24 April, 2007


It's the name of a great site with lots of recipes from Gourmet and Bon Apetit magazines. Just put "vegetarian" in the search box to come up with more than 2000 delicious-looking recipes, including one of my favourites, Mexican-style food. There's a Black Bean Chili recipe that looks great.

Second on the list was a little gem called Brown Rice Sushi Rolls from Gourmet magazine. I intend to try it asap.


22 April, 2007

Shopping in the Rain

There are the colours that run from everything along the paths of the rain;
They glamorize the little vegetable market, the Sunday market.
Washed cool, the colours bright and soft
The farmers and old citizens
huddling together behind the booths for tea
under umbrellas, greet with expectant faces
the odd customer.

There is the mist that fogs the year.
I can find omugi mochi, handmade by a sweet-faced obaachan
Kinako pickles in big plastic buckets,
red-rice manju with the freshest delicate flavour,
dipped in sesame seeds.
Small treasures from old Japan
in my bicycle basket.
And on this grey and drizzling day
a gossip of golden sunflowers
whose eyes followed me until
I picked them up.

14 April, 2007


Cumin seeds ground in the suribachi

What doesn' t cost much in Japan but can make meals memorable? What is indispensable for making spinach with sesame and all those sesame dressings for vegetables and dips? What makes Indian food, or any food using spices, sing out like an opera diva?

It's the suribachi, the cook's friend. Lighter and easier to use than a mortar and pestle and a lot less expensive, it's a little tool that I love. Together with a wooden pestle, it makes grinding sesame seeds or cumin seeds or even pounding open and grinding coriander or cardamom pods easy. It cleans up with just a wash. And the difference it will make to the taste of your food to have freshly ground spices is really noticeable.

You can find them in a lot of supermarkets, or maybe the local pot shop. You can even get them in North America at any shop that carries Chinese, Japanese or Asian foods. So if you haven't already discovered this wonderful tool and you like to cook, run out and get one. You'll be really glad you did. And for proof I offer this recipe for Soy Bean, Red Pepper and Potato Curry with Coriander and Tomatoes. I just cooked up a wok-ful for lunch, and ate it with organic genmai (brown rice), bright colour and bright flavour adding light to a grey Sunday, and good enough that you'll never miss that McBurger.

Soybean, Red Pepper and Potato Curry with Tomatoes and Coriander


1 170 g package cooked soybeans (about a 1 &1/4 - 1& 1/2 cups; I used Anew non-GMO)
4 of the long smallish potatoes (Idaho type), cut into large dice ( a cup or two)
1 large carrot (preferably organic) large julienned
3-5 cored small sweet red peppers, sliced crosswise
1 large onion, chopped ( about 150 g or 5 oz)
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
2 inches or 5 cm of fresh ginger, chopped small
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
4-6 Tb vegetable oil (4 if you're cutting down on fat)
2.5 cm (1 inch) stick of cinnamon
1/2 bottle Hikari tomato puree (about 160 g or 1 cup), or any good tomato puree
1 Hikari bottle water (or about 2 cups)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
3 Tb chopped fresh coriander or parsley ( I used Italian parsley)
Coriander in Japanese: コエンドロ koendoro, kousai, shantsai

Put the oil into a large frying pan or wok, add the teaspoon of whole cumin seeds and the cinnamon stick and let sit for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions and garlic and ginger and stir and cook until the edges of the onion turn brown. Add the cut carrots, red peppers, and potatoes and stir and cook for a few minutes just to start the vegetables softening. Add the tomato puree, ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, and cayenne, 1 cup of water, and stir. Cover with a drop lid (you can use any lid that is close to matching the pan; it doesn't matter if it fits exactly, it can rest on the vegetables inside the pan.) Let the vegetables cook in the tomato and their own juices for 10 minutes on very low heat.

Add the beans, 1 more cup of water, the salt, black pepper, fresh parsley or coriander, and stir. Simmer on low, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15-30 minutes. Do the taste test to determine when you think it's ready, but don't overcook. You want a bright flavour.

Remove the cinnamon stick and serve with the organic cooked genmai. If you don't have it, I assume it would be good with any rice that you like.

I used the suribachi only for the ground cumin and the flavour was great, but if you want you could also grind the coriander (from seeds) which would be exceedingly good. The other spices could be ground, but prepared are fine as long as they are fresh. I always use a pepper mill as I find it makes a big difference.

03 April, 2007


I can't eat bread. At least the regular kind, since I discovered I have a wheat allergy. It's probably the thing I miss the most, though I have a number of allergies, and now I'm a vegetarian too.

But I used to love bread. And I was pretty familiar with it in all its moods and guises. I baked it for many years for my family and made everything from earthy rye pumperknickle to the light and eggy bread called Challah. Crusty, whole wheat pizza crusts. French baguettes that fractured and scattered flakes when you cut them. Oatcakes, scones, baking powder biscuits, and muffins. Scandinavian flatbread flavoured with honey. Light ryes with fennel and orange peel. Cranberry and orange and Boston brown bread sweet loaves. I could go on for a long time. Like my love affair with bread, the list is endlessly variable.

So, though I can't eat bread now, like any love affair, I still have the memories. Fond memories. And in honour of my past love, I offer up one of the quickest and best recipes for toast in the world. You can even call it healthy, because the raw garlic and olive oil will attack cholesterol. And whether you eat it with the Shodoshima extra virgin olive oil, or any other good EV olive oil, I guarantee if you close your eyes you will almost be able to feel the sunshine and breezes of the land where it was born.

Get your hands on the best crusty long loaf you can. In Japan that may be from the local bakery. In that case, DO NOT LET THEM put it in a plastic bag, even if you have to grab it out of their hands, automaton retail rituals being what they are. Ask for paper, kami, or bring a cloth bag. The secret to nice bruschetta (Broos-ketta) is crisp bread. Take your precious loaf home as soon as possible and slice up a few healthy diagonal cuts, about an inch or two thick . You want the bread to toast on one side only while remaining soft-ish inside. Fire up the toaster oven or regular oven, no microwaves please. Put the slices inside and toast on one side only until they are done to your liking, but they have to be firm enough to grate the raw garlic over the surfaces.

Take the hot slices out and rub each back and forth with a grating action three of four times with a peeled clove of garlic, cut in the middle. Use the cut edge of the garlic on the toasted side of the bread and cover the surface. You can do this just as little or as much as you like to get the right degree of fiery garlic flavour for your taste. Immediately drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil of good repute. Sprinkle with the tiniest amount of salt, and if you're not a purist, you might like a little black pepper. Eat with the blackest coffee you can manage or even the greenest tea, and dream.