Russian Borscht Soup

Russian Borscht Soup with Toasted Bread

Russian Borscht Soup with Fresh Dill, Diced Hard-Boiled Egg, and Toasted Bread

Though it’s technically spring, it’s still quite cold here in Chicago and in much of the Northeast, which has kept me cooking all kinds of delicious soups. Last week, I made a Portuguese kale soup with chorizo, a creamy Thai coconut curry, and this robust Russian borscht soup.

Borscht is a very vegetable-heavy soup that features beets, cabbage, onion, carrot, and garlic. This combination results in a very earthy, sweet, and tangy soup. Some versions of borscht are completely vegetarian, while others incorporate beef, pork, or chicken. I like to add a little meat to borscht because I think it provides a nice textural contrast, but it’s great without it, so omit it if you prefer.

Here’s a process for creating your own chicken broth and cooking the meat (if you choose to add it): first, poach the chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt, whole black peppercorns, several cloves of smashed garlic, fresh herbs, and carrot and onion peels (left over from prep work). Then, strain that liquid into a bowl and reserve it for the borscht broth, supplementing it with additional chicken broth as needed. Finally, shred and chop the chicken, then wait to add it until the borscht is a few minutes from completion.

Russian Borscht Soup with Toppings

Russian Borscht Soup with Toppings

Beets are the star ingredient in Russian borscht. They give the soup its distinctive red color and lend a savory earthiness. And remember that beet juice stains (don’t find out the hard way)! Make sure to take appropriate precautions.

I serve my Russian borscht soup with toasted bread, fresh dill, sour cream, and diced hard-boiled eggs. I hope you enjoy this humble, vegetable-laden soup!

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Russian Borscht Soup Recipe

Serves 8
Meal type Soup
Region Russian
Website Adapted from Cooking Melangery
Cook Russian borscht soup at home with this delicious recipe! The beets are the star ingredient in borscht and give the soup its distinctive rich red color.

Ingredients

  • 3 beets, peeled and grated (about 5 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 head of cabbage (about 8 cups)

Optional

  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded and chopped
  • hard-boiled eggs, diced
  • fresh dill (for serving)
  • toasted bread
  • sour cream (for serving)

Directions

Step 1
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven and sauté the onion and garlic over a low heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beets, carrot, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, salt, paprika, pepper and three cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Step 2
Add the rest of the stock to the beet mixture and bring to a boil. Add the cabbage and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Then add the cooked chicken, if using. Adjust the seasonings and cook for a few more minutes. Ladle the borscht into bowls and serve with fresh dill, diced egg, sour cream and toasted bread.

Korean Roasted Barley Tea

Roasted Barley Tea

Korean Roasted Barley Tea and Buddha Board

I love drinking tea, especially during the long winter months. There’s something comforting about sipping hot tea on a cold day–it has a calming effect that forces me to slow down and appreciate life. I usually drink black tea in the morning to energize me for the day ahead, but when I have a bit more time, I like to sit down with my Buddha Board–a painting surface upon which you can paint temporarily with water–and a cup of roasted barley tea.

Korean Roasted Barley Tea

 Roasted Barley Tea and Barley Tea Painting

Paintings on Buddha Boards aren’t meant for permanence (they fade as the water dries), which makes photographing the image tricky. As you can see, parts of the painting are already starting to fade mere seconds after its completion.

So what is roasted barley tea? It’s a drink made by boiling and steeping roasted barley. It’s not a “tea” in the technical sense (i.e., it’s not made from actual tea leaves), but it stands in as a non-caffeinated alternative to traditional teas. It can be served hot, at room temperature, or chilled, and it’s very popular in Korea and Japan. In Korea it goes by the name boricha, and the Japanese call it mugicha.

Making Roasted Barley Tea

Making Roasted Barley Tea

Roasted barley tea is amber colored and has a robust nutty flavor with a hint of sweetness. You can add honey or sugar to further sweeten it, but I typically drink it straight. I think it’s something of an acquired taste, especially if you’re used to more floral or sweet herbal teas. But once you’re accustomed to the mellow toastiness of the tea, you’ll want to make it again and again.

Roasted Barley Grains, Barley Tea, and Teapot

Roasted Barley Grains, Barley Tea, and Teapot

You can buy roasted barley at most Asian grocery stores or online. Alternatively, you can buy pearl barley and roast it yourself. I haven’t tried this alternative method yet, but I might soon just for fun. I hope you enjoy sipping some delicious roasted barley tea!

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Korean Roasted Barley Tea Recipe

Serves yields 2 liters
Meal type Beverage
Region Asian
This roasted barley tea recipe is made by boiling roasted barley and then letting the barley steep in the hot liquid. It's a non-caffeinated alternative to traditional teas.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup roasted barley
  • 2 liters water

Optional

  • honey or sugar (to taste)

Directions

Step 1
Place barley and water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat and steep the barley in the hot water for 10 minutes. Strain the barley tea into a heat proof container. Add sugar or honey to taste, if using. Serve hot, chilled, or at room temperature.

