It seems impossible we’re in the middle of October. My mind is still in late summer, partly because of the hot weather here, I’m sure. I need to brace myself for: HalloweenThanksgivingChristmasNewYears. And if you’re like me, I vow every year to be better prepared and more thoughtful for the holidays. But it’s hard to think ahead, even 2 weeks from now. So it might be premature for me to mention Christmas, but I came across something special, something that would make a nice gift, if you happen to be thinking ahead.

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5 New Breakfasts Round Up

I had a blast thinking up new breakfasts last week. In case you missed one, here’s a list of all the ways to start your morning off right.

Humble Bean
1. Shiitake and Shimeji Okayu
2. Caramelized Onion Muffins
3. Rice with Okra and a Poached Egg
4. Nori no Tsukudani
5. Black Sesame and Pear Tea Cake

1. Peach Chia Shake
2. Kim Boyce’s Seeded Granola
3. Heidi Swanson’s Giant White Beans with Kale
4. Eggs Poached in Ramekins
5. Tartine’s Sourdough Brioche

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Black Sesame Pear Tea Cake

5 days, 5 new breakfasts. I think we should celebrate with cake. And this cake—from the archives of my breakfast partner-in-crime—is the way I want to end the week.

The sight of this dramatic black loaf may be unappetizing to some but I’m a sucker for black sesame. Besides, I had this bookmarked for a long time. Noelle and I are trying to figure out how to cook through (and not forget about) the recipes we’ve accumulated—we’ll let you know if we solve this—but in the meantime, I get to check this off the list.

It’s an unusual cake, but if you love sesame, you’ll dig it. The pear feels right with the subtle flavors of the black sesame and adds pockets of sweet, moist bits. I suggest cutting them into nice, big chunks.

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Nori no Tsukudani

The classic combination of rice and miso soup. If you’ve had a Japanese breakfast, you know there’s also a pickle or condiment: umeboshi, furikake, nukazuke, or the highly divisive natto. At my dad’s house in Tokyo, there’s usually a container of kimchee and nori no tsukudani.

Nori no tsukudani is a paste you slather on rice. It tastes how you’d expect—like seaweed, but (dare I say) with more umami. Please know I don’t throw that word around casually. It’s rich, with the right balance of saltiness from the shoyu and a mellow sweetness from the mirin. It’s made from sheets of nori that are hydrated, seasoned, and cooked down until most of the moisture has evaporated. Sesame seeds and sesame oil are stirred in at the end. There are endless ways you can play with it (adding wasabi, yuzu rind, etc.).

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Posted in Basic Techniques, Fish, Rice Dishes, Soups, Traditional Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Responses

Rice with Okra and a Poached Egg

Rice, egg, shoyu: mix. That was my favorite breakfast growing up. Sometimes it was a raw egg, other times it was a hardboiled egg steeped in the juices of a sweet oden broth. These days my stepdaughter continues the tradition with her go-to afternoon snack: rice, scrambled egg, shoyu, and mirin.

But I feel better if a vegetable is involved. Prior to the Mind-Changing Okra recipe in Tara O’Brady’s Seven Spoons cookbook, all I ever did was boil or steam okra. Hers is pan-fried in sesame oil and the flavors are assertive and strong. Perfect accompaniment for rice. I borrowed her technique and used ingredients that are staples in my kitchen.

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Posted in Contemporary Recipes, Rice Dishes, Tofu + Egg, Vegetables | 4 Responses

Caramelized Onion Muffins

You can’t go wrong with caramelized onions, even in muffin form—even in muffin form with no eggs (!). The recipe is from an (almost) vegan Japanese cookbook titled, “Meal-like Cakes and Muffins You’ll Want to Eat Everyday,” which is very wordy when loosely translated by me.

Despite the skepticism I had about the lack of egg, I was surprised when we ate it, still warm from the oven. It was fairly moist and paired well with a strong black coffee. It was sweet but not too sweet and had generous ribbons of caramelized onion throughout. I made some changes—sneaked in some whole wheat flour, used butter instead of canola oil, and buttermilk instead of soy milk. I can’t say if this holds well when cooled or the next day but K ate almost a whole muffin this morning, so it’s a success in my book.

