Last week, I've been eating a lot of cheesecakes and rice late at night. So, I decided to go on a diet and reduce my carbohydrate intake even just at dinner. Luckily, we have a lot of melon and watermelon at my husband's hometown. So right after we finished our a-bit-late lunch, I asked my mother-in-law to not prepare anything for me for dinner because I was hoping I could just eat fruits and the usual vegetable salad. She said, 'Really? Well, how about tofu salad? It's more nutritious." I've never eaten tofu salad, but then I said yes and thanked her.
Then came dinner and my tofu salad.
It looked mostly like I expected; but I thought it would be unfried silken tofu cubes mixed amongst the colorful salad vegetables. It wasn't. It was lightly fried. When I took a chopstickful (can i say that?), the experience bursted into my mouth in slow-motion and dramatic wind effect on my face, as if I was awaken from a deep sleep. It felt like all five of my senses just came home after relentlessly and meaninglessly wandering the earth. I guess that's the strike of the vinegars and sweetness of the vegetables.
The following night, I asked if I can eat the tofu salad again. It was like a newly discovered addiction.
Tips and tricks
If the dressing comes on too strong for you, you may adjust it with water. :)
The picture on the right is another version with stir-fried broccoli and baby leaf instead of paprikas. :)
One afternoon, being on my usual lazy-to-cook-for-one mode, I raided the fridge for the easiest ingredient I can handle. Then I saw tofu. I think I'd cook this tofu instead, I don't need chopping board to cut it and I can just use a small pan, I thought to myself. And then there's frozen udon that I can boil for just 1-2 minutes... So, remembering a dish I tasted when I once visited the vegetarian grocery in Kyoto to buy kombu powder, I devised a recipe after that. And here it is. I'm sorry I don't have a picture of my udon topped with kombu tofu yet because it looked too plain-- I want to re-do that next time and put some greens, when my cooking mode comes. ;)
Japanese people generally don’t like vinegar. Actually, if you go around the local supermarket, you’ll see sushi vinegar (which is quite sweet); normal vinegar; and imported balsamic, rice wine, et cetera kinds of vinegar. However, the normal vinegar available at least in my area, has about, I guess, 25% the sourness and acidity of vinegars we have in my country. So when I cooked it for myself, I ended up using a lot of it to achieve the sourness I craved for. ^_~ However, this recipe is the one I cooked for my husband to taste so I used less vinegar.
He said it was fine, but I say it's perfection!
Tips and tricks
Freeze-thawing the tofu will render it quite tough resulting in a somewhat meaty texture. I do this especially when I’m attacked by my THS (Tofu Hoarding Syndrome) and buy too much tofu that we cannot consume until they expire. One day before the tofu expires, I remove it from the package, throw away the excess water, put it in a clean food container or plastic then squeeze it into the freezer and it will be okay until the following week. ^_~ I then transfer it to the fridge the night before I use it—the following morning, it becomes completely thawed and ready for cooking.
I usually make a lot of tofu sisig on weekends then pack them in food bags and freeze them. From my experience, they were perfectly okay after two weeks. I guess it can last longer than that but my self-restriction can last only up to that. ^_^; However, I'd suggest packing them in small parts so that you won't have to thaw and contaminate the whole thing when you want to eat just a few spoonfuls.
Pestoey. I guess even without explanation to this word I dug from my own introverted vocabulary, anybody will understand what it probably means. But just in case I'm wrong, I called it pestoey veggy spaghetti because it can be the usual garden fresh spaghetti but instead of tomato sauce, I drowned the stir-fried vegetables in my usual pesto sauce.
I learned this from my mother-in-law when I went home to their place one time. I just saw her stir-frying shimeji mushrooms then tossing in the left-over salad (consisting of lettuce, broccoli, red and orange paprika). I went to the toilet for a while and when I went out, lunch was ready and it was a grassy green spaghetti-- not the tomatoey sauce I was expecting!
So I just sat there, said "itadakimasu!" and swirled my fork for my first bite. It was my and my husband's first time to eat this kind of spaghetti sauce, and we were both captivated! It was so delicious I just wanted more.
Ever since then (about 2 months ago), my husband has been requesting this sauce at least once a week.
4. After 2 minutes, toss in the paprika and stir-fry for not more than one minute.
5. Add lettuce and mix well. Turn off heat after 15 seconds.
6. Pour in the pesto sauce to the stir-fried vegetables, doing your best to scrape them off the blender. Then, add water to the blender, shake it then pour it over the vegetables. Mix well.
