French fries,

and some chicken nuggets.
In Japan, a Christmas cake looks like this. A sponge cake with whipped cream, topped with strawberries.

My wife and I drank this sparkling wine.

December 23, 2008

Our Last Harvest of This Season/この季節最後の収穫

This is where our small farm is located.

The mountain at the center of the photo is Makihata (one of Japan's One Hundred Famous Mountains), and the one on the left is Kinjo.
We live in a snowy region in Japan, called "Snow Country," which is well depicted in Kawabata Yasunari's masterpiece, "Snow Country."
Today, my son and I harvested all the carrots and broccoli.

Only two bunches of broccoli.

All the carrots are rather small.

For breakfast this morning, I made clear soup (sumashi jiru) with overgrown enoki mushrooms and beaten eggs.

Simmered Kabocha/かぼちゃの煮付け

I made "kabocha no nitsuke" (simmered kabocha) on December 20, one day before the winter solstice. There are just a lot of recipes for this dish out there. Some call for dashi, sugar, mirin, sake, soy sauce, and salt, but my recipe is a very simple one, calling for only water, sugar, and soy sauce.
Cut kabocha into manageable sizes, put them in a pot, and add enough water to barely cover the kabocha. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low, add sugar (probably 2 tbsp), place an otoshi buta (drop lid)*, simmer for 5 min., add soy sauce (probably 2 tbsp), and simmer for another 2-3 min.
* I use a paper towel instead of an otoshi buta. Some people suggests using a sheet of aluminum foil.

Leftover simmered kabocha. Sorry not a good picture.

The amounts of sugar and soy sauce mentioned above are for a quarter of a kabocha.
For this type of dish, I usually follow this fundamental order for seasoning: "sa-shi-su-se-so" (sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and miso) order.

December 20, 2008

Winter Solstice/冬至

This year, the winter solstice falls on tomorrow, December 21. So, I bought a yuzu (a type of citrus fruit) and a quarter of a kabocha (squash). In Japan, it is customary to take a bath with a yuzu and eat kabocha on this day.

Doing so is believed to keep you in good health.
I was born in 1960, and when I was small, it is very common in winter to buy mikan (satsuma) by the box, and my family was no exception. We used to have so many mikan in winter that our hands turned yellowish.
But now, I usually buy them in small quantities. Otherwise, my family may not finish them off before some of them turn moldy.

The thing is that there are now more other foods to have in winter than there were about forty years ago.

December 19, 2008

More Enoki, and Bigger!/さらにエノキ、それに、もっと大きいのを!

I got more enoki mushrooms yesterday. As you can see from the photo below, the mushrooms were bigger than the ones I had gotten previously. I know that many of you are already sick and tired of looking at them, but the problem is that I can never get tired of having them.

I wrapped some of them in aluminum foil, sprinkled some sake, closed the foil, and cooked them in the toaster oven for 8 minutes.

Then I sprinkled some soy sauce and some lemon juice (poor subsitute for sudachi juice).
I also stir-fried some enoki together with sausage and ging-geng-cai.

I also made miso soup with tofu and enoki.

Today, I received this "oseibo" (year-end gift) from the construction company that built my house three years ago.

These pears are called "le Lectier."

December 14, 2008

Enoki Takikomi Gohan, Again/エノキの炊き込みご飯、再度

These overgrown enoki mushrooms are not for sale. I got this bag from the friend of mine who runs an enoki mushroom factory near my house. Refer to the June 14 entry in my blog for details of the factory. They were so huge and looked so appetizing that I decided to make takikomi gohan again.

I used these carrots, which I had harvested from my small farm.

I also made nikomi hamburg (simmered hamburgers), which is a favorite of my daughter's.

For more information about my nikomi hamburg, click here.
Enoki mushrooms that big have a lot of presence. I really like overgrown enoki mushrooms!

I put one-third of the enoki mushrooms in miso soup, together with abura-age (deep-fried tofu).

The enoki mushrooms in miso soup were also very good!

