Category Archives: Quick Dishes

Fresh Mango Salsa

A nice bright salsa to end the summer (never mind it’s been over for a month). This recipe is very simple, and I love the way the flavors and textures work together.

Easy Mango Salsa @ I'll Make It Myself

I like to serve this with homemade tortillas (or rice or quinoa), avocados, and roasted kabocha tossed with cumin and cayenne.

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Curried Cauliflower with Tuna

I used to refer to cauliflower as “broccoli’s sad cousin.” Years of veggie trays at family functions taught me that dip does not make raw cauliflower taste good. A month of a “let’s try new vegetables” experiment in high school taught me that no amount of cheese will make me touch boiled cauliflower. (Seriously. There are some things even cheese can’t fix.)

At some point last year, everyone on the Internet seemed to having a foodgasm about using mashed cauliflower as an alternative to mashed potatoes, and as I was snarking away*, my husband revealed that he likes cauliflower.

Whoa whoa whoa. Back up there.

“Are you serious?” I asked.

Of course he was. And then he challenged me to try it again.

Curried Cauliflower and Tuna, I'll Make It Myself!

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Whole-Wheat Ginger-Squash Muffins with Chocolate Chips

One last(?) squash purée recipe for the season!

I live in a country where the only cold cereals available at regular grocery stores (Tokyo Metro, you don’t count) are frosted flakes and cocoa puffs.*  As a result, I’ve learned to make a variety of breakfast foods. I’m actually not sure how I only ended up with one muffin recipe on the blog onsidering the frequency with which we eat them at home. Muffins are the ideal food for the Japanese kitchen: their size means they cook through easily, unlike some quick breads; silicone muffin cups are easy to find; and the infinite variations you can make means you can adapt them to whatever flours (including gluten-free), milk, or seasonal fruit you can find in your area. Plus, they’re just fun to eat.

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Cornbread (Bread Revolution Series)

Are you guys sick of kabocha and kabocha purée yet? I never am*, but let’s change it up a bit today.

My first encounter with a vegetarian cookbook of any sort was my dad’s copy of Anna Thomas‘s The Vegetarian Epicure, a memento of a few months in the ’70s when he dabbled in meatless cooking. I have no recollection of my dad (or my mom) ever using VE for anything but the cornbread recipe that we brought with us to every Thanksgiving dinner. I find vintage (sorry, parents) cookbooks really fascinating from a social-history standpoint, so perhaps I’ll peruse the book again when I’m home next.

 

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Baba Ghanoush (Roasted Eggplant and Sesame Spread)

All systems are go on the new hosting! Or they seem to be–let me know if there are any links or pages that don’t load properly.

I’ve covered bread here, so let’s move on to sandwich fillings, specifically pita. Hummus or falafel seem like obvious choices and are very easy to make at home if you can get the ingredients. In Ishikawa, chickpeas are mostly relegated to the import stores (and are expensive), and my first blender was a cheap plastic thing that did not like anything with a consistency harder than melted butter. Hummus, therefore, was not a food I could make consistently while living out in the country.

Fortunately, I discovered baba ghanoush after yet another incident where I had too many eggplants. This magical food solves all of the making-hummus-in-Japan problems. This eggplant-based spread uses no chickpeas, which means no special trips to the import store; eggplants are plentiful and cheap; and the soft consistency of the vegetable base means you won’t murder your blender. Instead of tahini, which is also import-store-only, we’re going to use white nerigoma, Japanese sesame paste. Tahini is a paste made of roasted sesame seeds; nerigoma is paste made with sesame seeds that haven’t been roasted, so to get a smokier flavor, we’re going to add cumin.

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Spaghetti-Squash Okonomiyaki

While on my squash spree last month, I picked up a spaghetti squash, which has a great name in Japanese, too: soumen kabocha (そうめんかぼちゃ), like soumen noodles, or kinshiuri (金糸瓜), “golden thread squash.” This was my first time cooking this type of squash, and I had no idea what to do with it. First, I tried eating it like spaghetti and made a tomato sauce for it. It wasn’t bad, just unimpressive, though my husband thought it was some sort of Italian-seasoned coleslaw (I don’t even) for the lentil burgers I had also made.

