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.
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.
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.
I recently came across a new subscription service called Skoshbox. Readers out there who have limited access to Japanese products—you’ll love this. Every month, Skoshbox delivers the best of Japanese snacks and other items straight to your door for $12 per month (includes shipping). This service model is like a CSA box for Japanese snacks and candy! This sample sent to me was filled with nostalgic goodies I grew up with like Koala’s March (コアラのマーチ), Umaibo (うまい棒), Marble Chocolate (マーブルチョコ), and Choco Ball (チョコボール)! Plus there were others I’ve never tried like Look Chocolate, chocolate bars with green tea milk and azuki filling. You can see a full description of the current box here.
Even if you have access to a Japanese grocery store, this would make a great gift to someone who doesn’t. In fact, in a bit of personal news, I’m packing these snacks in my hospital bag to take when I go into labor. It has the perfect variety of small salty and sweet snacks!
For anyone who thinks rice is a little boring, I urge you to make this Mixed Rice with Pork and Bamboo Shoots. This maze gohan (mixed rice) is one of my favorites for its ease and short ingredient list. But more importantly it delivers in flavor.
Today is the last day of my month-long challenge to post every weekday in March to celebrate Humble Bean’s 4th anniversary. Thank you for following along and sending me your comments! My hope is you found something interesting here to make in your own home. In case you missed any, here’s a list of all the recipes:
Mon: Hayashi Rice
Tue: Carrots with Sesame
Wed: Chicken Tatsuta Age
Thu: Temaki Zushi
Fri: Sukiyaki Donburi
Mon: Hamburger Steak
Tue: Chicken Soboro
Wed: Egg Drop Soup
Thu: Bacon Korokke
Fri: Tuna + Avocado Donburi
Mon: Ginger Beef
Tue: Spinach Dressed with Tofu
Wed: Pan-Fried Gyoza 2
Thu: Matcha Roll Cake
Fri: Kuwayaki Pork Donburi
Mon: Kakiage Tempura
Tue: Smashed Pickled Cucumbers
Wed: Beer Beef Stew
Thu: Matcha Sablé Cookies
Fri: Mixed Rice with Pork and Bamboo Shoots
When we have dinner guests, this Beer Beef Stew with Bacon and Shimeji is often on the menu. I didn’t think twice about including it in this month of recipes until my husband pointed out that he didn’t know it was Japanese. What makes a recipe Japanese? The source? The technique? The ingredients? The cook?
The recipe comes from one of my mom’s very old, boro boro Japanese cooking magazines. Knowing the recipe’s source and the fact that we always ate it over rice made it unquestioningly Japanese to me. But there aren’t any quintessentially Japanese ingredients, except for the shimeji.
Still, I don’t hesitate to include it here. This stew, despite it’s lack of overt Japanese influence, is too good not to share.
These pickles are quick and they balance the salty, sweet, and sour flavors beautifully. There’s also something gratifying about smashing cucumbers with a rolling pin, so if you have some aggression to let out, here’s your chance! The result is a more rustic pickle, crunchy, refreshing, and delicious.
Posted in Appetizers + Snacks, Contemporary Recipes, Favorites, Pickles, Vegetables
Tagged cucumber, easy, pickle, quick, rice vinegar, sesame oil, shoyu, sugar
Kakiage tempura is a mixed vegetable tempura, usually with carrots, onion, and gobo. I didn’t have any gobo on hand, so I made it with just the 2 ingredients. Instead of preparing a variety of vegetables and shrimp, what I like about kakiage tempura is its quick and versatile. We had tempura soba the first night and I repurposed the leftovers the next day as tendon (a tempura rice bowl).
What’s great about this Kuwayaki Pork Donburi is how the sweet and sticky sauce clings to the pork and the way the shiso perfumes each bite. When I saw the recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, I was immediately drawn to the photo. It looked amazing. So, you can imagine I was even more impressed because it tasted better than it looked. The funny thing is I haven’t made it since I wrote that post, in the first year of starting Humble Bean. I’m always hunting for new recipes, so I forgot about how much I enjoyed this dish. I know frying deters some people, but I hope you give this a shot. I know I’m going to.
Here’s the recipe for Kuwayaki Pork Donburi.