I've been cooking my way through a Japanese cook book (thank you King County library system): Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat: Secrets of My Mother's Tokyo Kitchen by Naomi Moriyama. I'm not Japanese, but I tell you, I must have been in another lifetime. Eating this food just feels like home. My weight is coming down, energy up, and I've taken my latest love interest to breakfast, lunch and dinner. So far, it hasn't been an expensive date, but turning out to be a consuming one...
I'm now getting up every morning at 6 a.m. to make Japanese "power" breakfasts (miso soup, rice, side dishes, etc.), bento box lunches, and home style dinner entrees for Tharan, my son, and I (with the exception of my five year old - she hasn't quite taken to onigiri and gobo, not yet). I'm like those Japanese mothers and now cooking fresh miso soup daily too. Oishii!
The thing about this food is not only are the flavors delicious and simple, but the dishes are beautiful. There is a grace and beauty about the simplicity and pleasing color palette of the dishes. I've been taking an additional hour in the evening prepping the boxes for the morning.
I've been boiling juice gelatins, washing cherry tomatoes, radishes, blueberries, and placing delicate wrapped Japanese cookies into the compartments. You wouldn't believe (I don't believe it) how consumed I've become with the details of our lunches daily. It seems a lot of work and sure looks like it... but I've got it down to 10 minutes in the mornings.
The bento lunch I made yesterday (pictured here) has bambo shoots and squid, carrots and gobo, sticky rice sprinkled with furikake, cranberry juice gelatin, hijiki and fried tofu, fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), and a paper wrapped rice cracker. The bento pictures look like a lot of food, but really isn't. Bento box portions are quite small compared to our American appetites and portions. When I first saw the bento boxes on display at Daiso's, I thought they would feed a child nicely - then saw that the recommended portion was for an adult female! The one featured here feeds an adult male and I bought it from Uwajimaya's.
At work at times, I sometimes take a peek into the red lacquered box just to look at the colors. You see, it's as I've always believed - food should not only feed the stomach but also the eyes... and it doesn't hurt that it's reducing my waist line too.
Try this delicious fiber rich gobo recipe. I've been eating this dish hot and cold every day now for the past two weeks. The crunch of the carrots, gobo and rich nutty flavor of the ground sesame blend nicely. This dish has become a standard side dish on our breakfast and dinner table.
Gobo and Carrotadapted from Naomi Moriyama, "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat"
1 medium (8 ounce) burdock root
1 T canola oil
2 dried red peppers (Japanese, Thai chili, Santaka, or Szechuan)
1 C carrots, cut into matchstick slivers
1 T sake
1 T reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 t mirin
1 t granulated sugar
1 t toasted and ground sesame seeds
- Scrub the exterior of the burdock root with a vegetable brush to remove excess dirt and the skin. Cut the burdock root into 2 1/2 to 3" long matchsticks, and rinse quickly under cold water. You will have approximately 2 cups of burdock root matchsticks.
- Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the red peppers and saute for 30 seconds. Add the burdock root and saute until tender, about 3 minutes; it will appear translucent on the surface. Stir in the carrot and saute for 2 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the sake, soy, mirin, and sugar. Stir the vegetables for 1 minute more to allow them to absorb the sauce. Remove and discard the red peppers and arrange the vegetables in a mound in the center of a serving bowl and garnish with the sesame seeds.