Friday, February 19, 2010

Oishii: The Basics

Have you ever had this secret desire to have your own cooking show?

A couple years ago we rented a house that had cable and I got hooked on a couple of food network shows, like the Barefoot Contessa and Rachel Ray. I love that intimate feeling like you're in the kitchen with someone learning their secrets and making fabulous, nourishing food. And, as an actress and limelight lover, I couldn't help but wish I could try my hand at hosting my own cooking show.

I got my chance last night when I taught a Japanese cooking class for the ladies at church. I was more nervous that I expected and I learned that it is harder than you might imagine, but it was a grand time! I decided to focus on the basics and prepare a simple, traditional meal: rice, miso soup, broiled salmon and boiled kabocha squash. This was pretty much our breakfast every single morning last September.

The hardest part was not having my own kitchen to work with. I didn't have a suitable knife and there was no stove in the church "kitchen", so I was using an electric cooktop that took about one hour to get a pot of water to boil. But the ten ladies that attended were so supportive and patient and genuinely interested, so ultimately it wasn't a problem.

It's a meal that can be prepared in 30 minutes (with all the right tools!). And it truly is super simple to make.  Here's how it goes:
Gohan (Rice)
The staple of a traditional Japanese meal, rice forms the base for almost every dish. Look for short grain Japanese or sushi rice. Plan on approximately ½ cup uncooked rice per serving, but for best results you should use no less than 2 cups uncooked rice.
2 cups uncooked short grain rice
Rinse rice with cold water until it water runs clear. Place in pot or rice cooker. Add measured water (generally 1 ¼ cup for every cup of rice, but it depends on the brand so check the bag for instructions). Let the rice soak in the water for 30-60 minutes. If using the stove-top method, cover the pan with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to very low and simmer for ~20 minutes. Remove from heat and let it steam for ~10 minutes before opening the lid. Gently stir rice with a cutting motion and serve.
Ideas for leftover rice:
gohan (rice) soup
fried rice
onigiri (rice balls)
mango sticky rice

Miso Soup
Miso soup is a common accompaniment to Japanese rice and it is amazingly versatile and tasty. You can add almost anything to it.
Basic Ingredients
1/4 cup dried wakame (a type of seaweed)
2-3 tablespoons miso (fermented-soybean paste)
4 cups Dashi (see following recipe to make your own from scratch)
½ block silken tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallion greens
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with dashi seasoning. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer and stir in miso until dissolved (don’t let miso boil because it can destroy the active enzymes that make it so healthy!). Gently stir in tofu and wakame and any other vegetables you desire (Japanese radish, potatoes, spinach, rice and egg, etc.) Simmer 1 minute and remove from heat. Sprinkle with scallion greens and serve immediately.

Most dashi bouillion you purchase at the store has MSG. If you prefer to make your own, here’s how to do it.
4x4 inch strip of kombu (type of seaweed)
4 ½ cups cold water
4 cups large bonito flakes
Bring water and kombu to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once water is boiling, remove kombu and add the bonito flakes. Turn off heat and allow the bonito to steep for 2 minutes. Strain broth to remove bonito flakes.
Broth can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
You can re-use the kombu and bonito a second time for a somewhat weaker broth.

Broiled Salmon
The Japanese also consume a lot of fish, and not just the raw kind! Salmon is particularly popular and this is how my grandmother always prepared it for us.
2-3 salmon filets or steaks (6-8 ounces each), skin on
After washing and patting dry the salmon, rub a liberal amount of salt into the flesh. Place fish skin-side down on broiling tray or cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. Broil on high for ~10 minutes or until the top of fish begins to brown and bubble lightly. Turn off heat and cover salmon with foil, but leave fish in the oven for ~10 minutes or until cooked to desired doneness.

Boiled Kabocha
Kabocha is a Japanese pumpkin with an intense, sweet, moist flesh and is lovely in so many different recipes. Try it in tempura, soups, roasted, sautéed, etc. This is a super-simple and tasty way to eat it.
2 cups kabocha chopped into 1-inch chuncks (skin on is okay!)
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
Place kabocha in medium-sized saucepan, completely cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add soy sauce and sugar (to taste). Reduce heat to simmer and cook until kabocha is soft. Drain liquid and serve.

1 comment:

MaurLo said...

Yahoo! Glad that even though I had to miss I get the details here!