Tofu Daisy Dumplings

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japanese wonton dumpling_6864Fanciful daisy dumplings are fun for appetizers or a light meal. They are sure to delight guests, but are easier to prepare than wontons, gyoza, or shui mai. These flower-like savories bring to mind an early summer bouquet—perfect for relieving the vision of dirty grey snow mountains and the numbing cold we are currently enduring.

Simple ingredients (tofu, chicken, wonton skins, and pantry staples) are transformed so the whole is different from its parts. This recipe is poetry—a longing for one thing to be a substitute for another. A bit of magic. An illusion…

Now is the time to dream of spring and gardens and warmth. I am considering what to to about the lovely Montauk daisies planted in my garden. They are gorgeous plants which bloom late in the year. They can be encouraged in late spring—a time I am committed to considering while life is so cold and bleak now.

Steamy Shrimp and Bay Scallops


Mr. Tess worked out of town several weeks this summer. Cooking for one: white grape juice, directly from the bottle. Tuna and mayo on macaroni. Thin spaghetti with butter and pepper. Vanilla ice cream in front of the freezer. What do you eat when no one is looking?
Here is a “cooking for one” meal which had some healthy green things to supplement the essentially white starch and carbohydrates I was over consuming.

Thousand Leaves Stuffed Cabbage

I can’t explain why I’ve been craving stuffed cabbage, but there it is. My mother never made it while we were growing up. The only time I ate it as a child was when I went to my friend Joan’s house for dinner. Her family owned the local funeral home, and they lived upstairs. Her mother made stuffed cabbage the evening I visited, and after dinner Joan invited me to go downstairs to comb the hair of their latest “guests.” I declined. But ever since then, I’ve really enjoyed stuffed cabbage in the fall and winter. There are variations of stuffed vegetables, especially stuffed cabbage, all over the world. This recipe is one I made two years ago. The umeboshi adds such a lovely flavor to the rich pork and sweet cabbage that I hope you will try this recipe.

Lemon Chicken with Golden Sauce

Lemon paired with chicken is popular around the world. This Japanese lemon chicken is sure to find a regular place on your menus because it is familiar but unique. Because it is steamed with lemon slices and vegetables, it is quick to prepare, and low-fat, and the simple (almost fool-proof, well see my notes) sauce is a beautiful garnish. This recipe is party-perfect with pink, green, and gold.

Salmon with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts

I’m rich! If only I could take my treasure, laughing, all the way to the bank: I have collected and cleaned several hundred ginkgo nuts.
What will I do with them? They certainly are on many future menus here in The Ginkgo House: I don’t think we will get tired of them. Ginkgo nuts are valued for their flavor and fortune. They are used in good luck dishes served at New Years and weddings. They are cooked in soups, stir-fries, desserts, and eaten with beer for good health.
The Chinese (later also Japanese [ginnan]) word ginkyo means “silver apricot” (gin=silver, kyo=apricot). Coincidentally, this recipe has a silver sauce (gin-an). It is a gentle dashi-based sauce thickened with cornstarch or kuzu starch (arrowroot).

Sweet Potato Cakes

http://1tess.wordpress.comWhen the recipe says to broil on low (200°C) for only 15 minutes, believe it!
Also, set a timer so you know when the time is up…
Believe it or not, these were really truly very tasty once I cut the burnt tops off. They looked ok as well, once I turned them upside down. ≥^!^≤
The young woman at the little Korean grocery (Hyundai Asian Market) was arranging a display of pretty red sweet potatoes. They looked so fresh that two of them hopped into my basket before I knew it!

Oh sweet potato cakes!!

Japanese Chicken Loaf: “Wind-in-the-Pines”

http://1tess.wordpress.comI laughed this morning.
J. brought me coffee. I usually sleep face down with feet hooked over the end of the mattress; he nudges against them to wake me. Today I was on my back with toes pointing toward the opposite wall. He put the cup on the table and kissed my forehead, which is usually hidden. Instead of tiptoeing away, he put his hands under the sheet and rubbed the bottoms of my feet. I laughed. He asked what was funny, but all I could say was it’s just nice.
We’d eaten a delicious dinner—he even asked if it was hard to make! (It’s not much more difficult than making hamburgers.) We spent a quiet evening together and had a lovely night.
It’s rare to hear someone laugh for simple happiness.

Almost Wafu Chawan Mushi Spaghetti

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Chawan mushi is a savory Japanese custard, smooth and as comforting as chicken noodle soup. As a noodle/pasta addict (yes I do have withdrawal symptoms when on vacation, and unable to find good pasta—but also note that medical standards do not yet accept this as a real addition), I was inspired by Shizuo Tsuji’s comment in his book Japanese Cooking: a simple art. He describes how chawan mushi can be made with ingredients beyond the most famous ginkgo nut, chicken or scallops, and shrimp version.

Chawan Mushi with Ginkgo Nuts

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One of the first Japanese recipes I ever made is this savory custard. It’s more unexpected than exotic, soothing and almost familiar. Twenty years ago, I had no idea what dashi was but I must have found an instant dashi soup mix in a store specializing in foreign foods. Ginkgo nuts, lily root, and chestnuts were impossible to find; eggs, chicken breast, shrimp, and soy sauce were easy.

Salmon Steamed with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts

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An autumn recipe from Japan and a calla lily from my husband are too elegant to allow me to sulk about dinner for one. Calla lilies are pleasingly ingenious and simple flowers, romantic and understated. The food is also simple, with subtle flavors of chestnuts and gingkos. Steaming the fish with kombo and a little saké is as easy to make for one as it would be for a party.
The new house has moved from potential, to possible and now to probably and I am imagining the plant, among others, blooming in the gigantic front window overlooking the gingko tree in the front yard…