Japanese Green Beans and Tempeh

Mark requested sushi rice – just sushi rice – for dinner tonight, but I of course insisted on adding a vegetable and protein to the rice. I did want to keep it very simple though, as I haven’t felt like cooking much this weekend. So here’s what I did:

Simple Japanese Green Beans

8 oz French-style green beans (or regular green beans)
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Toast the sesame seeds over a medium flame until they are light brown and smell sesame-y. I’m using a tiny cast iron pot my mother-in-law gave me (because she knows I love cast iron).

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the green beans. Cook French-style green beans for 2 minutes; fatter beans for maybe 3 minutes: you want them crisp-tender.

Whisk together the soy sauce and mirin. I like using Asian tea cups for tiny mixing jobs.

When green beans are just cooked, drain.

Toss green beans with soy sauce mixture and sesame seeds. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I don’t think tempeh is very big in Japanese cooking, but I decided to give it a Japanese twist to serve with Mark’s sushi rice. Here’s what I did:

Japanese-style Tempeh

8 oz tempeh
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp miso
2″ ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, pressed or smashed
several shakes shichimi togarashi (Japanese “seven spice” seasoning)

Whisk together all ingredients but tempeh; set aside.

Chop the tempeh: cut into fourths, then slice each fourth in half lengthwise …

… then slice each eighth into four strips.

I managed to forget to take a picture of the tempeh marinating, but pour the marinade over the tempeh in a shallow bowl and let sit for at least 10 minutes. I did this first then made the green beans above. Drain the tempeh, reserving the marinade. (I just picked the tempeh out of the marinade.)

Heat some oil in a hot cast iron skillet (I used olive oil with a bit of sesame), then add the tempeh strips.

Fry until golden on all sides.

Spoon about 3 tablespoons of marinade over the tempeh and stir. I also added a tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.

Serve with rice.

This was simple and quick, but pretty salty, as is a lot of Japanese food. And tempeh seems to soak salt right up. So you may want to use low-sodium soy sauce or try reducing the amount I called for, depending on your salt tolerance.

Here is Mark demonstrating how much he loves sushi rice. He’s eating it straight out of the rice cooker, off the rice paddle.

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Miso Follow-up, Miso Soup, and Chili-Miso Noodles

Some of you may recall that a year ago, I made miso. The year’s fermentation was over a couple of weeks ago but today was the first chance I had to check out the results. They were a bit surprising.

Six months ago, I took a sneak peak to see how the miso was progressing, so I was expecting the miso to look nearly the same as it did then, and taste maybe just a bit mellower. Here’s what I found:

The label on the crock tells me it’s ready.

Hey, there’s my small molcajete! (I tend to use my molcajetes as weights just as often as I use them for grinding.)

And the plate the sushi place near Luke and Lanet’s gave me!

I didn’t find any soy sauce like I did at six months, but what’s this? The miso looks much darker.

Removing the plastic wrap proved my eyes were not deceiving me: the miso really had turned from yellow to brown.

At first I was disconcerted by this unexpected color change. But it didn’t smell strongly or bad: just pleasantly of miso. So I tasted a little bit and it tasted good…really good. I also remembered that I originally followed two recipes from different sources: the instructions GEM Cultures sent me, and the recipe in Wild Fermentation, and that though the two had been nearly identical, the former had called it “yellow” miso and the latter “red”, so I’d been very confused as to what to call mine. And at six months, it sure looked yellow. But I guess what happened is I made red miso.

This is how much I have:

I’m going to let some of it age even further by keeping it in a cool place in the basement, but out of the fridge.

It’s MUCH better than it was at six months. The texture is very much improved. You can still see the koji, which makes it appear to not be perfectly smooth, but it feels really nice. It’s like a very, very soft clay. I’d venture to say it tastes better than the red miso I have from the store. (It’s also darker than the red miso I have from the store.) I wish I could describe it better than just saying it tastes like…miso. It’s mellower than it was at six months, but much more complex. At six months, I still thought the store-bought stuff tasted better. This – this is pretty good stuff.

To celebrate, I made miso soup for lunch. I may already have put miso soup up here somewhere, but well, if I did, this post is better. I don’t measure anything. This makes about two servings.

