Hamburger or Hot Dog Rolls

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This recipe, originally from here, was very simple and made nice soft rolls. I tried both hamburger and hot dog roll shapes and they also worked great for some chicken sandwiches. I’ve made them with only white AP flour, and also with part whole wheat, and both were delicious. They also freeze well, so definitely give them a try!

Ingredients (makes 10 hamburger rolls or 16 hot dog rolls)
360mL (1-1/2 cups) warm water
3/4 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
4 cups (520g) all-purpose flour (can substitute part whole wheat)

Instructions
Combine water, yeast, sugar, oil, salt, and 2 cups of the flour. Mix well.

Add the remaining 2 cups of flour a little at a time until the dough is firm enough to knead. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth.

Place in a bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, until double in size. Then punch down the dough and shape into rolls.

For hamburger rolls, use about 85g (3oz) of dough and roll into a sphere. Then press down on the baking sheet to flatten them slightly. Allow about 5cm / 2 inches of space in between so they don’t touch when they rise and bake.

For hot dog rolls, use 55g (2 oz) of dough and roll into a log shape. Place on the baking sheet, closer together than the hamburger rolls (about an inch apart). (They may seem small, but don’t forget they’ll rise quite a bit.)

Let the rolls rise again for about an hour.

Bake at 200C / 400F for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned.

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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.
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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.

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Making your own yogurt is quite simple! It does take a little time, but most of it is inactive. It’s a really fun, easy project to try at home at least once!

greek yogurtYou’ll need: 1 liter (4 cups) milk + 2 tbsp active culture yogurt + time

1. Heat the milk to about 77C (170F). If you don’t have a thermometer, then heat the milk until it just starts to simmer around the edges.

2. Cover the pot with a lid and let it cool down to 43C (110F). Then stir in the yogurt. Now you just have to keep the yogurt warm, and wait about 5-10 hours.

3. You can warm up your oven very slightly (to about 43C / 110F), turn off the oven and leave it in there. Or, if your oven has a setting for letting bread rise, you can use that. My oven in Japan has that kind of setting, called 発酵, hakkou, or ‘fermentation’, which will keep your oven temperature at 40C. I used that setting for a little while, then turned off the oven and left the pot in there with the door closed until it was done. Or, if you don’t have an oven or don’t want to use it, you can wrap the whole pot (with the lid on) in a heavy towel, and leave it in a warm spot. I’ve done it that way before with no problem.

4. Check the yogurt once in a while to see if the milk has congealed. There might be a little whey on top (a clear yellow-green liquid), which you can pour off. At this point, you’re done! If you want to make Greek/strained yogurt, you can strain it by putting cheesecloth or coffee filters in a strainer, setting it over a bowl, and letting it sit in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t strain your yogurt, you’ll get about the same amount of yogurt as the milk you started with. If you strain it, a lot of whey will come out. I started with a liter (4 cups) of milk, and ended up measuring 560mL (2-1/3 cups) of whey, leaving about 410g (1-2/3 cups) Greek yogurt. (It does depend how thick you like it, so your results may vary.)

So, is it worth it?

If you’re currently buying Greek yogurt, then it’s worth it. Or, if you don’t strain your yogurt, it’s worth it. In those two cases, making your own costs about 1/3 as much as buying in the store!

If you want to strain your yogurt, here are the numbers I got. This will, of course, vary slightly depending on the price of milk and yogurt in your area.

Buying Greek yogurt in the store: 1.35 yen/gram
Buying yogurt in the store and straining it: 0.5 yen/gram
Buying milk in the store, making yogurt, and straining it: 0.4 yen/gram

So it’s much cheaper than buying Greek yogurt, but only slightly cheaper than buying yogurt and straining it. If you add in the extra effort of making your own yogurt, each person will have to decide whether they think it’s worth it. For me personally, I probably won’t make yogurt every week, but once in a while I will.

How about taste? Well, I love the taste of the homemade yogurt. I don’t really like a very strong sour, yogurty taste, but the homemade yogurt is very mild. It tastes very fresh and pure. I like to eat it with a little honey and some toasted walnuts (like in the picture above), or mixed with fresh/dried fruit, jam, or nuts.

Especially in Japan, I use strained yogurt a lot – not only for eating, but also as a substitute for sour cream or cream cheese in certain applications. You can make dip with yogurt (mix with a little mayo and some seasoning) and no one can tell the difference. You can make tzatziki (a Greek yogurt cucumber sauce). You can also strain it a little further and make a spread for crackers that’s like cream cheese. You can even make cheesecake with it. You can put a spoonful of it in soup to make a creamy contrast; you can use it to make pasta sauce; you can use it in tacos or burritos; you can make a creamy salad dressing with it; you can…

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.

Orzo Veggie Soup

orzo soup2This soup has simple ingredients, but it’s a delicious lunch. It’s a light vegetarian meal that I also enjoy when not feeling well. The original idea was from here.

Ingredients (1-2 servings)
480 mL (2 cups) vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock too, though it won’t be vegetarian)
1/2 cup (uncooked) orzo pasta, or other tiny pasta shape
1 tomato
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp olive oil
1 egg white
1 handful fresh spinach
Parmesan cheese for serving

Instructions

Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the pasta and cook according to the box directions until done.

Meanwhile, cut up the tomato and add the salt, crushed pepper, and olive oil. Cook briefly in the microwave or on the stovetop until done.

When the orzo is done, stir or whisk quickly while pouring in the egg white. It will cook instantly when it hits the hot broth. Finally, add the spinach and stir until wilted.

Put the tomato into 1 or 2 bowls and pour the orzo soup over. Stir, and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

Winter Bean Soup

Picture to come!

This soup is not an exact recipe, but it’s something I make variations of all the time in the winter. As you might know, Japanese homes don’t have central heating, so winter can feel especially chilly. Like most people, we use our “aircon” (in Japan, they function both as AC in the summer and heaters in the winter) and space heaters to heat only the room we are in. But we also try to keep the heat low and wear sweaters. During the day I sometimes make this soup for lunch as another way to keep warm.

Japan Notes: Dry beans are one of the few things I have really not been able to find in Japan. Of course, there are plenty of soybeans and azuki beans, and I have seen dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in import stores, but canned black or kidney beans are quite hard to find, and I have never seen dried beans. We get ours from family members in the U.S.

Ingredients

dried mixed beans
water
red pepper flakes
onion
garlic
vegetable bouillon
salt and pepper to taste, other toppings if desired

Instructions

Follow the instructions on your beans for how to cook them. Some require soaking. Mine just require simmering for 2 hours, so I usually put them on the stove in the morning and then let them cook while I do housework or study. After the beans are fully cooked, add thinly sliced onion and minced garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you want some spice. Also add some veggie bouillon. I use my homemade vegetable bouillon.

Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until onion and garlic are cooked. Taste it and add salt if necessary.

At this point you are basically finished, so you can eat it just like it is, or add some toppings. I usually like to drizzle about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil in my soup bowl, then add some Parmesan cheese and black pepper. There are also other variations you can do: for example, you can add a little milk for a creamy version. If I have leftover baguette or stale bread, I cut it into cubes and put them in my bowl, then pour the soup over them. You could also add some other veggies if you wanted. I think leafy greens would be good, like spinach.