Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lavender Roses Bento

A simple bento inspired by two lovely rose bouquets my hubby brought home, with the palest lavender and white-pink blooms.

Inside the bento, a special lobster salad and seaweed roll wrapped in pink soy paper from the newly opened M Sushi in Reston. Radish sprouts, romaine, cilantro chicken shu mai, stir fried beech mushrooms with carrots, peas and the mache lettuce I'm currently addicted to also inside.
Handmade flower pick next to wasabi leaf:
And a happy elephant:

Friday, February 26, 2010

tapas bento

There's a strong north wind blowing today, the sky an opaque grey. Though New York is getting the big snowfall this time (hi gamene!), it is uncommonly cold here. My response: a Spanish tapas bento!

The Torres sherry bull strides across a Spanish-style omelette with baby potatoes, artichoke hearts, leeks, and savory cheese. Pickled okra--a summer momento--and heart-shaped beets, mushrooms and yellow peppers sautéed in green olive oil, mache, and juicy mandarin orange slices share the ring. Olé!
Handmade food pick:
Have a great weekend, bento friends!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Yummy Thai Duck Bento

One of our favorite restaurants, Thai Luang, is a perfect place for a pick-me-up meal of ambrosial Thai flavors. This bento features a must-have dish from the Thai Luang menu: Duck with Chilis and Sweet Basil--tender yet lightly crispy duck in a richly fragrant green and red chilis and basil sauce. A side order of spicy coconut curry sauce gilds the lily (a portion is in the pink flower container)!

A juicy heart-shaped baby tomato, yellow pepper filled with papaya salad, plenty of fresh cilantro, kiwis and papayas fill the rest of the bento.

I ordered some shiso seeds today and have my eye on some incredible purple and blue Japanese morning glory seeds. Anyone else dreaming of what they'd love to have in the garden this spring-summer?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Aquarius Bento

Although the sun has just moved into the colorful sign of Pisces, I'd like to share, a little late, a bento dedicated to Aquarius--the inventive, humanitarian, futuristic sign of the zodiac.

According the wonderful astrological cookbook  A Taste of Astrology by Lucy Ash, the flavors of this sign are "salty, cold, and fresh." Parsley, fennel leaves, rice, root vegetables, radishes, cucumbers, lemons, and coconut are foods associated with Aquarius, along with shades of violet, silver and electric green.

In keeping with "salty, cold and fresh" qualities, here we have salmon sushi rolls topped with beni shoga, caviar, and decorated with wasabi in the flowing water (or electrical bolt!) symbol of this sign. Sushi also fits the Aquarian theme, as "rice relates to Aquarius because it feeds hundreds of millions...and because it grows submerged in water." Wasabi's a perfect accent given its bright pale green color and capacity to startle and even shock the palate!
Crunchy eel roll is an unusual but very delicious sushi, in sync with unconventional Aquarius. Fennel leaves and avocado "blossoms" continue the fresh, green, cool theme. Deep purple sweet potato topped with ume pickles strikes a vibrating violet note, accented with crisp, refreshing parsley.

This silver-foiled coconut "catmonaut" is ready to boldly go where no feline has gone before, equipped with Hershey's kisses as tokens of this sign's famous friendliness.

Aquarius is associated with the Internet and friendships based on shared interests and activities--so our bento community partakes of some very Aquarian themes indeed!

Wishing you a fun and creative week ahead, bento pals!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sunny Citrus Bento

The sun is playing hide and seek behind the clouds today, coming out every so often to shine in a soft blue sky.

These roses are sisters from a large, bright pink Valentine's Day bouquet:
Solar grapefruit:
Today's bento features shrimp with ginger-mango chutney and diced grapefruit, roasted baby bok choy, purple sweet potato, baby romaine, blood orange and grapefruit slices. Plus a coconut candy topped with a dainty, parasoled kitten:
And speaking of sun, I'm still basking in the glow of the B.O.M.B. award. Can't wait for the next fun theme! Thank you Debra!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tofu Bird and Flowers Bento

Lots of feasting this weekend to celebrate Valentine's Day and the Lunar New Year! We had to visit our fave Chinese restaurant, China Star, to sample their special holiday menu. Fish dishes are a highlight there any time of year, and since they are considered good luck to consume during the New Year festivities, we indulged in two this visit. Flounder with Pine Nuts was so good--mild yet deeply savory:
Whole Fish with Chili, Scallion and! Good luck red garnishes, too:
Mandarin oranges, another traditional Lunar New Year food--a fresh delivery at Lotte Plaza:
We met up with dear friends to celebrate Valentine's Day at Matin de Paris, a Korean-French bakery/cafe in Annandale, VA. Many pretty pastries, amazing cappuccino, great relaxed atmosphere--all in all, a lovely place to share the afternoon:
Check out these vibrant, festive little confections!
Today's bento features fish with pine nuts and cucumber, Korean naeng myun noodles, mini orange peppers, and tofu decorated with black sesame seeds. The sesame seed design was inspired by embroidery from a 19th century children's kimono.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tiger Cub Valentine Bento

Chinese New Year and Valentine's Day greetings as we near Sunday's conjuction of these holidays, a delightful chance to celebrate love and renewal! 