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins

I always like to start the weekend off with a nice breakfast. There’s something quite satisfying about having a leisurely breakfast, in which you can really appreciate the food. This weekend I made banana mocha chocolate chip muffins, and they were wonderful.

I got the recipe from The Cheese Board: Collective Works, which is an amazing cookbook featuring recipes from The Cheese Board–a much-loved pizzeria, bakery, and cheese shop in Berkeley, California. While I haven’t visited the physical store, I have recreated many of their famous baked goods at home with the help of this cookbook. I highly recommend it for those who like to bake and love the smell of fresh bread!

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins The Cheese Board Collective Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins and The Cheese Board: Collective Works Cookbook

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins  Image

Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins Close-Up

Now let’s talk about these muffins. They’re similar to a really moist, delicious banana bread–with the added bonus of chocolate and coffee! While the coffee flavor isn’t prominent, it does help accentuate the chocolate.

When making these muffins, you should use ripe bananas, as for banana bread. You should also use strong coffee (I used espresso, for example); this will noticeably intensify the chocolate. Also, start brewing your coffee before you get to baking–it needs to cool before use, and you don’t want it holding you up!

I hope you enjoy baking these banana chocolate chip muffins as much as I did! If you’re looking for other breakfast ideas, check out this hearty protein-heavy breakfast or this elegant bagel spread.

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Banana Mocha Chocolate Chip Muffins Recipe

Serves Makes 12 muffins
Meal type Breakfast
Region American
From book Slightly adapted from The Cheese Board: Collective Works
These banana mocha chocolate chip muffins are similar to a really moist, delicious banana bread--with the added bonus of chocolate and coffee!

Ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee (cooled)
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (cut into 1-inch cubes)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter or spray the top and cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
Step 2
In a medium bowl, combine the egg, egg yolk, bananas, vanilla extract, coffee and sour cream. Whisk until blended.
Step 3
Sift the flour, baking soda, and baking powder together into the bowl of a standing mixer or large bowl.
Step 4
If using a stand mixer, add the salt and sugar to the dry ingredients and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until combined. Add the butter and cut it in on low speed for about 4 minutes, or until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a few rotations of the paddle, gently combine, taking care not to overmix the batter.
Step 5
If making by hand, add the salt and sugar to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Add the butter and cut it in with a pastry cutter or 2 dinner knives until it is the size of small peas. Mix in the chocolate chips. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. With a few strokes of the spoon, gently combine, taking care not to overmix the batter.
Step 6
With an ice cream scoop or large soup spoon, fill the prepared muffin cups until the batter just peaks over the top of the pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown, firm, and springy. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Unmold the muffins onto a wire rack to cool.

Wazazu Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV

Wazazu Restaurant Las Vegas, NV

Wazazu Restaurant – Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas attracts top culinary talent from around the world and hosts show-stopping restaurants with sinfully delicious food, global flavors, and creative flair. Dining out in Vegas can be a surreal experience. From elaborate décor to unforgettable dishes, the city has a no-holds-barred policy when it comes to entertainment and food. There’s really no place quite like it!

Wazazu Crystal Dragon

A 27-Foot Crystal Dragon inside Wazazu Restaurant

Wazazu restaurant is located at Encore on the Vegas Strip. The décor is bold and impressive. Gold and red dominate the entrance, which is accented with dark wood, large golden pears, and red lanterns. The open interior features white tufted furniture and a 27-foot-long crystal dragon that curves along the back wall. The shimmering dragon is comprised of over 90,000 Swarovski crystals and is a true treasure to behold! When it comes to glitz and glamour, Wazazu doesn’t disappoint.

But how’s the food?

Cha Siu Bao (Steamed Barbecued Pork Buns)

Cha Siu Bao (Steamed Barbecued Pork Buns)

For me, the most important aspect of any restaurant—beside cleanliness and food sanitation—is obviously the food. I’d choose a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with superb food over a gorgeous restaurant with mediocre food. But with Wazazu you get the best of both worlds—an opulent atmosphere and great food!

Wazazu is a Pan-Asian restaurant offering Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Korean dishes. Their menu is quite extensive and they offer a large variety of foods, from sushi to dim sum. We started off with Thai iced tea, followed by cha siu bao. The barbequed pork buns had a soft, pillowy exterior with a sweet and savory pork filling, as they should. These didn’t last long!

Wazazu Drunken Noodles with Beef

 Drunken Noodles with Beef

After hearing that the drunken noodles at Wazazu were featured on the Food Network’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate With Chopsticks” episode, I knew that I had to try them. We opted for the beef drunken noodles, but they also offer chicken, shrimp, and vegan. While they weren’t the best thing I ever ate with chopsticks, they were pretty darn good. The noodles really absorb the spicy-sweet sauce well, and the Thai basil provides a subtle anise flavor.

Salt and Pepper Prawns

Salt-and-Pepper Prawns

Ever since going to Raku (my absolute favorite Vegas restaurant so far), Corey and I have been on the lookout for crispy fried shrimp—ones that are barely battered but very crispy and served whole, with the skin on. We have yet to find similar ones in the time since; the closest we’ve come to those surprisingly delightful shrimp is this recipe for salt-and-pepper shrimp.

So we ordered the salt-and-pepper prawns at Wazazu still hoping to for crispy shrimp. Alas, these shrimp did not compare to those at Raku. If you’re looking for amazing crispy shrimp, head to Raku instead.

Overall, we enjoyed dining here and would like to explore some of their other menu items in the future. Wazazu is a fun dining destination on the Las Vegas Strip, boasting a swank atmosphere and delectable Pan-Asian cuisine. If you’re in Vegas, check out Wazazu.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in Las Vegas? Let me know in the comments.

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Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables with Steamed Rice

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables with Steamed Rice

I’ve been cooking a lot of Japanese food lately, inspired by our recent trip to Mitsuwa marketplace. I love shopping there because I always discover something new and it allows me to expand my culinary repertoire. Plus, it’s home to one of the tastiest ramen bars in Chicago.

Groceries from Our Recent Trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace

Groceries from Our Recent Trip to Mitsuwa Marketplace

Last week, I created this refreshing sashimi salad featuring fresh ingredients from the sea. This week, I focused on a very different style of Japanese cooking, what I consider Japanese comfort food. Japanese sweet-simmered vegetables is a hearty, filling dish and the delicious sweet-and-salty broth is perfect during the cold winter months. When paired with steamed rice, you have a perfectly satisfying meal.

A Note on the Ingredients

Dried Shiitake MushroomsDried Shiitake Mushrooms

Dried Shiitake Mushrooms:  Shiitake mushrooms that have been dehydrated. They need to be rehydrated before cooking. Shiitake mushrooms have large caps and long, thin stems. The stems are typically not consumed as they’re tough. Shiitake mushrooms have a slightly sweet, earthy taste.

Dry Shiitake Mushrooms Rehydrating in Bowl of Water How to Rehydrate Dried Shiitake Mushrooms: Place mushrooms in a bowl of water. Weight them down with a plate (I used a glass pie plate) to keep them submerged. Let them soak for 40-to-60 minutes, then flip the mushrooms over and soak for an additional 40-to-60 minutes.

Dry Shiitake Mushrooms Rehydrating in Bowl of Water

Burdock Root, Devil’s Tongue Jelly, and Lotus RootClockwise Top Right: Burdock Root, Devil’s Tongue Jelly, and Lotus Root

Devil’s Tongue Jelly (Konnyaku): Is a gelatinous mixture made from the devil’s tongue plant. It’s often sold in rectangular blocks. It’s gray with black flecks.  It’s prized in Japan for having very few calories, almost none; the majority of devil’s tongue jelly is made up of water. However, the texture makes you feel full. Devil’s tongue jelly has virtually no taste on its own, but will absorb whatever flavors it is cooked in.

Canned Bamboo Shoots

Canned Bamboo Shoots

A Close Up of the Canned Bamboo Shoots, Quartered

A Close Up of the Canned Bamboo Shoots, Quartered

Bamboo Shoots: Are made from the new shoots of bamboo. They are tender and have a delicate flavor. The easily absorb the flavors they are cooked in. They have a great texture due to their ribbed interior.

Lotus Root, Burdock Root, Carrots, Bamboo shoots, and Devil’s Tongue Jelly

Clockwise from top left: Lotus Root, Burdock Root, Carrots, Bamboo shoots, and Devil’s Tongue Jelly

Lotus Root: is the root of a lotus plant. The exterior is tannish brown. When the skin is removed, the vegetable is pale white. There are holes throughout the length of the interior of the lotus root. These holes give the vegetable a pretty pattern when sliced. The vegetable is crunchy and fibrous. The taste is very similar to a water chestnut.

Carrots

Chopped Burdock Root

Chopped Burdock Root

Burdock Root (Gobo): is a root vegetable that is long and slender with brown skin. It can grow up to 3 feet in length. It can be used to make tea, stir fried, or boiled. It has a bitter taste when raw. A lot of the flavor is in the skin, so don’t discard it; just make sure to scrub before using, as it can be quite dirty.

Sugar

Mirin: is a sweet cooking wine commonly used in Japanese cuisine.

Dried Bonito Flakes

Dried Bonito Flakes

Dried Kelp (kombu)Dried Kelp (kombu)

Dashi: a stock made from bonito flakes (made from dried, smoked Slipjack tuna) and dried kombu. It is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is the base for many soups, simmered dishes, and ramen.  If you’ve ever had Miso soup, you’ve had dashi.

How to make Kombu-Bonito Dashi:

Ingredients:

  • 5 inch kombu
  • 2 cups shaved bonito flakes
  • 6 cups water
  1. Wipe kombu with a damp towel (do not remove the flavorful white powder; only remove the sand).
  2. In a Dutch oven, add the water and the kombu. Raise heat to high. When tiny bubbles form remove the kombu. You want to remove the kombu just before it reaches a boil, otherwise it will release an odor.

