Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cauliflower Salad

This salad was one of the side dishes I made for the Thanksgiving dinner. The main dish in the Thanksgiving dinner is, of course, a big turkey. So I made all of the side dishes to be simple vegetarian dishes.

This cauliflower salad is originally from Sardinia, Italy. It is really easy to prepare and very tasty. I believe cauliflowers are not so popular in Japan. This is because I only remember eating boiled cauliflowers with mayonnaise – no other way. Many of my Japanese friends agree with me. Therefore, when I first tried this salad, I was very excited. Mixing simply olive oil, lemon juice and other spicy vegetables enhances the milk-like flavor of cauliflower and makes it a flavorsome dish.

Cauliflowers are extremely rich in vitamins C and K. They are a winter vegetable so they are in season right now. Do not miss an opportunity to try this easy yet healthy and delicious salad.

1 cauliflower
1 teaspoon of capers
2 shallots finely chopped
¼ cup of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped or ½ Anaheim pepper, finely chopped
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Wash the cauliflower and remove the stalk and green leaves. Cut it into small pieces.
2. Steam the cauliflower until the pieces become soft.
3. Transfer the cauliflower into a large bowl. Add the capers, shallots, parsley, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Mix them well.
4. Transfer the mixture into a serving plate.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tiramisu Mousse

Last week a cold rain turned into a wet snow and then dry snow before midnight. It snowed in South Louisiana on December 4th! I remember my neighbor Wayne, who is native of New Orleans, said after a snowfall last year, “Last time I saw snowing was ten years ago”. So it is extremely rear to snow here two years in a row.

In Japan when you do something that you usually ignore, people tell you, “It will snow”. For example, lazy Johnny, who does not clean his room and does not care of living in mess, suddenly cleans his room very well. Then people would say, “It will snow because Johnny cleaned his room”.

I usually do not prepare or invent a complicated dessert. But I accidentally made this dessert on snow day. First, I intended to make tiramisu but later I found out that I ran out of eggs. I had to use the mascarpone cheese, which had little time left before the expiration date. Then, I came out with this fabulous dessert and also it snowed in South Louisiana! This might be because I made this delicious tiramisu mousse.

250g of mascarpone cheese
150 cc whipped heavy cream
50cc espresso coffee
100cc milk
80g sugar
5g unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon of liquor (Kahlua, rum, brandy, etc.)
3-4 tablespoons of coca powder
1 (9-inch) cookie crust

1. Beat the whipped heavy cream well in a large bowl until it becomes foamy.
2. Add the milk and liquor in the bowl.
3. Mix the hot espresso coffee, sugar and gelatin in a small bowl until the gelatin completely dissolves.
5. Add the espresso mixture into the large bowl and mix them well. Pour into the cookie crust.
6. Refrigerate it over night. Sprinkle the coca on the top of the tiramisu mousse before serving.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Imam Baildi (Eggplants with Tomato Sauce)

This dish is originally from Turkey. However, this is also one of the most popular dishes served in Greece. It is also a very familiar dish for my husband. He is native to Greece and was born in northern Greece where the border between Greece and Turkey was just one mile away from his village. Many of the homemade dishes in his village were influenced by Turkish cuisine.

Imam Baildi means “fainting priest” in Turkish. There is an interesting story behind this dish. One day a poor family generously invited a Muslim priest (or imam) for dinner. Then, they served this simple dish for the priest. It was extremely delicious so the priest eventually fainted. Another interpretation is that the priest started pouring lots of olive oil over this dish. Since olive oil was very expensive at that time for poor people like this family, they fainted in agony.

My husband told me a few tips about making this dish. First of all, do not hesitate using lots of olive oil. I mean “lots”. When I first saw him pouring a large amount of olive oil, I almost fainted. Second, use a pinch of cloves, which makes this dish irresistible. Cloves are one of the most essential incent substances in Japan. But personally I have never used or tasted this seasoning in cooking. A touch of this amazing seasoning makes this simple vegetable dish delicious. The priest might have indeed fainted of the extremely rich flavors.

4 eggplants (Holland eggplants)
3 rip tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
½ cup of white wine
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon oregano
1 – 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of cloves

1. Preheat the oven to 325 F degrees.
2. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise. Add plenty of water and a pinch of salt in a large bowl.
3. Soak the sliced eggplants in the water for about 15 minutes. Drain them well and pad them with paper towel.
4. Heat plenty of olive oil in a large fry pan and fry the eggplants until they become soft. Transfer them to a baking pan.
5. Heat the olive oil in the same fry pan and fry the chopped onion and garlic until they become translucent. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir them well. Add the white wine and stir the mixture well.
6. Season the mixture with salt, freshly ground pepper, oregano and cloves. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil and cover the pan.
7. Pour the tomato mixture over the eggplants. Add ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil. Bake it in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes.
8. Serve with feta cheese.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Stuffed Turkey

A deep-fried turkey is a landmark in Cajun cuisine. Every year, our neighbor, Janet, makes a deep friend turkey and I join and enjoy a few bits. At the same time, my husband and I also cook a turkey for Thanksgiving. It is a traditional stuffed turkey with my unique Mediterranean / Cajun seasonings and Japanese / Mediterranean stuffing.

First, pour a lot of red wine, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil over the turkey. Then season it all over the turkey with salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, chili powder, freshly ground allspices and a pinch of cinnamon. Put the turkey in a large Ziploc or cover it with plastic wrap and marinate it over night. All fragrances of the seasonings go into the meat and no injection is necessary.

My stuffing is not the traditional bread stuffing but rice stuffing. I first cook chicken liver risotto using Japanese medium grin rice (“Nishiki” rice) with lots of herbs and red wine. Do not over cook because it will be cooked more inside of the turkey. The turkey aroma extends to inside of the risotto and vice versa. I do not discard this stuffing but serve it as a side dish. Some people sprinkle Parmesan cheese and others enjoy it just as a risotto.

