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Rice with Cilantro and Dill

June 23, 2010   

Rice with Cilantro and Dill Although I didn’t serve this rice with the fish tacos and bean salad, I think it would go really well with that meal.

This dish is probably the simplest to make and has tons of flavor. The two main ingredients are fresh cilantro and dill.

I always have a huge bunch of cilantro in my fridge. When you bring a bunch home, the key is to wash the cilantro and spread it on your countertop over a thick towel. Let it dry completely- then roll it up in some paper towels and store in a zip lock bag. It keeps in my crisper for a long time and is ready whenever I need it- which is almost everyday.

I have started keeping dill in my fridge as well- I love it’s earthy flavor in rice dishes, curries and especially paired with fish or shrimp. In fact, this summer I am growing some in my backyard. I can’t wait to pick some and add it to a fresh salad- yum!

Anyway, back to the rice dish. You simply make your rice – I like to cook mine in chicken broth to give it an extra boost of flavor. Once the rice is almost done, add some frozen peas on top and place the lid back on. The peas will thaw and soften and won’t over cook. Once the rice is room temperature, add the cilantro and dill- that is it. It is super simple, but the flavor is unbelievable.

Try it with a grilled meal outside- it will go perfectly well with some grilled chicken!
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Fish Tacos with Tomato Salsa and Avocado Chunks

June 22, 2010   

Fish Taco I love ordering fish tacos in Mexican restaurants. I remember eating my first fish tacos years ago in Los Angeles when my husband was on a project there for a few months and I would go visit him every few weeks.

Those tacos were out of this world. I have never had better ones since- especially here in the Northeast.

Since I have no plans on going to California any time soon, I decide to make the tacos at home.

I went to our local fish monger and got my daughter’s favorite fish- cod. She loves any white fish- especially if it is not too fishy tasting.

I marinated the fish in lemon juice, salt and some olive oil. I then drenched the pieces in some flour and lightly sauteed the fish. The ones you get in the restaurants are fried. I wanted mine lighter and healthier so I merely sauteed them.

I made a fresh, delicious tomato salsa and cut up some avocado chunks. Since my daughter doesn’t like anything very tart, I served her the fish in the tortillas without the condiments.

We enjoyed the tacos with all the condiments and a delicious bean salad on the side- recipe to follow tomorrow.
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Black Bean and Mango Salad

June 21, 2010   

Black bean and Mango Salad This salad is perfect for summer time- no cooking involved. Just put some ingredients together and make your vinaigrette and you have a great side dish to complement anything at all. It is even great as a light meal at the end of the day or for lunch with a fried egg on top.

I made it with the fish tacos (recipe to follow tomorrow). I was going to make a simple green salad but then thought of doing a bean salad instead. I had mangoes and sweet peppers in my fridge and paired them with green onions and cilantro. I always have different kinds of canned beans in my pantry. Beans are super healthy and add great texture to any dish.

The dressing was simply, lime juice, honey, roasted cumin and olive oil. You can’t get this delicious vinaigrette out of a bottle and yet it is so simple to make. I added the dressing to the salad and let it sit for a few hours before serving it with the delicious tacos.

It was a big hit- super healthy and delicious- and best of all, very easy to make.
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Last Day in Tokyo, Day Seven

June 20, 2010   

 

Food Displayed To Perfection- It is what I will remember...Today is our last day in Tokyo- day seven. I am ready to go home but I am in awe of this city and the people. My husband planned this trip- usually I organize our summer vacations but since he is celebrating his fortieth this year, he picked the destination. When he first mentioned Tokyo, I wasn’t too keen- it wasn’t on top of my list of places to visit. I like Japanese food but wasn’t very curious about the cuisine to want to visit. He convinced me by informing me how Tokyo recently took over Paris for the number of Michelin starred restaurants- that really piqued my interest. Once we booked the trip and I started telling my friends, I was pleasantly surprised at how many of them had visited the city and raved about it, especially the food.

