Become Greener in the Kitchen and Reduce Waste: Part 1

Green Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics

Green Alternatives to Single-Use Plastics

There’s no denying that there’s a lot of waste in the way we eat, cook, and consume food. This not only effects our environment adversely, but also the foods we eat.  However, instead of dwelling on the negativity of the situation, I want to focus on ways we can reduce waste and become greener in the kitchen through actionable steps. Together, we have the power to make a difference and to change our world for the better. I hope this list inspires you to reduce waste in your kitchen and implement more environmentally friendly practices. Don’t feel like you have to implement all of these strategies at once, it’s better to start small than not at all! read more

Vegetarian Foods Around the World: Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

Vegetarian Foods Around the World: Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

Vegetarian Foods Around the World: Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

Vegetarian Foods Around the World: Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

I know many people want to incorporate more vegetables into their diet as part of a healthy lifestyle, so I thought it would be fun to do a Vegetarian Foods Around the World Series to highlight some tasty vegetarian dishes that you can make at home. I hope these dishes inspire you to eat more veggies and show you the versatility and deliciousness of vegetarian cooking. My first post in this series is a tomato and cabbage tabouleh with Baharat seasoning.

Harrisa Hummus, Fresh Pitas, and Cabbage Tabouleh with Baharat SeasoningHarrisa Hummus, Fresh Pitas, and Cabbage Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

I never grow tired of tabouleh and its infinite varieties. It’s a healthy vegetarian salad full of Middle Eastern flavors and spices. Traditionally, tabouleh is made with burghul (also known as bulgur), parsley, scallions, mint, and tomatoes tossed with a lemon vinaigrette. This tomato and cabbage tabouleh recipe is a variation on the original; thinly-sliced cabbage and minced onion replace the parsley, and a Baharat spice blend seasons the salad. I love the brightness of the tomatoes, the crunchiness of the cabbage, the freshness of the mint, and the sweet and heady aroma of the cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s fresh, vibrant, and delicious.

What is Baharat Seasoning?

Baharat—Arabic for spices—is a Middle Eastern spice blend consisting of: all spice, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, ginger, nutmeg, and paprika. It adds a sweet note to savory dishes and is used as a seasoning to flavor grilled meats, rice, soups, and salads.  You can make your own or buy it online. It’s an all-purpose seasoning that you’ll be happy to have in your pantry. It does wonders to this tabouleh dish!

Menu Suggestions

Olives, Harissa Hummus, Homemade Pitas, and Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

Olives, Harissa Hummus, Homemade Pitas, and Tabouleh with Baharat Seasoning

Serve this tabouleh with hummus (get the recipe for harissa hummus or roasted red pepper hummus), olives, and pitas for a delicious vegetarian meal!

Let me know in the comments if you like this series and what vegetarian dishes you’d like me to blog about in the future.

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Raku—the one Restaurant you must go to in Las Vegas

Raku’s Crispy Fried Shrimp Appetizer

Raku’s Crispy Fried Shrimp Appetizer

Dining at Raku—a Japanese restaurant specializing in charcoal grilled foods, house-made tofu, and other Japanese fare—is a sensual food experience you don’t want to miss! Each bite ignites your taste buds and leaves you in culinary bliss. When the food arrives, life slows down, conversation stops, your attention shifts to the food; you savor and enjoy the delicacies served, then eagerly wait for the next course. It’s almost meditative—your mind focusing on the simple task of eating and enjoying the food set before you. Raku means comfort in Japanese and I can’t think of a more fitting name for a restaurant.

Compared to the glitz and glamour of many Las Vegas restaurants, Raku’s location—in a strip mall in Chinatown a couple of miles from the Las Vegas Strip—and atmosphere is unassuming. It’s a small, cozy restaurant with intimate seating. The focus is less on the surroundings than the food itself. When you enter the restaurant and taste the food, you will find yourself transported away from the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas and transported to a serene Japanese inn. If I had to recommend one restaurant you must go to in Las Vegas, I’d choose Raku. It’s hands down my favorite restaurant in Las Vegas.

Ordering the Omakase Menu at Raku Las Vegas Restaurant

During past visits to Raku, we ordered à la carte (which we loved), but this time we wanted to try the omakase—chef’s choice—menu, as it usually contains the restaurant’s best dishes and we wanted to see what the chef would select. Raku’s omakase menu varies nightly and is entirely up to the chef. You can select between two omakase options, one for $75 and one for $100 per person, both provide the same number of courses; however, the more expensive option features premium ingredients, such as blue fin tuna and caviar.