Seasoning and stuffing are very important factors for a truly delicious turkey. But the most important aspect is using a fresh turkey. I used an organic, non-frozen turkey this year. It was a good choice. The meat did not have the typical turkey odor and it was lean and yet juicy.

Thanks to my new gas oven, all of the gravy stayed inside of the meat. So it did not require a gravy sauce or any sauce.

A 15.5 lb big turkey was left with only bones and little meat. “You can make delicious gumbo soup with them,” said Janet. That sounds like another cooking adventure in Louisiana.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Japanese Sweet Potato Bread

Thanksgiving Day is the day to express gratitude to family, friends and harvest. This year I have special thanks to you, the many readers of my blog. Since I have started this blog, I received lots of feedback from all over the world, which astonished me a great deal. Someone like you, who does not know me and I do not know you, visited my blog by chance – via either Google or other reference sites. Then, spent sometime glancing on my blog. I thank you very much for visiting my blog.

I started my blog in order to collect useful ideas, tips and facts about healthy and enjoyable cooking from books, websites, food experts and also use my personal experience and that of my many friends and family members. So, I can go back anytime to remind myself of healthy eating and, at the same time, share this knowledge with others who may have similar interests with me. I am grateful to know that many people really enjoy my blog and spend their valuable time with me.

This Thanksgiving Day I made this sweet potato bread. I gave one loaf to my good neighbors, Janet and Bert, and served another one to our guests at the Thanksgiving dinner. So I would like to share this recipe with you.

I used Japanese sweet potato, which we call Satsumaimo. Satsumaimo (Ipomoea batatas in the formal scientific term) is different from yam or regular sweet potatoes one can find in a regular super market. I can found Satsumaimo in any Asian market. They are called Korean sweet potatoes, Japanese sweet potatoes or just Asian sweet potatoes. However, these potatoes are native to South America and came to Japan around early the 17th century via China. These sweet potatoes have a thin, reddish brown skin with a golden flesh. The taste is very sweet, almost like chestnuts, and has a crumbly texture. They are rich in vitamin C and fiber. Their vitamin C is hardly destroyed by heat.

Since the potatoes themselves have a sweet flavor, adding a little bit of sugar and butter make this simple cake incredibly delicious. I wish many stores could sell this tasty and inexpensive Satsumaimo in the US. If you are lucky to find this sweet potato, please try this delicious bread!

300g of Satsumaimo (Ipomoea batatas)
½ cup of milk
2 eggs
50 g of butter at room temperature
1/3 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons of baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 320 F degrees.
2. Peel the skins of the sweet potatoes and dice then into small pieces.
3. Heat the milk, sugar and the sweet potato pieces in a pan and stir until the potato pieces become soft. Add the butter and mix them well.
4. Put the eggs in a bowl and beat them well. Add the flour and baking powder and stir them well. Add the potato mixture and mix them gently.
5. Place them in a baking pan. Bake it in the oven for about 40-50 minutes.
6. Take the cake out of the pan and let it cool off. Slice to serve.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mediterranean Fish Soup (Cacciucco/Bouillabaisse)

My husband and I replaced our old electric range / oven with a gas range / oven just a few days ago. Also, we changed from a microwave with hood to a professional hood. One of the reasons why I have not been updated my blog for a long time is that I was too hectic looking for good products and a good plumber to make the installations. Luckily, we found all of them. Then, I become busy admiring these fabulous range / oven and hood. Time flies fast and here I am writing a new update.

I love a gas oven, which cooks food evenly and keeps moisture inside of any meat. The day our new range / oven was installed we decided to bake lemon chicken using a whole chicken. I noticed that it did not produce much grease. Most of the grease stayed inside of the meat. Therefore, the chicken was extremely juicy and delicious.

I also love my new gas range. It is easy to adjust the temperature and simmer well. So, when I saw mussels, clams, and other seafood piling up on a seafood market, I decided to cook this fish soup on my new gas range.

This soup is a typical fish soup / stew in the Mediterranean region where various types of fresh fish and shellfish are available. The key to make this soup successfully is adding as many kinds of fresh seafood as possible. This delicious soup makes you warm throughout your body and mind. After a big Thanksgiving turkey, try this fish soup which can make you feel cheerful.

1 lb mussels wish shells
4 big clams wish shells
¼ lb cod filet (if the one with the bones and head cannot be found)
½ red snapper with the bone and the head, if possible
1 lb squids
1 lb shrimps with their heads and shells on
1 big onion, chopped
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 rip tomatoes, chopped
1 pinch of saffron
1 chill pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup of extra olive oil

1. Wash the mussels and clams very well. Soak them into salty water for about 30 minutes.
2. Put the mussels and clams in a large pot and add the white wine. Cover and bring to a boil. 3. After boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the shells are open. Remove them from the pot. If a clam is not open, discard it. Reserve the white wine.
3. Put 4-6 cups of water in a large pot. Add the onion, carrots, celery, tomatoes, chill pepper, bay leaf, and saffron. Add the reserved white wine. Cover and bring to a boil. After boiling, lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
4. Add the cod, snapper, squids and shrimps and simmer them for 10 minutes. Add the mussels and clams. Season with salt and black pepper.
5. Add the parsley and extra virgin olive oil and turn off the heat. Serve it with crispy bread to wipe out the delicious soup.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Banana Bread

We have seven big banana clusters in our yard. This is like a total of 20-30 individual trees. Every year they produce a few bunches of bananas.