Miso Soup

Put a 4″ inch piece of kombu in two cups of water in a saucepan.

Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Keeping the heat on medium low, remove the kombu (you can eat it if you want) and add 1/2 teaspoon or so of dried wakame. I also add a splash of sake and a splash of rice vinegar, but both are optional.

Add some diced tofu. Fortunately I just made a batch today, as it would have been a shame to stick store-bought tofu into miso soup made with homemade miso!

Put a few tablespoons of miso in a small bowl – how much depends on how strong the miso you’re using is – and add some of the hot water from the pot, about 1/4 cup. Whisk together.

Pour the miso into the pot and add some chopped scallions. You’ll commonly see it advised not to let the soup boil after adding the miso because boiling kills the beneficial enzymes. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but scalding hot miso soup isn’t nice anyway, so keep it just under a boil until you’re ready to eat.

I also made Chili-Miso Noodles by cooking some udon, and whisking together 2 tablespoons of miso, 1 tablespoon of chili broad bean paste, a couple splashes each of rice vinegar and mirin, and about 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, heating this mixture briefly, and stirring into the noodles, then garnishing with scallions.

A very miso-y meal.

I know some of you are suffering with me in the mid-Atlantic region, which was hit with two blizzards/near blizzards in a span of four days. We’ve enjoyed several years of mild winters and Virginia in particular does not budget or prepare for much snow, so this has been crippling. The federal and county governments have been closed for days and many side streets are impassable, even those that have been plowed. Four-wheel drive vehicles seem to be doing okay on our street, but neither Mark nor I can even get our cars out of the driveway. There’s a good 4″ of snow on the road – all the plow did was sort of push it down, not push it away – and Mark had to help the mail man get his truck out of an intersection the other day when it got stuck. (It just so happened that I’d made Mark lug home kitty litter from Wegmans, which was convenient timing for the mail man!) I’ve been walking up to Wegmans on good (non-actively blizzarding) days for exercise and to get lightweight things, but we won’t be driving anywhere for several more days. The street is hard to walk on because in most places, the snow is not compacted down, so you really have to trudge. And where it is compacted and smooth, it’s icy. Basically I AM MOVING TO AUSTRALIA. Or if that’s impossible, California, even if I am pretty sure they’re due for a huge earthquake. Anyway, I haven’t taken too many pictures, because I’m just sort of disgusted with snow, but here are a few from the first storm.

Mark’s been, bizarrely, excited about shoveling. Which is fine with me! He looks like The Little Shoveler Who Could in this pic.

This is my car. I had to go out at 3 am during the first blizzard and wipe it off because it’s a convertible and I don’t want the heavy snow to break the top, so this is just what snow was added to it until the next morning. By the end of the day yesterday, the level of snow was higher than the hood of the car; it looked like I’d driven into a bank of snow.

This is the side yard. If you look carefully, you can see this is a fenced area. Inside that fence is the pool. Thinking about the pool during this weather makes me very sad. Especially since my swim classes have been cancelled all week so I haven’t been doing any swimming.

I hope everyone else who’s been affected by these storms has been staying safe and warm. Unlike my poor friend Nona, we’ve had power the whole time, and we can both work from home, so we’re faring better than many people and I’ve no right to complain. Except I opened my last bottle of red wine last night and once that’s gone, I may have to complain. I think instead of juice and other healthful things, tomorrow’s trip to Wegmans is going to have to involve the wine store.

I’m sure my Canadian friends are going to laugh at me again. But I’m REALLY over snow. And they’re predicting more on Monday.

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Miso Check-in and Tofu Mayo

Some of you may recall that back in January I made miso. It takes a year to fully ferment, but you can try it after six months and my six months were up on July 19th. It dawned on me today that July 19th is not, in fact, weeks in the future, but in the past. WHERE HAS THIS SO-CALLED SUMMER GONE?? Anyway, the anticipation was killing me. Had I been incubating something horrible for the last six months or was there really, truly edible miso in that white crock??

Several scenarios sailed through my head, but what I was not expecting was to remove the weight and find…

a dark liquid covering the plate. (Those lighter-colored things on the right are the pattern on the otherwise gray plate. This picture is a bit of an optical illusion.)

