Farmer’s Market Ratatouille

This is another meal that was inspired by our favorite dish on a recent vacation to San Francisco.

Have you ever seen the movie Ratatouille? It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, and holds a special place in my heart. My boyfriend and I were able to snag special screening passes for this movie before it was officially released and right before I started studying abroad in Japan. The movie was great and I saw a lot of cute advertisements for Ratatouille (or Remy’s Yummy Resto as it’s called) when I was there.

Ratatouille Train Station Advertisement in Japan, 2007

After Smitten Kitchen’s Ratatouille popped up in my RSS feed, I knew I had to have some.

I’ve had jarred ratatouille from Trader Joe’s before and it was good, but this was so much better. It came together very quickly (thank you mandoline!) and used all local ingredients. I misread the recipe and didn’t pack the slices as close as I should have, so I made another mini pan of ratatouille. Instead of thyme, I used some local basil and topped the ratatouille with some bovre cheese. I also used tomato paste mixed with some leftover pasta sauce for the red sauce on the bottom. This was alright as a meal, but would have been much better served as a side or atop some pasta (or couscous like SK did).

Since this recipe yields so much, I was able to pack three lunches with it! You know it’s got to be good if my boyfriend asked for it to be boxed up. The round blue box was mine and the pink box went to a vegetarian coworker.

This recipe has been deemed a "hit at home" and is one of the tastiest recipes on Hapa-tite!

Chilled Chinese Noodle Salad (冷やし中華)

July’s Washoku Warriors challenge was to make one of two dishes: Hiyashi Chuka (Chilled Chinese Noodle Salad) or Somen (Thin Noodles on Ice). I chose to make the hiyashi chuka because it was very flexible and came together in just a few minutes.

The recipe had two different dressing recipes and I chose the one that required no prep time and had the least amount of ingredients. I added a little more sugar and a little less sesame oil for personal preference. Next time, I would add a splash of plum vinegar or citrus juice to brighten the dressing a tad. The original garnishes called for were red pickled ginger, tomato, cucumber, shitake mushrooms, egg, ham, and sesame seeds.

I wanted to keep with the color scheme, so replaced the tomato with red pepper and switched out sesame seeds with flax seeds and some black sesame seeds. I omitted the ‘shrooms since I don’t care for them, and replaced the red pickled ginger (beni shoga) with regular pickled ginger. I also don’t care for cucumbers so next time I’ll replace it with zucchini. I don’t really like sesame oil, so I was very worried about adding it into the dressing. In the end, I was surprised that the smell of sesame was so strong, but the taste was just right!

This dish came together so quickly, yet was satisfying and light–there will definitely be a “next time” for this.
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Citrus-and-Soy-Glazed Swordfish (梶木鮪の幽庵焼き)

April’s Washoku Warriors challenge was Spring. We were given the option of making kajiki maguro no yuuan yaki (梶木鮪の幽庵焼き), spinach steeped in broth — hourensou no ohitashi (菠薐草のお浸し), and/or temple style chowder — unpen-jiru (雲辺汁). I wanted to try the soup, but decided on the easier fish and spinach combination.

There was an interesting story in the book about the fish — the chef chooses the different chinese characters to display on the menu, reflecting his interpretation of the dish. I chose to display the characters that are used in the wikipedia entry for this dish, but there are two other popular uses.

The fish was surprisingly very tasty, and very easy to cook. I was a little wary of this recipe since I don’t like tougher white fish like swordfish and mahi mahi (which I substituted for the swordfish in this recipe because it was less expensive). The quick marinade and high-heat cooking method made the flesh tender and it flaked apart like the fish my dad made when we were growing up. There is also very healthy because I used less than a teaspoon of oil to sear the fish in.

I really wish we had yuzu around where I live, but alas, we don’t. I also didn’t have grapefruit juice to mix with lime and lemon to mimic the flavor of yuzu, but this dish was fine with just lemon and lime. The flavors were simple and bright, but next time I’ll double the citrus amount or cut the soy sauce in half. The end result’s shoyu flavor was a bit too strong for my taste.

