Elizabeth’s Bento

The day before she was due to take the plane back home to Ohio, my sister said that she needed to buy something to eat during the flight because apparently they don’t serve food anymore on local flights.  What?!  It seems that for the last couple of decades I’ve only flown on international flights.  They do serve peanuts, chips and soft drinks I guess.  My sister’s idea was to load up with bags of chips, crackers, cookies, etc.  “Hell no”, I said in a sisterly fashion, this is a job for bento box!”

A bento box is easy to put together from the leftovers in your refrigerator but the best ones are made fresh, specifically for packing in the box.  I did this not only because I didn’t have any leftovers but, of course, because I love my sister 😉

I began with inarizushi, fried tofu skins stuffed with sushi rice and tuna salad and sprinkled with furikake.  I like to make these 🙂

I had a vague idea for cold somen noodles with a peanut sauce recipe I usually use for coleslaw.  This worked out well.  The one drawback is that you must rinse and scrub the cooked somen noodles thoroughly to prevent them from sticking together, removing the outside starch from the noodles until they are almost squeaky.  This takes about 12 scrub/rinses.

Another delicious and easy addition for a bento box is spicy, sesame shrimp.  Also an amazing finger food with cocktails.

Butter baked, lightly floured chicken thighs can be versatile in a bento box; left whole,  sliced with or without an accompanying sauce.  I left my whole.

In addition to the above, I added a hard boiled egg, spinach sauteed with garlic, cumin flavored courgette and a peeled and sectioned clementine.  Too much food?  Not at all.  It all fit into a small 2 layered box.  Too little?  No, bento boxes are perfect for portion control and turns lunch into a celebration of tastes.

Cold Somen Noodles with Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp lime juice

1 1/2 tbsp honey

2 tbsp sesame oil

1/4 cup peanut butter (chunky if you have it)

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 hot green chilli, chopped

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped

 

3 bundles of dried somen noodles

Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, sesame oil and peanut butter together in a small bowl and set aside.

Mix the scallions, chilli, bell pepper, ginger and cilantro together in a small bowl and set aside.

Boil the noodles for 3 minutes, drain, rinse and gently scrub in cold water ( think hand washing a delicate blouse), changing the water at least 12 times until the water runs clear and noodles have a vaguely squeaky feel.

Toss the noodles, vegetables and sauce together.  Eat immediately or cover and refrigerate for later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in bento, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Oven Barbecued Spareribs with Aunt Kay’s Beans

I experienced my first blizzard!  So exciting, but the dog really didn’t want to go outside at all and had to be cruelly forced outside to take care of her needs.  Her doghouse did not tempt her and she went no further than the bottom of the house deck stairs, returned to the kitchen door to gaze at us, pitifully coated in snow.  We eventually let her back in 😀

In general, the blizzard created no problems for us.  Although the car was completely buried, we didn’t need it for anything because we always have a stocked pantry, plenty of alcohol and a ridiculously bulging freezer.

I wrestled 2 slabs of pork spareribs from the freezer and seasoned them with salt, pepper, garlic powder and rosemary.  I roasted the slabs for an hour in 350 F oven before brushing them with barbecue sauce.

An additional 45 minutes, turning and brushing them with sauce every 15 minutes did the trick.  I did wish we could use the grill for this but my husband balked, explaining that there was a blizzard outside 😀

Our daughter Jade made a lovely salad to counteract the enormous amount of pork and carbohydrates we were about to consume.

Someone suggested that we have both potato salad and my husband’s Aunt Kay’s beans with the ribs.  After I explained that all we needed was one or the other, we voted and Aunt Kay won.

No complaints.

Aunt Kay’s Beans

1 lb bacon chopped
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 16 oz can of butter beans, drained
2 16 oz can of Goya pink beans, drained
2 16 oz can of pork n beans(do not drain)
1/2 cup of barbecue sauce
1/2 cup of ketchup
2 tbsp of chili powder
2 tbsp of brown sugar or 3 tbsp of molasses
2 tbsp of mustard

1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the bacon then remove from pan, drain on paper towels, then set aside   Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook until soft.    Add ground beef to the pan and cook just until all pink is gone.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together bacon, ground beef and onion mixture, beans, barbecue sauce, ketchup, chili powder, brown sugar, mustard, salt, pepper and water.  Pour into a baking dish and bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes, side dish | Tagged , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Herb Roasted Duckling with Gravy

I miss being able to buy duck parts; legs, breast, gizzards.  Roasting a whole fowl, other than chicken, seems a little over the top unless it’s a holiday.  In France I probably ate duck weekly in some form or other but mostly duck breast 😀

Anyhow.  I found a frozen duckling at some store and rubbed it with herbs and olive oil. Too bad I had to use dried herbs but it’s still snowing and cold here, so nothing’s growing except for one hardy sprig of rosemary.