This bento reflects both holidays, with a smiling, confident tiger cub (the Tiger's zodiac motto is "I win!") crafted from pastry dough for the incoming Year of the Tiger, her path strewn with orange pepper tiger lilies. Also in the bento: happy heart-shaped rainbow chard, goat cheese, and ripe red strawberries for Valentine's Day:
Wikipedia's wonderfully informative entry on the Chinese New Year celebration traces its traditions, foods, and cosmology. The paper placemat at a very good nearby Vietnamese restaurant, Pho 2000 in Herndon, said this about Tiger folks:
On our post-blizzard outing to Pho 2000, we enjoyed a seafood hot pot:
And soft shell crabs in a sizzling, aromatic onion-ginger sauce:
Weeping cherry and frozen Lake Anne, by Jamison:
Storms over, the sun is filling the sky with a heart-lifting brightness and soft, expansive light.
Tristan, one of the cutest little guys in the neighborhood, out for a stroll in his bright red sweater: 
More auspicious reds and golds to bring in the sun and bright good fortune:
Wishing you love, peace, health, and prosperity in this new Year of the Tiger, bento friends!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Snowstorm Sicilian Pasta

As a major snowstorm spread across our area, I felt the need to make something soothing and decadent in a very southern Italian key. Here is Snowstorm Sicilian Pasta, invented to celebrate the music of falling snow:

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
3 large shallots, or six small--minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
1 fennel bulb, sliced--keep the fronds for serving
3 organic chicken thighs, skinned
1 cup half and half or cream
1 cup red pepper pesto
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup golden raisins
a handful of pea shoots or other small fresh greens
grated reggiano-parmesan cheese
1/2 lb fresh fettucine

 Sauté chicken thighs in olive oil until nicely golden; season with salt and black and cayenne pepper. Set aside. Sauté shallots, red onions and garlic in a blend of olive oil and butter until cooked; season lightly with salt. Add fennel slices, cook until tender.

Toast pine nuts until lightly golden in oven or toaster oven.
Bring salted water to boil, add pasta, cook until tender, drain and fluff with a little olive oil and or butter; grind some black pepper over top.

Cut cooked chicken thighs into smallish pieces, add to onion-fennel mixture. Gently re-heat, adding chicken stock, ground pepper, some red pepper flakes, toasted pinenuts and golden raisins. Next add the cream and red pepper pesto--blend and check seasonings. Toss in a handful of baby greens.

Add pasta to chicken-vegetable sauce, re-heat slowly to blend. Just before serving, grate reggiano-parmesan cheese over, garnish with fennel fronds. Serve with a young, bright red--we enjoyed a Blue Fin 2007 California Petite Sirah with this!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Red Salmon Heart Bento

Red is the name of the game in hapa bento's B.O.M.B. event this month--honoring Valentine's Day and heart health awareness! This bento features a heart-shaped salmon cake made with red salmon, red onions, and red peppers, seasoned with fresh ginger, garam masala, pureed tomato-red chili vegetable
curry and red cayenne pepper. The mini red pepper holds mango-ginger chutney; enokis, heart-shaped cukes, snow peas and baby romaine round things out.

The sweets sidecar contains pineapple, nectarine slices, blackberries and a mocha brownie topped with guava-chocolate candies.

This rose bouquet has been a highlight of my week so far! Each bloom is an intensely scented globe of peach, gold, and pink:
More warm colors, reminders of sweet sunny days ahead:
Thanks again, Debra, for hosting this event--I'm looking forward to more red bento menus this month!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mood Indigo Bento

A bento with spicy, warming Korean seafood rice (leftover from a recent H-Mart dolsot feast) with shrimp, squid and yummy hot bean paste, buna shimeji mushrooms, red cabbage with chili oil, and Chinese eggplant. Purple cabbage hearts and yellow pepper garnish the rice, snow pea tops brighten the upper left corner. Love is in the air with heart details, a love story in miniature, and moon-leaping rabbits!

Exploring some cool-color harmonies before diving into the warmer climate of hapa bento's red-themed February B.O.M.B. challenge, so here we have a bright purple primrose and deep blue bunny chopsticks propped on a piece of lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.

 Extending the blue theme: this detail from a 15th century Persian minature depicting the love story of Khosrow and Shirin:
Primrose purples:
Cabbage hearts close-up:
Wishing you a joyous "month of love", bento friends!