Okonomiyaki, as You Like It

Recently, Epicurious came to my kitchen to make this video about okonomiyaki. 

If you want to have your own okonomikayi party, here's my recipe. It's a very loose recipe, and I encourage you to improvise and make it your own.

Recipe: okonomiyaki

yields 4 8-inch pancakes

for the pancake

  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 cup dashi (homemade or instant)
  • 1/4 cup grated mountain potato (optional)*
  • 4 eggs
  • 6 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced negi or scallion
  • cooking oil and/or sesame oil for frying

optional add-ins

  • yakisoba
  • kimchee
  • thinly sliced or diced pork belly
  • shrimp
  • diced mochi
  • tenkasu (tempura bits)
  • whatever you like!

for topping

  • okonomi sauce or Japanese Worcestershire
  • Japanese mayo
  • bonito flakes
  • ao nori (nori flakes)
  • beni shoga (shredded pickled ginger)

 

To make the batter: Mix the flour, mountain potato and dashi to a syrupy, crepe-like consistency (slightly thicker than heavy cream, adding a little more flour or dashi as necessary. Like pancakes, avoid overmixing.

Heat a griddle or a skillet over medium-high heat. Grease liberally with cooking and/or sesame oil.

To prepare in the Kansai style: For each pancake, put a handful (about 1 1/2 cups) of cabbage, about 2 tablespoons sliced negi/scallion, and about 1/2 cup batter in a small bowl. Add whatever else you like, such as tenkasu and kimchee. Crack in an egg, and mix just so the batter coats the cabbage, but the egg still has distinct bits of white and yolk.

Dump this mixture onto the griddle/pan, and press into a pancake about 1 1/2 inches thick. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes each side, and the cabbage is tender. Dress with toppings and share.


To prepare in the Hiroshima style: Layer the ingredients instead of mixing (use two skillets if you don't have a griddle). Put about 1/3 cup of batter on the greased griddle/pan, and mound cabbage and negi on top. drizzle 2 tablespoons batter on top. (Typically you'd then put strips of pork belly and eventually flip it to crsip them, but I make it vegetarian as follows). Meanwhile, rinse a pack of yakisoba, put down some sesame oil, then the noodles and a splash of water. Fry the noodles and season with the seasoning packet that comes with them, or some yakisoba sauce.

When the bottom of the pancake has browned, push the noodles into the same diameter circle. Flip the pancake onto the noodles (so the cabbage side lands on the noodles). In another spot on the griddle (or the other pan), crack an egg or two and break the yolks. Lift the pancake onto the egg. When the egg is cooked, flip the okonomiyaki egg-side up. Dress and serve.

Share and repeat!

 

* The tuber I used in the video was not mountain potato, whoops!!! Yama-imo (mountain potato) is usually sold in chunks since the whole vegetable is very long. It's cylindrical with white flesh and papery grey-brown skin.

Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Soup


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I'm not on New Year cleanse or diet, but after all the cookies and cocktails of December, I crave simple food that won't burden my wallet or my waistline. A recipe for Savoy Cabbage and Parmesan Rind Soup caught my eye when I was flipping through a book of Italian vegetable cookery in my friend's living room the other day (in front of a fire, even). I have to confess, I didn't actually read the recipe, but the idea stuck in my head. Here's a soup with only two main ingredients that are nutritious and cheap as heck—what's not to love?

There are always a couple of dried-out ends of Parmesan in my fridge, waiting to flavor broth. If you haven't tried this yet, you are in for a treat—and you'll no longer feel guilty when you don't finish that expensive Parmigiano Reggiano before it gets hard as a rock.

Cabbage is truly an underrated vegetable, and even in the dead of winter it's in season. I don't think cabbage is about to be as trendy as kale, but it's got a lot more to offer than just a side of slaw. Braise it, saute it, stew it or ferment it. It's cheap, it's versatile, and lasts a lot longer than a head of lettuce in the crisper drawer (or even kale, for that matter). 

So lets make soup. You just need olive oil, garlic, Savoy cabbage (that's the round wrinkly one), salt, bay leaf, chili flakes (optional), and bread. 

Heat a little olive oil in a big heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Crush and peel a few cloves of garlic, or more than a few, and toss them into the pot. Chop a whole head of Savoy cabbage into large bite-sized pieces. Add the cabbage to the pot and turn the heat to high. Saute until the cabbage and garlic are browned at the edges. Now fill the pot with water to cover the cabbage by a few inches, and add a spoonful of salt and a bay leaf if you have one. Simmer the soup until the cabbage is soft, longer if you have time, adding more water if it doesn't look brothy enough. Isn't it amazing how much flavor you can get from a few simple ingredients?!

