Thursday, July 24, 2014

Trip to Dominican Republic (Day 1 and 2)...Sick Days

View from our room in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Jason and I started our summer vacation. This year, our destination is Dominican Republic. It's our first time to visit there and we are very excited about it. We have been to Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico past years, so we decided to change a bit and picked this country.

From LA, we flew to Washington DC for a connecting flight, and it was about 3 hours from DC. It's quite far away! I caught a cold a few days earlier, so I was under the weather during the travel. But, I tried my best to just beat it.

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We finally got to Punta Cana of Dominican Republic. Our private pick-up took us to our resort from the airport. The weather was gorgeous. We checked in and got to our room. Our room was so gorgeous! We got a ocean front room with a huge balcony with a large jacuzzi, overlooking the ocean. It's going to be our home for the next 8 days.

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We were admiring the view from our room.

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Beautiful white sand beach and aqua blue ocean. When we got back to our room after a short walk on the beach, there was a cute surprise from the concierge waiting.

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The next day, we had Dominican style breakfast, with grilled eggs, sausage, bacon, and mashed green plantain. It was very good. I was still not recovering from sickness, so after breakfast, I spent most of the day in the balcony just resting and also writing for the donabe cookbook. Jason had some activities in the ocean and got a lot of tan already. For dinner, I was feeling a little better, so we had a nice Dominican-style dinner by the beach, finished with rum coffee (flambé at table). I hope I can beat the cold quickly and enjoy the ocean soon.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Donabe Beach Party in Sonoma

As a final big photoshoot for our upcoming DONABE Cookbook (scheduled to be published in Fall 2015 by Ten Speed Press), we had a donabe beach party in Sonoma, California. I flew into San Francisco and first went to Healdsburg in Sonoma to meet Kyle (my hard-core co-author) and his wife Katina. I stayed at their home for the first night.

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This time, the photoshoot was going to be for all Kyle's recipes, as we finished shooting all my recipes in LA in April. Kyle and Katina planned the whole beach dinner, so I was so excited to be part of it. On the arrival night, Kyle made a test version of his black cod dish, cooked in Tagine-style donabe, "Fukkura-san". Potatoes, black cod, and leeks were steam-fried in the donabe and finished with nori and walnut pesto. It was so delicious. The photo above is a beautiful family of Kyle, Katina, and their younger daughter, Ava. Chloe (the older daughter) is now in collage and lives with her roommates near school. They have my my great friends for over a decade!

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The next day was the big shooting day. In the morning, they drove to a Sonoma Coast to harvest seaweed to use for the dinner. It was too early for me to wake up, so I waited home. Some of the dinner guests joined the harvest and came back home with a lot of nori seaweed to dry under the sun. It took less than half day for them to dry, and the freshly dried nori tasted so nice.

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We drove all the way to the venue of the dinner event. It was about more than 1.5-hour drive to the northern part of Sonoma Coast (the area is called Jenner). They rented a private beach house right in front of the ocean. The view was stunning! We were going to stay a night in this beautiful property.

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The rest of the dinner guests came later, and the party began. The guests were all Kyle and Katina's friends, and they are some of the most talented chefs/ culinary people in the US. So, even though they were invited as guests, they just naturally started to help setting up the dinner. That was so cool.

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Photographer Eric and his assistant Alison. Great team!

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As the dinner was getting ready, our excitement was getting bigger.

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We sat at the table and the dinner service started. Tagine donabe steam-fried cod, crispy potato, leeks and spinach came out fabulous with the nori walnut pesto.

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Donabe-smoked hairloom tomato salad, Donabe-steamed soymilk and cork custard with uni, Donabe sous-vide rib of beef with buddha's hand fruit kosho.

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Sonoma seafood miso kimch hot pot, topped with the nori harvested in the morning. The hot pot was, of course, finished with "shime" course of donabe rice soupy porridge ("ojiya"). We also had wonderful donabe-baked olive oil cake with peach compote, but it was too dark and I couldn't get a good photo...! But, don't worry, it's going to be in the book and you will want to make it.

It was such a magical donabe dinner. Kyle's donabe dishes were all so incredible! He brought the donabe cooking to a whole another level of California chef style cuisine. Everybody enjoyed this dream donabe beach dinner. Thank you so much, Kyle and Katina.

