Home made Spring Carrot Salad Dressing

No.199

So, I am back from Japan and as usual fighting with inevitable jetlag again.
Japan is now 7 hours ahead of the Norwegian time and I still feel hungry at odd hours… Ummm…   My husband and I spent 3 weeks in Japan and we really had a good time!  I have many photos to show you, so will write about my trip in another blog post.  We bought JR pass this time and made quite good use of it. If you are planning a trip to Japan soon, with or without JR pass, I hope my blog post will be helpful in your travel planning.

 

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Today I am writing a recipe of my home made salad dressing using spring carrots.  I am now hooked on salad, a healthy addiction I must say.

While we were in Japan my husband and I really enjoyed many delicious dishes in different cities.  As far as food is concerned, I think Japan and France are my favorite. Particularly I enjoyed salads during my spring trip in Japan.  When you are traveling for three weeks and eating at restaurants almost everyday, it can get too much.  I feel so tired of restaurant food when it continues with no break.  Traveling is fun but you are busy with sightseeing and shopping in strange places and your body is sometimes much more tired than you think and I think it is important and wise that you eat light. Usually Japanese dishes are light but there are so many tempting dishes and you want to try it all when you are there.  In between such big and memorable meals, salad was a good dish for me to eat,  and in Japan there are so many kinds to try as well.

Here is one, I had this in Sapporo in Hokkaido, a fantastic salad with very locally produced ingredients!

It was called “White Caesar Salad” and it was so delicious that I can not forget.

Locally produced vegetables and local brand chicken called “Nakasatsunai Chicken”, a brand chicken in Hokkaido produced in Nakasatsunai Village, are mixed and totally covered by finely shredded Mozzarella cheese also locally produced by Hanabatake Farm, a famous farm in Tokachi city in Hokkado. It was really an excellent salad.

After I came home, I have been experimenting to create a good home made salad dressing and here is one using Spring Carrot.

 

Small Spring Carrot        1   finely grated
New Yellow Onion          20 g  finely grated
Rice vinegar                    30 cc
Olive oil (cold pressed)    50 cc
Lemon juice                       2 tea spoons
Soy Sauce                           2 tea spoons
Coarse mustard                2 tea spoons
Salt, pepper, honey, sugar          to your taste

I mixed all these with a bar mixer.

 

If you do not have a bar mixer, I really recommend to get one as it is a very useful cooking tool. Not only salad dressing you can make good soups or smoothies with it.

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A good salad for your breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Home made salad dressing is easier to make than you think.

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Bon appetite!
xxx Rie

How to cook Azuki beans and make Anko (sweet red bean paste)

 

No.198

 

This weekend it is Spring Higan(彼岸) in Japan. Higan is a Buddhist holiday and we have 2 Higans in a year, one in Spring and the other in the fall. It is always around Spring and Autumnal Equinox. People visit their family grave during Higan holiday. I spoke with my mother today and she said she was at our family grave yesterday.

We make a special sweets called “Botamochi” for Higan in spring. We make the same sweets for fall Higan too but then it changes its name to “Ohagi”.   I think it comes from this Japanese culture of appreciating seasonal things so highly, “Botamochi” is named after the spring flower “Botan” (Peony) and “Ohagi” is from the fall flower of “Hagi” (Lespedeza).  When the season changes, the flowers change, and the name of sweets changes accordingly.

 

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Today I made small Botamochi and served it in Dango style.

To make Botamochi you need to cook Azuki beans to make sweet Azuki bean paste called “Anko (あんこ)”. When cooking Azuki beans:
1. You do not soak Azuki beans in water before cooking
2. When you cook Azuki, you start with very high heat
3. When adding sugar, you add it in several separate times
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Rinse 250g Azuki beans gently in cold water. Put the beans in a pot and add 1 L cold water. Put on high heat and cook until it boils.

 

When it starts to boil, drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cold water, put them in a clean pot and cover them with 1 L of fresh cold water. Again put it on high heat. Azuki beans have a character that they absorb water and get cooked better when the temperature of the cooking water changes. It is a kind of temperature shock and the bean’s skin stretches and it cooks better.

