Wednesday, September 17, 2014

using up the veggies in the fridge (and lanai) soup

IMG_8015 Last week, I had wanted to use up all the veggies in my fridge.

I sauteed some onions until they were transparent, and then added 2 cups of water.

Then I added some pumpkin and when the pumpkin was cooked, I added some chicken broth.

I then whizzed the soup with my hand held blender until there were no lumps.

Envisioning fried renkon (lotus root) chips, I fried thinly sliced pieces. Unfortunately, I drained them on a paper towel and they kind of steamed, so they weren't too crispy.

After setting aside the renkon, I sauteed some kale from the lanai with some red bell pepper in some olive oil.

I ladled a bowl of the pumpkin soup and then topped it with the renkon, kale, red bell and then sliced some okra.

Dinner was served.

It definitely isn't soup weather here yet, but I'm glad I was able to use up the veggies in my fridge and the kale from the lanai.

I'm also sending this soup to Deb for her Souper Sunday. It's been awhile since I've sent her a soup. If you've never checked out her round-up, please do, there are always creative and delicious creations there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

hikone plus plus

IMG_8077 Sunday, we woke up early because we wanted to head out to Hikone.

It had been several years since we had been there and even more since we paid our respects to MIL's family graves.

We stopped at Umeda to buy tickets for JR. When Satoshi walked up to the counter he asked the guy if they had any discount tickets, the guy replied no...then he checked a manual and voila!

An all day pass to travel anywhere listed on the ticket in Kansai.

One way to Hikone would be 1940 yen, for this ticket 3600 yen, it would be a little less than a round-trip ticket (3880 yen)...Satoshi felt like he hit the jackpot with this.

As we rode JR to Hikone, Satoshi looked at different travel guides and decided that he wanted to check out some places on the JR line.

Since this ticket allowed us to get off and on the train this was perfect. Usually in Japan, when you buy a ticket they only allow you to get off at the specified destination.

When we arrived at Hikone, we bought some flowers for MIL's family graves. And then we made the trek to Soanji, which is located on the Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road.

Over the years I think this road has become a bit more touristy. But, I like the way they make all the buildings look like you are in an Edo time period.

After calling MIL to reconfirm the exact location of the graves, we said a few prayers and then decided to look for something for lunch.

IMG_8049 We stopped into Lu Pan, a tiny burger shop serving Omi Beef Burgers. Omi Beef is the brand beef of the area.

I ordered their standard which is shoyu based. Satoshi went with their burger with curry sauce. We also shared a half order of their fries and shared a coke.

Total 1560 yen tax included.

The burgers were very moist and the buns very airy. Even though the guy running this place had absolutely no personality, the food was delicious.

Then we were off to Yogo.

When I asked Satoshi what was there, he said, "a lake".

Before hopping on the train though, we got some dorayaki from Kotetsu. Sweet bean paste for Satoshi and walnut sweet bean paste for me.

A nice snack and a nice place to rest our feet.

From Hikone it was 9 stations to Yogo. When you get off the train, you'll know that the only thing to see here is "the lake".

There are no shops near the train station, just a walk to "the lake".

It was beautiful to see Lake Yogo.

Since there weren't many trains running, we hopped back on the next train and headed to Torahime.

This is where Satoshi's grandma used to live. He was in awe at how small the river (stream) he used to play in was and how close the walk was from the train station to his grandma's house was.

Apparently the house that Satoshi's grandma used to live in is no longer there, but it was nice for him to re-connect with the area.

Since we had some time before the next train, we popped into a new bakery that is in the JR Torahime station and bought some snacks.

IMG_8064 I had this blueberry cream cheese walnut bread, super soft. Just the right amount of sweet from the blueberry preserves, a little tartness from the cream cheese and some crunch from the walnuts.

A nice thing about this bakery is that everything was 108 yen! A bargain if you've ever been to bakeries in Japan.

Then it took us some time from Torahime to get to Omi Hachiman, so by the time we arrived in Omi Hachiman it was 17:30.

The place we had wanted to have dinner at was fully booked so we jumped on the train and went to Yasu (2 stations over from Omi Hachiman).

Kurogama is a restaurant in a 100 year old house.

Satoshi and I both ordered the luxurious Omi beef course. He had 5 different cuts while I had 3 different cuts of beef.

IMG_8069 Dinner started out with this beef shabu salad. The dressing was citrusy and really brightened the flavors. The meat was thinly sliced and super tender.

IMG_8070 Next came the slightly seared beef sushi...talk about melt in your mouth!

IMG_8071 Here are the 3 cuts that I ordered, sorry I can't remember what the waiter said they were!

To cook them they heat up a ceramic disk and you add a little nub of butter. You can cook it as rare or as well done as you wish.

IMG_8072 Rice is cooked on a very old stove and is served with pickles and their shigure-ni.

I've made shigure-ni in the past. And we both agreed they didn't need to serve the pickles, just the shigure-ni with the rice was perfect!

IMG_8073 To end the meal they served us some yuzu (citron) sherbet with fruits. I loved that there were bits of yuzu in this!

What a wonderful meal! we raved on and on about how soft the meat was. At 5800 yen and 7000 yen plus tax, it wasn't a cheap meal, but we agreed it was worth every penny!

A very long day, but we got to do so much. We were really happy with that train pass because it allowed us to see more than we would've had we got just the regular fare.

Hope you enjoyed this adventure too!

