Friday, February 26, 2010

Dead Land Animals Meet Bento

Wednesday & Thursday bentos featured small portions of dead land animals; chicken & pork. I always liked pigs but I have my doubts about chickens so the preparations Tuesday evening required liquid courage - note the wine as well as the usual prep items including the rice cooker, vegetables, cook book {you didn't think I thought all of this up did you}, vegetables, and in a small bowl the raw dead gross chicken body {so funky to the touch}.

Anyway here is the next step and  the result.  In the pan is chicken, celery, shitake mushrooms, and cashews.  This was mixed with rice with a couple of sundried tomatoes as garnish.  The small compartment is asparagus with lemon, mixed bell peppers and snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and fruit.

Thursday was ginger pork; basically small pieces of pork marinated in soy sauce and grated fresh ginger then cooked in oil.  Plus cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and radish in oil and balsamic vinegar, a few sauteed mushrooms, and pineapple and banana.  The large compartment is rice and peas.

And that's it in bento land for this week.  Off to the beach this Friday morning for a snowy weekend.  Perfect for Olympic ice hockey.  USA  USA  USA

Cheers, Gary

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Man Size Bento

Apparently Bento boxes come in slightly different sizes but we only have two of one size.  There has been some mild wining on the home front about overpacked man-sized bentos.  What the hell; a guys got to keep his weight up.  Plus this is a short week; off to the beach on Friday, so I had to pack a lot into four days.

Henoplen: collage by jane

By the way does anybody really still care what we have for lunch or is it just color fascination and food art.  I have to admit part of the thrill is packing the box and the multiple textures and colors.  Get it where you can.

Monday, Feb 22, the large comparment has shrimp shushi with avocado, asparagus or scallions and two cornichons.  The small comparment is cauliflower curry, sugar snap peas, mixed marinated bell peppers, and a little fruit mix of apple, orange, and pineapple.  In the small picture on the left are the vegetables and shrimp during the prep stage.  The veges are easy.  Blanch the peppers and marinade in basil, olive oil, and rice vinegar, salt & pepper.  The cauliflower is the same process with curry added.   The snap peas are sauteed in oil, then soy and coarse salt added.

Tuesday was a rice mix in the large compartment plus broccoli, carrots, and cherry tomatoes.  The rice mix was 3-4 end pieces of the sushi roll of Monday that fell apart and then were shredded; plus snow peas.  Waste not, want not.  The small compartment includes haddock teriyake, cheesy boiled potatoes with snow peas, and a fruit mix of purple & green grapes, bananas, and pineapple.  I am not quite sure what makes teriyaki teriyaki but it is basically a cooking mix of mirin, soy sauce, cooking oil if needed, sometimes a little sugar, and sake {I use white wine}.  The top two little jars are wasabi dry and with water added.  I mix a small amount on Monday and leave it at the office for the week.

Big plans for Wednesday with a little less food to keep the peace.

Cheers, Gary

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Quick & Easy Bento

Thursday a long day at work, a late meeting, stop for a drink & a bite, and no time left for pre-bento work.  So Friday morning had to be quick & easy which bento can be. 

The large compartment on the right is bowtie pasta, cheese, scallion, and bell pepper with olive oil and lemon juice; plus a couple olives tucked in the corner.  The pasta is small and cooks in about five minutes.  You need to run cold water over it to cool; putting warm or hot items in the bento box especially next to other items is a no go for health & safety.  The smaller compartment is asparagus with a vinegarette, radishes, and pineapple/apple mix.  Simple, fast, easy.

Thursday was more traditional but also simple.  The large compartment is a rice medley {basically ingredients mixed with cooked rice}.  Adding the ingredients when the rice is still hot miximizes the flavor.  This is a small piece of pork marinated in mirin and sugar, grilled, and sliced plus sweet potato and fried okra {from a box of frozen okra}.  The small compartment is mushrooms, cucumbers, radish, and scallions marinated overnight in a chili infused oil plus snow peas and cherry tomatoes, and finally sliced oranges.

And that's it, a bento free weekend begins.

Cheers, Gary

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sushi Rolling

Blog four in bento land; I hope I can keep this up.  Today the newly purchased Panasonic 3.3 dup Automatic Rice Cooker arrived {$24.00 on Amazon} and it is currently bubbling away with tomorrow's rice.  There's no zealot like a convert.   The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue arrived also and I opened the rice cooker first.  This may be getting out of hand.

Below are the last two bento boxes a la gary. 

This is a shrimp, scallop, and mushroom donburi.  Donburi is basically rice with toppings.  The scallop was sliced and broiled with soy sauce.  The shrimp were cooked 2-3 minutes in water, soy sauce, and mirin.  The mushrooms boiled in water and then with soy, sugar, and mirin.  That all goes over about 1/2 cup rice in the large compartment.  The small compartment is cauliflower and snow peas, salted cucumber and radish with sesame seeds, and mixed fruit.

This is chicken marinated in soy sauce, sugar, and mirin; then grilled, sliced and combined with the asparagus in the glaze left after cooking the chicken.   Cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, and cherry tomatoes finish the small compartment.  The large compartment is the balance of the vegetable sushi from Monday and furit {pineapple, cherry, pear, and banana}.

Here is the basic sushi rolling technique.  There was a picture pre-roll in blog three.  Anyway put the rolling mat on the counter and put the Sushi Nori {toasted sea vegetable} on the mat.  Spread the sushi rice thinly on the nori leaving about 1" clear at the top and maybe 1/2" or less on the sides.  I spread the rice by hand.  Using a salted bowl of cold water to rinse my hand and keep the rice from sticking to it.  Then spread any spreadable stuff like cream cheese or wasabi, lay across the nori from the bottom to about 1/3 to 1/2 way the vegetables, seafood, or whatever.  And roll like a big fat cigar [or your smoking preference}.  If the nori does not seal over at the end wet you finger with the salted water and wet the nori and it will stick.  Let the whole thing sit for 15-30 minutes and the nori  will absorb some moisture from the rice and hold together.  Then slice with a cold wet knife.  I'm doing this the night before so I wrap the sushi in plastic wrap, put that in a tuperware type box, and put it in the refrigerator where it keeps well for at least a couple of days. 