    Bonito Flakes Steeping in Kombu WaterBonito Flakes Steeping in Kombu Water

  3. When boiling, add bonito flakes. Remove from heat and let the bonito flakes sink, steep for 2 minutes.Draining the Dashi Using a Fine Mesh Cheesecloth

    Draining the Dashi Using a Fine Mesh Cheesecloth

  4. Strain the stock through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Gently press liquid through. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth as the dashi will become cloudy if you do.

Soy Sauce or Reduced-Sodium Soy Sauce

Snow Peas (optional)

You can buy these ingredients in Asian grocery stores, and some of them can be found in your local grocery store in the ethnic food aisle. The vegetables will be sold in the refrigerated section; all the other ingredients will be located with dried goods.

The Vegetables Simmering in a Sweet-Dashi Broth

The Vegetables Simmering in a Sweet-Dashi Broth

This Japanese sweet-simmered vegetable dish is sweet, hearty, and packed full of nutrients. It’s a great introductory dish to Asian vegetables and Japanese cooking techniques. It’s worth making the trip to an Asian grocery store or Japanese market!

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables with Steamed Rice

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Kombu-Bonito Dashi

Serves yields 6 cups
Region Japanese
From book Slightly Adapted from Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners
Kombu-bonito dashi is a stock made from bonito flakes (made from dried, smoked Slipjack tuna) and dried kelp (kombu). It is an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine and is the base for many soups, simmered dishes, and ramen. If you ever had Miso soup, you’ve had dashi.

Ingredients

  • 5 inch kombu
  • 2 cups shaved bonito flakes
  • 6 cups water

Note

You can buy the ingredients to make dashi in Asian grocery stores. The ingredients will be located in the dried goods section.

Directions

Step 1
Dried Kelp (kombu)
Wipe kombu with a damp towel (do not remove the flavorful white powder; only remove the sand).
Step 2
In a Dutch oven, add the water and the kombu. Raise heat to high. When tiny bubbles form, remove the kombu. You want to remove the kombu just before it reaches a boil, otherwise it will release an odor.
Step 3
Bonito Flakes Steeping in Kombu Water
When boiling, add bonito flakes. Remove from heat and let the bonito flakes sink; steep for 2 minutes.
Step 4
Draining the Dashi Using a Fine Mesh Cheesecloth
Strain the stock through a cheesecloth or fine mesh sieve. Gently press liquid through. Do not squeeze the cheesecloth, as the dashi will become cloudy if you do.

Japanese Sweet-Simmered Vegetables

Serves 5
Meal type Main Dish, Soup
Misc Serve Hot
Region Japanese
From book Adapted from Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners
Japanese sweet-simmered vegetables is a hearty, filling dish and the delicious sweet-and-salty broth is perfect during the cold winter months. When paired with steamed rice, you have a perfectly satisfying meal.

Ingredients

  • 1 devil's tongue jelly (konnyaku) (cut into 10 squares)
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 1 burdock root (cut into two inch pieces, skin on)
  • 10 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 can bamboo shoots (quartered)
  • 1 piece lotus root (peeled and sliced into 1/3 inch half circles)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mirin
  • 5 cups dashi
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (or reduced sodium soy sauce)

Optional

  • 15 snow peas, steamed (for garnish)

Note

* You can buy these ingredients in Asian grocery stores, and some of them can be found in your local grocery store in the ethnic food aisle. The vegetables will be sold in the refrigerated section; all the other ingredients will be located with dried goods.

* The shiitake mushrooms need to rehydrated. Please note that this takes 80 to 120 minutes.

Directions

Rehydrating the dried shiitake mushrooms
Step 1
Dry Shiitake Mushrooms Rehydrating in Bowl of Water
Place mushrooms in a bowl of water. Weight them down with a plate (I used a glass pie plate) to keep them submerged. Let them soak for 40- to-60 minutes, then flip them over and soak for an additional 40-to-60 minutes. Drain. Remove the shiitake stems and set aside.
Step 2
Place the devil's tongue jelly into a Dutch oven and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, cook for 5 minutes. Rinse in cold water.
Step 3
In a large Dutch oven, add the burdock root first; followed by the devil's tongue jelly, shiitake mushrooms, carrot, lotus root, and bamboo shoots last. This order is important as the heavy pieces are placed on the bottom; the flavor enhancers are in the middle, and the delicate ingredients are on the top.
Step 4
Add the sugar and mirin (the sugar softens the ingredients; the mirin prevents the vegetables from disintegrating), then dashi to cover. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface. Cover loosely with a lid or with wet rice paper. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30-40 minutes.
Step 5
The Vegetables Simmering in a Sweet-Dashi Broth
Add the soy sauce and simmer 10-15 minutes more.
Step 6
Dish into individual bowls and garnish with the snow peas, if using. Serve with steamed rice for a full meal.

Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu sauce

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu Sauce

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu Sauce

It’s a new year and for a lot of people that means a clean, healthy beginning, because of this I wanted to feature a dish that is simple, fresh, healthy, and most importantly, delicious. This sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad is all of these things and appetizing to boot.

