Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ category

Okonomiyaki (Japanese savory cabbage pancakes)

October 20, 2019

Okonomiyaki is, in essence, just a fancy, savory cabbage pancake. In Japan it’s available in many regional variations—you’ll hear about Hiroshima okonomiyaki, Tokyo okonomiyaki, and so on. This relatively simple version should, I guess, be called Okayama okonomiyaki because that’s where my wife’s cousin lives (it’s her recipe). It is served with okonomiyaki sauce and traditionally eaten with hashi (Japanese word for chopsticks) and a small metal spatula for cutting. And, of course, white rice and a selection of oshinko (Japanese pickles)! Our approach is to put a large electric skillet on the table and cook as we go along, but you can cook in the kitchen and keep warm in the oven.

1 c low protein flour such as White Lily or cake flour (not self-rising).
1 c water
½ lb small peeled shrimp, thinly sliced pork chop, chicken breast, or a combination
3 c thinly sliced (as for coleslaw) freshest green cabbage
1 egg
½ c bean sprouts
½ c slivered scallions

Mix the flour and water, making sure there are no lumps. Beat in the egg. Mix the cabbage, sprouts, scallions, and shrimp/meat in a large bowl. Add the flour slurry and mix well.

Heat your skillet to medium-high and add some vegetable oil, just a thin layer. When the oil is hot, add the cabbage mixture in about 1 c dollops and use a large spatula to flatten each into a pancake about 3/4 inch thick. Cook until the bottom is lightly browned, then flip. Continue until cooked thru, but not mushy, and remove to a plate. Continue with the remaining cabbage mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Serve hot with the accompaniments mentioned above.


December 29, 2016

Making applesauce used to be a chore, what with all the peeling and coring. Turns out all that work is unneeded if you have a food mill, a device that uses a rotating blade to press food thru a perforated disk. And the results are better, too, because the skin adds flavor to the sauce.


You can use pretty much any apples here, although my preference is for apples on the tart side such as Granny Smith and pink lady. A mix of apples is best.

All you need do is wash the apples, remove any stickers, and cut in half. Place in a large, heavy pot with 1/2 inch of water on the bottom. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring now and then, until completely soft. Taste and add a bit of sugar if you like. Put thru the mill using a relatively fine disk – the seeds and skins stay behind. That’s it! Freezes perfectly well and can also be canned using traditional methods.

Denba Zuke (daikon pickle)

October 25, 2016

The US was not the only country to send people of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps during World War II. Canada was just as bad. In one camp, the residents, who missed their traditional tsukamono (Japanese pickles), and could not get the required ingredients to make them, came up with this delicious substitute. It is called Denba Zuke (zuke = pickle) because the camp was near the town of New Denver in British Columbia (Denba = Denver).


This is a distinctive pickle because it uses daikon radish, which while not “hot”is still definitely a radish. It is a sweet/sour pickle that goes beautifully with many Japanese, Korean, and Chinese dishes.

4 medium daikon radishes, leaves removed
white vinegar

Peel the radishes and cut into rounds 1/4 inch thick. For fatter radishes you may want to halve lengthwise and cut into half-moons.

Estimate the amount of liquid that would be required to cover the sliced radishes. Make the pickling liquid as follows:

1 part salt (e.g., 1/2 c)
1 part white vinegar (e.g., 1/2 c)
4 parts sugar (e.g. 2 c)
Ground turmeric, 1/4 tsp per cup of sugar

Combine in a bowl and stir for a few minutes. The sugar will not dissolve completely, that’s OK. Put the sliced daikon in a bowl and pour the sugar slurry over. Let sit at room temperature for 24 hours, stirring now and then. The water drawn from the radish will complete dissolving the salt and sugar. Pack pickles and juice into clean jars and keep in fridge for up to a month.

Macaroni and cheese

November 30, 2014

Forget those boxed mixes with the mystery yellow powder, and put away your Velveeta. This is real mac and cheese, a bit more work, but well worth it.

1/2 pound cavatappi (preferred) or elbow macaroni (see note below)
3 TB butter
3 TB flour
2 tsp powdered mustard (Coleman’s preferred)
2-1/2 c milk, warmed
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp paprika (preferred) or a couple of dashes of hot sauce
1 large egg
12 ounces sharp, good quality cheddar cheese, grated or diced
Salt and pepper to taste

The topping:

1c panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
2 TB butter

Cook the pasta al dente and drain. Rinse with cold water, drain again, and set aside.

In a 2 qt saucepan, melt the 3 TB butter and add the flour and mustard powder. Stir over medium heat for a few minutes until completely blended with no lumps. Do not let the flour brown. Stir in the milk, onion, paprika/hot sauce, and bay leaves. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add a healthy grinding of black pepper. Beat the egg and stir it in rapidly so that it does not set before mixed. Add 3/4 of the cheese and stir, over low heat, until it is all incorporated. Remove from heat; taste for salt and add some more if needed. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the pasta and pour into a greased casserole dish. Distribute the remaining cheese on top.

Melt the 2 TB butter and stir in the panko. Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake at 350 f for 45 minutes or until the top is starting to brown and the casserole is bubbling gently. Let cool for 10 minutes then serve.