The fish was served with ohitashi, rice, and roasted asparagus.

The ohitashi was the least successful part of this dish–probably due to the shortcuts I took in the marinade. I didn’t have soy sauce concentrate on hand for the ohitashi, but wanted to make this dish very quickly so I estimated the ratio of salt to sugar and added some water and instant dashi granules. The result was a little too ocean-y and far too salty. I used the leftover glaze and zest from the fish and mixed it in with the spinach and it became more palatable. Unfortunately, I don’t think the ohitashi is for me, but it may just be my dislike for leafy greens. The bright green color after blanching was very attractive though.

One great positive about this meal is that I was able to make a bento out of the leftovers!

April 21st – Yuuan yaki swordfish; roasted asparagus; spinach ohitashi; kumquats; rice.
Pictured on a Wall-E notebook!

Carte postale de la République Centrafricaine

Bento Concept has started another world tour!
Stop #1 is the Central African Republic. Next stop is Russia (3/29), followed by Greece (4/26).

I had never really heard anything about the Central African Republic before this challenge. I did a lot of research and learned about the various types of cuisines, crops, and animals that they have. A lot of the types of food were either time consuming or contained ingredients hard to find or out of season here. I made some shrimp with peanuts, rice, an elephant out of rice mixed with ground sesame seeds, roasted sweet potatoes, and some egg. The green dividers are carrot leaves (thus making it my submission for hapabento’s b.o.m.b. challenge). The top tier is rice with various colors of egg sheet on it to represent the flag of the Central African Republic.

This is also a brand new bento box and hat pick that I got from Just Bento’s Menu for Hope raffle package. Thanks so much Maki for picking up bento goodies for me in Japan!

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Bento Roundup: End of January, Beginning of February

I’ve been slacking on posting bento, but not on packing them! I make my bento the night before and usually take a picture of it at work (love that fluorescent lighting). By the time I get home, it’s time to make dinner and go to bed.

Jan 14th – Rice; Vegetables and Pork stir-fried from New Years; cabbage tsukemono; kohaku namasu

Jan 20th – Another leftovers bento. Milk tea pocky; vegetable/pork stir-fry; kohaku namasu; cabbage tsukemono; roll and leftover lobster macaroni and cheese from Jackson’s Mighty Fine Lucky Lounge. The mac and cheese went mostly uneaten.

Jan 27th – I had class after work this day, so I packed my food in a cupcake box that had come with a purchase earlier in the week. ham, spinach and cheese sandwich; gingerbread truffle; fruit salad; baked chips. This was too much food since half of the sandwich, the truffle, and the fruit salad went uneaten.

Jan 28th – kohaku namasu; homemade applesauce; milk chocolate truffle; rice with sesame seeds; lop cheung cooked in ginger-chile sauce.

Jan 29th – Rice; spinach; grilled tofu; homemade applesauce; harry and david soft caramel; thai chicken dumpling; lettuce; random “Asian chicken”. A lot of this food was from the Whole Foods prepared food bar, which I have now concluded that I do not like. The caramel was delicious!

Feb 2nd – I had a meeting off-site this day, so I wanted something that was small and I wouldn’t have to carry around all day after lunch. sandwich on challah bread; strawberries and pineapple; homemade applesauce; salt and vinegar chips. This was a lot of food, so the chips were eaten later as a snack. The pink snack box is really an onigiri container!

Feb 3rd – Another challah sandwich; pineapple slices; red velvet cupcake from the bakery in my building.

Feb 4th – Milk tea pocky, coconut cupcake; dark chocolate truffle; tamagoyaki; rice with black sesame seeds; lop cheung; pineapple chunks; homemeade apple sauce. This was so much food! I ate the sausage, two out of three of the tamagoyaki and most of the rice. Nothing else!