My mind always drifts to Japanese cuisine when I think of using fresh ingredients in a pure and simple way. Jiro Ono, renowned sushi chef and owner of the three-star Michelin restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, says in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, “Ultimate simplicity equals purity,” and I believe this can be seen throughout Japanese cuisine.

I kept this idea of “simplicity equals purity” when creating this dish. The sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad showcases the natural flavors of the ingredients, resulting in a refreshing salad. Sliced cucumbers comprise the base of the salad, which is topped with seaweed salad, flying fish roe (tobiko) and tuna and salmon sashimi cubes. The salad is finished with ponzu–a citrusy, tangy-sweet sauce.

Cutting a Cucumber with a Paderno Spiralizer

I used a spiral vegetable slicer to cut the cucumbers (my new Christmas kitchen gadget), but you can also julienne or slice the cucumbers by hand.

Fresh Salmon and Tuna with Shun Knife

 Fresh Salmon and Tuna with Shun Knife

It’s important when buying the ingredients for the dish to make sure they are fresh; this is especially true for the fish and seafood because they will be consumed raw. If you’re in Chicago, the Mitsuwa Marketplace has a wide assortment of fresh seafood. Otherwise, tell your fishmonger that you are looking to buy fish to consume raw and ask for their recommendation. For more advice about buying raw fish, read this article here.

I chose to top my salad with tuna and salmon sashimi, but you can use whatever fish or seafood combination you desire. You can also use imitation crab, if you prefer a cooked option.

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi Salad with Choya Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

Tuna and Salmon Sashimi Salad with Choya Japanese Plum Wine (Umeshu)

This sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad goes great with Choya Japanese plum wine—a slightly sweet, but not overpowering wine made with ume fruit.

Sashimi, Cucumber, and Seaweed Salad with Ponzu Sauce and Green Tea

I hope you enjoy this healthy and flavorful salad as much as I do! If you experiment with different seafood or ingredient combinations, feel free to send pictures or let me know in the comments.

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Sashimi, Seaweed, and Cucumber Salad with Ponzu sauce

Serves 4
Region Japanese
By author Rosanna
Try this simple, fresh, healthy, and most importantly, delicious sashimi, seaweed, and cucumber salad with ponzu sauce. It's refreshing and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 1 large English cucumber (peeled)
  • 6 Ounces fresh fish (I used tuna and salmon sashimi)
  • 3 Ounces seaweed salad
  • 1 Ounce flying fish roe (tobiko)
  • 1 cup ponzu

Note

* It’s important when buying the ingredients for the dish to make sure they are fresh; this is especially true for the fish and seafood because they will be consumed raw. Tell your fishmonger that you are looking to buy fish to consume raw and ask for their recommendation.

* I chose to top my salad with tuna and salmon sashimi, but you can use whatever fish or seafood combination you desire. You can also use imitation crab, if you prefer a cooked option.

Directions

Step 1
Slice or julienne the cucumber into thin pieces. Divide evenly into 4 serving dishes. Top each bowl with seaweed salad, flying fish roe, and fish. Add 1/4 cup ponzu to each plate. Serve.

A Danish Christmas Eve

Roast Pork with Crackling and Brown Potatoes

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg) and Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

This year Corey and I experienced a traditional Danish Christmas Eve. It was a special occasion, full of merriment and cheer, and we enjoyed hearing about Danish myths and traditions and participating in the festivities.

Nisse Folklore

Nisse in Barn with Animals and Gifts

Nisse in Barn with Animals and Gifts

One noticeable decorative difference was the numerous Nisse—gnome-like spirits who dwell in barns, helping the farm on which they live. But they can be mischievous too: if they feel mistreated or don’t get what they want, they may cause trouble.

Nissen and the Christmas Pudding

Nissen and the Christmas Pudding (Risengrød)

The poster above depicts a scene from nisse folklore. On Christmas Eve, a bowl of risengrød (rice pudding with milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon) is left out to appease the nisse, much as Americans leave out Christmas cookies for Santa. However, if this offering is not made or if the butter is forgotten, the nisse make their displeasure known (in one tale, a nissen kills a cow as retribution).

Risengrød remains an important Danish dish and is typically eaten on Christmas Eve. It’s one of the few peasant traditions kept alive and celebrated today.

Modern-Day Nisse

Modern-Day Nisse

Nisse imagery has changed over the years, as a result both of commercialization and changing mythology. Nisse have now begun to resemble Santa Claus, and stories tell of them coming through the front door on Christmas Eve, delivering presents to children.

The Food and the Feasting

One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the delicious food! Whatever the country or culture, holiday meals are usually some of the best of the year, and this Danish Christmas Eve celebration was no exception!

