I’m in Florida for the next two days for a funeral. When I come back, I have a post about the history of lunch boxes here in the US.
Archive for June, 2009
I think my favorite part of summer is the ability to switch gears. Suddenly things become both a lot faster and slower at the same time. You run from one activity or get together to another, but between the rushing, you find these great moments to slow down. Afternoons are spent outside, nursing a beer or two for what seems like hours. Long car rides seem like vacation once you can have the windows open and slip off your sandals.
Summer foods start to make an appearance and suddenly you have access to farmers markets and fresher ingredients. You cook less and less because it’s too warm to hang out in front of the stove and eating hot food isn’t a priority anyway.
This bento is my attempt to begin the transition. Just some veggies and cold chicken. I love cold chicken and the nice thing about this is that you can get chicken legs very cheaply. Just add some spices and roast the legs in the oven. You can add the meat to a light salad, or be lazy like me and just plop it down in your lunchbox.
Every once and a while, you stumble on a great idea, so great that when you finally see it come to life, it is grander and better than you ever dreamed.
After a discussion about gourmet hot dogs and an article in Bon Apetit magazine, my friend Sean and I decided to make banh mi hot dogs. For those of you who might not be familiar with these truly delicious culinary wonders, they are a type of Vietnamese sandwich served on a baguette. But rather than take up too much time explaining all the magic they hold, I will give you a chance to read the wikipedia article.
Back now? Great. The plan was made, and I got cracking on preparing the ingredients to make our banh mi dog a reality. I bought cilantro, mini cucumbers (but any seedless one would work fine), jalapenos, and prepared the marinated carrots. Some people would include mayo or pate, but assuming that the hot dog was bad enough for us, we skipped those options. I also got some french bread instead of the usual soft hot dog roll. Here is a pic of the results (already bitten into as you can see):
I can’t tell you enough how tasty these were. Almost as good as regular banh mi. I really think it is the carrots and cilantro that really make everything incredible. I should start putting that stuff on everything..in fact, maybe I will. Below I have put the recipe for the carrots because it is insanely easy and I want people to make these hot dogs stat! No hard to find or special ingredients required!
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
Boil vinegar and add sugar. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Take off heat and let cool a bit before adding carrots. Stir to coat and let sit overnight in the fridge.
As I try to fill the hole that Kotobukiya has left behind, i went to Super 88 today. Shopping there is always a lot of fun, but i was bummed because there were a lot of things that I couldn’t find. But then again, in the hopes of finding some new regular items, I have a bunch of new things that I’m trying…like a strawberry jelly mix and ceylon spinach (featured in the bento above).
Another discovery this week were mini cucumbers. Not sure what purpose they serve other than being cute because the seedless cucumbers have served me just fine up to this point.And this might be me being nit picky, but I’m not quite sure why they chose Sponge Bob to be their mascot. What exactly does he have to do with cucumbers? Anyone know? Anyone? Bueller?
There are no real recipes to share this time, but I will point out the miso ball. I love adding these to bentos because they can be a really nice way to start a meal or save for a snack later. I just pop the miso ball (rolled in chopped scallion with some instant dashi stock sprinkled on) in a mug and add hot water. Just a few stirs, and you have miso! No, it’s not the most interesting miso in the world, but it is still warm and comforting during these endless rainy days we seem to be having up here in the northeast.
Here is a bento from earlier this week:
In this bento, I took advantage of a sale on bags of precut salad, and an earlier trip to an asian market. The idea was to have a nice light salad with a little extra protein on the side. Shumai are great for bentos because they are self contained and really easy to pack. I steamed these for about 8 mins before allowing them to cool and then placing them in my bento. The mushroom are canned ones that I marinated in some oil and vinegar. Before eating the salad, I just dumped them right on with the oil and vinegar as well to serve as a dressing.
Because I need to post more, here are two bentos to make up for my delinquency…
The first bento was made with a quick trip to the salad bar. I was sick of buying full packages of things, only to see them go bad before I had a chance to use them all up. So on my way home, i spent a whopping $3 at the salad bar to get some things to add to my quinoa. I have no idea why I didn’t think of this before.
I had thought about writing a tutorial for making onigiri, but there are a lot of people out there who are more knowledgeable about them than I am. As a result, I’ve decided to provide some of the best resources I have found for making these little guys.
Onigiri FAQs and Tutorials
The Onigiri FAQ from Just Bento – I can’t think of anything onigiri related that Maki doesn’t answer on her site. She even gives great info about keeping them fresh.
Onigiri Tutorial by Cooking Cute – I like this tutorial because it is basic and includes both instructions for onigiri made by hand and made with a mold.
Cooking with Dog – This video is helpful for thinking of different shapes and fillings. Also, I find the dog pretty funny. This might not be the easiest to understand, but I found it entertaining.
My personal onigiri tips –
-When you are working with fillings that are more wet, don’t be afraid to squeeze to squeeze out the excess liquid before using it. Trust me, this will make things a lot easier.
– Chop up the fillings nice and small. I find that this makes them much easier to eat.
-Experimenting with fillings is a lot of fun. There are no rules here, so don’t feel that you need to follow other people’s recipes exactly because they are more traditional. You are the one eating them, so my advice is to make it how you like it. You want a pulled pork onigiri? You can have it!
I suppose you could file this under “random observations” but I seem to have rotten luck when it comes to dogs and knitting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been working on my knitting when one of the dogs I dogsit for will come over to me and do one of the following: sit directly on my ball of yarn, chew on my ball of yarn, sit right on the pattern, bat the yarn off the couch, or just start licking the needles while I am mid-stitch. I’m not sure why this happens but my best guess is that anything that takes attention away from them must be eradicated at all costs.
Onigiri are a great staple to have on hand. They are easy to make and even freeze well. I often wonder why I don’t make them more often. The one in the picture has spicy tuna in the middle. My trick that is that I try not to make the tuna too mayo-y because a drier tuna seems to help the onigiri to hold together a little better. Also,i read somewhere that you should wrap each onigiri in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer while they are still warm. This is supposed to keep the moisture in so that you don’t end up with dry hard rice. I’ve tried both letting them cool and not and I haven’t noticed too much of a difference myself. I do like to nuke the onigiri for a few seconds before eating it because that always seems to soften things us the best. Of course the most sure fire way to have nice soft onigiri to to make them the same day you eat them, but I don’t have a timer on my rice cooker so fresh rice is NOT an option for me on weekdays. I get up early enough as is!
My sister informed me today that I am a bad blogger because my updates lately have been few and far between. Well lucky for you dear readers (assuming I have any left at this point), I have decided to dedicate tomorrow to building up my bento stash. I hope to write a bunch of entries to archive and experiment with sushi rice in hopes of posting some more recipes. So in the end, this could be a good thing, or The Boy is going to come home to find me lying on the floor in a fetal position and moaning something about Dick Clark’s head in a jar and replacing all my clothes with sweaters from The Quacker Factory.
Oh yeah, and I started a new project over on Ravelry. You can friend me as Krebstar5 in case any of you out there are knitters.