Tag Archives: vegetables

Vegetables Facts and Tips (2): Tomatoes


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Tomatoes have laid on our tables for so long that we have almost forgotten they came from South America. The Spanish and the Portuguese ignored them. The British studied them. The French brought them to Europe under the name of “Love Apple”, a name still existing in Italy. So it is said,…

tomato-fruit
“Fruit Tomatoes”

This summer-maturing fruit can be bought all year round with the interesting consequence that tomatoes ripened in winter are sweeter than their summer cousins as they contain less water, earning themselves the name of “fruit tomatoes”, a great oxymoron, if there was one!

Thanks to consumers’ insatiable appetite for novelty, tomatoes are grown into all kinds of size, shape and colour.
Just to cite a few, the following are the most popular in Japan:

tomato-momotaro
“Momotaro Tomatoes”

-Momotaro (after the Japanese “Peach Boy” tale), which becomes “Fruit tomato” in winter.

tomato-midi
“Midi Tomatoes”

-Midi Tomato (sometimes called “Plum tomatoes”), a larger cousin of the “Mini tomato”, is very sweet and very high in nutrients. Its aroma has a particularly long life.

tomato-italian
“Italian tomatoes”

-Italian Tomato: mainly used for cooking, it may often come in a comparatively elongated shape.
It contains less water and reveals both large amounts of sweetness and acidity, making it very conducive to long cooking with the extra bonus of actually improving in taste upon heating.

tomato-mini
“Mini Tomatoes”

-Mini Tomato: one-bite sized, it is also called “Petit tomato”. It contains twice as many Vitamin C, and it is very rich in beneficient ingredients.

tomato-yellow-mini
“Yellow Mini Tomatoes”

-Yellow Mini Tomato: characteristic for a lot of sweetness and very little acidity. Very handy for children who dislike vegetables!

rubbins
“Ameera Rubbins”

-Ameera Rubbins: with its larger Ammeera tomato, it is grown exclusively (until now, but they are bound to expand beyond our borders!) in Shizuoka Prefecture. They are the sweetest of all, tasting like strawberries, and very firm, making them ideal for decoration, notwithstanding their nutrient value. The smallest variety called “Rubbins” is grown by only two farmers near Iwata City!

tomato-micromini
“Micro Mini Tomatoes”

-Micro Mini Tomatoes: increasingly popular, they are only 8~10 mm and look somewhat like redcurrants. Very tasty with a beautiful acidity, the Japanese use them not only in salads, but also as the final touch on a plate of sashimi!

FACTS:

-Season: All year round
-Main elements: Licopin (Ricopin), Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Potassium, Pectin, Luchin (Ruchin).
Licopin is a carotene variety particularly beneficial in fights against allergies and ageing. The Potassium and Vitamin C and Pectin help control cholesterol in blood.
Luchin reinforces capillary veins and arteries.
Recent researches in Germany and China have proven that tomatoes help control high blood pressure.
Who said that the Italians look healthier than everybody else? LOL

TIPS:

-Choose tomatoes with a deep colour and healthy strong skin!
-Preservation: before storing them into the vegetable compartment of your fridge, wrap themin newspaper or put them inside a vinyl bag, or even better, inside a rigid plastic sealed box.
-Peeling: better than boiling water, direct contact with a flame! Make a very shallow cut near the stem area, firmly stick a fork or thin skewer into the stem area, hold the tomato directly over the gas flame for a few seconds, then plunge it into cold water. Skin should come off very easily.

Vegetables Facts and Tips (1): Potatoes


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This is the first of a series of articles on vegetables, which I hope will help my vegan and vegetarian (I’m not!) friends.
Incidentally、 nothing, pictures included, is copyrighted in my food blogs, so please feel free to use anything!

POTATOES

danshaku-potato
“Danshaku”

Potatoes were first introduced to Japan in 1910 by Baron Kawata from Great Britain/Ireland giving the name of “Danshaku/Baron” to the most commonly used potato in Japan, especially in croquettes and salads.

The biggest potato exporters to Japan are China and India, although more and more grown locally.
The varieties found in supermarkets are:

kitaakari-potato
“Kita Akari” used for mashed potatoes and croquettes,

mayqueen-potato
“May Queen” used in stews,

toyoshiro-potato
“Toyoshishiro” used for fried potatoes,

redandespotato
“Red Andes” used for croquettes and Pot au feu,

incanomezame-potato
“Inca No Mezame” used for stews.

Potatoes are available all year round, but are at their peak from February to May when new potatoes can be eaten whole!