Table Setting with Danish Flags and Advent Candle

Table Setting with Danish Flags and Advent Candle

Our Beautiful Table with a 5 Tiered Candle Holder

Our Beautiful Table with a 5 Tiered Candle Holder

Danish Christmas Eve Menu

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg)

Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

Sweet and Sour Red Cabbage (Rødkål)

Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Waldorf Salad (nontraditional)

Rice Pudding with Almonds (Risalamande) and Cherry Sauce (Kirsebærsauce)

Marzipan “Pig”

Roast Pork with Crackling and Brown Potatoes

Roast Pork with Crackling (Flæskesteg) and Brown Potatoes (Brunede Kartofler)

A traditional Danish Christmas Eve dinner features roast pork with crackling, brown potatoes, red cabbage, and rice pudding with almonds and a cherry sauce. The brown potatoes are boiled and then sautéed with melted butter and sugar, which results in sweet, caramelized potatoes that pair perfectly with the roast pork. The pork skin is crispy and full of flavor; the meat is delicious and moist.

A message on how to prepare roast pork with crackling from our gracious host Ken:

Ken“I order a fresh [uncooked] ham with the skin left on.  I score the skin so that it forms crisp rectangles as the roasting proceeds and rub on some salt. There are a number of recipes online for roasting a fresh ham.  I just put the ham into the oven at 325F or so and roast it for about 25 minutes per pound.  Eventually, I stick a thermometer into the roast to see how it’s coming along.  I shoot for a temperature of 160F.  To have the roast ready about a half hour before I plan to serve it, I increase or decrease the temperature to speed up or slow down the roasting as necessary.  It was done too early this year, so I kept it warm in a 200F oven.  My experience over the years is that it takes a long time to do a ten-to-fifteen pound roast, but that it always turns out okay no matter what I’ve done.”

Mashed Potatoes, Waldorf Salad, and Red Cabbage

Mashed Potatoes, Waldorf Salad, and Red Cabbage

One of my favorite dishes was the red cabbage—it was sweet, tangy, and utterly irresistible!

Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce

Rice Pudding with Almonds and Cherry Sauce

Den Gamle Fabrik Cherry Sauce

Den Gamle Fabrik Cherry Sauce

This is an excellent kind of cherry sauce to use when making your own Danish Christmas pudding. You can find it for sale here.

Danish Christmas Pudding (Risalamande                  

This is always a fun and eagerly awaited part of the meal. This dessert—which is delicious in its own right—also features a game. After chopped almonds and cream are added to the rice pudding (risengrød), 1 whole almond is placed into the pot, then mixed well and served, topped with cherry sauce (Kirsebærsauce). Whoever finds the whole almond in their bowl wins a marzipan pig (see below)! This is a type of soft candy that you can buy in blocks, then sculpt into whatever shape you wish. Though one person wins the marzipan pig, it is shared with all—the winner, however, gets first “cut.”

Handcrafted Marzipan Pig

Handcrafted Marzipan Pig

The Christmas Tree Decorated with Danish Flags and Real Candles

The Christmas Tree Decorated with Danish Flags and Real Candles

In a throwback to pre-electric times, traditional Danish Christmas trees are adorned with real candles, which are lit after the Christmas Eve dinner (if you decide to observe this tradition, be very careful affixing and lighting them and never leave the tree unattended while they are burning). This ceremony sometimes involves singing and dancing around the tree as well. Finally, everyone exchanges presents.

Corey and I were so happy to be included in this wonderful Danish Christmas Eve celebration, and we look forward to it in years to come!

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Flavorful Journeys Best of 2014 – By Popularity

I love New Year’s Day.  It’s a chance to reflect on the past year and celebrate experiences to come. In that spirit, here are the 10 most popular posts on Flavorful Journeys from 2014:

Homemade Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

1. Homemade Italian Spaghetti Sauce with Meatballs

You can’t go wrong with spaghetti and meatballs, especially when everything—from the pasta to the sauce—is made from scratch! This dish takes some time to make, but it’s totally worth it!

Chocolate Truffle Tart Slice

2. Chocolate Truffle Tart

This chocolate truffle tart was my first recipe post of 2014. I wanted to bake something that would set the mood for the year, and this indulgent treat proved the perfect choice!

white truffle oil mac n cheese

3. White Truffle Oil Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food, but when you add truffle oil, cream, and Parmesan and fontina cheese, you get a memorable epicurean experience.  Sprinkled fresh rosemary makes the luxuriant flavors pop! If you try one new mac and cheese in 2015, make it my truffle mac and cheese.

Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

4. Spicy Pork and Mustard Green Soup

This spicy pork and green mustard soup holds a very special place in my heart. Not only is it a delicious mainstay for surviving the cold Chicago winter, but this post made it onto Bon Appétit’s website! Check out the article here.

Butterfly Cupcake

5. Butterfly Cupcakes

A friend and I had lots of fun making these gorgeous butterfly cupcakes. My favorite parts are the chocolate wings and antenna. Some cupcake decorations sacrifice tastes for looks, but not these cupcakes!

Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

6. Chocolate-Raspberry Glass Cupcakes

Halloween is when my morbid side comes out—I love creating creepy treats. Sugar glass dipped in vivid “blood” accents these glass cupcakes, which combine my favorite dessert flavors (chocolate and raspberry). These might reappear (minus the glass) come Valentine’s Day.