 

After it has reached boiling temperature again reduce the heat to medium heat and simmer. Azuki beans cook well at a temperature just below boiling about 90℃. You can add a 1/4 cup of fresh cold water under cooking, we call it a “Bikkuri Mizu” (a surprise water) in Japanese, it is really to bring the cooking water’s temperature shockingly down to attain the good results when cooking Azuki beans. In this term, a pressure cooker cooks faster but I find it too high heat for Azuki beans and it is difficult to benefit from this shocking tricks in the sealed high pressure environment.

 

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When the beans are cooked and soft about after 30-40 min, discard 2/3 cooking water, add 200g sugar (I put sugar about 80% of the bean’s weight. You can add more sugar if you like really sweet one). Do not add the whole amount of sugar at once. If you do that sugar absorbs water in the beans and the beans get tough. Add sugar in 3-4 separate times.
If you discard all the cooking water and make paste, you get “Anko- red bean paste”.

 

Bon Appetite!
xxx Rie

 

 

Trip to Japan Spring 2015 Day 16 – Ryoutei bento

No.165

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Hello from Kanazawa. How are you? I am writing this post on Saturday April 4. We are in the middle of the season of Sakura. I don’t know how many cherry trees are here in Kanazawa but when they all bloom at once it looks like we have so many cherry trees. Literally everywhere is pink, pink, pink. Both Kanazawa Castle park and Kenrokuen park are now open late to the public free of charge and at night you can experience the cherry blossoms light-ups. Today I took some Onigiri and a bottle of tea with me and sat under a blooming cherry tree and enjoyed the beautiful flowers.

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Oh, it was so peaceful and beautiful. I wish you were sitting next to me and experience this.

My mother was home for a few hours yesterday as my sister and her family came from Tokyo to visit us. My sister’s daughter, she is the oldest niece of mine, came together with a little son of 2 years old. He is a cute rascal and he kept us all very busy for 3 days. My mom wanted to gather everyone for a nice lunch at home and we catered bento from a Ryoutei called “Kinjouro 金城楼” in Kanazawa.

Kinjouro is an old and traditional Japanese restaurant in Kanazawa. It has a long history since 1887. Even if you say “a Japanese restaurant” in one term, there are many types. In an old and traditional city like Kyoto or Kanazawa, there are luxurious first-class Japanese restaurants called “Ryotei”. The best Ryotei I have ever experienced is Kikunoi in Kyoto. It is not a cheap restaurant but the experience itself is a life-long memory. The Japanese food they serve is just amazing and when you come to a Ryoutei like Kikunoi or Kinjouro, you feel you are welcome and entertained and everything they serve you is more than perfect. I have always admired the Chef and the owner of Kikunoi Mr. Murata for his philosophy and hospitality. If you like to read how he explains what Ryotei really is, here is his testimony here.

As Mr. Murata says a little luxury will move you out from your everyday life. When I came to Kinjouro to pick up our bento, I felt I was in a different world. Through the thick and heavy door I was welcome into a time slip. A super polite old man came out and helped me. He perfectly remembered my name, the type of food I ordered for the day and how many bentos to be picked up.

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The photo shows the gorgeous entrance hall of Kinjouro. (You can click on the photo and get it enlarged) It is simple in style but very beautiful. When you want to be simple and beautiful you have to get close to perfection. With a magnificent gold Japanese Byobu folding screen and a wonderful antique kimono hanging on a special kimono rack in the hall, it was very holy. I was standing and waiting for the bento, behind me were 4 large glass doors framed in Japanese Shiraki wood, the floor I am standing on is a black Japanese stone floor. On my left there was a sofa where you could sit and wait for your car to come. Of course you will get super service once you entered into this space. They will treat you like King or Queen. When the season changes, they change the Byobu screen and the decoration. It should be seasonal, customers come in to their space and they should be able to feel the season they are in.

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I hurried home, everyone was waiting for this special lunch. It was delicious. More than delicious. In the 9 different compartments of the black bento box they have cooked and packed the luxury and the extraordinary with care and hospitality. The family lunch with bento from Ryoutei, it was another memorable time.

xxx Rie