It dawned me, however, that what that liquid was was soy sauce! Indeed, I think it is, because you make soy sauce from soy and koji as well. It was pretty salty (I was real brave and tasted it) and there wasn’t much of it, so I just drained it off, removed the plate and the plastic wrap, and discovered this:

Miso! I think the parts that are grayish are really just indentations from the plastic wrap, and the circle is the indentation from the bottom of the plate the weight sat on. Nonetheless, I’ve read that the top layer of miso isn’t very good, so I scraped it away …

… and removed some of the good stuff with a spoon.

It’s real miso! It’s not gross! I’m as surprised as you are, trust me. To taste it, I heated a small amount of water to just under boiling and stirred some miso in. This is the most basic miso soup you can make.

It tasted fine, so I removed a little bit to use now, then packed the rest of it back down …

… covered with fresh plastic wrap …

… put the plate back on it (here you can see the pattern that looked a bit weird under the soy sauce), and the weight, and sealed it back up to wait another six months.

Here’s the bit I reserved; I’ll think of something fun to do with some of it this week. I have plenty of commercial miso, but I’m dying to see what mine tastes like in every day use!

Next up, last week when I mentioned using xantham gum as a thickener, a few people were interested. Lou asked me about using it in tofu mayo so I figured I’d try it and see. So this is for Lou.

I started with Bryanna’s recipe, using 5/8 tsp Indian black salt (which I use when I want something to seem “eggy”…and also because I bought a ton of it at the Indian grocery yesterday and I have more than I can store), one tablespoon canola oil, one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and one tablespoon lemon juice. After tasting it, I thought it was too lemony (which is weird, I love lemon, which is why I used it, but it was a little overly “bright” for mayo, I thought), and I added maybe half a tablespoon Dijon mustard at Lou’s suggestion. I liked it much better then. Here’s the texture, with no thickener:

It’s a bit hard to see, but although it’s creamy and somewhat thick, it is a little runnier than real mayo is (I think – it’s been ten years or more since I’ve used real mayo!).

I started adding xantham gum by the 1/8 teaspoon, blending it in thoroughly using the food processor (really, it’s a Sumeet Asia Grinder, but for this purpose, it’s a food processor). To my surprise, 1/8 and even 1/2 teaspoon did nothing discernible to the texture. Finally I added what made a full teaspoon of xantham gum, blended thoroughly, and let it sit about five minutes. I don’t know if the change in texture is really apparent in the photos, but it did become more mayo-y:

I think I can therefore report to Lou that she may like the results if she wants to play around with her mayo recipe using xantham gum. This may actually be closer to a mayo texture than Vegenaise is, although I consider Vegenaise a pretty perfect product.

I wouldn’t ordinarily use this amount of mayo in the two weeks that Bryanna says it’s good for, so I may be turning this into my coveted ranch dip this week. It’d be really great if I could make the ranch dip guilt-free because it’s really, really good, but it’s not really, really good for you. I’ll keep you posted.

Remember the book pillow I made? Brachtune sometimes does this completely adorable thing where she sleeps with her head on it, but yesterday I found her apparently under the impression it’s a computer!

Also, I was able to use the pool all weekend – woo! The website I use for weather has been predicting intense hail and thunderstorms all day, but in reality it was warm and sunny and gorgeous – perfect pool weather – and I’ve yet to see a hint of hail. Not that I’m complaining! Thunderstorms are predicted for the rest of the week, however. It’s incredible the number of thunderstorms we’ve had this summer. Thursday night, Mark, Fortinbras, and I saw the National Symphony Orchestra perform Carmina Burana, one of my favourite pieces of music, at Wolf Trap, during a violent thunderstorm that lasted the entire show, rain beating down around us and lightning filling the sky. Although I felt sorry for the hardy souls on the lawn, it was actually a pretty cool way to experience the concert, and the performance was excellent. I really do like thunderstorms – I may have been the only bride on the planet to hope for thunderstorms on her wedding day (didn’t get my wish) – and I appreciated the one Thursday night, but I’m begging the weather gods to let me continue to use the pool!

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