For the first few years my husband promoted his bananas and gave away most of them to his friends and neighbors. Unfortunately, our bananas are not sweet but very sour. So people who appreciate our bananas become fewer and fewer every year. These years none of them eats our bananas including my husband and I.

So, this year when I first tried this delicious banana yogurt bread, I was extremely pleased that our bananas are certainly valuable. Because our bananas are not sweet, I added honey, which enhances and gives them an extra flavor. Also I put yogurt to make the mixture smooth. Perhaps, adding some liquor brings extra richness on this delicious bread.

It is already November, but a few clusters of bananas will be ready for Thanksgiving and even Christmas! Indeed, Louisiana is a semi-tropical place.

2 bananas, smashed
2 eggs
80g sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
1 cup and 3 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/3 cup of yogurt
4 tablespoons of butter, soften
Optional: ¼ cup of crashed walnuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins and/or etc.

1. Preheat the oven to 320 F degrees.
2. Put the eggs in a large bowl and beat them well.
3. Add the sugar and mix them well.
4. Add the honey, flour, baking powder, yogurt, butter, banana and walnuts and stir them well.
5. Bake it in the oven for about 30-40 minutes.
6. Take the banana bread out of the pan and let it cool off. Slice to serve.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rice with Spinach (Spanakorizo)

As I mentioned a long time ago, I cook for our cat, Ragus. He was a more-than-20 lb heavily obese cat. Recently, my husband and I took him for his annual check up. The doctor congratulated that he was healthy and in a perfect shape with 12.5 lb. I felt rewarded. He will be 15 years old, soon, which means the oldest pet in our neighborhood but perhaps the healthiest one too.

Each time I bake Ragus’ food, which contains beef, chicken, pork, turkey and catfish, the aroma from the oven drives us crazy. I do not know how many times I saw deeply disappointed my husband when I revealed that the food was not for us but for Ragus,

Usually, my husband and I eat simple vegetable / bean dishes during weekdays. Then, we eat meat / poultry dishes during the weekends. From time to time when I find a fresh fish and other seafood, we enjoy them no matter what day it is. However, Ragus enjoys gorgeous meat, poultry and fish every day. I became jealous and then thought of using Ragus’ food wisely. Making broth from Ragus’ food looked to be a fantastic idea.

This rice with spinach was made with the flavorsome broth. Onion, garlic and spinach plus mushrooms give enough taste. But using this broth becomes more tempting. My husband and I appreciated this simple yet delicious dish while Ragus enjoyed his food. I felt like I “kill two birds with one stone”.

1 bundle of spinach
1 1/2 cup of rice
1 finely diced small onion
1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons of chopped dill
4-5 cups of broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese or feta cheese
Optional: ½ cup of diced brown beech mushrooms

1. Wash the spinach very well and drain it. Cut the spinach into inch long pieces.
2. Heat the olive oil in a fry pan and fry the chopped onion and garlic until they become translucent.
3. Add the mushrooms and cook for about a minute. Add the spinach and cook until the pieces become soft.
4. Add the rice. Pour the broth little by little and stir the rice until they become soft. Add salt and ground black pepper to taste. Then cook it until most of the broth is absorbed. Turn off the heat and add the dill and stir them gently.
5. Transfer to a saving plate and sprinkle Parmesan cheese or serve it with feta cheese and olives.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Black Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomato Paste

Black Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomato Paste“There are numerous ghost stories in Louisiana”, said Patricia, who is native to New Orleans. Old plantation houses, massive oak trees with hanging Spanish moss, heavy fog over mysterious swamps and sudden rain are Louisiana’s familiar sights. They are already creepy enough. But Patricia continued, “one day, one of my girlfriends visited an old plantation house as a guest. She arrived late so the owner of the plantation house briefly greeted her and took her to a room. Then she heard rain started falling. Also she heard children started playing in the hallway. Next day, she politely mentioned to the owner about that incident. The owner was wondering and said there was no child living or invited there. As a matter of fact, she was the only guest the owner had at that day.”

The other day, my husband was startled at me eating this incredible black spaghetti with sun-dried tomato paste. He said it was peculiar. It was scarier than Patricia’s story. This black color came from natural squid ink. I love the aroma. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to obtain fresh squid ink in Louisiana. But I found this spaghetti made with squid ink. It has a slight flavor of squid ink, which is irresistible.

I made sun-dried tomato paste to mix with this black spaghetti. This paste can also be used as a spread on crispy bread. Adding parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil leaves enhances the delicious flavor of this paste and any pasta. Also this dish may give you a perfect frightening presentation for Halloween.

Sun-dried tomato paste:
1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes
1-2 olive oil marinated set of anchovies
6 black olives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of chili pepper
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 lb of black spaghetti
2-3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
¼ cup of chopped fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese

1. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in water for 30-40 minutes. Drain them and transfer to a food processor. Do not discard the water.
2. Add the anchovies, black olives without their seeds and extra virgin olive oil. Process the mixture until it becomes smooth. Season it with salt, black pepper and chili pepper.
3. Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and cook the spaghetti in the pot for 8 to 10 minutes or al dente. Drain the spaghetti well. Toss them with 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
4. Heat 3-4 tbsp of olive oil in a large fry pan. Fry the garlic until sizzling. Add the spaghetti and sun-dried tomato paste. Mix them well. Turn off the heat and add the basil leaves. Stir them well.
5. Transfer them into saving plates. Sprinkle a lot of parmesan cheese. Serve with crispy bread!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Chickpeas with Beef Soup

Chickpeas with Beef SoupThe first snow of the season came last weekend in the northeast of the USA. I remember when I lived in New York City this time of the year a heater started working. It seems winter is arriving a bit earlier than usual.

