Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mitsuwa Marketplace Visit and Bento!

My big Christmas wish this year was to visit Mitsuwa Marketplace, a huge and beautiful emporium of Japanese foods, housewares, and books situated on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. The wonderful waterfront location highlights the serene aesthetic of the lovely Japanese items for sale. This view from the food court shows the sweep of the river on a bitingly cold and rain-soaked afternoon:

We began our tour (with me almost hopping with joy) at the Mitsuwa supermarket, where I was amazed by the vast and fresh selection. The availability of Japanese items I had read about in cookbooks but not found in my local Asian markets was exciting indeed:

Niitakaya pickles:

The array of prepared foods was truly impressive! Crispy fried heaven:

Soft squid fry? Why, yes!

And of course, bento boxes to go:

Deluxe cakes and pastries glowed at the St Honore counter:

Traditional seasonal sweets at Minamoto Kitchoan, jewel-like and served with great charm by the elegant ladies behind the counter:

We selected some "Ofukuimo" sweet potato cakes and "Oribenishiki" bean cakes with chestnut filling:

Surrounded by all this beautiful food, we found ourselves quite hungry despite a hearty breakfast. Happily, lunch is a major part of the Mitsuwa experience. An udon shop, ramen establishment, sushi specialist, and tonkatsu place are just some of the choices. To help you decide, (or, more accurately, confound you with so many yummy options) a small galaxy of simulated meals are on display throughout the food court:

I chose this tasty salmon and miso soup combo from Kayaba:

Hokkaido-style ramen from Santouka: (photo by Jamison)

Another view of the Hudson from the food court: (photo by Jamison)

Warmed and sated, we crossed a small courtyard to browse at Sanseido Bookstore. Many books on Japanese cuisine are available here, including bento, with lots of inspiring photographs:

And at nearby Mars New York, pretty paper items:

Much here to bring  joy to a Hello Kitty collector...and some nifty bento items as well. I acquired this simple and elegant blue bento box, pictured here filled with several treats from the Mitsuwa visit, including pink radish pickles, ikura, and nira:

(above photo by Jamison)
Rounding out the bento lunch: ohba with wasabi-flavored tobiko:

Happy New Year!

A Cozy Christmas

Our Christmas visit to New York and my Mom's cozy house was full of delicious foods! We arrived on Christmas Eve Day and set to feasting. Scenting the kitchen was a beautiful rosemary plant in bloom with delicate pale-blue flowers:

The rosemary shares kitchen counterspace with this little rabbit, found at the New York Botanical Garden gift shop, a mecca for lovely flora and fauna related books and gifts:
 Mom's roast chicken had an amazing dried cherry and yellow onion stuffing that we just devoured:

On Christmas morning, a smoked salmon platter:

And panettone! This yummy version was full of subtle orange rind flavor and was meltingly soft:
My stuffed mushrooms have become something of a holiday tradition. The recipe involves the made-for-each-other combo of mushrooms, garlic, olive oil and white wine.
Stuffed Mushrooms with Garlic

large and very fresh stuffing mushrooms-3 per person, approximately
one large mushroom, diced, for every 6 you are serving
garlic cloves, peeled and minced medium fine
olive oil, butter
fresh parsley and thyme
white wine or dry sherry
a plain bread slice, torn into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375.
Assemble as many large stuffing mushrooms as your company will devour--3 or so per person is a safe bet. Wipe mushrooms clean and twist out the stems, set aside. Arrange cleaned and dried mushroom caps in a baking dish, coating them and the baking dish with a light glaze of olive oil. Lightly salt mushrooms on both sides, and place in oven and bake for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare stuffing:
Chop, medium-fine, the mushroom stems and one whole mushroom for every six mushrooms to be stuffed.
Saute 5 cloves of minced garlic in butter and olive oil until nicely soft and lightly golden; add mushroom stems and chopped whole mushrooms, cook over medium heat and season with salt and pepper.

Add minced flat leaf parsley to mushroom-garlic mix, then a splash of white wine (or dry sherry) and some fresh thyme leaves if desired.When wine has cooked off and your kitchen smells like Provence, toss in some small pieces of white bread, and cook with stuffing mixture for another 5 minutes.

Check seasoning, remove mushrooms from oven and carefully fill the caps. Pour some dry white wine or sherry into the baking dish, a little over the mushrooms, and lightly salt once more. Bake another 10 minutes or so, or until golden and tender, and enjoy!

Also part of Christmas dinner was Mom's lovely lasange, this year a ricotta-mozerella-tomato basil version. Here it is about to go in the oven:

Salmon with horseradish dill sauce:

Here's Tiki. I think he had as cozy a Christmas as the rest of us...

Wishing everyone a joyful and peaceful New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Passage to India Bento

I was craving a dose of spice, color and Indian radiance amid today's gray December skies. This bento was my escape to a sunny land! It features a naan elephant surrounded by an assortment of Indian treats: tandoori chicken, palak paneer with spinach and fresh green herbs, a naan "paisley" with melted butter and cilantro, yellow peppers and asparagus, a solitary pakora with yogurt, ginger mango chutney, kiwi slices, papaya and a skewer of colorful Indian sweets!

And for just fun, flora and fauna in the colors of a sunny place: