Monthly Archives: December 2011

Cookie Exchange

Although my friends and I all seem to be pretty adamant about making very specific Thanksgiving dishes, I’m much more flexible about my Christmas meal as long as it’s good. Last year, my friend from Wakayama visited me, and we made a small Christmas dinner at my place: stuffed chicken breast, canned chunky cranberry sauce (can’t get fresh cranberries in Ishikawa), and mulled wine. This year, my husband and I said to hell with Christmas dinner and took a short trip to Kansai for the long weekend. We didn’t manage to get our hands on Christmas cake or KFC (mercifully?) and we didn’t budget in or bring appropriate transport for a whole bird, even though we found some. Instead, we celebrated with microbrews at Minoh Brewery, oden, and pork buns.

The one thing that is absolutely necessary for me to have around Christmas is cookies. Continue reading

Spiced Persimmon Cake

桃栗三年柿八年 (momo kuri sannen kaki hachinen): it takes time to reap the fruit of one’s actions

(lit. [It takes] three years for [planted] peach and chestnut trees, eight for persimmons [to bear fruit]) (ことわざ学習室

In late autumn and early winter (mid-Nov. to New Year), Omicho Market is awash in reds and oranges: strawberries, crabs, mikan, and persimmons. Before I moved to Japan, I had never seen a persimmon, though they seem to be available in California.  There are two main varieties available in Japan: non-astringent (amagaki, 甘柿) and astringent (shibugaki, 渋柿). Fuyu (富有), the tomato-shaped variety, are a variety of sweet persimmon; they are dull orange, firm, and ready to eat when they are sold. The human-heart-shaped Hachiya (蜂屋), on the other hand, is very astringent until the skin turns reddish and the insides turn to jelly.*

Seedless persimmon, possibly 紀ノ川柿 variety (Kinokawa)

I tend to eat Fuyu persimmons plain, but I was inspired by The Food Librarian‘s “Fuyu Persimmon Bundt” to try something new.  I used a sweet seedless variety  (hiratanenashi, 平種無) with a cinnamon-colored flesh in one batch and a seeded variety with orange flesh in another. Both work equally well, though the color of the cake will vary based on the fruit. (Remove the seeds, of course, if applicable.) My coworkers compared this cake to a Western-style Christmas cake, combining sweet fresh and dried fruits with nuts and spices. I think I know what I’m making instead of Stollen for Christmas this year!

My alterations: The night before I made the first round of this cake, I was out of butter, so I swapped in yogurt 1:1 by volume. Also, I think the natural sweetness of the persimmons more than makes up for the comparative lack of sugar in my version. This is also a half-size recipe to accommodate for the size of Japanese oven-ranges. For parties, I sometimes make a double batch in two cake pans and layer them, but that means that I have to cook them one at a time in the moven.

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Homemade Thanksgiving

The spread. We made the mashed kabocha, mashed potatoes, and the turkey (not pictured in this photo).

Despite my oft-mentioned love of turkey, I had actually never cooked one until this year. In between being a super serious high-school student buried in a stack of books during the holidays and being a super-serious undergrad/grad student visiting from out of state, still buried in a stack of books and often rushing to get back home in time for holiday meals, I somehow seemed to have missed participating in the time-honored ritual of roasting a whole bird. This year marked my third consecutive Thanksgiving missed because I live in Japan, so rather than cry over my twitter feed of satisfied turkey-eaters in the US, I decided that my upgraded oven range was going to good use this year: we would host Thanksgiving, and, moreover, we would cook the turkey.

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