We also are having a very cold October in the south. Unexpectedly, we started using our fireplace last weekend. According to my husband who has been a residence of Louisiana for more than a decade, it is one of the coldest Octobers if not the coldest one.

I long for hot soup when I feel the air become cold. So I decided to make chickpea soup. Chickpeas are very common and popular in Mediterranean cuisine. They are high in protein so it is one of the essential food items for vegetarians.

Most of the time I cook simple vegetarian chickpea soup. However, this time my husband asked to add a few short beef ribs. They give a wonderful broth to this soup. Plus the meat, which cooked slowly, is amazingly tender and delicious to add an extra joy eating this soup in a cold day.

2 cups of chickpeas
1 onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks chopped celery
3 rip tomato, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
½ lb of short beef ribs
¼ cup of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dried oregano
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil

1. Place the chickpeas, onion, carrots, celery, tomato, garlic, short beef ribs and bay leaf in a large soup pot.
2. Add water and bring to boil on medium heat.
3. Reduce the heat to low after it boils. Cover and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes until all vegetables, chickpeas and the meat are soft. Season it with salt and pepper (or Cajun seasoning).
4. Turn off the heat. Add the flat-leaf parsley and the olive oil. Cover and leave it for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bitter Melon with Sesame and Soy Sauce

Bitter Melon with Sesame and Soy SauceWhen my friend, Pete, asked me if I need something from Japanese grocery stores in NY before his visit from NY to Louisiana this spring, I immediately requested suribachi and surikogi. Suribachi (grinding-bowl) and surikogi (grind-powder-wood) are Japanese mortar and pestle. These tools are mainly used to grind sesame seeds.

“ゴマをする” means “grinding sesame seeds” in English. Its metaphorical meaning is “to flatter ” in Japanese. I am not flattering. But, hey Pete, the wonderful kitchen tools you brought me made my life much more delicious! I did not realize how flavorsome ground sesame seeds are.

Of course, I knew about these tools and the fantastic taste of ground sesame seeds. My mother was using them all the time when I was a kid. Also, I frequently ate them while I was in NY. But I did not pay much attention to it. Then, after I moved to Louisiana, I recognized I was missing this crispy flavor and regretted that I did not buy the Japanese mortar and pestle (you may use a regular mortar and pestle or spice grinder to produce the same result as the Japanese ones).

Surprisingly, ground sesame seeds with soy sauce enrich the taste of many kinds of just steamed / boiled vegetables. Steamed / boiled spinach, boiled bitter melon, boiled green peas are some of these vegetables. Use roasted sesame seeds. If they are raw, just roast them on a fry pan. Then, simply grind them. You will be amazed by the crisp and magnificent sesame aroma.

1 bitter melon
2 tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon of soy sauce

1. Slice the bitter melon into small pieces. Soak them into salty water for about 10 minutes. Drain them.
2. Boil the bitter melon pieces into boiling water for about 3 minutes. Let them cool and drain them well.
3. Grind the roasted sesame seeds very well. Add the soy sauce and mix them well.
4. Add the bitter melon pieces into the sesame mixture and stir them together.
5. Serve this dish as an appetizer or side dish with steamed rice!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fried Shrimps in Tomato Sauce

Fried Shrimps in Tomato SauceMy husband and I tried not to eat shrimps frequently because they are high in cholesterol. But recently, one of our friends said that shrimp’s cholesterol is “good” one. So I did a little research on Google. Indeed, I found a lot of articles mentioning that shrimp’s cholesterol is “good” cholesterol. As a result, I think we can be more generous when eating shrimps.

My most favorite way of eating shrimps is simply steaming/boiling them with just some lemon juice and olive oil. To fry shrimps in tomato sauce is the next preferred way. A crispy garlic flavor, sweet tomato and wine enhance the taste of juicy shrimps. They can be good with pasta or rice.

Of course, steamed / boiled shrimps are healthier than fried ones. Eating shrimps may be healthy but it should not be done everyday. Certainly, variety and moderation may be the keys to enjoy this healthy seafood.

Fried Shrimps in Tomato SauceIngredients:
1 lb shrimps with their heads and shells on
3 cloves of chopped garlic
2 ripe tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
¼ cup of white wine
¼ cup of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil to fry

1. Wash the shrimps well and cut off their whiskers.
2. Heat the olive oil and the garlic in a fry pan until sizzling. Add the shrimps and fry them until their color turns to pink. Add the white wine and stir.
3. Transfer the shrimps from the fry pan to a plate. Using the same fry pan, add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer them together for 10 to 15 minutes. Season the mixture with salt and black pepper.
4. Add the shrimps, again and stir them well with the tomato mixture.
5. Before turning off the heat, add the parsley. Stir them well.
6. Serve with crispy bread to wipe the delicious juice!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Leek and Feta Cheese Quiche

Having a quiche at Balthazar restaurant in NYC was my most favorite and luxurious weekday breakfast while I was in NY. The sweet onion filling was so delicious. The combination of this filling and the crunchy pastry crust made me crazily happy. Not to mention the lavish ambiance inside of the restaurant. After the fabulous breakfast at Balthazar restaurant, I remember that I always became generous to some of the rude colleagues of mine and forgave their bad manners.

Quiche is a very popular breakfast dish in Louisiana. Many Creole/Cajun people are proud of being French descendants and enjoy this French dish. Many plantation houses and restaurants serve magnificent quiches. I have tried many tasty quiches since I moved here.

I love a quiche. However, a butter flavor is sometimes too heavy for me because I do not frequently use butter in cooking. Therefore, when I make a quiche, I use extra virgin olive oil instead of using butter. Olive oil is much healthier. Moreover, if you use olive oil for the pie dough, it would be much easier to deal with.

