Archive for June, 2007

I promised myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to buy any more cookbooks before I had tried out at least some recipes from each of the books I bought recently.

Sorry for the bad picture, the light was terrible this morning (as was the weather!) and my kitchen table where I usually light my stuff unreachable because of clutter from rebuilding space for a new fridge.

Today features two recipes from a Thai cookbook: Sweet potato balls and eggplant-and-mushroom stuffed omelette.
Starting with the small container up and left: Three sweet potato balls on salad, some cherry tomato wedges as stabilizer.
Big box: Another sweet potato ball, ginger tomato dipsauce in the green cat container, half a stuffed omelette, all on a bed of rice.
Lower left: Frozen mangoes in a foil container to prevent leaks, kompeitou, candied nuts and some blue gummi candy I had left over as dessert.

I find that cooking is an enormous de-stressing exercise for myself. I had a lot to do at work recently, with a deadline to meet and Murphy’s Law striking all over the place, and have eaten out three times in the last two days, with the fourth dinner being ramen. That can’t be good! I had this huge urge to try out new recipes and have been studying cookbooks since the weekend. Finally I couldn’t take it any more and got up early and made test batches of food in the bento!

The sweet potato balls are rather simple: Finely grated and pressed out sweet potatoes, mashed green chilies, garlic and coriander. I’m not a big fan of coriander so I only added a little, but I found the taste works really well together and I should have spiced them more. The boyfriend didn’t complain, though. For myself, I’m glad of that because that means I get to try again!
The cookbook recommended a dipsauce of crushed tomatoes, grated ginger, garlic, coriander and dark soy to go with the potatoes. The same rule applies here: Never trust a Swedish cookbook to spice Asian food right! It needs to be much more potent and sweet for a good dip. Tweaking will continue.

As for the omelette, I admit that was kind of a cop-out: I know how to make omelettes! But I did like the idea and am going to try different fillings the book recommends. I used a too small pan and too much egg and mine didn’t get as thin as it should have been, it’s more of a traditional omelette than an Asian, pretty one. Also something to note for later.

The BF gets the same lunch, but unceremoniously arranged in an IKEA box:

PS: If any of my Asian readers have hints and tricks for the food posted here, please do tell me!

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Bento #84 – Starry

This week’s theme in Bentochallenge was “Stars”:

Wholewheat pasta salad with tuna, corn and jalapeños, carrot stars, a babybel cheese, tortilla star cutouts (idea from kopiikat) and some konpeitou because they also look like little stars to me.

Wholewheat pasta salad:
Cook pasta al dente and rinse cold.
In a bowl, combine dripped-off tuna from a can, sweet corn, chopped onions, finely chopped jalapeños, thick yoghurt and mayonaise (I usually have a 3:1 ratio, but do it according to your taste), salt pepper and herbs to taste. Mix in pasta and mix thoroughly. Done!
If you want to have a spread rather than a salad, use creamcheese instead of yoghurt/mayo and no pasta.

Tuna and jalapeños go together great! Why oh why didn’t I start using this sooner?
I had tuna steak with jalapeño marinade and sub sammiches with tuna/jalapeño spread before, but it never occurred to me to get a jar for home until now.

The Boyfriend gets a less cute bento without stars:

Okay, I lied. I smuggled in some tomato stars :) Will he survive the cuteness?

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Interesting post and discussion.

My take (and comment) on it:

I know where you’re coming from – I’m mostly vegetarian myself and am always looking for vegetarian options at normal restaurants.

Should non-vegetarians review vegetarian restaurants? Absolutely. But as with every food style, you need to know what to expect before going in, or you will be guaranteed to have the wrong experience. That goes for all food cultures, not just vegetarian. A reviewer who does not do this is just a bad reviewer.

Some things to consider:

  • If the restaurant doesn’t specialise in meat substitute dishes, there is no reason to look for them – just as much as a sushi bar won’t specialize in noodle dishes. There are a lot of meals that don’t need meat or a substitute to be complete!
  • In the same vein, a lot of dishes won’t follow the same pattern as meat dishes – meat, a side of carbohydrates and a side of greens. Instead, expect more pasta dishes, curry pots and mixed sampler dishes.
  • Continuing the pattern, this means you should expect a fair share of oriental dishes. If you just want a burger, this may not be the place for you.
  • To any regular meat eater, a lot of vegetarian food may seem bland the first time around. I have noticed that people who are eating vegetable-based dishes regularly for a certain time (even without giving up meat!) develop a more acute sense of taste for vegetables and other “bland” food, and an adverse reaction to the taste of glutamate (“meaty” taste). That may be a thing to consider, although lack of meat does NOT mean that the food should lack in taste, as sadly some vegetarian restaurants I have visited seem to think!