December 13, 2008

Satoimo no Nikkorogashi (lit. Simmered and Rolled Taro), Again/里芋の煮っ転がし、再度

I finally got them!! Yesterday, I received a box of satoimo (taro) from my father, who lives in Chiba prefecture. He likes farming, and grows all sorts of vegetables and fruits. Today, I made satoimo no nikkorogashi. For more info about this dish, refer to the November 23 entry.
As you can see from the photo, I used a paper towel instead of an otoshi buta (drop lid).
Satoimo no nikkorogashi is good when you make it, and it will be even better the next day!

December 10, 2008

Enoki Takikomi Gohan/エノキの炊き込みご飯

These are overgrown enoki mushrooms. They are cheap, and I prefer them to regular-size ones.

For supper last night, I made takikomi gohan (rice cooked with other ingredients) with these mushrooms. It is common to cook the mushrooms together with rice and other ingredients in a rice cooker, but I prefer cooking the mushrooms separately from other ingredients to keep their aroma and texture intact.
3 go (i.e., 3 x 180 ml = 540 ml = 450 g) short-grain rice
1/2 carrot
Appropriate amount of enoki mushrooms
1 abura age (deep-fried tofu)
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp sake
1 tbsp mirin
Combine soy sauce, sake, and mirin, and about 100 ml of water in a pot, add mushroom, bring to a boil. Cook the mushroom for about 1 min.
お米3合(540 ml = 450 g)
醤油、酒、みりん、水を100 mlほど鍋に入れ、キノコを入れ、沸騰させる。1分ほどキノコを煮る。

Drain mushroom. DON'T dispose of the liquid, but let it cool.

Wash rice, drain, and add carrot and abura age. Add the liquid.
Add water up to the 3-go level.
Close the lid and turn on the rice cooker.

When the rice is cooked, add the previously cooked enoki mushrooms. Mix well.

Serve in a rice bowl.

December 7, 2008

A Party/パーティー

Last night, I gave a party for nine people (including my family of four).
Two low tables for six adults. The three children had their seats at the dining table.

This is the only Japanese-style room in my house.
I ordered nine plates of sashimi (lean tuna, adult yellow tail, and sweet shrimp).

Close-up photo of one plate:

I also ordered two fillets each of buri and medium fatty tuna.

I used these fillets to make nigiri.
Some random photos:

List of foods served at the party
1. Otsukuri or sashimi: Lean tuna, adult yellowtail, sweet shrimp
2. Agemono (deep-fried foods): Prawn tempura, sweet potato tempura, kaki-age of carrot, onion, and small shrimp, chicken kara-age, French fries
3. Yakimono (grilled food): Sawara (Japanese Spanish Mackerel) marinated in saikyo miso
4. Nimono (simmered foods): Simmered hijiki seaweed, simmered kiriboshi (shredded and dried) daikon, oden-like dish of simmered daikon rings, hard-boiled eggs, and kuruma fu (gluten in the form of a wheel)
5. Aemono (dressed food): Spinach dressed with sesame seeds
6. Sunomono (vinegared food): Daikon salad
7. Thick rolled omelets
8. Potato salad
9. Pork soup
10. Sushi (medium fatty tuna, adult yellowtail)
11. Fruit in season: Le Lectier
12. Tsukemono (pickled foods): Chinese cabbage, nozawana, eggplants
1. お造り(刺身): マグロ赤身、ブリ、甘エビ
2. 揚げ物: 海老天、芋天、ニンジン、玉ねぎ、小エビのかき揚げ、鶏の唐揚げ、フライドポテト
3. 焼き物: サワラ西京漬け
4. 煮物: ひじき、切干大根、大根とゆで卵と車麩のおでんもどき
5. 和え物: ほうれん草の胡麻和え
6. 酢の物: 大根サラダ
7. 厚焼き玉子
8. ポテトサラダ
9. 豚汁
10. 寿司(まぐろ中トロ、ブリ)
11. 旬の果物: ルレクチェ
12. 漬物: 白菜、野沢菜、ナス
Sake: Ten-Chi-Jin (Heaven-Earth-People), junmai ginjo, made by Takachiyo Shuzo brewery in Niigata
Beer: The Premium made by Suntory
日本酒: 天地人 純米吟醸 新潟の高千代酒造
ビール: サントリーのThe Premium