Crock Pot Cuban Black Beans and Rice

7. Crock Pot Cuban Black Beans and Rice

This Cuban black beans and rice recipe is a household favorite! It’s fast, easy, and so tasty. Plus, it’s a crock pot meal, so you can make it in the morning and have dinner waiting after work!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Salad with Mint and Hazelnuts

8. Mother’s Day Brunch Menu Bon Appétit 2014

This Mother’s Day brunch features strawberry-rhubarb salad with mint and hazelnuts, smoked trout salad, a lox platter with capers, radish, cucumber, and red onion slices, and bagels with horseradish-dill schmear. You’re sure to please by making this for your mother (or anyone, for that matter).

DrunkSkull Bloody Mary

9. DrunkSkull Bloody Mary + A Giveaway

I wasn’t a huge fan of bloody marys until I read A Deep and Gorgeous Thirst, by Hosho McCreesh. It’s an example of a unique genre called “drunk poetry,” and it mentioned bloody marys so often that I had to have one—the author was kind enough to share this recipe. These bloody marys are spicy and refreshing, just as they should be.

Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

10. Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi-Bokkeumbap)

I went on a Korean kick this year, and I’m glad that my readers enjoyed it as much as I did! This kimchi fried rice makes a great weeknight dinner.

 

Thanks for following my cooking adventures this year; I hope you’re looking forward to what 2015 will bring as much as I am! Happy New Year!

If you have a favorite that didn’t make the list, comment about it below.

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Boiled Peanuts | A Classic Southern Snack

Green Peanuts used to Make Boiled Peanuts

Green Peanuts Used to Make Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts remind me of my childhood and are forever linked in my mind with the beach. One of my favorite childhood treats was riding with my father to Pensacola Beach in “Old Blue”—a Chevy pickup—while listening to rock ‘n’ roll and eating boiled peanuts from a roadside stand. They were always sold piping hot, but that never stopped us from scarfing them down.

I think that there’s something inherently satisfying about boiled peanuts. Maybe it’s their association with my childhood. Maybe they remind me of the South. But it’s probably due in large part to their delicious taste! They’re salty, juicy, tender, and delicious. What’s not to love?

Boiled peanuts are definitely regional, much like sweet tea, so if you’re not from the South, you might be wondering what a boiled peanut is. It’s a raw peanut that has been cooked in brine for several hours until soft and tender. They’re eaten as a snack and are oftentimes sold along rural highways and at events. My family always serves them at our annual reunion.

Eating boiled peanuts with my grandfather

Eating Boiled Peanuts with My Grandfather at the Beach

To understand how to make boiled peanuts, you must first understand the different types of peanuts.

Peanut Breakdown:

  • Roasted peanuts – Raw peanuts that have been baked in the oven until dry and crunchy. These are the peanuts that most people are probably familiar with. Roasted peanuts are often served as a snack, with or without the shell. They can also be made into peanut butter. Roasted peanuts CANNOT, however, be used to make boiled peanuts.
  • Green raw peanuts – Freshly harvested peanuts that contain 35 to 50 percent moisture content. Green peanuts are perishable and must be refrigerated upon receipt. Like most fresh produce, you want to use them fairly quickly for optimal flavor and freshness. These are the best type of peanuts to use for making boiled peanuts. However, they are usually only available between August and October.
  • Dry raw peanuts – Peanuts that have been dried to a 10 percent moisture content to facilitate storage and shipping. These can also be used to make boiled peanuts, but they take longer to cook because they aren’t as moist.

Where to Buy Peanuts for Boiling

When living in North Florida, Corey and I used to buy green peanuts from the grocery store in the fall (you could also look at farmers’ markets). Every fall, we’d eagerly wait the arrival of fresh green peanuts. Fall doesn’t officially begin for us until we’ve made a pot of boiled peanuts.

Hardy's Boiling Peanuts Half Bushel

Hardy Farms Boiling Peanuts, Half Bushel

Now that we live in Chicago, we’ve started ordering green peanuts online from Hardy Farms—a peanut farm in Georgia. We typically order a half bushel of green jumbo peanuts ($28.00 + $10.39 shipping; note that this is quite a large quantity of peanuts—they also offer smaller sizes). It’s a happy day when the delivery man shows up with our bag of peanuts.

Hardy's Green Peanuts Recipe

Hardy’s Boiled Peanuts Recipe (Though I Have My Own – See Below)

If it’s no longer peanut season (August – October), you will need to buy dry raw peanuts. You can buy them at some grocery stores or online here.

Lastly, if you want to eat boiled peanuts but don’t want to cook them yourself, you can buy them in cans at grocery stores, at roadside stands in certain parts of the country, or online. Note: I haven’t tried the canned variety, so I’m not sure how they compare to the real McCoy. If you have, let me know in the comments.

How to Make Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts are easy to make and only require 3 ingredients: green or raw peanuts, water, and salt. Since water plays such a prominent role in making boiled peanuts, I recommend using filtered water for a better taste.