Once we got here and looked around, I realized how food is an integral part of this culture. I guess everyone likes to eat- the difference is they do it to perfection. Everything is very lovingly displayed, packed and served. As a tourist, walking around, taking the subway and bus, it is very aparent how thoughtful the whole Japanese culture is.

There is food everywhere, displayed in department stores, on the streets, train stations- really everywhere imaginable. The service is unbelievably warm and the food is amazing. The people are super friendly, very poised and calm. Whoever you look at, they seem happy with what they are doing- even the guy who is sweeping the streets. Everyone does their best- I think that is what makes a society succesful.

If I had to describe this culture in two words- I would use- perfection and moderation.  Everything is done to perfection and they do everything in moderation. Even the food flavors are perfectly spiced- not too sweet, salty or tangy.

It was a great pleasure to be here and I have a feeling we will be back….

 

Day Six- Buying A Aritsugu Knife in Kyoto

June 17, 2010   

Day 6 was our second day in Kyoto. As I mentioned the night before, the chef at the hot stone restaurant told me about the most famous knife store in Kyoto (well he called it the most famous in Japan) was called Aritsugu and it was walking distance to our hotel room- what???

The Famous Knife Store in Kyoto

My initial plan was to visit the street in Tokyo that has all sorts of kitchen stuff including knives. I was thinking of going there once we get back to Tokyo- but once this new piece of information was passed on to me, it changed everything. I had to go- my husband kept asking me what the big deal was about Japanese knives. He reminded me about the high-end knife set I already enjoy in my kitchen. I told him that the Japanese are famous for their knife making skills and this store has been in business for 460 years- they must be doing something right.

We had our usual breakfast and ventured into the food market. I previously checked on the internet and looked at a map to find out where the store was- it was in the beginning of the market. We got there a little early but the store was open. I had read it is usually super busy and takes a while to get someone to help you. It was my lucky day- it had maybe, two or three customers none of whom were asking any questions. I looked around with huge eyes at the gleaming knives all over the walls. They ranged anywhere from $350 to $600! I certainly was not looking to spend that kind of money. I then turned around and saw some knives in a glass case labled santoku– which is my favorite kind of knife to use. It is a multipurpose knife for cutting vegetables, meat and fish. I love the one I have at home and thought of buying another one. These were more reasonably priced. All the knives have the name of the store engraved on the blade as well as the type of metal. The sales guy, who was extremely helpful told me they could also engrave my name in Japanese if I decide to buy.

A Wall Full Of Gleaming Knives

After a bit of thinking (didn’t take long), I decided to buy the 8 inch knife. I told the salesguy and he took it to the person who was going to sharpen and engrave my knife. I was given proper care instructions for my gleaming knife. I wrote my name and the salesguy translanted it into Japanese for the engraving. Two minutes later I had my knife in a box wrapped in beautiful paper.

I was thrilled. I planted two big kisses on my husband’s cheeks and decided this is better than buying anything else in the whole world. I can’t wait to unpack this beauty and start using it in my kitchen.

Stay tuned for my closing thoughts on this wonderful trip to Tokyo….

 

 

 

 

 

Day Five- Kyoto Shrines and Temples

June 16, 2010   

Kyoto is a very quaint city compared to Tokyo. Considering the size, I am still surprised at the amount of French cafes and patisseries. Everywhere we go, there is another one to look at and maybe try some kind of a confection. Today, we took all kinds of buses to get around Kyoto. Just like the subway system in Tokyo, the buses here are very well run and quite easy to track. We started the day at the Golden Pavilion, which was gorgeous. A rock garden and the silver pavilion later it was time for lunch. It was a hilly area around the silver pavilion, lined with restaurants as well as homes. We scoped out a few while walking towards the temple. As we came back, we chose a small, quaint restaurant which seemed to be run by a family. We ordered bowls of rice with pork cutlet and egg for me and tofu and egg for my husband.

Rice Bowl with Tofu and EggRice Bowl with Pork Cutlet and Egg

We relaxed with some beer and sake. The meal was simple, yet delicious. It is amazing how different the portion sizes are when you leave the US… As we walked out, I remembered I wanted to have a soft serve cone with green tea ice cream. I had noticed the shops everywhere and kept forgetting to try one. Well, it was out of this world- creamy with a fabulous earthy, green tea flavor. Not too sweet- just perfect. I am really loving all the confections made with green tea- they are all over the place.