Leek has been cultivated for thousands of years in Mediterranean countries. This vegetable becomes very sweet and flavorsome after frying or boiling. It is a member of the onion family. Using leek and feta cheese for filling adds Mediterranean aroma on this delicious yet simple quiche. Now having this healthy Mediterranean quiche while watching wild ducks and herons in our back yard is my most favorite and relaxing weekend breakfast.

2 leeks
4-5 large brown mushrooms
1 cup of heavy cream (or milk plus 1 tablespoon of cornstarch)
3 eggs
¼ cup of feta cheese, broken into pieces
A pinch of nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil to fry
Pie dough for a 9 inch-pie pan

1. Cut off the roots and remove the dark green parts of the leaves. Wash the leeks very well. Slice the leeks into small pieces.
2. Wash the mushrooms and slice them.
3. Roll the pie dough and press it into the pie pan.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
5. Heat the olive oil in a fry pan and fry the chopped leek and mushrooms until they become soft. 6. Fill the leeks and mushrooms into the pie pan.
7. Place the eggs and beat them well. Add feta cheese, nutmeg, salt and black pepper.
8. Fill the egg mixture into the pie pan.
9. Bake it in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is slightly brown.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Chicken Ham

Chicken HamMy husband, who is very health conscious, wants us to avoid eating processed meats, such as ham, sausages and bacon. Processed meats are high in fat and sodium. Also many researches show strong connections between processed meats and cancers of the digestive system (liver, intestines, etc).

I know that I should stay away from processed meats. But I like them. They give nice flavors to sandwiches, salads, soups and many other dishes.

Luckily I found a local famer selling organic and freshly harvested chickens. Instantly, I knew their meats would be wonderful for homemade ham.

I got this homemade chicken ham recipe from a friend, who is a professional nutritionist. She also gave me a few useful tips. First, use honey instead of using sugar. Honey/sugar make meats tender. But only honey eliminates the typical odor of chicken meat. Second, do not discard the water, which is used to boil chicken breasts. It would be a fantastic chicken broth to make a soup, stew or gumbo (I usually freeze this tasty broth for later use)! Third, add different kinds of herbs and seasonings to make specially flavored ham.

Indeed, homemade chicken ham is extremely delicious and very easy to prepare/cook. After I tried it, I cannot think of eating again ham from any store.

Chicken HamIngredients:
1 chicken breast
1 tablespoon of honey/sugar
1 tablespoon of salt
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Optional: Herbs such as thyme, oregano, rosemary and etc.

1 Wash the chicken breast and remove the fat. Pat it dry.
2. Spread the honey first and then the salt around the chicken breast. Season it with a pinch of ground black pepper.
4. Put the chicken breast in a zip lock bag and remove the air from the bag as much as possible. Let it marinate from overnight to 3 days in a refrigerator.
5. Take out the chicken breast from the bag and soak it into water for 30 minutes. Pad it dry. Sprinkle the herbs. Roll the chicken breast and compactly wrap it with plastic wrap. Tight it with cooking twine.
6. Boil it into water for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it there from 4 to 6 hours until the water completely cools down.
7. Slice the ham and enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


MoussakaI was very disappointed when I read an article long time ago. The article was on a food website mentioning about “What to eat” and “What not to eat.” It was about food from all over the world. It said, “Don’t eat moussaka when you visit Greece because it is oily.”

Moussaka is one of the classic Greek dishes. In my opinion you got to eat moussaka when you visit Greece.

First of all, it is very delicious. Beef/lamb meat in sweet tomato sauce matches tasty tender eggplants and potatoes. The béchamel sauce, which is used on the top of the layers of the meat and vegetables, is very flavorsome with aromatic nutmeg seasoning. All of the layers rouse my appetite a great deal.

Next, it is time consuming if you cook it by yourself at home. Frying eggplants and potatoes, cooking meat sauce and béchamel sauce require lots of time and effort. Not to mention, cleaning after the mess in the kitchen (I love my dishwasher!). Usually it takes 2 to 3 hours for preparing/cooking and 50 to 60 minutes for baking moussaka. By the time I serve my moussaka, I am generally exhausted.

Finally, Greek restaurants use olive oil to fry (I believe) eggplants, potatoes and meat. Everyone knows olive oil is good for you since Goddess Athena sent an olive tree to the citizens of Attica as a gift for naming their city after her! So, don’t hesitate to consume olive oil.

Thus, if you visit Greece, please try this traditional Greek / Mediterranean dish!

In case, you do not trust the oil that Greek restaurants use or you do not have a plan to visit Greece soon, plus you do not mind spending lots of time and effort to cook moussaka, please refer to my recipe here and enjoy this delicious dish!

5-6 sliced eggplants
5-6 peeled and sliced potatoes
1 lb of ground beef
1 chopped onion
2-3 cloves of finely chopped
3 cups of diced ripe tomatoes2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of white wine
½ cup of chopped flat-leaf parsley
A pinch of cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup of breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons of shredded/ground Parmesan cheese

Béchamel sauce:
5 tablespoons of butter
½ cup of all-purpose flour
3 cups of milk
1 freshly ground nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons of shredded/ground Parmesan cheese

1. Add plenty of water and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Soak the sliced eggplants in the water for about 15 minutes. Drain them well.
2. Heat plenty of olive oil in a large fry pan and fry the eggplants and potatoes well. Transfer them from the fry pan. If you do not like the idea of frying the vegetables, bake them in the oven after you have sprinkled then with olive oil.
3. Heat the olive oil in the same fry pan and fry the chopped onion and garlic until they become translucent. Add the ground beef and cook till well done.
4. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir them well. Add the white wine and stir the mixture well.
5. Season the mixture with salt, freshly ground pepper, and cinnamon. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and cover the pan.
6. For béchamel sauce: Heat the butter on another pan and let the butter melt completely. Add the milk and flour little by little. Stir and simmer on low heat until the mixture is thickened.
7. Turn off the heat and add the egg, lemon juice, nutmeg, salt, black pepper and Parmesan cheese. Mix them well.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
9. Place half of the potato slices and make a layer on the large oven pan. Next, place half of the eggplant slices and make a layer. Pour and spread half of the tomato mixture. Make one more layers in the same way. Pour the béchamel sauce and spread evenly over the top. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, the 3 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan cheese.
10. Bake it in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes until the top is brown.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Castella (Honey Sponge Cake)

