Category Archives: what’s for dinner

Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing 

tuna and watercress with wasabi ponzu dressingAs promised, I’m going to share some of the food we made for the hanami party. The first is this spicy salad that we found on Cookpad. (Thanks to Jess for all of the hanami tips!) It is so fresh and delicious and I even think it would be tasty without the fresh fish. The wasabi-ponzu dressing is the highlight.

Tuna & Watercress with Wasabi Ponzu Dressing

Salad:

1 bunch of watercress

3-4 radishes, sliced paper-thin, cut into half-moons (A mandolin is handy here.)

1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin (The mandolin is already out. Use it again.)

6oz fresh sushi grade tuna or salmon, sliced into bite sized pieces (You can also use smoked salmon, but fresh is best!)

Dressing:

1 tablespoon ponzu sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons wasabi paste

Whisk the ponzu, oil, and wasabi together until smooth. Toss the vegetables, fish, and dressing together. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, if needed. Serve immediately. Feel the burn.

Tagged , , , ,

Ringing in 2016 

Golden Steer, Forest Park, new years eve We spent yet another New Year’s Eve at the Golden Steer with our friends. It’s become a tradition that I start looking forward to as soon as I turn the calendar to December. Naoto and I talk about the French Onion soup and the steaks we will order all month. New year's Eve preparationsAfter dinner, everyone came back to our apartment for drinks, snacks, and dessert. It’s always nice to ring in the new year in the comforts of home and with the laughter of friends. I made a simple cover for our island with the leftover wrapping paper from Phantom Flight Night™. I taped on some glittery dots that I punched out of gold glitter paper from my stash. It was simple and sparkly. Trader Joe's float, Rose Bowl Parade 2016New Year’s Day was lazy! We watched part of the Rose Bowl Parade–I only watch for the Trader Joe’s float, pictured above. It’s always fantastic. toshikoshi soba, New Years 2016For supper we ate (our version of) toshikoshi soba. In Japan, toshikoshi soba is eaten as the last part of the meal on New Year’s Eve, but since we had dinner plans already*, we decided to eat it on New Year’s Day. We topped our noodles with roasted chicken, scallions, and cabbage, but this recipe has more traditional ideas. And I picked up some special New Year chopsticks last time we were in Japan so it was fun to actually find them in time to use them for New Year’s dinner!

How did you spend your New Year’s Eve?

 

*I think next year we should serve the noodles as a close-to midnight snack!

Tagged , , , ,

Maisen

Maisen Tonkatsu MealOne of my favorite meals of our trip was the tonkatsu at Maisen. Maisen is an old and famous restaurant in Omotesando, the same part of Tokyo as the Bunbougu Cafe is in. Naoto’s sister, Hisae, took us there a few years ago and I’ve been dreaming of going back ever since. This time we made it happen.

Tonkatsu is a fried pork cutlet (we had it at home for Christmas dinner once) with a delicious crust of panko breadcrumbs. At Maisen, it is served with miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables, and as much shredded cabbage as you can eat. (There are servers who walk around with giant baskets of cabbage, offering up refills throughout your meal.) I love that the tonkatsu is served on a little metal rack so the cutlet stays crisp until the very last bite. Maisen Tonkatsu SauceAnd the sauce!! The Maisen tonkatsu sauce is like a tangy barbecue sauce and it’s delicious on the pork AND on the cabbage. It’s similar to Bulldog Sauce (which is what we use on tonkatsu at home) but it’s richer and thicker.

The main part of the restaurant is a former bath house dressing room (you can see pictures here) but there are also several other rooms and counters for dining. The first time we ate here, we ate in the main room, which feels very spacious and light with its high ceilings and sky lights. This time, the hostess said something about English speakers and stuck us in what I assume is the part of the restaurant where the servers speak English. (There were other families in the room with English speakers, so I can only assume that’s why we were all sitting together?) The big room had better atmosphere but the food was just as delicious!

Oh, and my favorite silly part of Maisen is…they have a parking lot. It holds two cars. And there is a parking lot attendant. He’s not guarding the cars…Omotesando is a very nice neighborhood.  He just stands there and bows to you as you walk by. Oh, Japan.

