Tzatziki

tzatzikiLast time, I posted about making Greek (strained) yogurt at home, and here’s one of my favorite ways to use it. Tzatziki is a Mediterranean sauce or dip which is good with veggies, bread, or meat. It’s best after it sits for a night to let the flavors develop, so plan ahead if possible.

Ingredients
3/4 cup (180mL) Greek or strained yogurt
1/2 cucumber
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp lemon juice
1 small clove garlic
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Instructions

Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. If the cucumber has a thick peel, you may want to remove it, but it’s not necessary. Chop the remaining cucumber into small pieces.

Mix all ingredients together well. Let the tzatziki sit in the fridge for several hours or overnight. The flavors will get stronger as it sits, so don’t add more garlic until you taste it the next day. If some water collects on top of the tzatziki overnight, you can pour it off, or mix it back in.
IMG_7826
Some of my favorite ways to eat this are with pita bread or chips, with falafel, with chicken, or with rice dishes that have warm spices in them. In the picture above I have a homemade pita filled with sauteed chicken, tzatziki, red onion, broccoli sprouts, and extra cucumber.

Advertisements

Greens with Goma-ae

gomaaeIn Japanese, goma means ‘sesame’, and it is commonly used in all kind of cooking. This recipe is for a dressing called goma-ae which is sweet and salty, made with sesame, sugar, and soy sauce. It is great on all kinds of veggies, especially greens. In the picture above, I used shungiku, or chrysanthemum greens, but it’s also great on spinach, komatsuna, or other similar vegetables. It makes a great side dish. I especially like the contrast when eaten with something spicy.

Ingredients
1 handful green vegetables of your choice (shungiku, komatsuna, spinach, etc.)
1 tbsp ground sesame seeds*
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp water

*In Japan, you can buy sesame seeds already ground, but if you do it yourself with a mortar and pestle, the flavor is fresher. Either way is fine!

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil on the stove. Also prepare a bowl of ice water.

When the water boils, put the greens in and let them blanch for 60 seconds. Then pull them out and immediately put them into the ice water to stop the cooking.

Mix the sesame seeds, sugar, soy sauce, and water in a small bowl.

Remove the greens from the water and squeeze out the excess moisture. If the pieces are large, you can cut the bundle of greens in half or thirds. Mix the greens with the sauce and serve.

Naan

IMG_7796This flatbread is easy to make and goes well with curry or lentils! It does take some time, but only because it has to rise for 2-1/2 hours. The actual working time is not very long.

Ingredients (makes 6-8 naan)
2 cups (260g) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp yeast
3/4 cup (180mL) milk (you can also substitute all or part of the milk with yogurt)
1/2 tsp sugar
1-2 tbsp butter (optional)

Instructions

Warm up the milk, and add the sugar and yeast. Add the salt, and half of the flour, and mix well. Add the remaining flour, and knead until a smooth dough is formed.

Place dough in a bowl, cover with a towel, and let rise 2 hours.

Divide the dough into 6 to 8 pieces. Let rest for 30 minutes. Heat your oven to its highest temperature. Roll out the dough into circles and bake for 2-4 minutes.

If desired, brush the warm naan with melted butter.

Kabocha Gnocchi

kabocha gnocchi2I don’t have the right tools, so I almost never make pasta at home. It’s too difficult to roll out and cut and so on. But the one exception is gnocchi. Gnocchi are usually made with potato, but there are other variations as well. In the U.S. I used to use butternut squash, and in Japan I use kabocha, which has a nice color and great taste. Either will work in this recipe. There are lots of ways to do this, so I’ll describe my usual way and add notes about variations. There are a lot of steps to this recipe, but it doesn’t take long once you’ve gone through it once and got the idea.

Ingredients
500-600g (about 1 to 1-1/4 lb) kabocha or butternut squash
1 egg
about 1 cup flour (in Japan: use “strong” flour – 強力粉)
a pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper

Instructions

First, remove the seeds and cook the squash. My preferred method is steaming. Just cut the squash into several equal-sized pieces, place in a steamer (or in a frying pan with a little water and put on the lid) and steam for about 10-20 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces and the variety of squash. Keep an eye on it and make sure all the water doesn’t evaporate, and test occasionally for doneness with a fork. When the fork easily goes all the way through the thickest piece, it’s ready. (You can probably also steam in a microwave. Another method is roasting: it takes about an hour in a 350F/180C oven. However, boiling/simmering is not a good technique for this recipe.) Let the squash cool somewhat, and remove the peel. (Note: kabocha peel is edible, but for gnocchi or soup I remove it for the color.)

