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Sushi at Home (with the kids)

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One of our favorite ways of entertaining before having kids was to serve “make your own” sushi or temaki sushi (hand rolls). It’s simple to prepare and feels special to have fresh sushi presented beautifully at your own table. Our guests could fill the rolls with what they want and it’s much more affordable than dining out in NYC. I won’t take any credit for this idea as it was ushered into my life by my husband who grew up with this tradition at home. The shopping, the prep, assembly and presentation is all done by him. While I like to cook I keep this sacred as “his” thing. (I don’t mind being “served” a meal either!)

During an attempt to plan a birthday gathering for my mother-in-law we realized that most sushi establishments worth going to didn’t open until dinner, and the idea to entertain sushi at home resurfaced! Not to mention, two members of the party are under five years old, and trying to enjoy dining out with those two would be a delusion.

The fun part about do-it-yourself temaki sushi is that everyone gets to choose how they want their rolls. It’s exciting for the kids too as they get to try all kinds of different fish, flavors and even vegetables. My eldest who is four years old loved the octopus. What to serve is up to you but we have our staples which I share below.

The freshest fish that we could get here near Oakland is at Tokyo Fish Market, a solid little Japanese grocery store in Berkeley. This is where the fish and most ingredients were bought and then sliced at home.

**Overall there is some prep work in slicing the fish and vegetables. The sushi rice flavored with rice vinegar and sugar will likely need the most lead time. It’s worth trying as a simple and elegant way to celebrate a special day or just entertaining friends and family at home.

Here’s a great primer with more detail on hosting your own temaki sushi party.

And here’s what we served for the birthday party. Again you can customize with whatever it is you want to serve!

  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Octopus
  • Yellowtail
  • Squid
  • Salmon Roe

Ingredients for temaki sushi assembly:

  • Nori
  • Sushi rice (flavored with rice vinegar and sugar)
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi
  • Cucumber
  • Shiso leaf
  • Tamagoyaki
  • Daikon Sprouts
  • Kimchi on the side (as seen in picture) – customize to your liking. It’s your party!

Enjoy!

 

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EATING IN KOREA

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We recently came back from a quick 9 day trip to Korea to visit my dad’s side of the family. There are lots of facets to look back on this memorable trip but it was an interesting experience seeing the country and its food culture through the eyes of my Japanese-American husband and two American children.

I’ve visited Korea before and grew up in an immigrant household where we mostly ate Korean food so culture shock was not expected, but traveling as a mom of two kids was definitely a far cry from my last visit as a care-free college student. With my companions (hubby, a toddler and preschooler) in tow, here are some of my observations about eating in Korea.

+ Abundance is a word that comes to mind when thinking about eating in Korea. There’s an abundance of what’s on the table – a stimulating sensorial array of small side dishes (banchan), bubbling stews, pungent pickled things. You can also expect to eat in abundance and not ever feel like you will miss a meal because there’s a restaurant on every corner. You will also have food coming at you from your host or whoever you are dining with. It’s a cultural thing to show your hospitality and love through food and offering it whether they want it or not is not the issue. My husband has already been hazed in this tradition by my parents and extended family. To put it bluntly, Koreans are generally food pushers. Don’t take offense, if someone plops food on your plate, whether you asked for it or not.

“A meal is not complete for a Korean, without soup or Kimchi,” – My aunt

+ Kid seating.  High chairs were a rare commodity. Unless you’re specifically at a family friendly restaurant, or at a theme park for kids (e.g. Lotte World), don’t expect to find any high-chairs or boosters for your kids. In most restaurants we found that there is a section for Western style tables and chairs, or in the more traditional setting of sitting on the floor with a low table. We ended up in the traditional setting most of the time. My kids spend a lot of time on the floor anyway so they didn’t seem to have minded this too much. What they did mind was taking their shoes on and off every time we had a meal ate these restaurants.