Lu Pan
located along Yume-Kyobashi Castle Road
Hikone, Shiga

Kotetsu
1-2 Tachibana
Hikone, Shiga
Phone: 0749.26.3838
Hours: 9:30-17:30

Amour
JR Torahime Station
Phone: 0749.73.8066
Closed Thursdays
Hours: 10:00-18:00

Kurogama
2343-1 Koshinohara Takeda
Yasu, Shiga
Phone: 077.587.3191
Closed Mondays
Lunch 11:30-14:30
Dinner (weekdays) 18:00-22:00, (weekends) 17:30-22:00

Monday, September 15, 2014

noryo yuka

IMG_8022 Kyoto is surrounded by mountains making the heat and humidity hard to escape during the summer.

One thing you will see from May to September are eateries setting up large wooden platforms.

These are called "noryo yuka" or "kawadoko" depending on the area the platform is set up in.

Apparently it is called "noryo yuka" if the platform is set up facing the Kamo River and "kawadoko" if the platform is set up in the Kibune area of Kyoto.

We've had experiencing the Kyoto yuka (it is also called yuka for short) on our bucket list for awhile now, and finally got to cross it off over the weekend.

Since we didn't have reservations we walked along the Ponto-cho area of Kyoto and looked at various menus and prices for their yuka.

We found a reasonably priced lunch at Ajigasane. Apparently this is run by Tenkkaippin, a large chain that is known for their ramen. Ajigasane serves kaiseki style Chinese meals.

IMG_8028 Because there is a little stream flowing under the noryo yuka, it was very cool, almost to the point of feeling cold.

IMG_8034 Lunch was their kaiseki bento...they had two to choose from. We had wanted to try one of each but were told that for two people you had to choose only one type of bento...boo!

So, we went with the cheaper of the two bentos...about 2900 yen plus tax. Click on the photo to see what was in the bento.

The food was delicious and really filling.

IMG_8036 Dessert was a hard steamed castella and green tea mousse with gritty green tea that wasn't mixed well...meh!

IMG_8038 After lunch we walked along the Kamo River.

You can see all the eateries that have their yuka set up and you will realize how high up you actually are. In Kyoto, even Starbucks has one.

Overall, we would choose another place to have lunch or dinner, but were happy to experience this and thankful that the weather was cooperative.

If ever you are visiting Kyoto during May through September, this is something I would recommend experiencing.

Ajigasane
141-4 Wakamatsu
Nakagyo, Kyoto
Phone: 075.256.1777

Sunday, September 14, 2014

snackage

IMG_7942 Picked up this savory Sahale Snacks while in Hawaii.

Called Sahale Crunchers, this pairs almonds with parmesan and herbs.

Perfect with wine or beer.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

mizudashi

IMG_7940 Been making mizudashi (cold brew) coffee these days.

The days are still very warm and it's only in the early mornings or evenings that the temps are comfortable.

Right now, my favorite jar to use is this Bonne Maman...I usually just add ice and milk for an iced cafe au lait and drink it straight from the jar.

What are you enjoying these days?

Friday, September 12, 2014

campbell early

IMG_7971 We recently tried a grape called "Campbell Early".

The skins are dark purple and quite bitter and there are also seeds.

The size of the orbs are bigger than Delaware, oblong shaped and are a little tart.

I'm glad we got to try this variety.

It's Friday and we have a 3-day weekend, hope your weekend is a good one!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

renkon shoga gohan

IMG_7967 I was watching a show the other week and they were talking about foods that help bring your immunity up.

The show also talked about different prefectures in Japan and what they eat for longevity.

One food item that caught my eye was renkon (lotus root) shoga (ginger) gohan (rice).

In Kumamoto prefecture, they eat a lot of renkon (lotus root) and one way they like to eat it is with rice.

There wasn't a recipe given so I pieced together different recipes to come up with this...

Renkon Shoga Kamameshi : serves 4
2 cups rice, washed
45 grams shoga (ginger) thinly sliced
400 mililiters dashi (stock) (2 cups)*
40 mililiters (8 teaspoons) shoyu (soy sauce)
20 mililiters (4 teaspoons) mirin (sweet rice wine)
20 mililiters (4 teaspoons) sake (rice wine)

*To make dashi
450 mililiters water
4 grams dashi konbu (seaweed for dashi)
4 grams katsuo-bushi (dried bonito)
Put the konbu into the water and just before coming to a boil, remove the konbu.
Add the katsuo-bushi and turn off the heat.
Strain the dashi in a cheesecloth or paper towel.

For the renkon:
50 grams renkon (lotus root), washed well and chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)
1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine)

After washing the rice, add the ginger, dashi, shoyu, mirin and sake and cook in your rice cooker
In a frying pan, heat the oil and toss the renkon to coat
After the renkon is coated with the oil add the sugar, sake, shoyu & mirin
When most of the liquid has evaporated add renkon to the cooked rice

NOTES: You might be wondering why the renkon isn't added to the rice to be cooked together? Apparently it will lose its "crunch" if you cook it in the rice cooker. Another point that the show made was that renkon shouldn't be peeled, just use it as is, lots of vitamins in the "skin", so scrub it well as it grows in the mud.
My ginger was really mature so there was lot of "strings", if you do use mature ginger, cut up finely instead of just thinly slicing.
Also, I would use sesame oil instead of olive oil, to give the renkon and rice a little more flavor.
Overall though, this took some time to make but I liked this and will definitely make this again.

p.s. Last night we had a lightning "show". The rain was hitting our glass door on the lanai, knocked over several plants and gave everything a good drenching. These sudden showers are one thing but the amount of rain they bring are krazy! Stay safe & dry everyone!