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Posted in Appetizers + Snacks, Contemporary Recipes, Sweets, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Responses

Shiitake and Shimeji Mushroom Okayu

First, I want to say the 5-DAY BREAKFAST CHALLENGE is going down this week. Today’s recipe is: Shiitake and Shimeji Mushroom Okayu.

Second, I want to quickly introduce you to Noelle and tell you about the challenge. Her blog, xobreakfast is crisp, funny, and packed with thoughtful, purposeful recipes. I see her every week because our kids have a standing play date, but really we use the time to talk about food (and these days, potty training).

Noelle talks about food with specificity and a glimmer of excitement in her eye that tells me we are like-minded when it comes to eating and cooking. She’s the reason I don’t bother to pound my chicken breasts flat (and let the butcher do it instead!). She got K to eat (and not spit out) the food she detested most—raw tomato. And she introduced me to wild spinach (a revelation!).

We were both in a cooking rut (and let’s face it, a blog rut). Breakfast, especially, because it’s easy to go on auto pilot first thing in the morning. I challenged Noelle to cook 5 new recipes every day this week. She was game and suggested we post the photos and recipes on our blogs before midnight each day.

So here’s my day one. My daughter eats and likes most things but she is crazy about shimeji mushrooms. I’ve been having a hard time getting her to eat first thing in the morning, so this breakfast is for her.

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Posted in Contemporary Recipes, Rice Dishes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Responses

Pan-Tossed Green Beans and Pork

As you can imagine, a lot has changed since I had my daughter a year and a half ago. I used to enjoy the challenge of recipes that took a bit of time, skill, and rapt attention and thought the extra work and care gave it the made-with-love charm. I’ve since revised that opinion and have a great appreciation for simplicity. Simplicity requires a different kind of attention, one that allows you to look deep into a process or ingredient. I like that it’s easier to identify what is working or lacking and that it’s practicality makes it also easy to adapt.

Pan-Tossed Green Beans and Pork was made on a whim and posted on Instagram a few weeks back. There was some interest in it, so I scribbled down some notes the next time I made it, to post here. My mom gave a very enthusiastic thumbs up (and was just as excited to eat the leftovers for lunch the next day) so I consider it worthy to post.

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Posted in Contemporary Recipes, Favorites, Meat, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Responses

Sesame Miso Dressing

My stepdaughter does not do salad but she said she’d actually like it if it was always dressed with Kayanoya’s creamy sesame miso dressing. It’s an amazing dressing. I’d brought a bottle of it back home from our trip to Japan last summer and—now that it’s gone—I was set on making a version of my own.

I wanted something simple and easy to make on a whim. It’s 5 ingredients, things I usually have on hand: sesame seeds, miso, vinegar, honey, and oil (and water). If you can, freshly grind the sesame seeds because it imparts a nice robust flavor. If you can’t, use tahini instead. The tahini version tastes a bit flat so maybe mash up a little garlic to give it some dimension, if you go that route.

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Posted in Favorites, Salads | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Responses

Salt-Massaged Napa Cabbage with Meyer Lemon

After a long hiatus, I’m easing back into things with this simple, delicious recipe. It comes from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s Japanese Farm Food, a book my very generous (and wildly talented) cousin Kathy let me thumb through. It’s a fairly thick tome, with a mix of approachable recipes (like this one), and complicated ones (like ramen—soup, noodles, rayu and all!).

The book is as much a story of her life as a wife of a Japanese farmer as it is a cookbook. I’m not finished reading it, but I take away from it a deep love of family, food, tradition, nature, and culture. And despite that, it isn’t stuck in a distant past. Hachisu has a way of smartly modifying her home, kitchen space, rituals, cooking, and these farm recipes to suit the needs of modern life.

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Posted in Basic Techniques, Traditional Recipes, Vegetables | 8 Responses
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