Serve the soup drizzled with more olive oil, and sprinkled with chili flakes and sea salt. A garlic crostini is the perfect accompainment (soaked in your bowl of soup until it's soft and crunchy at the same time). Here's how to make the crostini: turn on the oven to 400, slice stale bread and rub it with garlic, put a lot of olive oil on a cookie sheet and rub both sides of the bread in it (throw the garlic on the pan too), put it in the oven and toast until golden and crisp on both sides. 

This soup may be incredibly frugal, but it tastes rich. Poach an egg in the broth if you crave some protein, serve this as a first course before pasta, or simply enjoy it in its ordinary glory.

Creamy Squash and Tomato Soup

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Butternut, acorn, kabocha, pumpkin––squash season is upon us! It's easy enough to roast a couple of winter squash while you catch up on e-mail or watch tv. Just crank the oven to 450, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds, lightly oil it, and roast it on a cookie sheet until a fork can slide right in, or your finger can make a soft dent, about 30-60 minutes. Now you've got a side dish, the makings of pie filling, or the base for Creamy Squash and Tomato Soup.

Once you've roasted the squash, you can make this soup using just one pot. Dice an onion and saute it in a tablespoon or two of butter until it becomes translucent. If you've got some wine––red or white, it doesn't matter––add a glassful and let it simmer for a few minutes (it's optional). Now add a big can or box of tomoatoes; I like the Pomi ones that come in a tetrapak. Use the can or box to measure out the same amount of roasted squash (just the flesh, no peel), and then twice that amount of water. 

If you have one of those stick blenders, blend the soup right in the pot. You want it thick and creamy, but not baby food smooth, so leave a little texture. If you don't have one of those, you'll have to get the blender or food processor dirty. Now add a big pinch of salt, and simmer the soup for a few minutes, at least, until the flavors blend. Stir in crème fraîche to make the soup creamy, thick and tangy––the amount should be to your taste, but I reccomend using a lot. Add a generous amount of cracked pepper. Taste a spoonful: does it need more salt? more crème fraîche? more pepper?

Serve the hot soup with fresh herbs, if you can. This reheats well, and crème fraîche is much more stable than cream, so you don't have to worry about it curdling. If you're just cooking for one or two you can enjoy this soup for days.

 

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French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

 

French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Here's a recipe to prove that the lowly lentil can be fancy and sophisticated, and really delicious. You could serve this for a casual dinner party, with a simple salad and a bottle of wine––won't you seem chic!? But they are easy (and cheap) enough to cook for a night when you're feeding only yourself. If you're lucky, you'll have leftovers to eat for lunch: warm them and toss them with grainy mustard, more olive oil, a little vinegar and some peppery greens––they're reinvented! And the extra crème fraîche and chives you have left will be as beautiful on scrambled eggs or omelets as they are on this elegant bowl of lentils.

French Lentils with crème fraîche and Chives

serves 3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side dish

  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large shallot
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound (1 heaping cup) French lentils
  • sprig thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • crème fraîche, for serving
  • chopped chives, for serving

1. Cut the celery, carrot, and shallot into very fine dice, nearly as small as a lentil: this is your mirepoix. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the mirepoix in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until the vegetables brown a little. Add the wine, and simmer until it reduces by half. 

2. Add the lentils, a sprig of time, and 2 cups of water. Simmer until the lentils are tender but firm, and much of the water is gone. If the water disappears before the lentils are tender, add a bit more and keep simmering. Er on the side of undercooking when you turn off the stove.

3. Season the pot of cooked lentils with salt and freshly ground pepper, and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive. Cover the pot and let the seasoning settle in for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm lentils in shallow bowls with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and liberal sprinkling of chopped chives on each bowlful.

Weekday Waffles

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You might think of waffles as a weekend-only breakfast ordeal, but when you make the batter the night before, weekday waffles are easier than frying eggs!

I woke up on Wednesday morning to the buttery yeasty smell of overnight waffles. My boyfriend was in the kitchen perfecting his technique with our brand new Belgian waffle maker (we finally grew tired of the Hello Kitty one I bought when I was 20, with its tiny kitty-shaped waffles). The pull of sleep is strong––I'm not naturally morning person––but the pull of waffles is stronger, especially when their toasty aroma and the sound of a kettle clanking onto the stove draws you from your pillow to the kitchen table.

Here's the recipe, so you too can wake up to waffles. If there's not already someone in the kitchen making them for you, it's ok, because all you have to do is scoop batter into the waffle iron and sip your coffee while they cook. You'll have prepared the batter the night before (and dreamed sweetly of waffles all night). If you're solo, or the family doesn't have a big appetite, leftover waffles can be frozen to be toasted at a later date. Or you could eat them for lunch with savory toppings like sharp cheese and sweet cherry tomatoes.  

Get out the measuring cups to night, and you'll be able to make waffles with your eyes closed tomorrow. Not only does thinking ahead make the morning cooking easier, rising the batter overnight develops a rich bready flavor unlike any other waffle you've had.