With the lack of high chairs we had to rely on lots of distractions to keep them from roaming around since they weren’t strapped down. Thank goodness for Pororo cartoons! (if you don’t know who this cartoon character is, your kids will be indoctrinated as a Pororo fan as soon as you board the plane via the branded kids plane meals and his presence all over Korea!)

+ Kid Food. There’s no special kids menu. And I kind of love this. The expectation is that the kids eat what the adults are eating. Because of the abundance of variety and omni-presence of rice there is always something that kids can eat and turn into a meal. My kids got by like this without having to resort to mac & cheese or chicken nuggets (not that we had the option!).

+ Breakfast. In Korea there’s no specific food you eat during “breakfast” like here in the states. The younger generation in Korea likely adopts a simple western style breakfast but at least within my extended family – they seemed to stick to the same traditional morning meal which is anything you would eat for lunch or dinner! But typically breakfast is comprised of soup and rice with some banchan. I’m fascinated by what people eat for breakfast around the word, there’s so much variety. Have you seen the NYT Magazine piece (from a few years go) on what kids around the world eat for breakfast?

Before we embarked on this trip, I had anxiety around how my kids would adapt to the new country, the language barrier and Korean food 24/7 but I was proud and relieved to see how  adaptable and resilient they were to their new surroundings.

It was also nice to have the astute and blunt observations of a 4 year old. My son exclaimed “that’s a weird breakfast!” at 8am in front of a table set with a steaming fish casserole with banchan around it. We were definitely not having blueberry pancakes that morning.

Perhaps my kids are still too young to have any sort of culture shock, since they’re still getting grounded in their own reality. Through this quick international trip, I hope the sights, the smells, and tastes of Korea are woven into their sense of heritage and family roots.

LEMON VERBENA TISANE

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When we first moved to the bay area, Chez Panisse was absolutely one of the restaurants on our bucket list. As the restaurant that started the ripple effects of how we are eating today – seasonal, high-quality and local ingredients I was excited to make my pilgrimage.

Booked months in advance we finally made it for our sixth wedding anniversary. Of course the entire meal was just amazing. I had the single best salad of my life there – and I really do believe it was because every salad leaf and each ingredient in that dressing was of upmost quality and the best it could be. I just can’t even put it into words. But this post isn’t really about the perfection of every course and how satisfying each portion of it was.  It’s about a small little detail after all the plates had been served.

I pleasantly discovered the tisanewhich was given to us after our meal.  A tisane is an herbal infusion, an herbal tea if you will, and the one served at Chez Panisse was made with lemon verbena. And there are many beautiful variations of infusions you can make.

The lemon verbena tisane piqued my interest with its refreshing and clean flavor that seemed to be so simple to make. I decided to try making one at home and it was so easy and a wonderful way to recall our anniversary dinner.

A simple “recipe” from the Kitchn for lemon verbena tisane below.

  • Pick 1-2 handfuls of lemon verbena or lemon balm leaves. You can include the stems, too.
  • Place them in a teapot.
  • Heat water to nearly boiling. Boiling water will oversteep and cook the delicate leaves and give a grassy taste. The water should be the same temperature as you would use for French press coffee, or for green tea.
  • Let steep for several minutes before drinking, but leave the herbs in.
  • Pour into tea cups and enjoy!

And here are some great ideas to add more complexity and play around with other flavors.

 

 

 

ROAST CHICKEN AND PRESERVED LEMONS

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Preserved lemons have been on my radar for a while and I had a feeling I would love it. I first tried it at a friend’s house who brought out a jar to accompany our Indian take out dinner. And as I suspected, I loved its salty, lemony-umami blast of flavor on the warming spicy Indian flavors.

Tonight as I was contemplating dinner, I opened my fridge and was greeted by the whole chicken and the jar of preserved lemons that I snatched up when I spotted them at Whole Foods. And lightbulb, lemons are a classic ingredient in a roast chicken so why not the preserved kind?

