Making dinner is
the most satisfying part of my day.

Fried rice with cha siu (Chinese roast pork).
I keep cha siu in the freezer for when I’m not feeling “that hungry” and therefore I don’t feel committed to making dinner. But I don’t want to skip it either. Fried rice is perfect on evenings like this.
My only rule for making fried rice is “don’t use fresh rice.” It’s too wet. Aside from the pork, this rice had egg, garlic, scallion and peas.

Fried rice with cha siu (Chinese roast pork).

I keep cha siu in the freezer for when I’m not feeling “that hungry” and therefore I don’t feel committed to making dinner. But I don’t want to skip it either. Fried rice is perfect on evenings like this.

My only rule for making fried rice is “don’t use fresh rice.” It’s too wet. Aside from the pork, this rice had egg, garlic, scallion and peas.

Shrimp katsu. “Green Beans in Walnut-Miso Dressing” from Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen.
I typically put a lot of planning into dinner. I went as far as to build myself a database to help me plan and shop for meals but more on that another day. Every now and then dinner for the week becomes an afterthought and I end up pawing my way through the freezer in search of a good protein to go with whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand, which probably amount to a handful of this and that. Tonight was one such meal. And since deep-fried things are good and Shimbo’s walnut-miso dressing is wonderful, dinner tonight — albeit last minute — was good.

Shrimp katsu. “Green Beans in Walnut-Miso Dressing” from Hiroko Shimbo’s The Japanese Kitchen.

I typically put a lot of planning into dinner. I went as far as to build myself a database to help me plan and shop for meals but more on that another day. Every now and then dinner for the week becomes an afterthought and I end up pawing my way through the freezer in search of a good protein to go with whatever vegetables I happen to have on hand, which probably amount to a handful of this and that. Tonight was one such meal. And since deep-fried things are good and Shimbo’s walnut-miso dressing is wonderful, dinner tonight — albeit last minute — was good.

"Rolled Omelette" from Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking. “Fennel Stir-Fry” from Soei Yoneda’s The Heart of Zen Cuisine. “Green Beans with Sesame Sauce” from Mark Robinson’s Izakaya. “Lightly Pickled Tomatoes” from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.

"Rolled Omelette" from Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking. “Fennel Stir-Fry” from Soei Yoneda’s The Heart of Zen Cuisine. “Green Beans with Sesame Sauce” from Mark Robinson’s Izakaya. “Lightly Pickled Tomatoes” from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.

"Beef, Broad Beans and Udo" from Tokiko Suzuki’s Japanese Homestyle Cooking. “Pumpkin with a Sweet Sesame Glaze” and “Lightly Pickled Tomatoes” from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.
I don’t know much about udo. I know that it’s a  perennial . It has a "light fennel flavor." And, at least in 1914, a “considerable number” of Americans were “beginning to like udo.” Oh — and I know that I can’t find it. So I used fennel in its place in the beef dish. I may never know how accurate of a substitution that is but it tasted good.
The real star of dinner tonight would be the pumpkin. I cut back on the sugar (2 tablespoons to ~ 1.25 pounds of kabocha) because Kurihara tends to make things a little sweeter than I prefer. I used a little bit more than the soy sauce than the recipe called for because sometimes that’s how it comes out. The resulting pumpkin wasn’t very glazed but it was soft and had absorbed all of the liquid. Combined with the toasted sesame seeds, it was sweet, a little nutty and the texture was creamy. Great dish. Love this.
The pickled tomatoes made yet another appearance at the dinner table tonight. I’ve had a continuous supply of them in my fridge since I first made them on Monday.

"Beef, Broad Beans and Udo" from Tokiko Suzuki’s Japanese Homestyle Cooking. “Pumpkin with a Sweet Sesame Glaze” and “Lightly Pickled Tomatoes” from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.

I don’t know much about udo. I know that it’s a perennial . It has a "light fennel flavor." And, at least in 1914, a “considerable number” of Americans were “beginning to like udo.” Oh — and I know that I can’t find it. So I used fennel in its place in the beef dish. I may never know how accurate of a substitution that is but it tasted good.