His mistake, while tasty, didn’t solve my problem for what to do with the rest of the squash. My searches of all the blogs, cookbooks, and cooking sites I use didn’t turn up much in the way of other recipes that I felt like eating and I didn’t have the time to hit or budget the store for more ingredients. Maybe I’d use it in a “leftovers” food like stir-fry, or–great idea #1–okonomiyaki. Without any cabbage, which I rarely have in stock, I hit on great idea #2: forget the cabbage, the squash would be the vegetable base.

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How to Bake Cookies in the Oven Range and Mini Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies Recipe

Food homesickness is the plague of not just expats but those who move from region to region– for example, Homesick Texan is a food blog about recreating Texan/TexMex cuisine in New York. The way the author writes about food memories and the problems recreating beloved foods when you can’t always find ingredients really resonates with me as a foodie and expat.

Last week, one of my friends from language school who has also moved to Japan for work commented that he would kill for a decent oatmeal raisin cookie. Oatmeal is nowhere near as popular as it is in the US, Canada, or the UK, and therefore not on the cookie-ingredient radar. Although you can buy a variety of shelf-stable boxed cookies from domestic and international brands, supermarket bakeries and independent or chain bakeries, usually the source of store-bought oatmeal raisin cookies back home, don’t usually make their own in-house cookies here, either. Cakes and tarts are far more popular as a Western-style dessert.

As for home baking, if you consider the Japanese home kitchen, you’ll see why cookies are considered to have high technical difficulty here. A cake can be poured into a rice-cooker or a pan and generally cooked all at once, but cookies tend to be baked in batches. While a full-size oven can accommodate large cookie sheets, baking about 24 cookies at a time, an oven range, which is about the size of a microwave, can usually only take 6-9 at once, and that’s if they don’t expand.

Luckily for the cookie-lovers of Japan, I’ve spent several years working on cookie recipes that actually work in the oven range. You can adapt many recipes from back home by using these general tips for successful cookie baking in Japan:

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Korinky Squash Chijimi

When I mentioned eating all that squash, you didn’t think I’d leave you hanging, did you?

Korinky (konrinkî, コリンキー) is a strange little squash. I bought it without recognizing the name, since many orange squashes are more or less interchangeable, and to my horror, I found no information on it in English other than this page, but apparently these round or football-shaped brindled beauties can be eaten raw! It’s not bad–reminds me of a cross between a fuyu persimmon (color and texture) and a squash. I had no idea what to do with it, so I turned to facebook and Cookpad before settling on this recipe, which I tweaked to suit my palate.

Image from blog.hokkaido.np-co.jp

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Overnight Cold-Brewed Coffee

Like the glasses?

Now that we’ve got our summer breakfast situation sorted with overnight oats, let’s move on to that other temperature-challenged staple of breakfast: coffee.

I know that hot drinks can help you cool down, but when the mere thought of pouring boiling water from my electric kettle to my French press makes me break out in a sweat, it’s time to go setsuden on my love of coffee, too. Now, I could just pop over to the conbini to get a can or bottle of cold coffee, but then I would be creating more recycling waste–plus, I take my coffee with milk and no sugar, which isn’t so popular with canned coffee. (My theory is that the added sugar covers up the taste. Bleh.) I could take my travel mug and go to Starbucks or Doutor on my way to work to solve the environmental waste and sugar issues, but then I’m out at least 350 yen for a drink when I could pay about 400-500 yen for a 100 grams of coffee beans that will produce at least 2 weeks of coffee for two.

Instead, we brew cold coffee at home starting in mid-summer. Continue reading

Hot Weather, Cool Kitchen: Overnight Oats

There are two import foods I can’t live without: peanut butter and oats.

Let’s talk about oats–I’ll get to the peanut butter later. Sometimes I buy Quaker Oats in bulk from online import stores; sometimes I buy Alishan or Alara jumbo organic oats at Diamond in Omicho Market; sometimes I get Nisshoku oatmeal from the regular supermarket, though I prefer bigger oats. At any rate, there’s a constant supply of oatmeal in my kitchen, which keeps my cereal-obsessed American self quite happy, especially in the dead of the Hokuriku winter when the morning oatmeal warms the kitchen and dining room.

But what about in summer?

Overnight Oats with banana, cherries, and sliced almonds.

That’s where overnight oats come in! It’s like making cold cereal — requires no heat and barely any effort, just 5 minutes before you go to bed!

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