  1. Sort through the peanuts and remove any with cracked shells, discoloration, or molding. Rinse the remaining peanuts thoroughly to remove any dirt.
  2. Place the peanuts in a large stockpot. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the peanuts by at least 2 inches (the peanuts will float; you can press down on them gently to judge the water level). Allow the peanuts to soak for 30 minutes.
  3. Add salt to the pot; the amount to add varies according to individual taste. I typically use about 1 cup of salt for every gallon of water. When the peanuts are almost finished, taste one and see if you need to add more salt. Do not do this when you first start cooking the boiled peanuts, as it takes time for the salt water to saturate the peanuts.
  4. Boil the peanuts, covered, adding more water as needed. Again, how long you boil them depends on personal preference and the type of peanut used (as well as the size – jumbo or regular). For green peanuts, you can start tasting for doneness after 2 hours, though I like to boil them for at least 4 or 5. For dry raw peanuts, the cook time is much longer. I would begin tasting for doneness after 8 hours. Once the desired level of tenderness is reached, turn off the heat.
  5. You can then drain the peanuts and eat them or store them in the fridge or freezer (boiled peanuts freeze well). You can also allow the boiled peanuts to continue soaking in the brine to increase the flavor (and saltiness).

Now that you know about boiled peanuts, it’s time to get boiling and enjoy this classic Southern snack! Boiled peanuts pair well with sweet tea or a cold Coke. Enjoy!

I used this source when researching peanut types: Green Peanuts versus Dried Peanuts

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Pepero South Korean Snack – Pepero Day

Pepero South Korean Snack

Pepero—a popular South Korean Snack manufactured by Lotte Confectionary

I thought it would be fun to do a snack series on Flavorful Journeys, where I feature different snacks from around the world and discuss their history and cultural significance. After all, who doesn’t like snacks, right? In today’s busy world, we don’t always have time to sit down and eat three meals a day; sometimes snacks play a critical role in tiding us over until our next meal and getting us through a long, hectic day.

This past week, I visited the Korean spa and stopped by H-Mart (a large Asian grocery store specializing in Korean food) on the way home. I didn’t have any set ingredients to buy; instead I just wondered the aisles picking up some of my usual items and any foods that sounded interesting: Japanese seaweed salad, Korean stir-fried black beans, shrimp crackers, Calpico (a Japanese non-carbonated soft drink), a couple different varieties of ramen noodles, kimchi, Korean bbq, and a box of Peperos.

Little did I know that I was choosing a snack that has its own holiday in South Korea and coincidently enough I was buying it on the actual day of the holiday, November 11th or 11/11 (I’ll discuss this holiday more, right after I describe peperos).

Nude Pepero South Korean Snack

Nude Pepero (two sticks are broken in half to show the interior)

What are Peperos?

Peperos are long thin cookie-like sticks that are covered in chocolate or in this case filled with chocolate. There are many different varieties of Peperos including:

  • regular (chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • nude (chocolate-filled Pepero)
  • almond and chocolate (chocolate-covered Pepero with almond pieces)
  • peanut and chocolate (chocolate-covered Pepero with roasted peanuts)
  • white cookie (white chocolate-covered Pepero with cookie pieces)
  • strawberry (strawberry-flavored–chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • melon (melon-flavored–chocolate-covered Pepero)
  • and more

Peperos remind me of Pepperidge Farms’ chocolate Pirouettes, except Peperos are much thinner and the exterior shill is harder and denser, more like a cookie than a wafer. The filling is similar, chocolate, creamy, and smooth.

So What is Pepero Day All About?

Pepero Day is a holiday similar to Valentine’s Day where friends, co-workers, and significant others give each other Pepero sticks. Kyeong-Jin  in the video below provides insight into Pepero Day:

Pepero Day has also influenced Korean pop culture, inspired a Pepero kissing game, and in a very popular holiday among the youth. Check out this cute video of the Pepero Song by Megan Lee–a Korean-American artist and singer. It’s a sweet, romantic song about Pepero Day.

Are you curious about how the Pepero kissing game works?

Two people play the game; they each put one end of the Pepero in their mouths and then slowly bite their way towards the center. The goal is to get as close to the other persons lips without their lips actually touching. The couple with the shortest remaining piece of Pepero wins (if playing against other teams) or the individual who doesn’t break the kiss first wins. Sometimes this game results in a kiss, accidently or purposely, hence the name Pepero kissing game.

Here’s a video of Exo—a South Korean-Chinese K-Pop Band—playing the Pepero kissing game at the China Love Big Concert.

Okay, you can see that learning about Peperos and Pepero Day made me go on a bit of a YouTube watching frenzy! I hope  you enjoyed these videos.

Where to buy  Peperos:

If you’re in the Chicago area, you can buy them at H-Mart in Niles. If you’re not in Chicago, you can purchase Peperos at H-Mart online or on Amazon.

Corey and I shared a packet of Peperos and I sure wished I’d bought more than one packet! They were gone wicked fast. Next time, I’ll know to buy more.

I hope you enjoyed this post on the popular South Korean snack Pepero! If you have tried Pepero before, let me know which flavor is your favorite!

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