7. Either top it over your pasta or mix the pasta with the vegetables in the pan before serving! Add Parmesan cheese if you're a hardcore fan. ^_^
Tips and tricks
Grow your own basil plants! Basil here is very expensive. But a month and a half after we planted 8 basil seeds, we've been harvesting more than enough every week. I've been eating my favorite basil pesto spaghetti, pesToasts, pesTomato spaghetti and Christmas pasta quite well. Just FYI, basil is good for migraine too!
Above is my veranda garden where I have 8 basil plants, asparagus, chili pepper, trying-to-grow snack-pine (a kind of pineapple), rosemary, 8 kinds of cacti and a silver-leaf plant.
When I first cooked this recipe for my husband exactly a year ago, he asked me to cook it for dinner and his bento again. And then again. We ate this 5 times during that week.
Then a few weeks later, I found out from his mother that since he was a child, he has never liked curry. I was so surprised! Turns out, my husband doesn't like Japanese curry-- in which they put a bit of ketchup, Worcester sauce and apple to flavor it. (I've tasted it from a vegetarian restaurant in Nara City called "Kinatei" and for me, it is to-die-for! I couldn't get enough of it. But well, if I'm cooking for just 2 people, I'd prefer to cook this coco curry so that my husband will also eat. :P But I'll be posting a standardized version of vegan Japanese curry next time. ^_~)
Anyway, let's just go straight to the recipe. :)
Neither my husband nor I have ever tasted the original Mexican tacos. And I'm not sure if this is my second or third time to cook tacos, nevertheless, it's a recipe I am very proud to declare as a "must-try!"
The first and only tacos I've ever eaten from the moment I was born til a week ago was that cooked by a vegetarian friend probably 8 years ago. But that moment of gastronomic experience lives in me until now. She used ground textured soy protein then, but I used frozen-and-thawed tofu-- a very accessible ingredient for a wonderful ground-beefy effect.
2. Put a nonstick pan over medium high heat then pour oil as soon as it gets hot.
3. When the oil is hot, toss in the tofu bits and season with black pepper, ajinomoto,
cumin, chili powder and soy sauce. Mix well and stir-fry until some tofu bits are
quite brown and crunchy.
4. Toss in the tomatoes. I used canned tomatoes because fresh tomatoes here are quite
expensive. But if you're using canned tomatoes too, you should scoop out the tomato
chunks using a fork to minimize wetting the ground tofu taco filling or else you'll
end up with soggy tacos.
5. Add sugar and mix well for 2-3 minutes. Turn off fire.
Tips and tricks
The way my husband and I enjoy eating this is, first, having a bite on the taco, munch it a little followed by a bite on the paprika strips-- this way, the paprika gives a burst of refreshing sweetness to the whole taco! I tried biting the paprika simultaneously with the rest of the taco and the effect was different-- the paprika just blended in very subtly, almost unrecognizable, to the strong cumin and soy sauce flavor.
I first tasted this recipe when my mother-in-law cooked it for dinner on the night my husband introduced me to his family as his girlfriend. That moment, I made an oath to replicate the recipe. After a number of versions, I finally got the motivation and measuring spoons to standardize. ^_~
① Two kinds of mushroom stir-fried and stuffed in tofu rolled in potato starch then fried. Sauce poured over the stuffing.
② Red and yellow paprika stir-fried with eggplant and shimeji mushroom, stuffed into fried silken tofu then poured with gingered sweet and soy sauce.
③ Mashed silken tofu mixed with chopped shiitake mushroom, formed into balls then fried. Topped with grated radish and gingered sweet and soy sauce.
Here are some fried dishes my mother-in-law cooked for me and served with gingered sweet and soy sauce!
④ Mashed soy beans sandwiched between two eggplant halves then dipped in potato starch before frying.
⑤ Fried tofu and gingered sweet and soy sauce-- but it looks like my mother in law forgot to cook grated ginger with the sauce so she creatively topped the whole dish with grated ginger instead. It was very delicious!
This dish is one of my and my husband's favorites. We have this once a week, like spaghetti. Do you need more convincing on how wonderful this recipe is? ^_~
It looks difficult because of the many layers of flavor pad Thai has, but it actually isn't! It is actually simple and quick, if you follow the recipe. And don't worry about the ingredients-- below, I wrote some tips and alternatives if some of the ingredients are not available in your area.
Tips and tricks
If you don't have chili bean paste: Just use the best chili flakes or powder you have.
If you don't have aburaage: The thing with aburaage is, it absorbs some of the pad Thai sauce, giving you a burst of flavor when you bite into it. So if you don't have aburaage, deep fry tofu then use it the same way you'll use aburaage in the recipe. Or, just do what I did-- add more vegetables. It's delicious-- just less the burst of flavor.