Note: I think of cavatappi as elbow macaroni that went to finishing school. They are a bit longer, and sort of spiral in shape, and the outside is ridged, better to hold sauces and the like. De Cecco is one brand that is widely available.

Your own ketchup

July 23, 2014

Did you know that ketchup (or catsup to some) originally referred to any of a variety of table sauces made from items as diverse as mushrooms, oysters, and walnuts? It apparently originated in the far east where, in present-day Malaysia it was called kecap (pronounced kaychap). It was brought back to Europe and the American colonies by English explorers. Today, of course, ketchup pretty much always refers to a sweet/sour tomato sauce that is consumed by the lake-full on French fries, hamburgers, hot dogs, and what have you. And guess what? You do not have to limit yourself to the store-bought kind.

A lot of people give me a puzzled look when I suggest home-made ketchup – why bother when you can get perfectly good ketchup in the store? For one thing, you can make it additive free (you don’t really think that commercial ketchup is that red naturally, do you?). For another, you can tweak the recipe to get just what you want – less salty, more tartness, and so on. My version gets a subtle but delicious difference from the use of Thai fish sauce. This recipe makes about 3 cups. Can be frozen.


1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 red sweet (bell) pepper, coarsely chopped
2 TB tomato paste
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1-28 oz can whole or diced tomatoes
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/3 c cider vinegar
1/2 tsp powdered mustard
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp each powdered allspice, cinnamon, clove, bay and leaf (see note below)
1 TB Thai fish sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Note: If you lack the powdered version of any of these, tie the whole spices in cheesecloth and add to the pot. Be sure to remove before blending!

In a 2 quart saucepan, sauté the onion and pepper in a little canola or other oil over medium heat until soft – don’t let them brown. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the paste darkens a bit. Add the tomatoes with their liquid along with all other ingredients. Simmer for about an hour, stirring once in a while, until thickened. Allow to cool for half an hour and transfer to a blender. Zap until completely smooth. At this time you can sample the ketchup and adjust the taste if needed. You can also add a little water if it’s too thick or simmer for a while if too thin.


Mixed vegetable “slaw” pickle

July 5, 2013

This is a simple “refrigerator” pickle – in other words, no need to pack in jars and process in a canner. It is very flexible and can use a wide variety of vegetables that you may have on hand. It works well with veggies that are a bit past their prime, too. Cabbage, carrots, celery, cukes, jicama, red and green peppers,  onion – be creative! The batch in the photo used cabbage, carrots, red bell pepper, and Vidalia onion. This pickle has many uses, as a side dish, on sandwiches and burgers, eat with cheese and bread – very versatile.

I have seen versions of this recipe where the pickling liquid is allowed to cool before being added to the jars. That works perfectly well, but I find that adding the liquid while it is still hot gives the veggies a very slight cooking. They are still crispy, to be sure, but I prefer the texture. You can always try both ways.


About 2 quarts finely julienned mixed vegetables.
2 TB kosher salt
1/4c white sugar
1 c cider vinegar
1 c water
2 TB whole mustard seeds, yellow or black
1 TB whole black peppercorns

Put the veg in a bowl and mix with 1 TB of the salt. Let sit for half an hour or more. This wilts the veggies slightly, making the packing into jars easier. Pack firmly into pint jars to within an inch of the top – you’ll probably get about 3 pints.

Put the remaining salt and all other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and ladle into the jars while still hot. Make sure the mustard seeds and peppercorns are distributed among all jars. Use a wooden spoon or a chopstick to make sure air bubbles are not trapped in the veggies and that the liquid completely covers the contents. Screw on the lids, let cool, and pop into the fridge. They will be ready the next day and will last at least a month.

Smoked salmon, caramelized onion, and potato torte

May 14, 2013

A lovely dish for a fancy breakfast or lunch. I like to serve it with tomato slices and toasted bagels with cream cheese.

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
large pinch each salt and sugar
1 large or 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into thin half-rings (about 2c)
2 TB butter or olive oil, divided
1/2c diced smoked salmon
6 large eggs
2 TB milk or cream

In a non-stick skillet, cook the onions, salt, and sugar in 1 TB of the butter or oil over medium low heat, stirring frequently, until nicely caramelized. This will take 30-40 minutes, they will reduce in volume by more than half and turn a lovely nut brown. You can do this ahead, even a day ahead. If you have done ahead and refrigerated them, bring to room temperature before proceeding.

In a 10 inch non-stick skillet, cook the potatoes slowly in the remaining 1 TB butter or oil, turning and shaking the pan now and then, until cooked completely through and slightly browned (use a thin-bladed knife to test them). Sprinkle a little salt over, then stir in the onions and salmon and distribute the solids evenly over the bottom of the pan.

Beat the eggs with milk or cream and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the potato mixture and cook over medium-low heat until the eggs are mostly set – they will still be running in the center. Now you have 2 choices. One is to tip the pan so the uncooked eggs run out to the edges, then cover for a few minutes until they are set. The other is to run briefly under a preheated broiler.

You can serve right from the pan or invert onto a plate for a nice presentation – the bottom (now the top) should have attained a lovely brown shade.

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