A Plantain Dessert

When I was 12, I read an article in one of my mother’s “women’s magazines” about grilled bananas. We lived in a big old house with two fireplaces where we would often toast marshmallows over the glowing embers. Roasted bananas appealed to my desire for the exotic beyond the isolated UP. My mom was skeptical while I was persistent. She finally agreed to the experiment if the bananas were wrapped in greased tinfoil and placed in the embers. She wisely prevented me from poking a banana on a marshmallow stick—the result was a gooey mash of burnt banana and margarine…

Corn & Cabbage Buttered Miso Soup

The Japanese love corn:
on pizza, pasta, at McDonald’s, in gyoza, in soup, …so why not add it to miso soup?
As for cabbage in Japan, it is used in one of their most famous dishes: okonomiyaki, the cabbage-stuffed “as you like it” pizza.

Cabbage is also popular in soups, pickles, and as a side dish for deep-fried foods.

So why not enjoy it in miso soup?

Add a pat of butter, and you’ll experience sweetness and richness if only in a meal.

Yukina Savoy

Mr. Tess’ jaws clench at the sight of green and crunchy vegetables: green cabbage, red cabbage, nappa cabbage, savoy cabbage, bok choi, kale, shinguku, brassicaceae of any sort, chard, turnip, dandelion, mustard greens and so on. He was delighted to find this bunch of leafy stuff at the Farmers’ Market.
It’s called “yukina savoy.” Very pretty, yes? And something we will be planting in our garden next year? I think so!

Purslane Salad

My vegetable garden got a late start with the cold wet spring. But suddenly it exploded into a weed bed. In mid-June, we did manage to put in a few tomato plants, some shiso, basil, and marigolds.

The plant that is surrounding the tomatoes and shiso is a “weed” called purslane. I’d not seen it in such profusion away from a sidewalk or parking lot before. It’s a pretty plant, and after a bit of research I decided to give it a culinary treatment. Nice! First was this salad.

Stewed Soybeans


Mr. Tess made a lovely garbonzo bean soup with potatoes, garlic, rosemary, and some “secret” ingredients. It was luxurious with a dollop of sour cream.

His soup got me thinking about the humble hardiness of beans and how they satisfy a desire for homey comfort. They are easy to cook, soaking and simmering without much attention from the cook, and yet they can be seasoned in all the variety of cuisines around the world.

I found a recipe for simmered soybeans, Japanese style, online and began to gather the ingredients. I found hijiki, a dramatic black sea-vegetable (allright, it’s seaweed), carrots, dried shiitake, and the usual suspects: saké, mirin, shoyu, and sugar.

My bag of soybeans was missing! Had I simply left them at the old place? (yes, we are still moving house…) Was my memory slipping?

Simmered Shiitake


This is a traditional way of cooking dried shiitake. They can be served with other simmered vegetables, sliced to use as a noodle topping, or minced with shiso or parsley and tossed with rice and toasted white sesame seeds. You can make these mushrooms a pantry-staple; they freeze well, and they add a nice flavor and texture to many other dishes.

Stay Cool with Summer Ramen

Every summer, I look forward to preparing this recipe of chilly noodles in a sweet-sour-salty sauce, topped with colorful seasonal vegetables and meats (or tofu). Summer brings such a variety of colors, textures, and flavors that one could eat this everyday without repeating the combination. It’s all a pretty party in your bowl! It’s easy-on-the-cook party-food, too: guests can choose their favorite fresh vegetables.

Japanese Menu for Six

https://1tess.wordpress.comA few weeks ago, we hosted a dinner for Mr. Tess’s “new” brother, his wife, their neice, and her boyfriend. We don’t know these folks very well, and I get nervous whenever we have guests. I wanted to have most of the dinner ready when they arrived, just in case an unanticipated kitchen disaster meant I’d have to resort to pizza delivery… Yes, Mr. Tess always tells me that it’s the company and not the food that is important, but none the less, I wanted to make a nice evening where things went according to plan.
My solution was a menu which I could prepare the evening or morning before, with only a small bit of close attention in the kitchen just before serving.


tenobe dango jiru
Hand stretched wheat dumplings (noodles) are a speciality of Oita Provence in Japan, usually served in an iriko dashi based soup flavored with miso and vegetables. These noodles are also popular in Hawaii: the first time I made this dish was as a test for The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. The dumplings were quite thick noodles, similar to the savory mochi (rice-flour) dumplings sometimes added to soups all over Japan. Looking at pictures online, it seems the “dumplings” in Oita are thinner and more like noodles.
We’ve all seen those Chinese master noodle chefs (perhaps only on YouTube) pulling long strands of lamian from a lump of dough: great entertainment and a real mystery about how it can be done without breaking the strands!

Coleslaw á la Japonaise

I was making chili—warm red and fragrant on a snowy afternoon. As a side dish, I wanted something tangy and fresh for contrast. There is a recipe in Hiroko Shimbo’s book, The Japanese Kitchen, for kyabetsu no sokuseki zuke: quick salt-pickled cabbage. Quick means five hours, and because of the snow it had taken two hours to shop so the recipe was out of the question. My solution comes from making other tsukemono: I salted the finely shredded cabbage and carrots in a plastic bag with a weight on top for two hours—long enough to remove excess water from the vegetables leaving them tender-crisp. The result: coleslaw colorful enough for a Japanese bento!