Bottle of Nigori (Unfiltered) Sake at Raku Restaurant in Las Vegas

Bottle of Nigori (Unfiltered) Sake at Raku Restaurant in Las Vegas

To start the meal off, we ordered a bottle of nigori sake that had a milky, sweet taste. I was slightly disappointed that they no longer bring you an assortment of sake glasses to choose from. I really appreciated this in the past and thought it was a unique and personal way to serve sake. However, the sake glasses provided were robust stoneware and felt nice in the hands.

Raku’s Homemade Tofu with Bonita Flakes, Chives, and Ginger

Raku’s Homemade Tofu with Bonita Flakes, Chives, and Ginger

The Raku omakase menu started off with their homemade tofu dish—plain tofu served with bonita flakes, chives, and grated ginger. Raku makes their tofu in-house and the texture is incredible; the consistency feels like cream cheese. The first bite they recommend having alone, so you can truly appreciate the freshness of the tofu. Then they recommend tasting it with the toppings as well as sprinkling a little of their green tea salt on top. This dish will transform the way you think about tofu—it’s like eating a fluffy, savory cheesecake. Truly delicious! If you’re ordering à la carte, make sure to try one of their signature tofu dishes.

Raku’s Green Tea Salt, Koregusu (Okinawan hot sauce), Soy Sauce, and Shichimi (Japanese Spice Blend)

Raku’s Green Tea Salt, Koregusu (Okinawan hot sauce), Soy Sauce, and Shichimi (Japanese Spice Blend)

Part of what makes Raku Restaurant special is their attention to detail, from their homemade condiments to their carefully curated dishware. Everything has a purpose and adds to the dining experience.

Mini Oysters with Sturgeon Caviar and Meyer Lemon at Raku Restaurant

Mini Oysters with Sturgeon Caviar and Meyer Lemon at Raku Restaurant

Texture plays a prominent role in Japanese cuisine and is considered an important part of taste. Just like the first course’s texture tantalized the taste buds, this course played with texture as well. The oysters—long considered an aphrodisiac and luxury in many cultures—were topped with caviar. We slurped the oysters out of their shells, rolling the caviar along our tongues, savoring the saltiness of the caviar and the smokiness of the oysters. The oysters were very fresh, creamy, and smooth.

Sashimi with Pickled Chrysanthemum at Raku Restaurant in Las Vegas

Sashimi with Pickled Chrysanthemum at Raku Restaurant in Las Vegas

Sashimi, slices of raw fish, factor heavily into Japanese cuisine, as does seafood in general. The chef chose to serve us 4 types of sashimi as part of our omakase menu: seared blue fin tuna (incredibly smoky and full of umami flavor), raw blue fin tuna (very pleasing and fresh), crevalle jack (creamy and fatty, without being greasy), and amberjack (pleasant tasting, but not as good as the crevalle jack).  The pickled chrysanthemum served as a palate cleanser, and was different from the pickled ginger normally served alongside sushi. The presentation was colorful and artfully arranged—glistening silver skin, the pink flesh of the tuna, a lemon curl, a transparent radish slice, a purple pansy.

Raku’s Crispy Fried Shrimp Appetizer (an à la carte item)

 Raku’s Crispy Fried Shrimp Appetizer (an à la carte item)

These shrimp were not on the omakase menu, but we couldn’t go to Raku and not order them! Ever since we had these shrimp, the very first time we dined at Raku, we have been looking for restaurants that served them. They’re crispy and delectable, and one of our favorite dishes. This time, we added a little of their hot sauce and chili-spice powder to the shrimp and quickly devoured them.

Bacon-Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms with Ponzu Glaze at Raku Las Vegas Restaurant

Bacon-Wrapped Enoki Mushrooms with Ponzu Glaze at Raku Las Vegas Restaurant

After the crispy shrimp, the meal transitioned to the robatayaki—fireside cooking or foods cooked over hot coals. First we served bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms with a ponzu glaze. The bacon was a surprising feature since bacon isn’t often used in Japanese cooking. In fact, I don’t think I recall ever seeing bacon while in Japan, except maybe at a buffet breakfast that served Japanese and Western foods. However, the use of bacon in this dish worked wonders. These were the crispiest, smokiest enoki mushrooms we’ve ever had.