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Overnight Waffles

adapted from the Fannie Farmer

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1. Make the batter the night before. Put 1/2 cup tepid water in a large mixing bowl (the batter will double in size), add the yeast and stir. Let stand for 5 minutes. 

2. Add the warm milk, melted butter, salt, sugar, and flour (everything except the eggs and baking soda). Beat with a whisk until the batter is smooth.

3. In the morning, plug in your waffle iron and heat it up. Beat the eggs. Stir the eggs and baking soda into the batter. Cook the waffles according to the waffle iron manufacturer's instructions. Generally, when the steam subsides, the waffle is ready. Waffles can be kept warm in a 250 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 15 minutes. Extra waffles can be frozen.

Terri Lee's Soy Sauce Pickled Jalapeños

Terri Lee is a product and event designer who sometimes collaborates with Sweets & Bitters. 

Photo: Megan Swann for Sweets & Bitters

Photo: Megan Swann for Sweets & Bitters

My mom has a series of recipes she created out of ingredients common in the US when Korean produce was nearly impossible to find.  She wanted to create something that resembled the flavors she remembered from her native country. While this isn’t a traditional recipe, it’s one of my favorites. The flavors blend so perfectly and the pickled jalapeños work as an accent on many different dishes. I always have a jar in the refrigerator just waiting to add a little kick to my cooking.

 

Soy Sauce Pickled Jalapeños

Makes 1 pint

  • 15 jalapeños
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 shallots
  • ½ c. soy sauce or tamari 
  • ½ c. rice vinegar
  • ½ c superfine sugar

 

1. This can be prepared right in a standard pint sized mason jar. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar. Stir with a spoon to dissolve the sugar (or just cap the lid and swirl).

2. Cut the limes into thin slices, reserving the ends. Set aside the slices. Squeeze the juice from the ends of the limes into the jar. Peel and slice the shallots into thin rounds. Set aside. Cut the cilantro into short 2-3” stems with leaves intact. Set aside.

3. Now prepare the jalapeños. I wear a pair of cooking gloves to keep the spice from soaking into my hands. (If I don’t, I inevitably end up rubbing my eyes and highly regret it). Seed jalapenos and slice into thin rings. A few renegade seeds are okay if you like a little extra kick. Set aside.

4. Give the brine mix another quick swirl and then start layering your ingredients. Start with one layer of limes, then add cilantro, shallots, jalapeños, shallots, cilantro and back to lime. (Think palindrome). You want to end on limes. Once you have it packed and limes are on top keeping all the ingredients in the brine, cap and refrigerate.

5. It’s best if you can let these sit in your refrigerator for 2-3 days. The tighter the ingredients are packed—the spicier it will become and will take a few more days to pickle (approx 5 days). You can add more brine if you want a less spicy version.

 

Notes: After the flavors have blended, use the pickle brine in place of vinegar for a salad dressing. Or add peeled hard-boiled eggs to the brine once there’s enough room (usually when the jalapeños are nearly gone). Let it sit for 2-3 days. It soaks in the flavors of the brine and makes a delicious pickled egg. Slice the egg thin and add it to a salad or on an open faced sandwich.

 

 

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Hannah's Hot Pink Sauerkraut

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How can just cabbage and salt taste so good?!? Even the simplest fermentation creates miraculous transformation, so it's no wonder people become obsessed with the process. If you're thinking of dabbling, sauerkraut is a great place to start. It's so easy you don't even need a proper recipe, just follow these basic steps:

  1. Cut up cabbage, saving a few of the outer leaves.
  2. Massage salt into it the chopped cabbage, about 1 teaspoon per pound.* This will release water from the chopped leaves.
  3. Press the chopped cabbage into a jar, food-grade bucket, or fermenting crock until enough water comes out to cover the cabbage. 
  4. Put the reserved leaves on top of the chopped cabbage.
  5. Weight this with something clean and nonreactive (I use a jar of water or small plate) to keep the cabbage submerged in it's own liquid.
  6. Put a cloth or loose lid over the top to keep dust and bugs out.
  7. Let this ferment at room temperature for 3-10 days, until it tastes sour enough for your taste. 

*If you don't have a kitchen scale, weigh the cabbages in the supermarket (or check your receipt). An average head is about 3-4 pounds.

To get a nice rosy hue, mix red and green cabbages. The batch pictured came from one red cabbage and three green ones (which yielded about four quarts). If you want to learn more about fermenting foods, I recommend reading Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation, the best and most thorough book on the subject. 

Simple Science: The salt you add, and lactic acid produced by the fermentation process create an environment hospitable to the "good" bacteria that are doing the fermenting and inhospitabale to "bad" bacteria. That's how you end up with something delicious and safe to eat!

 

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