Tagged , , ,

Spicy Jicama, Pineapple & Cucumber Snack

spicy jicama, pineapple and cucumber street snackLast month, Naoto and I lived out his dream of eating at Frontera Grill, Rick Bayless’s hard-to-get-into restaurant in Chicago. We made the reservations back in January so by the time March 14th rolled around, I wasn’t the least bit interested in going, especially considering it was St. Patrick’s Parade Day in the city and drunk people were stumbling about. But, we went anyway and didn’t regret it. The food was amazing, the cocktails blew my mind, and the service was impeccable. chips and guac, street food, frontera grillMy favorite dish was this Mexican street snack of jicama, cucumber, and pineapple. It’s shown above on the right, along with my tasty Meyer Lemon Margarita and our guacamole. The street snack was so fresh and crisp and juicy…I really could have just eaten a whole meal of it alone. It seemed easy enough to make at home, so on Easter, we tried it out as an appetizer for Easter dinner at Karen’s. spicy jicama, pineapple and cucumber street snack

Spicy Jicama, Cucumber and Pineapple Snack 

(inspired by Frontera Grill’s Jicama Street Snack, which was inspired by Mexican street snacks)

1 English cucumber

1 jicama (ours was the size of a softball)

1 fresh pineapple

4 limes

chili powder (or Tajín, for more flavor)

sea salt

Cut the cucumber, jicama, and pineapple into sticks (like french fries). Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the juice of the four limes. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with chili powder and sea salt and toss again. (Be gentle, the pineapple is fragile!) Serve, standing up in a few glasses. (Old fashioned glasses work nice for sharing, or you could do individual servings in tiny juice glasses.) There should be some leftover juice on the tray. Drizzle it over the prepared servings and sprinkle with a little extra chili powder or Tajín and salt. Serve immediately. spicy jicama, pineapple and cucumber street snackThe jicama and the pineapple were by far the most popular, but I think the cucumber adds a savory touch. Plus, all three textures work really well together to make a perfect appetizer or snack. I do believe this is going to make it into the next Hasegawa Happy Hour menu!

P.S. Thanks to Naoto for modeling!

Tagged , , ,

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Oiistar

Oiistar Ramen oiimen ramenI’m behind in my ramen reporting! We tried Oiistar back in February, before we went to Furious Spoon. Oiistar gets really good reviews from food writers in Chicago and it’s made it on several “best ramen in Chicago” lists. It was the first ramen shop in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood. It definitely has a “hipster feel” to it, for better or for worse. It’s casual and there are individual tables, a counter, and communal seating to choose from. The owner describes his menu as having French and Italian influences, and you can definitely see that in the menu along with some Chinese and Korean. Oiistar RamenThere are old black & white Looney Tunes cartoons projected onto the wall and the music is old school and loud (but not too loud.) It was freezing and snowy the night we went, so we were both in the mood for a hot bowl of noodles. We started with drinks and I will just say this: my review of this restaurant may be unfairly colored by what you are about to seeOiistar Ramen embarrassing mason jar glassMy drink, the house-made sangria, was served in a mason jar glued to a candlestick. This thing was enormous and clunky and just plain embarrassing. It was so top-heavy that I kept thinking it was going to fall over and spill everywhere. And it stood up so high on the table that it almost blocked my view of Naoto! Everything else in the restaurant was normal…I just have to wonder what in the world the restauranteur was thinking when he chose to serve his (perfectly delicious) sangria in this monstrosity. Oiistar Ramen, baoOkay…back to the food. We ordered buns as appetizers. They arrived at our table with our ramen, which was a huge bummer because it was impossible to enjoy both at the same time, as ramen noodles are best when eaten right away. Pictured above is the Tempura Shrimp bun, which is a fried shrimp with chili mayonnaise, fennel slaw, and sesame seeds on a Chinese-style bao bun. It was delicious and something I would order again if we venture back here.