Cheers, Gary

Monday, February 15, 2010

Rice & Bento

Good evening to the bento world; at least my mini-bento and very mini world.  It's so cold out that the writing on Sarah Palin's hand said, "Economy," "jobs," & "put gloves on stupid".  {thanks to Jimmy Fallon}.  Due to a popular request from the birthday girl I thought I would briefly review the rice and sushi component of bento. 

First the rice; a good quality, premium grade, Japanese or sushi rice.  Basically buy the best quality rice you can afford or find.  I make one cup at a time but you could make more.  Measure one cup of rice into the pot, rinse vigorously under running water swishing around with your hands.  Drain, add new water, swish, repeat 2-3 times.  Drain leaving a little water and massage or polish the rice.  Add water, rinse, drain, repeat a couple of times until the water is almost clear.  Drain in a sieve and let is set 30 minutes or more.  Put it back in the pot, add 1 to 1-1/4 cups of water and put on medium heat until it boils.  Cook on high for about 30 seconds and lower to simmer, cover, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the water is completely absorbed.  Remove from the heat, put a cloth over the pan, and let it rest for 15 minutes or so.  The idea is rice with grains that stick together but are not mushy or watery.  {All this was taken from}.  This is a process but I typically do it while prepping all the other stuff for the next day and after a while it is kind of mindless.  The whole deal takes about an hour and at least it is an hour spent after work not drinking, although occasionally there is some overlap.

Sesame seeds, rice, broccoli & carrots, asparagus, avocado, scallion, cucumber, hot pepper

If you are making sushi rice there is one more step.  While the rice is cooking take 1 tblsp of rice vinegar, 1 tblsp of sugar, and 1 tsp of kosher salt; mix in a small bowl; and microwave for 30-40 seconds.  When the rice is still warm mix with the rice and then allow to cool.  There's lot of versions of how to do this but this is the simpliest I've found. 

Then you are ready to roll.  To prevent anyone falling asleep the rolling can be reviewed another time, but it is fairly easy with a little practice.  Above is the latest roll for Monday's lunch, pre-roll.  Asparagus, cucumber, avocado, and cream cheese.  Another roll had scallion and sesame seed combined with asparagus & cucumber, and a third another vegetable combination. 

Here is Monday's finished bento box.  The small comparment has salmon saved from Saturday's dinner, broccoli & carrots, and cherry tomatoes.  The larger comparment has the vegetable sushis, plus pear & cherries.  That's a little sundried tomato on top of the sushi and a cornichon in the corner.  Lots of the little things are available from salad bars; the other stuff we buy in either small quantities or use the larger part for dinner, and some of the stuff is leftover from dinners.

I am trying for 2-3 blogs per week.  Be back Wednesday hopefully.

Cheers, Gary

Friday, February 12, 2010

Day Two in Bento Blogging Land

Welcome back to day two in bento land. After such a positive response {sort of} I am moving into the nasty details.  Inquiring minds want to know.  Below {I hope it's below} is Friday's bento box.  The lower box is shrimp, cucumber, and avocado sushi.  The shrimp is cooked, not raw, as it has to keep for 4-5 hours in a glorified lunch box.  Plus three little pickles tucked in the corner.  The top box is beets and scallions with a vinigarette, red peppers and carrots in soy sauce, some leftover cole slaw from a previous dinner, and the fruit is a winter canteloupe which was a stupid purchase and fairly tasteless.  The sushi, beets, and pepper/carrots were all made the night before.  The sushi is actually fairly easy once you get the rice and rolling down.  I've had previous experience rolling things but it has been a while.

Here is the bento box assembled and disassembled.  Fairly ingenious and all from the people who brought you WW11.  What will they think of next {cars that accelerate on their own?}.  The whole thing locks together very compactly; the chopsticks with the flip lid is very cool, and the size of the box gives a good amount but not over the top amount to eat.

I'm off for the weekend; just planning and shopping.  I'm sure the anticipation is hard to deal with.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Beginning

It started with an article in the NY Times. Then buying bento boxes from Amazon {about $15-$20.00 each}, a bento cook book {Bento Boxes - Japanese Meals On The Go by Naomi Kijima}, surfing the web {favorite site}, buying a sushi rolling bamboo mat from a kitchen store, and a couple of shopping trips to Whole Foods {following Jane's beaten path}. And away we go {with a few weather interruptions of course}.

The bento box is about 3" X 7-1/2" with two levels. The bottom level is about 1" height and the top level about 3/4". There is a small cap for the bottom level and a sliding divider for the top level. On the lid is a small lift section for chopsticks. All very cool. The general idea is a mixture of colors, textures, and small amounts of a variety of foods. Typically there is a rice component {although you may note one bento box had sweet potatoes in place of rice and another not pictured had pasta salad}, a small protein component, veges, and fruit. At least that's the way I do it. We keep soy sauce and wasabi at the office. Much of the food is prepared the night before and assembled in the morning. It takes about 15-30 minutes in the morning depending on what how much morning prep there is to do. Details about individual bento boxes and the ingredients will come later, including successes and flops.

All in all the bento box experience is a positive, a chance to do some kitchen work with advice from but limited power of the head chef, and a cheap thrill for a 61 year old who needs all the cheap thrills he can get.

Cheers, Gary