The real star of dinner tonight would be the pumpkin. I cut back on the sugar (2 tablespoons to ~ 1.25 pounds of kabocha) because Kurihara tends to make things a little sweeter than I prefer. I used a little bit more than the soy sauce than the recipe called for because sometimes that’s how it comes out. The resulting pumpkin wasn’t very glazed but it was soft and had absorbed all of the liquid. Combined with the toasted sesame seeds, it was sweet, a little nutty and the texture was creamy. Great dish. Love this.

The pickled tomatoes made yet another appearance at the dinner table tonight. I’ve had a continuous supply of them in my fridge since I first made them on Monday.

"Flounder Kara-age" from Japanese Food Report. “Fried Eggplant with Crushed Green Soybeans” from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku. Leftover “Lightly Pickled Tomatoes.”
This was incredible and ever-so-slightly coma-inducing, thanks to the hot weather and the hot kitchen and the eating too much. Japanese Food Report’s karaage sauce is excellent and easy. The eggplant dish from Washoku is also excellent and easy — even easier if you use a food processor instead of a suribachi, which is what I did. It’s kind of nice to zone out and grind away though.

"Flounder Kara-age" from Japanese Food Report. “Fried Eggplant with Crushed Green Soybeans” from Elizabeth Andoh’s Washoku. Leftover “Lightly Pickled Tomatoes.”

This was incredible and ever-so-slightly coma-inducing, thanks to the hot weather and the hot kitchen and the eating too much. Japanese Food Report’s karaage sauce is excellent and easy. The eggplant dish from Washoku is also excellent and easy — even easier if you use a food processor instead of a suribachi, which is what I did. It’s kind of nice to zone out and grind away though.

"Shrimp and Chicken Ankake Donburi" and "Lightly Pickled Tomatoes" from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.
Everyday Harumi is usually relegated to the reference-only pile of cookbooks. While beautiful to look at, I’ve found similar-but-better recipes in other books. But I recently took a renewed interest in Everyday Harumi after picking it up and paging through it for the first time in almost a year. I bookmarked a few recipes. I figure it doesn’t hurt to try. Dinner tonight was two such recipes.
Ankake sauce is dashi that has been seasoned, then thickened with potato starch. Kurihara pairs the sauce with shrimp and chicken, donburi-style. Overall, I was happy with it but I wasn’t blown away. The tomatoes, on the other hand, were a very nice contrast — cold and vinegary — and I could definitely stand to keep those around all summer long.
Finally — and unrelated to dinner tonight, but completely related to the nature of this blog — here’s link to something I read today: Why Home-Style Cooking Will Always Beat Restaurant-Style. As someone who, for several reasons, almost always prefers to eat a home-cooked meal, I absolutely agree. Home-style food cooked at home always wins.

"Shrimp and Chicken Ankake Donburi" and "Lightly Pickled Tomatoes" from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.

Everyday Harumi is usually relegated to the reference-only pile of cookbooks. While beautiful to look at, I’ve found similar-but-better recipes in other books. But I recently took a renewed interest in Everyday Harumi after picking it up and paging through it for the first time in almost a year. I bookmarked a few recipes. I figure it doesn’t hurt to try. Dinner tonight was two such recipes.

Ankake sauce is dashi that has been seasoned, then thickened with potato starch. Kurihara pairs the sauce with shrimp and chicken, donburi-style. Overall, I was happy with it but I wasn’t blown away. The tomatoes, on the other hand, were a very nice contrast — cold and vinegary — and I could definitely stand to keep those around all summer long.

Finally — and unrelated to dinner tonight, but completely related to the nature of this blog — here’s link to something I read today: Why Home-Style Cooking Will Always Beat Restaurant-Style. As someone who, for several reasons, almost always prefers to eat a home-cooked meal, I absolutely agree. Home-style food cooked at home always wins.