I poked the duckling all over with a cooking fork, cut up some carrots, onions and celery, stuffed some into the cavity with a bay leaf and boiled the rest of the vegetables with the duckling giblets to make the gravy broth.

After 1 1/2 hours, I poured off and reserved the duck fat and added some vegetables to the bottom of the pan to roast with the duckling for the last hour.

In the meantime,  I sauteed some pancetta with brussel sprouts that we ate while waiting for the main event 😉

The duckling didn’t NEED gravy but my husband likes gravy and I don’t mind making it.

Herb Roasted Duckling with Gravy

1  5-6 lb duckling

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 tbsp dried thyme leaves

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tbsp rosemary

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

2  onions, cut into eighths

5 carrots, each cut into 4-5 pieces

3 celery stalks, cut into 4-5 pieces

2 bay leaves

5 cups water

1 large onion, quartered

4 carrots, cut into 4-5 pieces

3 stalks celery, cut into 4-5 pieces

1 lb fingerling potatoes

Salt and pepper

4 tbsp flour

Remove giblets from the duck cavity and place in a stockpot.  Set aside.  Mix the salt, pepper, thyme, sage, rosemary and olive oil together, then rub the duck inside and out with this mixture.  Place half the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves inside the duck cavity.  Seal both ends of the duck with turkey lacer needles, tie the drumsticks together, place on a rack in a roasting pan in a preheated 350 F oven for 1 1/2 hours.

Put the remaining half of the vegetables in the stock pot with the giblets, add the water, some salt and pepper, then bring to a boil, lower to simmer and simmer until you have created a rich broth.  Remove the solids and set aside.

Season the onion, carrots, celery and potatoes with the salt and pepper.  Remove the duck from the oven, pour off the duck fat and reserve.  Place the vegetables on the bottom of the roasting pan, replace the rack and put the duck on top.  Return to the oven for 1 hour, stirring the vegetables after 30 minutes.

Heat 4 tablespoons of the reserved duck fat in a large skillet and stir in the 4 tablespoons of flour.  Stir over medium heat until the flour has browned and cooked, then still stirring, slowly add 4 cups of the reserved broth to the skillet until the gravy is smooth and has thickened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Steamed Bok Choy with Spicy Oyster Sauce

My sister asked if I would make my recipe for steamed bok choy and then, as it so often does, one thing led to another.

I had some mini Japanese eggplant, ground lamb and fresh udon noodles.

There was really nothing to think about.  Spicy eggplant was inevitable 🙂

I love this dish!  So that’s why.   My sister liked it too 🙂

I’ll have to consider making a run into New Jersey for more udon noodles, that or seppuku 😀

Steamed Baby Bok Choy

2 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tbsp chili garlic sauce

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp peanut oil

2 tbsp water

10 baby bok choy, stem ends removed and sliced in half vertically

Mix the oyster sauce, chili garlic sauce, sugar, peanut oil and water together well, then set aside.

Steam the bok choy halves in a steamer or wok for 5-6 minutes.  Remove the bok choy, place on a platter and drizzle with the oyster sauce.

 

Posted in Asian, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Main dishes, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sister

My sister arrived today for a 10 day visit.  I hadn’t seen her for 19 years and was a tad bit anxious because I realized that I had only seen my sister to talk to only briefly over the last 36 years and usually at funerals.

I decided to make meatloaf; she hasn’t changed that much and has always been interested in eating simple, “home cooked” meals.

We gathered around the kitchen island swapping “remember when” stories as we collaborated on the recreation of our mother’s tasty, moist and satisfying meat loaf.