FACT CARD:

-Season: All year round
-Main elements: carbohydrates (high energy), Vitamin C1, B1 (thanks to a large amount of natural starch in potatoes, the vitamin C will resist heating!), Potassium
-Preservation: Wrap potatoes inside newspaper and keep them in a dark, well-ventilated place away from the sunlight.

TIPS:

-Choose specimens well-rounded and with healthy skin. Avoid specimens with buds or of greenish colour (risks of diarrhea). Cut out all “dark spots”!
-To avoid a change of colour, wash potatoes in water after peeling or cutting.
-If you want to keep your potatoes for a while after boiling them, plunge them in (change it as many times as necessary) cold water until completely cooled down. They will not break or crumble when used later.
-After boiling cut potatoes, throw away water and keep heating them until they have lost a great part of their moisture. They will attain a crispy enough nature without resorting to deep-frying!

Vegan Farandole for the New Year!


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Last Sunday, not the New Year I must admit, I had to cook dinner for my other half, and I just happened to be litterally submerged with vegetables.
Why not create something vegeterian, or even better, something vegan, at least to justify my omnivorous preferences? I thought.
Well, I came with a simple idea that can expanded at infinitum. It has the merit of making use of very healthy ingredients and help the system take a much needed rest! LOL

farandole-oil-22 farandole-oil-3 farandole-oil-1

I utilized three different oils from three different countries to add a little inernationalization: Olive oil from Italy, Walnut oil from France and Argan oil from Morocco!

In the centre of the plate I arranged a “circle” of boiled potatoes mixed in “brandade style” with plenty of olive oil, avocado, black olives, lemon juice, a minimum of salt, chopped fresh garlic, pepper, nutmeg, thyme and yuzu chili pepper. Indian friends would probably add plenty more spices.
I surrounded it with a thin crown of boiled diced brocoli stems and shiso/perilla shoots/mini leaves.

farandole-2

I then added plenty of dressing around the lot. The dressing was made with walnut oil, taragon white wine vinegar, soft Dijon mustard (with seeds), lemon juice, a little salt, pepper and a large amount of very finely chopped fresh parsley and basil. It was very consistent and easy to spread without “leaking” everywhere.
Around the whole, I arranged boiled green brocoli, white cauliflower and yellow cauliflower (beautiful and very tasty) all grown in Shizuoka Prefecture.
I decorated the potato core with plum tomato wedges, and sprinkled both the cauliflower(s) and tomatoes with a little dash of argan oil (take it easy with this particular oil as it is particularly fragrant!).

I hope this will give ideas to my vegan and vegetarian friends for the New Year repast! By the way, “Farandole is a dance!

Edamame: Japanese Green Soybeans


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I’ve always been somewhat puzzled to find the word “edamame” in my U.S. (and European) friends’ blogs. This conspicuous vegetable seems to conjure grand images of Japanese gastronomy in spite of its almost base status in this country.

After all, “edamame” (枝豆/branch bean in Japanese) is nothing but green soybeans, a food mass-produced and heavily exported by North American farmers.
Or, is it that the soybean’s image has fallen so low on the other side of the Pacific because some people grow it for bio-ethanol that restaurateurs feel more comfortable with a grand-sounding Japanese name?

Alright, before I get collared for indulging into a cheap rant, let me introduce my own recipe for preparing the “delicacy”:
One does not have to boil it, cool it and serve it sprinkled with salt. This is probably the worst and least healthy way to consume it!
If you can, choose them fresh on the branch(es). This will guarantee they haven’t lost any of their nutrient qualities.
Cut out all the pods and throw away the branches (or re-process them inside your fertilizer box!).
Clean the pods under running water.
Drain water, but do not wipe them dry.
Drop them in an appropriate-sized non-stick pan and hand-rub them in a little coarse salt. The less salt, the better, but enough to season all pods. Experience and personal preferences will tell you how much you need.
Cover pan with a glass lid and switch on fire to medium-low. Cook until water seeps out of the pods. Switch off fire and keep inside covered pan (do not take the lid off!) for a good 5 minutes. By then, they should be sufficiently cooked.
Serve immediately.

In Japan there exists another variety called Kuro Edamame/黒枝豆-Black Edamame.
Actually they are a light brown-green soybean grown in Shizuoka Prefecture and elsewhere. They are definitely tastier and deserve the title of “delicacy”.
The beans out of their pods also make for great addition to salads, artful presentation with meat dishes, and are great mixed inside “nigiri”!

Sashimi at Tomii: The Epitome of Excellency!


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Many people have been asking me: “How can you afford that?”
Well, I don’t smoke and I don’t drive, either. I can imagine what some people in the Northern part of the US might tell me… and I don’t care!
All that “saved” money goes into good food, good drink, good travel and improved relations with my (better, ok for this time!) half! And nothing for those “poor” doctors out there!

I’ve been a regular customer at Tomii in Shizuoka City for many, many, many reasons. But the one I value most is that everyone at this great Japanese restaurant are willing to talk about, explain and extoll the virtues of their craft. Craft, I said? It is probably nearer to artistry as Melinda, Etsuko and Tim will vouch for me!

Anyway, to write a story short, I just popped at Tomii this evening (yes, I’m writing this just after I came back to “work”), and asked for a sashimi plate (well, this is not the way to ask it: You should say: “O-tsukuri, kudasai!”). I did not need to tell them what to serve me. I wouldn’t even have dared!
On the other hand, they didn’t mind explaining no less than three times to make sure that the old geezer got his stuff right!

tomii-08-12-16b
From right to left:
“Kiiro Ninjin”?Yellow Carrot (sashimi is not all about fish, vegetables are rapidly becoming an essential part of the picture!), “Beni Daikon”/Red (“rouge”) Daikon, “Wasabina/not wasabi, but a leaf vegetable with a similar taste!”, “Hirame/Sole”, “Hime Daikon/Princess Daikon”, “Shiso no Hana/Perilla Flowers (edible as Rowena will agree!) on top of “Toro/Tuna Fatty Part) and “Bakudai No Ki no Mi/Impossible to translate”, only that it is an edible part from a tree (sorry, I was not attentive enough!)!

tomii-08-12-16c
From right to left:
“Uni/Sea Urchin Roe” (in front) with freshly grated “Wasabi/Japanese Horseradish” (let me tell for the umpteenth time that wasabi was first grown in Shizuoka City in the 17th Century and that Shizuoka Prefecture still produces 80% of the world total!), “Ishidai/Ishidai Snapper” just behind, the green daikon is called “Uguisu Daikon/Nightingale Daikon”, “Amaebi/Sweet Shrimp”, and “kanpachi/Japanese Amberjack” just behind!

tomii-08-12-16d
From right to left:
“Kuroi Daikon/Black Daikon”, “Aori Ika/Aori Cuttlefish”, “Akami/Lean Tuna” on a “Shiso no happa/perilla leaf”. To back it up a mixture of seasonal sprouts: “Kushinsai + Soba no Mi (Buckwheat) + Cress (from Shizuoka like most of them) + Kawaire Daikon + Cabbage + Broccoli” (about time you call a local farmer for explanations!)!

Small servings they might look, but I challenge anyone to find better quality!
Now, for people who really want to know it, you will have to fork out at least three times as much in Tokyo, and as far the US and Europe are concerned, you might as well start riding a bicycle like I do!

TOMII
Shizuoka City, Aoi Ku, Tokiwa-cho, 1-2-7, Tomii Bldg, 1F
Tel.: 054-274-0666
Business hours: 17:00~22:00
Closed on Sundays
HOMEPAGE (Japanese)

Vegetables and Seafood Gratin


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Winter has come upon us, even in Japan, and it’s time for hot and hearty food!

Gratins should not be complicated. Restaurants serve them for a good reason. They are easy to prepare and come at a handsome profit the moment you present them in individual portions with a few expensive decorative items. Alright, they certainly look better than in your plate at home, but this is what you pay for!
The key is to be well-organized, so make sure you have everything within hand’s reach!
The recipe below leaves plenty of room for improvisation, even for vegetarians!

Ingredients (for 2~4 people):
-Potatoes: 2, medium-sized, cut in 8
-Cauliflower: a handful of “flowers” cut to size
-Mussles: 1~2 dozens
-Oysters: 12 (without the shells! LOL)
-Crab: a whole, medium-sized, completely dressed (you cannot cook the shell, sorry!), with “miso”/brains on a separate plate. If fresh crab not available, use good quality tinned crab. Strain it carefully first by pressing it in your fist. Water can be used in the white sauce.
-1 large echalotte/shallot, finely chopped. If unavailable use one small violet onion or small sweet onion.
-Garlic: 2 cloves, finely chopped
-Basil: 12 leaves, thinly cut
Noilly Prat or sweet white wine: 50cc (1 quarter cup)
Olive oil
Salt, pepper.