For ramen, I got the oiimen (pictured at the top) with pork belly, egg, scallion, mushrooms, spicy oil, and garlic. Naoto got the kimchee ramen. The ramen was solid, but the texture of the noodles didn’t wow me. They are made in-house, which is supposed to be a huge plus. All of the other ramen places we had tried until that point have them shipped in from Sun Noodle. (In the meantime, Furious Spoon opened with their own homemade noodles and, after eating Furious Spoon’s noodles, I think Furious’s noodles are better.) But the flavors and the pork and the soft boiled egg in Oiistar’s ramen were delicious.

I would love to go back and try some of their salads and snacks. They offer a bruschetta topped with pickled shrimp, fennel, balsamic and olives that sounds intriguing enough for a repeat visit. I just won’t be ordering another ridiculous sangria.

Tagged , ,

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen-San

Ramen-SanNaoto and I are back in a ramen groove again…which is perfect timing since we are still in the dead of winter around here. Last weekend, we tried Ramen-san in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. I wish I’d taken more pictures of the entire restaurant. It’s rustic-modern with beautiful exposed brick walls, semi-communal tables and bench seating. It was just the right amount of noisy and while we were there (early dinner on Saturday night), they turned down the lights and showed the Bulls game on the brick walls. Ramen-SanWe started with cocktails. Naoto got an Asahi (He loves finding Japanese beers on tap!) and I got a Singapore Sling. Can you believe I’ve never had a Singapore Sling before? It was so good–gin, pineapple, Cherry Heering, Benedictine and lime, all beautifully topped with a slice of pineapple and decadent Luxardo cherries. Ramen-SanWe ordered the shrimp & pork wontons, which were a little spicy and really tasty. It was a nice warm-up for our big bowls of ramen. Ramen-SanI have to say that the ramen presentation at Ramen-san was pretty lackluster. It kind of looked like my ramen was just thrown in the bowl, which was a bit surprising considering this was the priciest ramen we’ve had and the restaurant itself was very polished. In spite of it all, the ramen was very tasty. I got the tonkotsu ramen, which is pretty traditional with its pork broth, chashu pork slices and soft cooked egg. The broth was really tasty and the noodles were cooked perfectly.ramen sanNaoto had the Kimchi & Fried Chicken Ramen. He really liked this spicy and unusual take on traditional ramen. He said it had just the right amount of heat to warm him up and he loved that the fried chicken was still crispy, even in the broth! Ramen-SanBecause we were taking the L, we got drinks for dessert. Naoto got another beer and I tried the Cilantro-Lime Margarita. It was rich and delicious with its special addition of yuzu (my favorite Japanese citrus) and spicy lime salt.

Ramen-san is the latest in our Ramen Adventures. Here are the links to our previous journeys:

Slurping Turtle

Misoya

 

Tagged , ,

Homemaker’s Challenge #5: Sushi

making sushi at homeNaoto and I made homemade sushi in December. (Naoto did all of the work, but someone had to be in charge of taking photos, right?) It’s something that’s been on our to-do list for awhile, and Naoto saw a holiday sale for sashimi-grade tuna so he brought some home on a whim. He also bought a sushi maki, the bamboo contraption that helps roll the sushi rolls. making sushi at home, seasoning riceWe made regular rice using our rice cooker and, once the rice was cooked, we seasoned it with sushi rice seasoning (sushinoko). All of the instructions were in Japanese but I think we used two tablespoons for two cups of rice. It gave the rice a little bit of a vinegar flavor, which apparently helps to highlight the fish. making sushi at home, slicing tunaWhen the rice was cool, Naoto worked on the tuna. To make sushi, you have to use sashimi-grade fish. You can’t just go to the grocery store and choose any piece of fish, leave it raw and call it sushi. (This article muddies the waters…it’s unclear what determines if fish is “sashimi-grade”. I think the bottom line is…only shop at trusted places and this is not the time to be shopping for day-old specials.) Naoto got our piece of tuna from Mitsuwa, where sashimi-grade tuna is about $32/pound (regular price). Thankfully, the small piece of fish (a little larger than a deck of cards) was the perfect size for our sushi appetizer.