My sister and I agreed that the amount of cracker/bread crumbs should be strictly controlled in order not to overwhelm the meat flavor and texture.  I offered my improvement of adding enough savory liquid to the meat mixture in order to prevent dryness which could lead to the ketchup bottle and the sure road to hell 🙂

Instead of the usual mashed potatoes we sauteed a medley of courgettes, onions and yellow bell pepper with sage.

Easy Meatloaf

1 1/2 lbs ground steak

1/2 cup dry bread or cracker crumbs

1 small onion, chopped

2-3 tbsp parsley, chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

4 cups tomato sauce

In a large bowl, mix the meat, bread crumbs, onion, parsley, eggs, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the tomato sauce together.  Remove the mixture from the bowl and form into a loaf.

Place the loaf in a roasting pan and roast at 350 F for one hour.  Remove and pour 1 cup of tomato sauce over the loaf, then return to the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Slice the loaf into serving size, heat the remaining cup of tomato sauce and serve with the meat loaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Secret Sauce Braised Country Spareribs

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I looked in the refrigerator yesterday and re-noticed a measuring cup with plastic wrap on top and 3/4 filled with some dark liquid stuff.  I re-heated it in the microwave and tasted it. Good taste, whatever it was.

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I sliced a large onion, 4-5 large cloves of garlic and put these into a square roasting/baking pan, placed 4 meaty, pork, country style spareribs on top, poured the “secret” sauce over all, covered the pan with aluminum foil and placed in a 375 F oven for 1 1/2 hours.  I then removed the aluminum foil, turned the ribs over, poured off all but 1/2 cup of the liquid, then returned the pan to the oven for an additional 30 minutes.

The public has the right to know 😀

Posted in American, Cooking, Food and Wine, Main dishes | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Chinese Barbecued Pork

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Have you ever wondered how the Chinese in Chinese restaurants get the red on the pork slices they serve?  I have.  Apparently char siu barbecued pork originated in Canton and contained red dye #40.  The recipe was adopted and adapted by the Japanese who eliminated the dye and seasoned the sauce with honey and soy sauce.  That is the char siu I’m familiar with and had in no way connected it with the red in Chinese restaurant pork slices.

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Well!  I found 2 lost pork tenderloins at the bottom of the freezer and decided to make char siu barbecue, confident that I had a lifetime supply of Lee Kum Kee char siu sauce in the pantry.  Wrong; I had Lee Kum Kee chili garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and black bean sauce.  Shite 😀  I have made my own char siu sauce and it’s not too hard but I lacked enthusiasm and decided to trawl the the region’s grocers; Weiss Honesdale, Super Duper Honesdale, IGA Hawley, Wegmans Scranton, Wegmans Wilkes Barre, Laos Asian Market Scranton  and finally, desperately, a discount resale store in Scranton(I forget the name) where I was forced to substitute.  Yes, I could have made the sauce in a 10th of the time but it was a beautiful day and I like to go for rides 🙂

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At the discount store I found a “Chinese style” sauce of festive, violent red.  It resembled thick Robitussin cough syrup.

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It’s effect on the meat when marinated overnight was, if not surprising, spectacular! Really, I was speechless and a little panicky 😀

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After I  “S” hooked the pieces in the oven and sliced them, I got a big surprise!

Me:  Hey Honey look, it’s those Chinese slices from the restaurant!

Honey:  Yeah, should I taste them for you?

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At the discount resale store, thinking of my recipe for coleslaw with peanut dressing, I also bought a bottle of peanut sauce.

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I mixed this “organic” peanut sauce in with a bag of  “organic” coleslaw mix from Wegmans.  It was okay.

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I think the moral of this story, which I know but ignored, is that if you want more than okay results, homemade is better, but if you do use jarred items, choose good quality, known brands.

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Like this rich, smooth Japanese Kewpie Mayonnaise that I used on the sandwiches.

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I have now been in the U.S. for about 1 year.  I know those of you who know my love for France and particularly for my home in Sens, wonder if I have been held here against my will  🙂  In a way, that was true.  My medical issues have finally been sorted and I am free to travel.  I plan to get back to France in Spring/early Summer.  Hell Yes!

Recipes:

“S” Hooked Char Siu Pork

Coleslaw with Peanut Dressing

 

 

 

Posted in Asian, Chinese, Cooking, Food and Wine, Japanese, Recipes, Sandwich, side dish | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments