26 March 2009

shokutaku tsukemono ki

I finally buckled down and bought myself a shokutaku tsukemono ki, a tabletop pickle press (I had been waiting to come across one that wasn't plastic, but that doesn't seem likely to happen).

It's quiet small, with a "capacity" of 2.2L, but I'm guessing that in reality it'll be about half that size. I have Ikuko Hisamatsu's Quick and Easy Tsukemono which covers eveything from lightly marinated cooked vegatables to rice bran — or nuka — pickles. (Nukamiso-zuke should probably be made in a non-plastic container; I've made them in a Burley crock, traditionally they're made in wooden barrels that breathe more). The size will be perfect for small batches of things; the screw helps pull more moisture out of the vegetables to speed fermentation.

I also think that the rectangular will be great for whole carrots, burdock strips, daikon, asparagus and other long vegetables (and I have multiple round crocks anyway). Here's to a spring of new and exciting pickles!

Lastly, anyone know if this warning is something to be heeded? (Click to enlarge).

25 March 2009

Gyuniku no Misozuke

Maybe I'm anæmic, maybe having red meat last night just had me craving more. Same project as last night: various vegetables in the fridge; went and bought a cut of meat. This time, a strip steak that looked to have lots of juicy fat (it was melt-in-your-mouth good, actually).

Instead of turning to Julia Child, I went to Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. I marinated the trimmed steak in miso, sake and mirin (the steak protectively wrapped in cheesecloth, an interesting method). The fat I trimmed was rendered for a fried brown rice with onions, garlic and Japanese scallions (Shimbo called for shiso, which I grew last year and is otherwise impossible to find out here. Moreover, there were scallions in the vegetable bin). The steak was seared, sliced and served with a reduction of the marinade and a dash more of sake (Shimbo called for brandy, of which I have none).

That I served with Shimbo's a cold stir-fried carrot and burdock and my pickled asparagus.
  • The steak was incredible. Even though it was only marinated for three hours, it had a wonderful aroma of miso and some sweetness from the mirin; it was just seared and rosy pink inside. Delicious.
  • The fried rice was perfect. It was strong (from the beef fat) and could hold its own against the steak. The Japanese scallions, added at the end, livened it up.
  • Pickled asparagus was a sharp contrast to the sweet of the miso and the fat of the steak and rice. And they are perfectly intact and flavorful, fermented ten (!) months ago.
  • And then the burdock and carrot: both vegetables regained all of their crunch after cooling. The earthiness of the burdock and the sweetness of the carrot were a perfect match for the pickles and meat, something-in between the two.
This is excessively verbose. But it was that good.

24 March 2009

a(n anti-) celebration

Once there was a time. And I posted this. I had made the decision to become a baker. And I took it very seriously, reading Calvel, Hamelman, Kaplan; I made more bread at home, I came to have intuitive understanding of bread.

And then, this winter, I've had more respiratory illnesses and flus than I can remember in a winter. Allergies? But I can eat wheat. Allergy to yeast? Then I'd never be able to eat anything fermented. Yesterday I was preliminary diagnosed with "Baker's Asthma," wherein I have asthma somehow triggered by all the fine particulate that I inahale on a daily basis (even with a mask for the last few months). And all that comes with an inhaler that "may increase the risk of asthma-related death."


So I needed something (and have been craving red meat, maybe I don't eat enough kale?), and I needed to recognize the comfort of knowing — after months — what is wrong, and I need comfort in knowing that I need a major change in my life.

And there she is — Julia Child — waiting to comfort me.

Biftek sauté au beurre — Pommes Anna — Champignons sauté à la Bordelaise — Chou frisé à la vapeur

First, these beech mushrooms need to be noted. Them come white, as picture, or this beautiful mottled brown. And are just wonderful.

So, pan-broiled steak : a sirloin seared in butter (with some of the rendered fat I cut off), mushrooms sautéed and tossed with scallions, garlic, breadcrumbs and wine (so 1960, but really f—ing good), Pommes Anna, and kale, steamed and tossed with some raw red wine vinegar. Even better, I had everything except the steak (a mere 8oz) and wine (a great Syrah-Grenache for seven bucks).

And next? (anyone want to foot the capital for pickle bar?)


This is why miso age is counted in summers: at 6 months — a winter — it doesn't look like much. I re-packed it and I'll re-check it on it's first birthday (my 28th, this was started on my 27th). This miso is mostly soy, and some brown rice. It has a nice aroma, but a mild flavor.

21 March 2009


I made one of the most satisfying (and surprisingly simple) breakfasts in a long time today.

I made a simple miso soup (dashi, tamari, miso, julienned carrots) and ate that with Japanese white rice, nattō, and a steamed egg (and tea, of course, being that smallest bowl).

So I was steaming the rice... which, this being the first time I've tried that, I must say is ridicuously good. I took Sho-Chiku-Bai sweet rice, soaked it for 20 minutes, placed it in a bowl in a steamer with an equal volume of water and steamed it for 20 minutes. It came out perfect. And then my nattō needed something. So I greased a small bowl with sesame oil and steamed the egg, beaten, for maybe 6-8 minutes. It was stirred three or four times during that period. And it was moist, creamy and the ultimate topping for rice mixed with nattō (or at least on par with a raw quail egg).