Naoto sliced the tuna into 1/2 inch pieces. making sushi at homeHe cut the nori (seaweed sheets) into pieces just long enough to fit the tuna. Then he spread the rice, leaving two and a half inches at the top empty for rolling. (He also covered the sushi maki with plastic wrap. Apparently this is a restaurant tip to keep the sushi maki clean.) Keeping a bowl of warm water on hand to wash off the sticky rice was helpful, too. making sushi at home, adding wasabi and tunaAfter dabbing on a bit of wasabi, he laid down the fish about one inch up on the rice end of the nori. making sushi at home, rolling sushiNext, he rolled up the sushi tightly. making sushi at homeI don’t think it was a bad first attempt, but it was hard to get the right amount of rice. Next time, we need to work on using less rice or cut thicker pieces of tuna to make up for the rice. It’s definitely harder than it looks to get the perfect amount of rice and a nice, tight roll going on. Sushi chefs make it look too easy! making sushi at home, presley tries tunaEven Presley got into the sushi action with a taste of fresh tuna. She loved it, obviously.

All-in-all it was a lot of fun and a tasty experiment. I think we are going to devote a Hasegawa Happy Hour to sushi making soon, where we will add some more ingredients like avocado and cucumber and maybe another type of fish.

To see the other Homemaker’s Challenge posts, go here.

Tagged , ,

Summer Fresh Salsa

summer fresh salsa ingredientsI’ve been on the obvious end-of-summer mission to use up our tomato crop. In the last week, I’ve eaten tomato sandwiches, BLTs, roasted tomato caprese salad, panzanella, plain ol’ caprese salad, and I’ve added tomatoes to every other meal I’ve made or eaten. And still…there are tomatoes.

Since we have so many Juliets (which are slightly larger than grape tomatoes and are not well-suited for sandwiches because of their tiny size) I decided to make salsa last weekend. I started with this recipe and made some tweaks to give it the freshest flavor possible.

Summer Fresh Salsa

24-30 Juliet tomatoes (or 6-7 Romas), chopped

2-3 Jalapeño, seeded and diced

1 red, yellow or orange  pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

handful cilantro, chopped

1-2 limes, juiced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt, to tastesummer fresh salsaChop and stir the vegetables and herbs together. Add olive oil, salt and one lime. Taste and add more lime or salt as needed. (I usually use two limes because I like things citrusy.)

This salsa is very fresh, but if you prefer something more spicy, you can add chili peppers, chili powder some of the jalapeño seeds to heat things up. Try to make it ahead of time and chill it in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld. summer fresh salsaIsn’t it a pretty salsa? I love the colors and the crunch and the garlic and the citrus…and of course the tomatoes. Those perfect garden Juliet gems really make a good salsa. I’m so thankful for our bountiful harvest!

Tagged , , , ,

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Slurping Turtle

Slurping Turtle Chicago, ILOur ramen tour continued last weekend with a trip to Slurping Turtle in Chicago. I read about Slurping Turtle in this Thrillist article of the best ramen shops in the country. It didn’t take much coaxing to get Naoto to join me for another ramen adventure on Saturday (even though yet again, it was super hot and humid outside.) Slurping Turtle Chicago, IL Slurping Turtle Chicago, ILThe nice thing about Slurping Turtle for us is that it is a quick train ride away. It’s in Chicago’s River North neighborhood, which is a quick walk from the Clark & Lake station. We made it downtown in time for an early lunch (which may explain why the restaurant is pretty empty in my pictures.)

The restaurant is very different from Misoya. It is sleek and modern, offering booth seating and a giant communal table in the middle. There is a full bar and the Slurping Turtle menu offers more than ramen–there are appetizers, bao, bento boxes, sushi and rice dishes. We went for the noodles though. IMG_7768Because it was Saturday and because we rode the train, we decided to get a drink. Naoto had a Sapporo and I had the Groundhog Day cocktail–gin, Luxardo Bitter Liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse, Grenadine and lime. It was really refreshing and reminded me of a Negroni.