Next, you need to puree the squash. The easiest way for me is the food processor, but you can also press it through a strainer (works well, but takes time and effort) or mash it (works, but depending on how soft it is, it can be hard to get a smooth texture).

Put the kabocha puree into a bowl. It should be the texture of soft clay. (Note: I discovered recently that some varieties have a high water content. These will not work for gnocchi. However, in many times making this recipe, it was my only failure, so I don’t think this is a common variety.)

Add the egg, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and mix until smooth. Add the flour about 1/4 cup at a time and mix in until you have a dough that you can work with – that does not stick to your fingers.

Split the dough into 4 equal pieces. Put three of them in the fridge while you work. To be efficient, you can also set a pot of water on to boil.

On a floured counter, roll the dough into a long snake, about 3/4 inch (2cm) in diameter. Cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) lengths with a sharp knife. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough.

kabocha gnocchiIf you didn’t start boiling water earlier, set a pot to heat on the stove. Also prepare a bowl of ice water in your sink or near the stove. When the water is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer/light boil and drop in the gnocchi a handful at a time. Make sure they don’t stick together. The gnocchi will sink to the bottom, and as they cool, will pop up and float on top. Get them out with a slotted spoon and put them in the ice water to cool. You can’t cook that many gnocchi at the same time, so keep going in batches – you can just leave them in the ice water until you finish all of them.

Drain the gnocchi. At this point, if you like, you can refrigerate or freeze them for later use. Just put them in a baggie with a little bit of oil (so they don’t stick together). They keep very well in either fridge (for a few days) or freezer.

For eating: you can add sauce and eat them boiled, or you can take one extra step and fry them. I love them this way – crispy and brown.

In a frying pan, melt a tablespoon or two of butter. Heat until the butter starts to brown slightly. Add a sprinkle of sage (and some more nutmeg, if you like).

Add as many gnocchi as you like and fry, mixing them around once in a while, until they are browned and crispy. When done, add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve.

Scallion Pancakes


The instructions may seem long, but these scallion pancakes are simple to make after you’ve done it once, and if you cook Asian food regularly, you probably have all or most of the ingredients on hand already. One of my Korean friends once told me that for her family this is a “rainy day” recipe, since they didn’t have to go out to the grocery store to make this. Original recipe is from here.

Ingredients
Pancakes
1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (120mL) hot water
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 bunch thinly sliced scallions (Japan: use konegi)
salt
vegetable oil for frying

Dipping sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp sugar

Instructions

Put flour in a bowl and add about 3/4 of the hot water while mixing. If dough is dry, add more water a little at a time until it will come together.

Knead dough on a floured counter until smooth. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

In the meantime, mix together all the sauce ingredients and let them sit at room temperature until ready to use.

When the dough has rested, divide it in half. Take one of the halves and roll into a circle about 8″ (21cm) in diameter. Pour a little sesame oil on and brush with a pastry brush (or spread with the back of a spoon) to cover the surface. Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, then form into a spiral, tucking the end underneath. Flatten the spiral with your hand, and the roll it out again into an 8″ (21cm) circle.

Repeat the sesame oil, and sprinkle on some salt and half of the scallions. Roll up tightly again like a jelly roll, make a spiral, flatten, and roll out again.

Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Heat oil in a frying pan until hot and carefully put in a pancake. Cook until golden brown, then flip and cook on the other side. Transfer to a paper towel and cook the other three pancakes.

To serve, cut like a pizza into 6 or 8 slices and serve with the dipping sauce.

Pan-fried Brussels Sprouts

brussels sproutsBefore you claim not to like Brussels sprouts, try them like this! This is a simple and imprecise recipe, so adjust it as you like. In Japan, Brussels sprouts are not common, but I see them once in a while. You’ll see them labeled as 芽キャベツ (me-kyabetsu) or “cabbage buds”!

Ingredients
Brussels sprouts – try to choose small ones, since they’ll naturally be less tough and bitter.
1 tbsp butter or margarine
1 tsp minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half vertically. Put them on a microwave-safe plate or bowl, add a few tablespoons of water, and cover with plastic wrap (leaving a gap for steam). Microwave for a few minutes until the Brussels sprouts soften and turn bright green.

In a frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter or margarine. Add the garlic and Brussels sprouts. Stir occasionally and let them brown in the butter.

Add salt and pepper to taste.