Beltfish in Soy Glaze with Shaved Daikon Radish at Raku Las Vegas

Beltfish in Soy Glaze with Shaved Daikon Radish at Raku Las Vegas read more

Cook Filipino Yellow Chicken Adobo with Turmeric and Coconut Milk

Filipino Yellow Chicken Adobo with Turmeric and Coconut Milk

Filipino Yellow Chicken Adobo with Turmeric and Coconut Milk

Yellow chicken adobo is a classic Filipino dish that’s sweet and sour, luscious and creamy. It’s the perfect comfort food—warm, hearty, and full of flavor. Adobo is the Spanish word for marinade, but in this context refers to a specific style of cooking developed in the Philippines, where meat and/or vegetables are slowly cooked in a vinegar-based sauce. Originally, this served as a preservation technique; the acidic vinegar saturates the food, prolonging the time you can safely eat it.

Toasted Ground Turmeric—What Gives Yellow Adobo its Distinctive Color

Toasted Ground Turmeric—What Gives Yellow Adobo its Distinctive Color

This yellow adobo is made with bay leaves, black peppercorns, turmeric, onion, shallots, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, coconut milk, sugarcane vinegar, and honey. The ground turmeric gives the adobo its vibrant yellow hue. Coconuts are a common ingredient in Filipino cooking and feature heavily in the dish, both in the sauce and as a topping. Coconut milk adds richness to the sauce, while burnt shredded coconut adds a smoky-bitterness. Sugarcane vinegar, a distinctive Filipino ingredient, gives the dish a sour kick. The spicy, sweet, sour and bitter flavors interact and combine to create an intensely flavorful stew.

Prepped Ingredients for Cooking Filipino Yellow Chicken Adobo

Prepped Ingredients for Cooking Filipino Yellow Chicken Adobo

Cooking this yellow chicken adobo takes time and effort—you need to prep the ingredients, toast the turmeric and shredded coconut, make the adobo sauce, roast the vegetables, grill the chicken and slowly simmer it in the adobo sauce. However, once you taste it, you’ll know all your hard work was worth it. The chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender and adobo sauce is incredible. I’ve made it countless times and it’s always a favorite!

Have you made adobo before? What’s your favorite Filipino adobo?

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An Insider’s Guide to Eating Like a Local in Mie Prefecture, Japan

Yasushi and Kinuko in Front of the Meoto Iwa Shrine in Mie Prefecture, Japan

Yasushi and Kinuko in Front of the Meoto Iwa Shrine in Mie Prefecture, Japan

After our adventures in Tokyo and Daisetsuzan, we traveled to Mei Prefecture, where we stayed with family friends Yasushi and Kinuko. These gracious and hospitable local hosts planned an itinerary filled with cultural and historical sites, museums, and their favorite restaurants. Each day, they introduced us to different types of Japanese cuisine and what Yasushi described as food “challenges,” which we eagerly took on!

Unlike many countries, Japanese restaurants typically feature one–and only one–specific style of cooking, meaning whatever variety they have is centered on a niche cuisine. For example, you might go to a restaurant specializing in tsukemen (dipping ramen), or to a restaurant dedicated to sushi, or to a restaurant that only serves tonkatsu; however, you wouldn’t often find a restaurant offering a combination thereof. Not only does this specialization allow chefs to fine-tune their skills, but it also results in a superb experience for any dish you’re interested in–assuming you find the right place … keep reading.

Here’s are the different types of food we had in Mie Prefecture and the restaurants recommended by locals Yasushi and Kinuko.

An Insider’s Guide to Eating Like a Local in Mie Prefecture, Japan – What to Eat and Where

Order Tofu Dengaku (miso-glazed tofu) at Dengakuzawakaya Restaurant

Tofu Dengaku at Dengakuzawakaya Restaurant in Mie Prefecture, Japan

Tofu Dengaku at Dengakuzawakaya Restaurant in Mie Prefecture, Japan

Corey and I had recently taken a tofu class in Tokyo, where we learned how to cook many dishes featuring tofu. Knowing our interest in tofu, our hosts took us to Dengakuzawakaya, a restaurant specializing in grilled miso-glazed tofu.

When you walk into the restaurant, you see the chef standing before a bin of smoldering charcoal. A narrow rod extends the length of the grill. The chef balances one end of the skewers on the rod and the other end on the side of the grill, cooking the tofu over the coals and infusing it with a rich, smoky flavor. The chef then adds miso glaze as a finishing touch. read more