I first tasted this dish when a very good college friend cooked this for me. My friend used simpler ingredients (just good tofu, red chili, salt and pepper) but it was really delicious. This is just a tastier version-- so that even non-vegetarians will hopefully love our simple tofu friend a bit more and; so that even lazy kitchen people can enjoy a quick, plain-looking but tasty tofu dish.
I love dairies, especially cheese.
However, recently, I've been feeling like I'm developing some sort of lactose intolerance. The past couple of weeks, every time I eat my usual cheesy spaghetti, toasts or cheesecake, my head immediately aches-- from mild headache to quite terrible migraine. It is usually followed by vomiting. After I've vomited a third of my meal or dessert, my head feels lighter. But I would still feel phlegm thickly surrounding my throat. Is that a mild form of lactose intolerance or something? But I tell you, it surely is not pregnancy. hahaha
Anyway, here's one of those lazy food I eat when I'm all alone, having no drive to cook for myself and/or very absorbed with some sort of stuff (like blogging or studying Japanese) to afford distraction. But be sure you have pesto sauce stocked in the the freezer or fridge or else it will be quite bothersome to prepare on a busy day.
Tips and tricks
On days when I make basil pesto sauces, I usually grind extra cashew nuts then store in an airtight container because it's not my hobby to wash my blender. Then whenever I feel like going vegan, I have a cheese replacer to run to. But obviously, I didn't have ground cashew this time so I just crushed the cashew nuts while in its strong plastic sachet and had a nutty, crunchy pesto lunch. *(^_^)*
Pistachio has a different flavor but is as good as cashew in pesto.
Takikomi gohan is a Japanese dish whose main ingredient is rice. It is cooked and seasoned with various ingredients, but in this recipe, we'll simply use carrot, aburaage, shiitake mushroom and our usual seasonings. Trivia-- gohan means cooked rice.
I remember when I cooked this recipe, I intended it for my husband's bento. After lunch the following day, my husband sent me a text message (which he doesn't usually do), to say that the takikomi gohan was very delicious! ^____________^ yeey!
Okay then, let's get started!
Sweet-miso glazed eggplant, or which I am more comfortable to call "nasu dengaku, | なす田楽", is a VERY easy recipe which involves a homemade sweet miso sauce and eggplant which I sometimes grill, fry or roast.
I've done this recipe at a family friend's gathering for dinner, together with other dishes, but this one became the highlight of the night. Everyone loved the sauce and even used it to dress their fresh cucumbers and lightly grilled tofu. Now I owe everyone this recipe. Sorry it's late! Been having difficulty getting myself to blog again. But this one's standardized now! ^_^
Tips and Tricks
This dish tastes good even after the eggplant has lost heat. But you will be surprised at how wonderful it can taste when the eggplant is still hot! My technique is, of course, either cook the eggplant just before it is eaten or; toast the sweet-miso-glazed eggplant in the toaster just before eating. If you want to have it in your bento, it is possible. Just don't mix the sauce and the eggplant and be prepared to be attracted to a possibly off-colored eggplant. ^_~ just close your eyes and it can taste as good as freshly... no. Freshly cooked is still best, but it tastes good even when packed for a later meal.
The technique in making the sauce is cooking it under low heat all the way through and; using a small saucepan so as to make it very easy to handle. When using wide pans, the sauce unnecessarily spreads out, letting the circumference of the mixture burn fast.
As for the kind of miso, if you can't find 58% less salt, just get any white miso and adjust the mirin and sugar first on the recipe. I've tried using red miso, but it didn't taste as good. I bet a mix of red and white miso will be amazing but I haven't tried that so far.
This is a must-try especially for peanut butter lovers.
Tips and tricks
I've tried adding mirin into this sauce and decreasing sugar a little and it had a wonderful deeper layer of flavor.
You may also mix some boiled or stir-fried vegetables like carrots and broccoli to make it colorful and more nutritious.
I was so much in the mood to study Japanese one day and didn't want to break my momentum so I nourished my body with a really quick spaghetti sauce. It does have greens (basil), carbs (pasta and bread), protein (cashew), healthy fats (olive oil) and lycopene (tomato paste) at the least, but I'd still recommend having biteable veggies swimming with the sauce if it's for health purposes.
But I'll be honest with you-- this is one of the most satisfying, quick homemade food I had ever had. ^_~
Tips and tricks
Pour this over stir-fried or roasted vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers, eggplant, carrot, etc and transform your pasta into a healthy vegetable pesto spaghetti!
A vegetarian for 12 years and a kitchen warrior since I moved in to Japan, my favorite battle has been winning over my husband's interestingly complicated taste buds.