Happy donabe life.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Donabe Recipes...Summer Vegetables Curry with Turmeric Rice

I'm on fire doing donabe cooking with all the summer vegetables.
And, of course, my appetite for tomato curry grows even bigger especially in the summer time. This dish can be made with very similar ingredients as making ratatouille. The big difference is the spice. Just like my ratatouille, vegetables can be sun-dried beforehand. But, in this recipe, I simply salted eggplant and zucchini to take some moisture out before cooking. Cherry tomatoes and kabocha are cooked separately in the oven. They can be directly added to donabe without pre-cooked, but these extra steps make the dish taste much nicer. Kabocha tastes sweeter and its texture is much better aftert it's roasted.

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Here's my summer vegetable curry recipe. The dish is completely vegan, and extremely satisfying. I use shio-koji to season the dish, so this brings up the umami flavors in this dish. My husband loves it so much he says he can finish the whole donabe-ful of it himself. My soup & stew donabe, "Miso-shiru Nabe", stays so busy during the summertime.

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The curry is served with my donabe turmeric rice, which was made in double-lid donabe rice cooker, "Kamdo-san". This time, I used just water, instead of vegetable stock, and added some mochi-mugi (sweet barley) to brown rice. It was so nice with the curry.

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Vegetable curry and turmeric rice, both were made in donabe. It's so hard to stop eating.

Tomato-flavored Summer Vegetable Curry
(for large-size "Miso-shiru Nabe")

Ingredients (4 servings)

5 oz (150 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
1/6 medium kabocha squash, shave off thin layer of skin, and cut into large bite-size pieces
3 medium Japanese eggplants, cut into oblique
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2" (1 cm) thick disks
olive oil
1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, grated
1 knob ginger, grated (about 1/2 tablespoon)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4" (2 cm) square
2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder (make sure it's very high quality)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 bay leaves
8 oz (240 ml) crushed tomato from a jar/ can
1 cup (240 ml) vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons shio-koji (can be substitued with 1 teaspoon sea salt)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Pre-heat the oven at 350F (180C) degrees. In a sheet pan, toss the halved cherry tomatoes in some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in one layer. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Turn up the oven to 450F (230C) degrees. In another sheet pan, toss the kabocha in some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread in one layer. Roast in the oven until it's just tender (15 - 20 minutes). Set aside.
  3. Put the eggplants and zucchini in colanders separately and sprinkle some salt and leave to let them sweat for 15 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a pan and sauté the eggplants over medium to medium-high heat until golden brown. Transfer the eggplants to a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess grease. Set aside.
  5. Wipe off the grease from the pan and heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté the zucchini over medium-high heat until golden brown. Transfer the eggplants to a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess grease. Set aside.
  6. In "Miso-shiru Nabe", heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the onions for 20-25 minutes until the onions are lightly browned.
  7. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, and bell pepper. Sauté until the bell pepper is softer (2-3 minutes). Add the curry powder, and cayenne. Continue to sauté for a minute or so until the mixture becomes fragrant.
  8. Add the bay leaves, tomato sauce, and vegetable stock. Turn up the heat to medium-high. As soon as the mixture (curry) starts almost boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the garam masala and shio-koji, and ground some black pepper. Adjust the seasoning with some salt, if necessary.
  9. Add the rest of the vegetables, and stir. Bring back to simmer and turn off the heat. Serve with donabe turmeric rice or plain rice.
Happy donabe life.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Donabe Shio-koji Ratatouille with Sun-dried Vegetables

Here's another tomato-flavor dish with donabe!
My heart is so geared up for all the summer flavors. Ratatouille is one of the simple summer dishes I enjoy both making and eating so much. Jason loves my ratatouille so much that he says he can eat a whole donabe full of it himself.

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There are few points for the wonderful result in my donabe ratatouille. First, I sun-dry the vegetables for a few hours to half day. I'm not necessarily drying the vegetables, but I let them "sun-bathe" until they shrink a little and just the outside is dry when touched but inside is still moist. This process will make the dish less watery and flavors richer in umami. Also, the texture will be much better (less mushy), too. Also, instead of cooking everything in one pot, I pan-fry the eggplant and zucchini separately in a sauté pan until the surface is golden brown, before assembling with the other ingredients in donabe. This process helps preventing ingredients from collapsing, and makes the texture better, too.

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Once all the vegetables are in a donabe, add the crushed tomato, shio-koji (or salt is okay), and the remaining ingredients. Then, simmer for 15 minutes or so.

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The delicious ratatouille is ready. Shio-koji seasons the dish with rich round flavor. It's an excellent donabe dish.

