April 27, 2011

Halved-Apple Crisp

What is the absolutely laziest way that you can make apple crisp?

Slice an apple in half and scoop out the core (I use a melon baller), cram dried cherries into the hollow, and press some crumb topping onto the cut surface of the apple. Bake on a sheet (or in a dish, to catch any juice), at 375℉ for about 25 minutes.

Dead easy (and almost terse enough to be a Twitter recipe)!

If you're one of those compulsively organized types, you can always make batches of the crumb topping and freeze them in small containers so that they're ready to go when you are. Me, I just had some leftover bits to use up. My freezer is too small to contemplate stocking such things with any regularity.

For the recipe for the crumb topping (and instructions for a more traditional apple crisp), check out my Apple Crisp post from last November.

Now that Spring is (theoretically) here, I'm loving the greater variety of fruit that has become available, but apples are available year round (at least in these parts), and this is a dish that you can have easily, anytime. For example, as breakfast. You've got your oats and your fruit, both classic breakfast components. Add a cup of coffee, and what more do you need? (Oh. Bacon, you say? Well, sure. Maybe on the weekend...)

April 25, 2011

International Bento (Japan): Gyoza-Meatball Bento!

What happens when you are making gyoza, and run out of wrappers before you run out of filling? Well, you could run out and buy more wrappers, certainly, or make up another batch by hand if that's the way you roll. However, if you only have a small amount of filling left over, why not just make meatballs?

To make sure they fit nicely into my rather flat bento, I shaped them more like tiny burger patties, and simply fried them up. So, I guess you could either call this "skinless gyoza" or flat meatballs. I "dressed" them with a little dollop of leftover tonkatsu sauce from a previous dinner, which was absolutely the right condiment (although spicy bean paste or miso gravy would have also been good). The filling I was making was pretty much the same as the pork filling, but I sometimes play fast and loose with the quantities of mushrooms and/or cabbage, which is why I ended up with a little extra this time. You can also substitute the ground pork for ground turkey, with tasty results, and one day I do intend to get around to trying a scallop-prawn gyoza.

Since gyoza filling is not cooked in advance of dumpling assembly, it's easy enough to shape any leftover bits into meatballs - you could freeze them uncooked, naturally, but I just cooked them up on the spot, downed one as a snack (just to make sure they were tasty, you understand) and packed up the rest for a lunch.

The rest of the bento is probably fairly self-explanatory: Radish lotus flowers (they look more like lotus flowers or lilies to me than roses, when cut this way), raw snow peas, and Japanese steamed rice with togaraschi shichimi sprinkled on top.

This was a fairly filling bento, between all the rice and four large meatballs, so it wasn't as balanced as it could have been. A little more veggie matter, or some fruit for dessert would have sorted that out nicely but, to be fair, I made this bento out of refrigerator scraps, essentially, so I was pretty pleased with it.

I'd like to get back into making more bentos. We've been eating out in restaurants a lot since the move, what with work schedules, hockey playoffs, and loads of new restaurants suddenly more available to us, so our leftovers haven't always been bento-friendly (or I've been too lazy to make them so). I do enjoy the way bento-making encourages the planning of a balanced lunch more than simply putting leftovers of a main dish into a container without thought or side dishes. It feels like a step in the right direction, and gets more fruit and vegetables into my lunchtime.

April 16, 2011

Takikomi Gohan

Another rice post - but rather different from risotto!

I've always enjoyed the small bowls of mixed rice, or takikomi gohan that one can get in Japanese restaurants - they provide a wonderful, warm, savory hit of satisfaction. The kind I tend to see around Vancouver are usually made with chicken, with mushroom, or with both, and I went for the combination, since it struck me as a fine idea for a casual supper at home.

I went looking online for suggestions regarding recipes, and there certainly is a number to choose from, each with a different approach to the necessary components. After a lot of searching, I finally came back to the incredibly useful Just Hungry food blog, the sister site of Just Bento. Her recipes are for straight-up mushroom (one traditional, one vegan), but she does mention the addition of diced chicken instead of bean curd, so that's the option I took. I thought I was getting the chicken pieces small enough, but next time I will dice them more finely.

The recipe itself is simplicity, if you are using a rice cooker. Chop your mushrooms (and chicken) and allow to marinate for an hour or so in a small amount of a mixture of roughly equal proportions of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. Add this mixture on top of the rice and water mixture in your rice cooker, then turn it on as usual for plain rice. Gently mix with a paddle when it is cooked, to integrate everything. Garnish as you please.

It is not a particularly elegant dish, as you can see below. It is simple, comforting, and easy fare, and one I intend to repeat again soon. The leftovers, as you can see above, made absolutely charming onigiri for a bento lunch the next day (and froze fairly nicely, too).

You can use whatever mushrooms you like. We used a combination of shiitake, king oyster, and enoki. Next time, I plan to include shimeji (beech mushroom), since I found that HMart carries the more widely cultivated bunashimeji. But really, any mushroom that you enjoy eating will work just fine.

I'm surprised it took me so long to try making this for myself, because it is very rewarding for the small amount of prep involved. Even if you've never had the restaurant version, you might want to give this a try: it is a solid entry in the grand category of soothing rice-with-bits dishes.