When I first tried Japanese food, I didn’t like it very much. After a while, I got used to the more delicate tastes and smells of the food, and although I still don’t agree with all of the things the Japanese cuisine has to offer, I can at least allow myself to say that I could review a Sushi restaurant, although maybe not a more advanced Japanese restaurant. I did not grow up with the kitchen, nor do I claim to understand the finer details of the Japanese food culture. Still, I have eaten at and compared several restaurants now and have formed opinions about what tastes good and what doesn’t. I don’t need to be Japanese to do that. It is probably very similar with vegetarian restaurants.

I have reviewed restaurants for their vegetarian options in the past, and reviewing vegetarian restaurants for their appeal to non-vegetarians is a good idea! The bias that vegetarian food is bland fare for crazy animal rights activists has to fall. Why can’t we all enjoy good food together?

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I can’t help it, I made my favourite soup again. I just can’t pass by a butternut squash in the supermarket and not buy it…

Butternut squash coconut cream soup, condiments (cherry tomatoes, wholewheat toast croutons, grated carrots and leek, bell peppers, thai basil leaves).

Recipe reposted from Epicurean.com :
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups soup stock
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup chopped lemongrass (can substitute lemon zest)
1/2 cup bottled fish sauce (I substituted soy sauce, to taste)
juice of 1/2 lime
sugar to taste (start with 1 tablespoon)

Heat oil in saucepan; add onion and garlic and saute until lightly browned. Add stock, squash and pepper; simmer until squash is cooked, 10-15 minutes. Add coconut milk, lemongrass, fish sauce, and sugar. Simmer (do not boil) 10-12 minutes. Puree and strain through a fine mesh strainer. Add lime juice and adjust to taste with sugar.
Four servings.

I wanted to make a rice lid from leftover sushi rice for the soup but I didn’t manage – I guess you can’t do that with soup. Instead, now I have a breakfast box with sushi-flavored onigiri, a babybel cheese and some cute little kompeitou as a snack!

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A discussion about nori substitutes made me run to the kitchen and demonstrate that eggplants (and oher things) can be used very well to roll sushi rice!

How to:
Cut an eggplant lengthwise into -very- thin slices. I made them only about 2mm thick. The slices I used for rolling were about 15cm long – if your eggplant is very big, cut slices in half. Salt the slices and lay them out on kitchen paper to draw water.
Meanwhile, cook sushi rice, flavour, etc.
Dab off the salt and water from the eggplant slices and spray them with oil (garlic oil is especially great!). Fry them on both sides in a very hot oiled pan. Dab off excess oil and let cool.
With wet hands, form small nigiri and put them on the lower (wider) end of the eggplant. Roll up. The nigiri should be big enough so the eggplant goes around just about once and a little bit. You can also spread the rice out really thinly over the whole eggplant and roll it up, but that is a bit harder (and might be a problem if the eggplant is really oily). Also, my eggplant tended to try to rip so the nigiri variant was safer.
Cut the rolls in half and stand them up on a plate. Voilà!
Sorry for the blurry picture.

Other “inside out” no-nori ideas shown here are egg (mine is tamagoyaki today though, but on principle omelette works too), and of course my personal favourite, inari pouches.

If you don’t like eggplant, I think that zucchini treated the same way as the eggplant would be great too!

The eggplant was a great success here – I was fiddling around with my camera before starting to eat, arranging sushi and taking pictures. Then I looked up again, ready to start munching.
“Hey! Where has all the eggplant sushi gone?”
The BF looks up, his mouth full. “They are so good!”
…Can’t be angry at that, now can I?


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Jumbled and mixed together Spanish-ish food, in no particular order:

  • Mini Spanish potato omelette wedges
  • Grilled prawns on spits
  • Feta-stuffed olives
  • Balsamico glazed roasted mushrooms
  • Grilled green asparagus
  • Raw yellow bell paper and grape tomato quarters
  • Aioli and salsa (both storebought, sadly! Homemade tastes so much better :( )
  • Grilled potato wedges (hidden under the aioli)
  • Salad leaf and spring onions as deco

*gasps for air* I think that was all now.

And a gratuituous second picture because I thought it looked spiffy:


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Copout or not, he still made me smile when I picked the box up in the evening to warm my bento during an overtime shift.

