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.