For dinner, we actually did some research and checked on tripadvisor. The number one rated restaurant in Kyoto is called Issian. I am a big fan of tripadvisor since it has never lead us wrong. Well, we decided to go to the restaurant and asked our concierge to guide us and surprisingly we found it. It is part of the famous main street full of restaurants- which is kind of a maize since there are tons of restaurants and very hard to find. It is a Japanese stone grill and they cook all kinds of meat in front of you- to perfection. The meat and fish were delicious and yet again trip advisor did not disappoint us.

The meal started with shrimp and fish. Chicken came in between- and the meal ended with pork and beef. The taste of the meats was unbelievable. We dipped the meats either in salt or ponzu sauce. Miso soup and rice were served, including a salad. We finished off with a delicious sorbet.

Shrimp and Fish on the hot stone

 

Chicken Meatballs

Amazing Pork

Overall it was a great dinner and best of all, the chef told me about a 450 year old knife shop in Kyoto which is world famous- guess who will be buying herself a knife tomorrow??- stay tuned.

Day Four- Bullet Train to Kyoto

June 15, 2010   
Day four started early- we eat breakfast and left to take a nine o’clock bullet train to Kyoto. I am absolutely amazed at the train system in this city. Everything is well planned, well thought of- anything you can imagine is taken care of- a pleasure to travel if you are anal like me. I am very impressed. Did I mention how clean the bathrooms are?? Anywhere you go, from a tiny little bathroom at a train station to the one in the bullet train- spotless. I realize this is a food blog, but I thought I would mention a few things that have stood out in my mind as a traveler who does not look forward to using public bathrooms.
Speaking of food, we got to the train station early and decided to buy some snacks. We came across a department store that had a food section- which seems quite common here. The society seems to be obsessed with food… my kind of people. We bought something called rasq- which are kind of like biscotti but not as dense. If you can imagine sticks of lightly sweetened pound cake that are double baked. I grew up eating them in India- we would dip them in tea. Anyway, we bought a bag of rasq and two triangular shaped rice cakes- made of different kinds of fried rice of sorts.

Did I mention there is coffee all over the place? I was expecting tons of tea- but not coffee. There are vending machines everywhere with a variety of drinks including lots of iced coffee or cafe au lait. I bought a bottle and it was delicious. We ate the rice cakes, rasq and washed them down with the delicious coffee.

The ride to Kyoto was approximately two and half hours. We reached our hotel and decided to eat at one of the restaurants below the establishment. Soba noodles in a broth for me and a bowl of rice with egg for my husband. We finished and grabbed two French pastries from the hotel lobby- there is food everywhere in this country- amazing! We had a mango mousse and a green tea pastry-absolutely delicious.

 

Day4BulletKyoto 008

After a short break, we ventured out into Kyoto. It was raining so we stuck to the covered outdoor markets. We stopped for coffee and some green tea cake- it was all yummy. The coffee was lightly sweetened with a hint of caramel- I think I want that for breakfast tomorrow! We then moved on to a outdoor food market and sampled lots of things including fried chicken and shrimp dumplings.

Shrimp Dumplings At The Food Market

We were almost full when we came across a small bar and decided to go in. As we were waiting to be seated, I saw some kind of meat being cooked on a griddle – I asked the hostess and she told me it was chili beef- I told her I wanted that. We sat down and ordered beer and chu-hi, which is a hard lemonade kind of drink- very yummy. Our beef dish came and it was absolutely delicious- very flavorful, a bit spicy but not over powering. It was a perfect end to the day.

Chili Beef At The Bar

 

We walked back to our hotel via ‘the restaurant row’. It is narrow alley of restaurant after bar after restaurant. An amazing selection- we couldn’t believe it. The Japanese really like to eat- and eat well. We plan to be back there for a meal tomorrow- stay tuned.