Friday, 2 August 2013

Budget Vegetarian in Japan: August Edition

Previous Editions of Budget Vegetarian in Japan:

Summer is here for real now, with scorching sun, temperatures in the mid-30s and cicadas trying to send you deaf everywhere you go. I'm craving cold, fresh, crispy food that doesn't require much stove time. I apologize as always for the photos. I am not cut out for food photography...

In season this month we have: Capsicum (bell-peppers in American), cucumber, okra, bok choy and other leafy vegetables, and 新しょうが new ginger (no need to peel because the skin is so thin and mild enough to eat raw~ I munched on some like a carrot while cooking today).

Tofu and Herb Cream Cheese

Adapted slightly from Recipes of Japanese Cooking, replacing the gelatin with agar*.
Wrap 1/2 a block of silken tofu in kitchen paper, microwave for 1 minute then wring dry either in robust kitchen paper or a cloth.

Microwave 100g of cream cheese for 30 seconds. Mix with 1/4 of a red onion, finely diced, chives to taste and green herbs to taste.
The agar needs to be dissolved in boiling water, this is just to show you the ingredients
The recipe says three sprigs of Italian parsley but I used about 1/2 cup of basil and Italian parsley combined (what I happened to have in the garden). Stir through a little salt, sugar and the agar, and chill for two hours in molds.
These quantities made four muffin-liner sized cheeses

Savoury Tofu Jelly

Also adapted from Recipes of Japanese Cooking.
I used the remaining half of my silken tofu, cubed, with a small quantity of diced mixed-colour capsicum as the filling. Coloured capsicums are often quite expensive but I got a good deal on these, 30% off!

For the jelly itself , bring 1 2/3 C of stock to the boil, remove from heat and add soy sauce, mirin and cooking sake to taste (I used 2 Tbsp soy sauce and 1 each of the others). Mix through the agar and pour over the fillings. Set in the fridge for at least two hours and garnish with the chives left over from your cream cheese.

Cucumber Three Ways

1. Spicy Yuzu and Daikon Cucumber Salad

Cut new ginger into sticks and flash-fry in very hot olive oil until crisp. If you cook it too long it will become chewing not crispy. Very finely slice a your cucumber and daikon and add the ginger and frying oil when cool.

Use any tangy dressing and toss through with an equal quantity of lemon or other citrus juice. I used this spicy green-pepper yuzu dressing and it matched wonderfully with the sharpness of the daikon.

2. Fresh, Simple Cucumber Salad

On the left, the one on the right is #3
Shred cucumber and mix through some garlic, lemon juice, black pepper and a tiny whisper of olive oil. That's it. 

3. Chili-Fried Cucumber

Growing up I ate cucumber in salads and sandwiches. It was never cooked and never eaten hot. Not so in Japan. This tasty dish is just cucumber fried with salt, sesame oil, garlic and some dried chili~ simple but tasty.

Take care when frying because the high water content of the cucumber makes for lots of spattering. You can eat it hot or let it cool.

Noodle-Stuffed Grilled ピーマン

Cellophane noodles are super cheap, easy and perfect for summer.
Just soak for a few minutes in hot water and it is ready to use

How massive is this eggplant? It's as long as my arm!!

Cost about a dollar
I fried some eggplant with  油揚げ tofu skins that came cheaply in a big bag and added some really good texture contrast with a bit of left-over red capsicum and grated ginger and garlic in sesame oil.

After browning the eggplant I added some kombu dashi, soy sauce and the noodles. Once the stock had been absorbed/evaporated I stuffed the mixture into some crispy Japanese green capsicums

and grilled them until the skin burned. I chilled them in the fridge for a few hours and the flavours matured as they cooled (be careful not to over-season because it will taste much saltier cold than hot).

Mint Ice-Tea

I have an abundance of mint in the garden so I thought I'd have a bash at a minty spin on iced tea.

I ran a cup of fresh mint through the food processor with 3/4 C coarse brown sugar and dissolved the resulting mix into 3/4 C of boiling water.

I made about 8 C of tea using four regular tea bags and 4 Earl Grey. Once it was cool I mixed through the sugar syrup and 1/4 C of lemon juice. It was delicious but I want to try it again with orange juice to compliment the Early Grey. I didn't strain the mint leave out because I'm happy to, as my husband puts it, "eat twigs and leaves", but if I were making it for guests I would strain the syrup before adding it to the tea.

*Agar is called かんてん (寒天) and is available from most supermarkets quite cheaply. Read about how to prepare it at here.

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  1. This all looks GLORIOUS! Send it by the trough load!

    1. Not gonna lie, that jelly is the perfect thing for summer. Gentle flavour, soft texture, and icy-cold. You should come visit again ;)

  2. This all looks great! I only started learning to love the eggplant last year, and am looking for more things to do with it. Your post jostles some ideas...

    1. It's not the most exciting ingredient, but since it's both cheap and versatile I end up using it a lot. Especially at this time of year, people are virtually giving them away around here!


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