This was a superspeedy bento for my records. Leftover spaghetti quickly mixed with red pesto and tomato concentrate (I have a microwave at work so I don’t need to cook in the morning! Yay!), a Totoro face from mozarella and basil cutouts, and a quick caprese from the rest of the mozarella and some cherry tomatoes. Not shown is a fishie bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the caprese.

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The recipe for today is courtesy of my mom. You rock, mom.

Top: Potato latkes on salad, bear container with ketchup (latkes are pretty much the only thinkg I WILL order ketchup with), tsatsiki and a cherry tomato/basil deco.
Bottom: More fritters on peas, salad and frozen strawberries.

Latkes or as I know them “Kartoffelpuffer” are one of those “poor man’s steak” foods you find all over the world. This is my mom’s family recipe for them, which is really easy:
Peel raw potatoes, grate them and press out the liquid. Mix with egg, flour, chopped onion, parsley salt and pepper to taste. Heat neutral oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan thinly, it’s sadly not too healthy) and drip spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan, flatten them out really thinly with a ladle and flip them once you can see the edges become slightly brown from the top.

I prefer ketchup with them but they also go well with tsatsiki, applesauce or cranberry preserve, and some places in Germany even serve them with sugar and cinnamon!

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I admit it – I don’t like Tofu very much.
Neither (or possibly even less) do I like any vegetarian “meat” replacement product I have tasted to date – soyburgers? No, thanks. It’s… okay. I can eat it. But it has no specific taste, no texture, and seriously – I don’t miss meat. I don’t need anything to replace it because I didn’t like it that much to begin with. My diet is not incomplete if I can’t have the feeling of biting into a hotdog or a steak once in a while.

So what is a girl to do when barbecue time comes up and everyone else is being served burgers?

Why, make her own burger replacements, of course!

In the picture: Glazed champignon hats on mini-baguettes with tsatsiki and cherry tomatoes.
I bought a bunch of champignons, selecting those with very large hats. Don’t wash them – rub them off with a brush or a damp towel, but don’t wet them! I cut each hat in half horizontally and removed the stem (it will fall out if you cut it exactly in the middle anyway.
Then I marinated all the mushroom cutlets I got by spraying them with olive oil (I love my oil spray for reducing the amount of fat I use!) and rolling them in french herbs, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. While they marinated, I heated the grill and made my tsatsiki.

There won’t be a recipe for the tsatsiki. I find that instead of being adventurous, doing it the way your family has always done it is usually the right way. I do love the thick greek yoghurt you get here, though – it makes a really lovely tsatsiki!

After putting the marinated mushrooms on the grill, I let them brown a little on both sides. During that, I poured a splash of balsamico vinegar in the bowl they had marinated in and mixed it with the spices and garlic that had remained in there and some more salt. When the mushrooms were heated on both sides, I brushed them with balsamico marinade and grilled them until they were nice and glazed – it tastes delicious! Very sweet and tasty.

Since the budget variant already tasted so nice, I wonder how portobello or oyster mushrooms will taste with the same method? I shall try next time.

Eggplants and zucchini cutlets marinated the same way also taste delicious. And I already posted my recipe for couscous burgers…

I found a recipe for a red bean burger patty as well, but I’m skeptic… might be nice, but then the McDo bean burger always struck me as a bit boring… maybe I’ll try another day.

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There was a challenge on my bento community, and the theme was Sci-Fi TV shows. I love Sci-fi, so I had to participate – and not once, but three times even!

I was so impressed by the bento of Leiji Matsumoto’s character Queen Emeraldas posted on JList that I set out to do a Queen Millennia from the series of the same name after all. This was my BF’s bento today (well, the photoworthy part of it).

Face done with sushi rice colored with a tiny drop of gochujang; Hair from omelette; Body is a riceball with Nori, the deco is red bell pepper, nori and cucumbers.

Avocado, cucumber and egg sashimi surrounding some sushi rice with an inari cutout.
Cat container with wasabi and leek mayo, hollow tomato with miso ball. Not shown: Soy bottle, prepacked miso condiments

…and if you can’t recognize this one, you have lived under a rock in the 80es. Hint: why does the cat have a sweatdrop?

Saffron&seafood risotto with peas and spring onion deco; more seafood; Parmesan in the bowl; candy.

Character(s) from Doctor Who, of course. Not too happy with how the Dalek came out, I had trouble shaping the riceball the way I wanted.

I also have the feeling I’m more suited for the pretty arranging of interesting components than for the riceball sculpting. Just too practically minded!

Oh, and I seem to be nearing a 100 (posted) bentos! That’s not counting some boxes I was not proud of and breakfast posts.
Wonder what I’ll make for the big 100?

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