"Chicken Teriyaki" from Tokiko Suzuki’s Japanese Homestyle Cooking. “Green Pea Rice” and “Cucumber and Wakame Seaweed in a Sweet Pickled Dressing” from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.
I had basically completely forgotten what it’s like to cook during the summer. It was the furthest thing from my mind when I set out to make dinner tonight. I had forced from my memory the sticky feelings, the sweaty brow (I know: gross), the standing by the open window and hoping for a breeze while the birds chirp and the exhaust fan does its dirgey humming thing and the air is exceptionally still. “No breeze for you,” one might quip.
My advice for hot days¹ if you, like me, prefer to cook is to cook in stages and to cook as little as possible. As I’m generally not a salad-for-dinner kind of person, this means something cold, something in the rice cooker and / or something that doesn’t involve standing over a hot burner.
And so, I started making dinner around 3:45PM. I prepped ingredients for the pickles at a leisurely pace, finally popping everything in a jar and sticking the jar in the fridge. A little bit later, I washed my rice and got the rice cooker going. I cut up the chicken and washed some dishes. When the rice was steaming, I blanched the peas and started the chicken. As I said last time, chicken teriyaki is a great auto-pilot dish. It cooks quickly and you don’t have to watch it. While the sticky-sweet might not fit everyone’s taste in weather like this, pickles do a great job cutting through that.

"Chicken Teriyaki" from Tokiko Suzuki’s Japanese Homestyle Cooking. “Green Pea Rice” and “Cucumber and Wakame Seaweed in a Sweet Pickled Dressing” from Harumi Kurihara’s Everyday Harumi.

I had basically completely forgotten what it’s like to cook during the summer. It was the furthest thing from my mind when I set out to make dinner tonight. I had forced from my memory the sticky feelings, the sweaty brow (I know: gross), the standing by the open window and hoping for a breeze while the birds chirp and the exhaust fan does its dirgey humming thing and the air is exceptionally still. “No breeze for you,” one might quip.

My advice for hot days¹ if you, like me, prefer to cook is to cook in stages and to cook as little as possible. As I’m generally not a salad-for-dinner kind of person, this means something cold, something in the rice cooker and / or something that doesn’t involve standing over a hot burner.

And so, I started making dinner around 3:45PM. I prepped ingredients for the pickles at a leisurely pace, finally popping everything in a jar and sticking the jar in the fridge. A little bit later, I washed my rice and got the rice cooker going. I cut up the chicken and washed some dishes. When the rice was steaming, I blanched the peas and started the chicken. As I said last time, chicken teriyaki is a great auto-pilot dish. It cooks quickly and you don’t have to watch it. While the sticky-sweet might not fit everyone’s taste in weather like this, pickles do a great job cutting through that.

An off-the-cuff lo mein-style dish with chicken, snow peas and carrot.

An off-the-cuff lo mein-style dish with chicken, snow peas and carrot.

"Shrimp Lo Mein" from Appetite For China. Eaten with vinegared Persian cucumbers.
Dinners at home have been fewer and further between the last couple of weeks. Somehow May was a very busy month. When Appetite for China posted this recipe a couple weeks ago, I made a mental note that I had all of the ingredients on hand, except the clam juice. Mission: get clam juice.
Due to the aforementioned busy month, I never really got a chance to go to the grocery store. So “clam juice” languished on my to-do list. Until today! When I went to the grocery store all proper-like and bought clam juice. (And ice cream, three pounds of strawberries and some other stuff.)
Was I right to be excited about this recipe when I first saw it on May 19th? Yes: this is a good dish. The flavors are spot-on and it’s easy to put together, which is a huge plus since it’s Saturday, it’s hot, you’re a little tired from reading about black holes and baby universes and you just made a strawberry cake.

"Shrimp Lo Mein" from Appetite For China. Eaten with vinegared Persian cucumbers.

Dinners at home have been fewer and further between the last couple of weeks. Somehow May was a very busy month. When Appetite for China posted this recipe a couple weeks ago, I made a mental note that I had all of the ingredients on hand, except the clam juice. Mission: get clam juice.

Due to the aforementioned busy month, I never really got a chance to go to the grocery store. So “clam juice” languished on my to-do list. Until today! When I went to the grocery store all proper-like and bought clam juice. (And ice cream, three pounds of strawberries and some other stuff.)

Was I right to be excited about this recipe when I first saw it on May 19th? Yes: this is a good dish. The flavors are spot-on and it’s easy to put together, which is a huge plus since it’s Saturday, it’s hot, you’re a little tired from reading about black holes and baby universes and you just made a strawberry cake.

Stir-fried rice cakes with pork and broccoli.

Stir-fried rice cakes with pork and broccoli.

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