Shio-koji Ratatouille
(for medium-size classic-syle donabe)

Ingredients: 4 servings

4 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3" (8 mm) thick disks
6 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/3" (8 mm) thick disks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
1 orange bell pepper, cut into bite-size pieces
5 oz (150 g) shimeji mushrooms
6 oz (180 g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 medium onion, minced
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) crushed tomato (in a jar or can)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons shio-koji or 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Place the cut zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and shimeji mushrooms in baskets, and let them sun-dry until they are slightly shrank and dry on the surface (a few hours to half day). Rinse and pat dry. Cut off the bottom of the shimeji mushrooms and pull apart by hand.
  2. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven at 350F (180F) degrees. In a sheet pan, toss the cherry tomatoes with a small amount of olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  3. In a sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and cook the zucchini until both sides are lightly browned over medium-high heat (about 1-2 minutes each side). Transfer to a bowl. In the same sauté pan, heat 3 -4 tablespoons olive oil and cook the eggplant the same way as zucchini. Add more olive oil, if necessary. Transfer the eggplant into the same bowl as the zucchini. Set aside.
  4. In a donabe, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté the onion and fennel seeds over moderate heat until the onion is very soft (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté for a couple more minutes. Add the bell peppers and shimeji mushrooms, and sauté until the bell peppers are soft (3-4 minutes).
  5. Add the crushed tomatoes, shio-koji, zucchini, and eggplant and set over medium-high heat. As soon as the sauce starts boiling, turn down the heat to simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add a good pinch of black pepper. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if necessary. Add the cherry tomatoes and gently stir. Turn off the heat and let it rest for a few hours. For even better flavor, transfer the content to a different bowl and let it rest overnight in refrigerator.
  7. When it's ready to serve, Add the basil and stir gently. Drizzle more olive oil. Serve cold or at a room temperature.
You can also see the recipe in toiro kitchen's website.
Happy donabe life.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Year's First Hollywood Bowl Bento

Hollywood Bowl season is here. This year's first show for us was Janelle Monae. Our dear friends, Asami & Steve invited us to join them in their box seats.

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So, I made obento (boxed meal) for us! I made total 8 dishes, including onigiri (rice balls). But, I forgot to take any photo of my donabe rice onigiri. It was mixed with seasoned bonito flakes, shiitake, and kombu. I love making obento in the summer season, as these seasonal ingredients are so colorful and gorgeous.

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The top tear of the bento box included donabe ratatouille (the recipe will be introduced in the next posting). Roasted chicken tender, romanesco, and baby bell pepper in soy based marinade, dashimaki-tamago (rolled dashi filled omelet), and thinly-sliced burdock root, carrot, with hijiki in creamy sesame sauce.

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The bottom tear was roasted Saikyo miso marinated salmon, haricot vert & walnuts in black sesame sauce, and hatcho-miso kabocha.

And, here's the recipe for my burdock root, carrot & hijiki salad in creamy sesame sauce.

Salad of Burdock Root, Carrot, & Hijiki in Creamy Sesame Sauce


(for the creamy sesame sauce - enough amount to use for a few times)
1/3 cup (80 ml) white sesame paste or tahini
2 1/2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons usukuchi shoyu (light color soy sauce)
2 tablespoons or more kewpie mayonnaise
2 tablespoons grape seed oil

6 oz (180 g) burdock root
4 oz (120 g) carrot
1/2 oz (15 g) hijiki, rehydrated
scant 1/2 teaspoon kombucha (dry kelp powder), optional
shichimi togarashi

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sesame sauce. Set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the burdock root and carrot by using a slicer. Further cut them into very thin juliennes by a knife.
  3. Boil water in a pot, and add the burdock root. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the carrot and continue to cook for 1 more minute. Drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry.
  4. Boil water again and cook hijiki over medium heat for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. Pat dry.
  5. In a large bowl, combine the burdock, carrot, and hijiki. Toss in the kombucha (dry kelp powder). Add just enough amount of the sesame sauce and mix well. Transfer into a serving bowl and sprinkle some shichimi togarashi.
*The remaining sesame sauce can keep in refrigerator for several days. You can use it for different kinds of salads.

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The show was so much fun! It was the final evening for Asami and Steve in LA before moving to Nagoya, Japan for a few years (because of Steve's job). So, I became sentimental at the end. Thank you so much, and good luck to you both, A&S!! I miss you already.