The Trillist article recommended the Roasted Chicken Shoyu Ramen, but unfortunately that was not on the menu. (It seems that Slurping Turtle changes their menu with the seasons, so maybe it will come back?) tonkotusu ramen, Slurping Turtle Chicago, ILNaoto got the Tonkotsu ramen, which is similar to what he had at Misoya. It had homemade ramen noodles, braised pork, bok choy, pickled mustard greens, braised mushrooms and scallions swimming in the salty pork broth. It was really good, and I liked the braised pork. Though it was definitely different than the grilled pork of Misoya, it was seasoned well and was really moist and tasty. Slurping TurtleAs you can tell, Naoto really enjoyed his bowl of ramen. He liked the addition of the chili oil and he loved the homemade noodles.Hiyashi Chu-Ka, Slurping TurtleI went rogue and ordered a cold noodle dish, the Hiyashi Chu-Ka. It had homemade ramen noodles, carrots asparagus, kabocha squash, broccolini, seaweed alongside crab sticks, shrimp, pork and ham gently tossed with a citrus-soy dressing. I am a sucker for anything with a citrus-soy dressing and this dish was the perfect cure for a hot summer day. I loved everything about my dish. It was fresh and hearty. The homemade noodles were firm and held the dressing perfectly. The citrus-soy complemented every bite of noodle, meat and vegetable without overpowering. Between this dish and my cocktail, I was a cool cucumber for the walk back to the train. bathroom sign, slurping turtle bathroom sign, slurping turtleBefore we walked to the train, we stopped downstairs to use the restrooms. I had to take a picture of the cutie turtles on the restroom signs. I’m not sure what the fruit basket turtle was all about but the guy in the smoking jacket pretty much stole my heart.

I can’t wait to go back to the Turtle!

Slurping Turtle is located at 116 W. Hubbard Street in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. 

Tagged , , ,

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Misoya

Ramen Misoya ChicagoTuesday definitely wasn’t ramen weather–it was humid and in the nineties, but that didn’t stop us from visiting our favorite lunch spot out by Mitsuwa, Ramen Misoya. Misoya is a Japanese chain that is fairly new–only a year old–to Chicagoland. We’ve eaten there a few times and although I’m not always the biggest ramen eater, I absolutely love this place. Ramen Misoya ChicagoRamen Misoya ChicagoThe funny thing is, Misoya took over the space of one of our old favorites, Tori Shin, a Japanese izakaya that was run by the husband of a woman I used to work with. The place looks almost the same as it did in the old days, but instead of a sushi counter, there is a tiny kitchen with boiling pots of noodles and delicious broth. The restaurant is pretty small and rumor has it that there is sometimes a line to get inside, especially for weekend dinners.

If you are looking for sushi, teriyaki chicken or green tea ice cream, this is not the place. There are very little offerings outside of ramen, but that’s a good thing because the chefs are working on making bowl after bowl of tasty ramen. They have it perfected.

The ramen noodles, handmade at the California location, are firm and thick and they hold up well in the broth. Misoya offers three options of broth for their ramen and then loads of options of meats and vegetables to have with the noodles. The three broth options are pork based broths with different types of miso mixed in. They are described by the regions of their origins:

The Kyoto-style is made with shiro miso and is light and fruity.

The Nagoya-style is made with mame miso, which is aged and is dark and slightly bitter.

And, my favorite, the Hokkaido-style is made with kome miso and it is full bodied and oh so delicious. Ramen Misoya ChicagoI order the Hokkaido-style Kome Miso Cha-shu (pictured above). In the bowl, swimming with the noodles are  marinated bamboo chutes, fried potatoes, scallions, corn, bean sprouts, sweet ground pork and to top it all off, three slabs of marinated grilled pork. I am not a big pork eater, but I have to say, this stuff is amazing. The charred flavor really adds a fantastic smoky taste to the ramen. Next time I’m going to get the same thing, but add a soft boiled egg just to be adventurous. Ramen Misoya ChicagoNaoto always tries something new. This time he got a special tonkotsu (pork bone marrow) ramen with clams. It included a lot of the same toppings as my bowl, but his had a soft boiled egg, fish cake and nori (seaweed) as well. He loved it.

Ramen is super salty, so thankfully the staff is attentive to the water glasses. Oh, and just like izakaya in Japan, the entire Misoya staff stops to greet you when you arrive and to thank you when you leave…I love this place!

Misoya is located in a tiny strip mall at 1584 S Busse Road (Busse and Dempster) in Mt. Prospect. It’s only a little over a mile from Mitsuwa, making it the perfect dinner spot after you shop! 

Tagged , ,