Castella is a very simple but delicious sponge cake made of sugar, flour, honey and eggs. It does not require any dairy products. Some in Japan say that this cake was brought from Portugal. Others say it is from Holland. Yet, it is certain that this cake was introduced in Nagasaki, Japan around the early 16th century and spread to all over Japan. Since then, it has been one of the most popular desserts in Japan.

Japan had a strict foreign policy, which isolated it from foreign countries, between 1616 and 1858. However, there were a few exceptions. Some limited places were allowed to have diplomatic relations and trades with confined foreign countries under the government of Edo. Dejima, which is a small man-made island in Nagasaki of about 3.7 acres, was one of them. Dejima was mainly open to Holland and Portugal. During the restricted foreign policy era, this tiny island became a very important site to introduce not only foreign commodities but also western medical and astronomy knowledge, and new ideas about equality and freedom. These new ideas influenced people, who eventually ended the government of Edo in 1867.

Even today, castella desert from Nagasaki is distinctive and famous for its rich honey flavor. If you ever go to Nagasaki in Japan, try castella and visit the Dejima island, which is preserved as one of the most historic sites in Japan. However, up till then, try my recipe to enjoy this simple honey sponge cake.

110g of sugar
100g of all-purpose flour
4 eggs
2-3 tablespoons of honey
1 tablespoon of hot water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
2. Place the honey in a small bowl and add the hot water. Mix them well.
3. Beat the egg s in a large bowl until they become foamy. Add the sugar and beat them well.
4. Add the honey mixture in the large bowl. Mix them well.
5. Add the all-purpose flour and fold them evenly.
6. Transfer the mixture into the pan and spread it evenly. In order to remove air inside of the mixture, drop the pan from a height of a few inches.
7. Bake it for 10 minutes and reduce the temperature to 300 F degree. Continuously bake it for about another 40 minutes. Do not open the oven during this process!
8. Take it out from the pan and let it cool. Wrap it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Refrigerate it for one or two days so that it would be richer and more flavorsome like the one in Nagasaki.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Boiled Lobster

Boiled Lobster Lobsters in Greece are extremely tender, juicy and delicious. Unfortunately, they are very rare and expensive too. So when my husband and I found lobsters served at a restaurant in Amorgos Island, Greece, we were very excited. Most of the restaurants in Greece display fresh fish, shellfish, and meat, which are available on that day, in front of their kitchens. At that seafood restaurant, we are also welcomed to check their seafood. Sadly, the lobsters we saw were the last ones.
“Come back tomorrow. We may get them from a fisherman,” the chef said.
We came back the next day.
“I am sorry but no lobster today.”
Later, we tried again two times, but no luck.

Unluckily, my dream to eat a lobster in Greece did not come true during this summer. However, after my husband and I finished a small project for our house, we decided to celebrate with lobsters.

Our favorite local fish market carries live lobsters from Main. The store offers a boiling for the lobsters right in front of you with spicy Cajun seasoning. We bough two big lobsters and asked to boil them. They were fantastic with flavorsome Cajun seasoning. Of course, it can be also nice to simply boil and eat them in a Mediterranean way according to the following recipe.

1 lobster
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

1. If the lobster is alive, put them head first into boiling water with a pinch of salt. Boil it for about 20 minutes.
2. Take the lobster from the boiling water. Remove the meat from the shell. Sprinkle the lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Myoga Pickles

Myoga PicklesThe other day I received a small package from my good friends in NY. I was so delighted when I opened this package filled with a lot of myoga buds and other Asian vegetables, which I hardly find in Louisiana. Especially, myoga is very rare. This is my most favorite Japanese herbal vegetable.

Myoga, or Zingiber mioga, is native to Japan and the buds are harvested these days --late summer to early fall. They smell like ginger but their flavor is very unique and totally different from ginger. The taste is distinctive -- crispy, slightly spicy and addictive. Finely chopped myoga buds can be used as garnish on top of salads, miso soup, tofu and many other Japanese dishes. Also myoga tempura is a very popular dish in Japan.

Since I received lots myoga buds and I do not want to spoil any of them, I decided to make myoga pickles. Finely chopped myoga pickles can be also used as garnish. They can be preserved up to two to three weeks in a refrigerator. However, I am sure they will be gone into my stomach before I realized.

If you ever find myoga buds, please try to make myoga pickles!

300g –500g of myoga buds

Rice vinegar mixture:
1 cup of rice vinegar
1 cup of sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon of sugar
A pinch of salt

Myoga PicklesDirections:
1. Place the rice vinegar, sake, sugar and salt in a pot. Bring to a boil. Then, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool.
2. Wash the myoga pieces very well. Boil water in a large pot. Add the myoga and boil them for 30 seconds to one minute. Drain them well.
3. Add the myoga in the rice vinegar mixture while the myoga pieces are still hot.
4. Fill the myoga along with the mixture in a jar/jars after the myoga cool down. Refrigerate over night and serve them with hot rice! They can preserved up to two to three weeks.

Sunday, September 6, 2009


TiramisuMy husband and I occasionally go for grocery shopping right after working out at a local gym. The other day we were following this routine. While I was busy selecting tomatoes from the big pile at the grocery store, my husband put some items in our cart. Later I found three pieces of tiramisu there.
“It is more calories than we have just spent in the gym! Put them back!” I yelled at him.
He disappointedly stared at the tiramisu and said, “Yeah, that’s right… “
Then, he put them back.

I felt guilty after that. We have not had any sweets after we intensively started our exercise program in order to get rid of our extra fat we have obtained during the summer. Tiramisu is my husband’s most favorite desert. It might be too tough for him not to have his favorite sweet more than a month.

Next day, we went to the gym, again. When I started running, I realized that the TV on my treadmill was on and I tuned in on the Food channel, which was showing various kinds of fabulous sweets. Perhaps someone is telling me I should give some sweet reward to my husband and also myself. Afterward, I decided to make tiramisu.

Fresh eggsLuckily, we got super fresh and organic dozens of eggs from a local farmer family; Jim and Carolyn.

There is no comparison between homemade tiramisu and tiramisu in most of the stores or restaurants. This is because they use substitutes for eggs, cheese, and coca. Homemade tiramisu is way much better if you use the real and fresh ingredients.

TiramisuUse whipped heavy cream instead of the egg whites if you like a richer taste. Note that it would be more calories, but they are worth it ;)
500g of mascarpone cheese
4 eggs at room temperature
¼ cup of sugar
40-45 of ladyfingers
1/3 cup of espresso coffee
1 teaspoon of liquor (Kahlua, rum, brandy, etc.)
3-4 tablespoons of coca powder

1. Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Place the egg yolks and the sugar in a large bowl (if the eggs are not super fresh and not organic, I recommend you to use a double boiler). Beat them well. Add the mascarpone cheese and mix them well.
2. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl and beat them well until foamy.
3. Add the whipped egg whites into the mascarpone mixture. Mix them evenly.
4. Combine the espresso coffee and the liquor in a flat pan. Dip the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture (do not soak them!). Place them in a single layer in the baking pan. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture evenly on the ladyfingers. Repeat the second layer of the dipped ladyfingers and the rest of the mascarpone mixture.
5. Reregulate this tiramisu mixture for about 8 hours. Sprinkle the coca on the top of the tiramisu before serving.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Caponata / Ratatouille (Mediterranean Simmered Summer Vegetables)

Mediterranean Simmered Summer VegetablesI was about to make briami, which is an oven-baked summer vegetable dish and a traditional Greek food. However, baking this dish in the oven takes more than one hour. This discouraged me a great deal. Therefore, I decided to cook this dish in a large pan.

This simmered vegetable dish is called Caponata and/or Ratatouille. Caponata is a traditional Sicilian and Neapolitan dish. Ratatouille is the typical South French dish from the Provençal region. Even though these two dishes have some differences, both of these Mediterranean dishes use many different kinds of summer vegetables.

This Caponata / Ratatouille dish has many benefits. First of all, you can eat many various vegetables all at once. Second, it is very easy to prepare and delicious. Third, it can be served either hot or cold! Finally, it is very-very healthy.

Some people add sugar, vinegar, wine or bacon/meat in Caponata and Ratatouille. However, I like simply cooked summer vegetables with salt and pepper. These vegetables produce plenty of juices. The flavors of basil and oregano enhance these delicious summer vegetables. Thus, no need for additional seasoning.

Ingredients (4 servings):
2 ripe tomatoes
2 zucchinis
2 Japanese eggplants (or Holland eggplants)
1 squash
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
½ teaspoon of dry oregano
3 strings of basil leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Optional: other summer vegetables!

1. Cut the eggplants into small pieces. Soak them into salty water for about 10 minutes. Then, drain them well.
2. Cut the tomatoes, zucchinis, eggplants, squash, and onion into small pieces. Cut the garlic finely. Wash the basil leaves.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large pot and fry the chopped onion and garlic. Add eggplants, squash, zucchinis and tomatoes. Add the dry oregano. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until all of the vegetables become soft.
4. Season with salt and black pepper. Before turn off the heat, add the basil leaves and cover the pot.
5. Transfer to the serving plates. Serve either hot or cold!

Monday, August 24, 2009


I had the first dim sum meal when I visited Hong Kong for the first time. It was still under British occupation. But once I entered the local dim sum restaurant, where my Hong Konger friend took me, I felt like I was in mainland China. The atmosphere was so vibrant. The waitresses passed by with carts shouting the names of the dim sum dishes they carried. All in the Chinese language. If you were shy or hesitant to stop them, you would not get any food to eat. I remember I enjoyed very much the ambiance of the restaurant along with many delicious dim sum dishes.

Dim sum is one of the traditional Chinese cuisines. It implies various kinds of steamed and fried foods. Steamed shumai is one of these dishes and my favorite dim sum dish. There are many kinds of shumai dishes available in dim sum, such as shrimp, crab, and pork shumai.

Shumai is also very popular in Japan. It regularly appears as one of side dishes in lunch and dinner tables.

My favorite shumai recipe is not the traditional Chinese dim sum. It is more like a Japanese version of homemade shumai. You can make a lot of the shumai pieces and steam them. Then, froze the pieces for later use. It can be stored in a refrigerator up to a several days.

Ingredients (For 4 servings):

Shumai filling:
1 lb ground pork
1 carrot
1 bunch of green onions
3 shitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of oyster sauce
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon of freshly ground ginger
A pinch of salt and black pepper

1 pack of shumai skins or wanton skins

Dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of rice vinegar or lemon juice
Optional: mustard

1. Cut the carrot, green onions and shitake mushrooms into very small pieces.
2. Place the ground pork in a large bowl. Add the chopped carrot, green onions, shitake mushrooms, and the rest of the ingredients for the shumai filling. Mix them well.
3. Put one teaspoon of the filling on the center of the shumai (or wanton skin) and wrap the filling.
4. Place the shumai pieces in the steamer. In order to prevent them from sticking on the steamer, I recommend you to blush oil on the bottom or place lettuce or cabbage. Steam them for about 15 minutes.
5. Transfer them to serving plates. Serve with dipping sauce with mustard!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Steamed Shrimps

Steamed ShrimpsThe other day, my husband and I went to the seafood restaurant that my friend had recommended. She said the restaurant served some good crabs and shrimps. So I trusted her recommendation.

We ordered king crabs, shrimps and some shellfish. Unfortunately, all of the dishes betrayed our expectations. They were over boiled or over steamed. I felt like I was chewing rubber bands.

Then, my husband and I decided to steam shrimps from the local seafood market. The market is well known about carrying super fresh and big shrimps from the Gulf Coast. We were so excited to get a few different kinds of fresh shrimps.

Since over boiling or over steaming was the reason of the failure of the shrimps at the restaurant, I was very careful about how long they should be steamed. So, we put the shrimps in the steamer and took them out immediately after all of them had changed their color to red. Do not use cocktail sauce but simply lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to season them. My husband, who is a native of Greece, said, “I feel like I am on a Mediterranean island” while eating the butter-like very tender and juicy shrimps.

Local Seafood Market

Local Seafood MarketIngredients:
1 lb shrimps with their heads and shells on
Lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

1. Wash the shrimps well and cut off their whiskers.
2. Steam the shrimps until their color changes to red. Do not over cook!
3. Transfer them to the serving plates. Sprinkle with lemon juice and add the olive oil.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Sweet Pork Butt Roast (Yakibuta)

To tell the truth, before I moved to Louisiana I was a horrible cook. I still recall the many times that I was feeling desperate of my cooking skills and my food.

When I was in Japan, I lived with my family. So I had hardly cooked for myself or somebody else. There was always someone who could prepare something nice for me to eat. However, after I moved to New York City and lived alone, I realized that I had to learn cooking. My family is gourmet and great cooks. So I used to the delicious and healthy homemade cooking, which made me picky of what to eat. Therefore, taking out junky food or purchasing frozen food was unacceptable. Buying fresh and healthy vegetables, meat and fishes and cooking for myself was the only option I could think of keeping myself on healthy eating habits.

Unfortunately, my very busy life in New York City (just think of “Sex and the City” to get an idea of what I mean) prevented me from spending time to learn how to cook. As a result, I had cried so many times alone about my awful food.

After I moved to Louisiana, I have more time to cook for my family, friends and myself. Their compliments and suggestions about my food encouraged me and improved my cooking skills tremendously. Actually, beyond my wildest dreams!

This sweet pork butt roast is one of the dishes I learned after I moved to Louisiana. It is very easy to prepare and delicious. I am wondering why I had never tried to cook this while I was in NYC. Maybe cooking healthy and tasty food is not that difficult or time consuming after all. It may be a matter of attitude towards how serious you are about what you eat and how to prepare.

Ingredients (for 4-5 servings):
2.5 lb pork shoulder / butt roast
1/2 cup of soy sauce
1/4 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of sake (rice wine) or white wine
1 teaspoon of freshly ground ginger
Optional: 1 clove of sliced garlic

1. Add the soy sauce, sugar, sake, oyster sauce, ginger and garlic (optional) in a large bowl. Mix them well.
2. Cut the pork butt roast half if it is a big piece. Place the meat in the bowl and marinate the meat with the mixture overnight to three days in the refrigerator (I recommend you to marinate for three days. So that the meat becomes tender and tasty).
3. Preheat the oven to 370 F degrees. Place the pork butt roast along with the mixture on the oven pan and bake it for 30 to 40 minutes until the meat is cooked.
4. Slice the meat and transfer to serving plates. Pour the sauce from the oven pan.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Rosemary

Grilled Chicken with RosemaryWhen I was a kid, eating chicken legs with bare hands was one of my ultimate pleasures. While I bit into the chicken legs I felt like I was one of the ancient wild Viking fighters. The chicken legs were simply seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled or fried. But using bare hands added a special flavor on this simply dish.

So when I found freshly harvested young chickens and hens at the local farmers’ market, I suggested grilling the whole chicken and/or hens on charcoal and eating them with bare hands like the Vikings. My husband agreed. Therefore, we purchased one chicken and two hens.

Since our rosemary tree (it is huge and no longer called just a plant!) is having a lot of new leaves, I decided to use them for seasoning the chicken. Rosemary originally came from the Mediterranean area. This plant has been variously used for medical purposes and cooking. This healthy herb is necessary in the Mediterranean cuisine.

Rosemary’s remarkable flavor matched with the wine marinated chicken and hens. The chicken and hens were incredibly tender and juicy with a marvelous charcoal aroma. My husband and I enjoy the amazing taste and also eating them with bare hands like the wild fighters, which satisfied not only my stomach but also one of my childhood fantasies.

1 whole small chicken
2 cloves of sliced garlic
¼ cup of red wine
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 tablespoon of dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice

Chickens and hens with RosemaryDirections:
1. Wash the chicken and drain well. Put it in the large oven pan or bowl.
2. Insert the sliced garlic between the chicken skin and meat.
3. Pour the red wind and olive oil over the chicken. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the 2 springs of fresh rosemary and marinate it for one hour in the room temperature.
4. Prepare the charcoal for barbecue.
5. Before grilling, insert the rosemary between the chicken skin and meat.
6. Grill the chicken until it is well done.
7. Transfer the grilled chicken to a serving plate and sprinkle them with lemon juice. Serve with French fries and salad!