Roast chicken is usually a meal reserved for weekends but I was motivated and eager to try the combination. Plus, I wasn’t sure this bird was going to last another day. Surprisingly making roast chicken on a Tuesday night is really not that bad in terms of the prep work,  the important ingredient of time is what might make it a bit intimating for a week night. So, while my kids ‘Netflix and chilled’, I got started. No time to lose before the kids unleash their hanger on me.

I went to my ultimate go-to Thomas Keller’s roasted chicken over vegetable recipe from Ad Hoc at Home Have you tried it? It’s the best for crispy salty skin and juicy meat. It has never failed me. Then I looked up simple recipes using preserved lemon.

Roast chicken is something that can be personalized and the combinations are endless. So feel free to tweak this with spices and flavors that you like. I added some cumin and used vegetables that I already had on hand in the kitchen – which did not include rutabagas, fresh thyme, or leeks like the classic recipe called for! But no worry it turned out amazing!

Notes:

  • I like to make bone broth after making roast chicken. But in reality that next step of doing more work in the kitchen after cooking dinner doesn’t always happen. My new strategy to actually get it done, is to take out the slow cooker before I start cooking so that it’s ready to go. I put the carcass into the slow cooker after removing all the meat and fill with water so that its level with the carcass.  Adding some apple cider vinegar helps to draw out the good nutrients.
  • Pureed preserved lemon is a really great condiment to have around. I cut the lemons into quarters, removed the seeds and threw them (flesh and rind) into my Vitamix to make a puree. I put some puree out on the table as a condiment with the roast chicken for extra oomph.
  • I’d love to try making preserved lemon one day. Here’s some inspiration and 2 ways to go about it.

Recipe after the jump.

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HEARTY VEGETARIAN CHILI

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I’ve been looking for a good vegetarian chili recipe for a while. When I say good, I mean healthy, flavorful and filling without missing the meat. I found a few that called for interesting and non-traditional ingredients like lentils and quinoa – all darlings of healthy eating and a good source of protein! So I decided to give it a go for a Meatless Monday family meal.

I think its imperative to serve with some good bread. And by good bread, I mean the best bread you can find. Around here, Acme bread reins and I can find it at my local Safeway too.

And of course serve with a side of more veggies – it’s Meatless Monday, go all out! I made a 2 ingredients salad. Roasted Golden Beets and Kale with a simple apple cider vinaigrette.

A couple of notes.

  • I love heat, but my kids can’t take too much yet so I added half a jar more tomato sauce to tone it down. After I realized the chili was too spicy for my 4 year old’s taste, I asked the google how to reduce spiciness. So adjust the spices to your liking.
  • Sky’s the limit on variations of this. Some ideas I’d like to try spotted on the internet include: squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, kidney beans, chick peas, etc. Just load it up with the good stuff!
  • And ditto for the toppings. I went California style and added avocados (the lemon tops in the picture above were to keep them from browning) and cilantro, chopped onions and some shredded cheddar cheese for the kiddos.
  • Chili is a mom’s best friend. Makes great leftovers and is freezable. #momwin

Here’s the recipe adapted from TasteLoveandNourish.com

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LINKS FOR THE WEEKEND

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Photo Credit: Curiousnut.com

Hope you had a nice short week and enjoy the weekend coming up.  I promised my four year old we would make pizza tonight so I  stocked up at Trader Joe’s who makes it so easy with their pre-made pizza dough. Toppings requested are pepperoni, mushrooms and cheese. Classic.

Have you ever wondered why prices for produce in Chinatown is so low? I’ve always been baffled by this and questioned its quality from time to time but this article
helps explain.

We just got a charcoal grill and my second thought (after Galbi – Korean BBQ) was Yakitori (Japanese BBQ).

Do you own a rice cooker? Do you cook other things in it? I’ve seen my mom steam dumplings but that’s about it. Apparently you can do a lot more according to this cookbook that’s on my wishlist. 

There’s a farmer’s market happening everyday in the bay area. One of the reasons why I love it here.   Here’s a schedule if you’re in town.

And while this blog is really an escape and creative outlet for me, I have to acknowledge this week’s tragic headlines. This post from one of my favorite food blogs is right on.