-White sauce:
Milk: 300cc (1 cup and a half)
Butter: 50 g
Flour: 60g (2 full large spoons). This may reduced or increased depending on the consistency you wish to obtain.
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, laurel
Curry paste: 1 spoon (optional. If you like your food spicy, then increase amount)
Finely shredded cheese: to taste

Recipe:

1) Boil cut potatoes and cauliflower beforehand in salted water until “80% cooked”. Strain water and put aside within reach.
2) Wash mussles under cold running water and pull out “roots”. In large deep non-stick frying pan pour about 2 large spoons of olive oil. Heat oil and drop echalotte and garlic inside. As soon as the echalottes (or onion) become transparent, pour in the wine and all the mussles. Cover with glass lid. As soon as the mussles are all open, switch off fire. Take mussles out one by one, shake them over the pan to leave only the meat inside. Take off the meat and leave it inside a small bowl. If they give off “water” in the bowl, throw liquid away.
3) Switch on fire again and keep to medium. Drop oysters inside. Let them cook until they have changed colour. Switch off fire and take them carefully out one by one, and leave them in small bowl. If they give off “water” in the bowl, throw liquid away.
4) Switch on fire again to high and reduce the “soup” left inside the frying pan. Once it has reduced to about 50cc/one quarter cup, strain it into a cup and keep it aside for white sauce.
5) Lightly wipe (do not wash in water!) the frying pan with clean kitchen paper. Drop in some butter. Switch on heat to medium and lightly saute/fry first the cauliflower for a couple of minutes with a little salt and pepper, and put aside. Do the same with potatoes. This will help the vegetables “suck in” the gratin taste.
6) Preheat oven at 180 degrees Celsius (medium high)
7) Drop the butter (50g) into frying pan and let melt. Drop in flour and stir until smooth. Pour in the seafood juices (“soup”) and stir. Once smooth, add milk half by half and keep stirring until it has reached the appropriate consistency. Switch off fire.
First stir in the curry paste, then crab “miso/brains”. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg and laurel to taste. Add crab and basil and stir until you have reached a certain homogeneity.
8) In a large shallow oven dish, place potatoes, cauliflower, mussles and oyters equally (to avoid arguments!). No need to butter the dish beforehand as all ingredients contain enough fat.
Spread white sauce equally over vegetables and seafood. Sprinkle the lot with shredded cheese (the more, the better for those who like their gratin with a dark cheese “topping”!).
Cook in oven for 30 minutes, or until it has reached the appropriate colour (all the ingredients having been cooked, nothing to worry about if you decide to cook it at 250 degrees Celsius to just grill the top).

seafood-gratin2.jpg
Serve hot and enjoy. Of course, you could cook the gratin in individual dishes, but it is so nice to break the whole and serve it steaming onto the plate. Sorry, the pictures do not do justice to the dish, but then if it is looks you are caring about, you could always ask for it at a restaurant! LOL

Small secret: Cook everything in the same large non-stick frying pan. Wipe it, do not wash it! It will give this extra taste!

More recipes with mussles coming soon!

Hot Asparagus Pudding/Flan chaud d’Asperges

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Fresh asparaguses are becoming available all year roun here in Shizuoka Prefecture, a region famous for its Winter-cultivated vegetables.
Here a traditional French recipe for the green ones. It is not as difficult as the title might suggest!
When you choose your asparaguses, check the cut part at the bottom of the stems. The more moisture, the less peeling needed!

Vegans and vegetarians seeking substitutes for milk, butter and eggs should check with Miss V’s excellent suggestions!

INGREDIENTS (4 people):
Green Asparaguses: 1.25 kg
Eggs: 5
Milk: 250cc
Butter: 50g
Trefoil or Italian Parsley (optional): 4 sprigs for decoration
Thyme, laurel & nutmeg (optional & varying to taste)
Salt
White Pepper

RECIPE:

Peel asparaguses from top, cut out the bottom fibery part. Cut the tips and keep them aside.
Cut the stems in 1 cm-thick slices and put them in a pot. pour in milk, salt, white pepper and spices to taste. Let cook for 15 minutes. Take away from fire and transfer to food processor.
Add a few leaves of trefoil or Italian parsley and process to a fine mash.
Preheat oven to 6 (180 degrees Celsius) and put a large dish with water in it to be ready as a bain-marie.
Break the eggs in a large bowl, beat slightly, pour in the asparagus puree and mix.
Butter the inside of 4 small oven dishes (ramequin-style), pour in the mixture and cook in bain-marie for 20 minutes.
During that time put the asparagus tips in a frying pan, add the rest of the butter, 200cc of water, some salt and let cook for 20 minutes stirring from time to time until there is no more liquid left.
When the puddings are cooked, unmold them onto individual plates and decorate with asparagus tips and some trefoil or Italian parsley.
Serve at once.