I kept waiting and waiting to get more recipes and make a more involved article in my “Incredibly Simple” category, but truth is I would MARRY these carrots if I was single and searching for a perfect match. It makes no sense to delay this post. You will not find a simpler recipe. And definitely not one that will surprise you as much for the outcome versus simplicity ratio. Do not be ashamed to buy this ingredient at the grocery store: Sweet Soy Sauce for Rice, by Kikkoman. It is all you need. Well, carrots would be nice to have also…

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

Carrots, cut in sticks, enough to cover a quarter baking sheet
1 to 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce for rice (Kikkoman)
zest of 1/2 lemon + lemon juice to taste

Heat oven to 420F. Coat cut carrots with olive oil, season very lightly with salt and pepper.

Roast for about 25 minutes, until edges start to get golden brown. Remove from the oven, drizzle the soy sauce and lemon zest all over, and roast for 5 minutes more, or until the sauce starts to caramelize. Serve with a little drizzle of lemon juice.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I don’t know if I will ever bother making a different version of carrots, at least not until I get bored with this beauty. If you want to feel virtuous and work harder, make the sweet soy sauce yourself from scratch. There are many recipes around (like this one), but at least once go the easy route and try this version. We all need a simple side dish in the repertoire for those times in which life seems a tad overwhelming.

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For something so simple to put together, it is amazing how this recipe delivers everything you’d need for a weeknight dinner. Hard to believe I had never tried to make it, as we love breaded and fried chicken breast, usually either plain or taken to the limit of the gastronomic naughtiness: Chicken Parmigiana. But, better late than never, this will definitely become part of our regular rotation.

(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by several sources)

2 chicken breast filets
2 eggs, beaten with 1/2 tsp salt
Panko bread crumbs, a cup or so
grapeseed oil or other mild tasting oil
for sauce:
1/4 cup ketchup
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp oyster sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Make sauce mixing all ingredients and reserve.

Cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise, and pound each half to have it thin and uniform in size. It needs to be thin because you will cook it exclusively in the frying pan, a few minutes per side.

Season each slice lightly with salt, dip into the egg and coat with Panko.  Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry until golden brown on each side and the meat is cooked through. Set on a piece of kitchen paper to drain excess oil. If you need to fry in batches, make sure to clean the skillet of burned up pieces of Panko, and add new oil for the second batch.

Serve over white rice, with the sauce drizzled on top.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: What a delicious meal this was! Phil is not that much into sauces, and was ready to enjoy his chicken plain. But he ended up trying a bite from my plate, and next thing I know, he was adding sauce to his too. It does add a lot to the chicken, that sweetness cuts through the fat, makes the whole thing more satisfying. I served with rice, as traditional, but also quickly sautéed zucchini, which went very well with the whole thing too.

I highly recommend you give this recipe a try!



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Post dedicated to the memory of my Dad, who today would be 93 years young…

When the weather chills down, we always have a bowl of miso soup to start our sushi dinners. I’ve never had a bad miso soup, but some are definitely better than others. Considering the very few ingredients that go into this soup, it’s clear that technique matters. Last Friday we were so tired that the idea of going out to eat seemed like too much effort, so we resorted to take-out sushi from one of our grocery stores, which is actually pretty nice. Since they don’t offer miso soup, I decided to make my own. Read a bunch of articles, and felt ready for the challenge.  It turned out delicious: soothing, with a mild flavor and smooth consistency. That is actually the most important aspect of a miso soup: it should not be grainy.


(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

4 cups water
1 tsp instant dashi (see comments)
4 Tbsp white miso
firm tofu, cut in cubes
green onions, light and green parts, thinly sliced

Boil the water in a large saucepan, add the instant dashi and mix until dissolved. Turn the heat off, keep the pan with the lid on to retain heat.

Place the miso in a small bowl, add a small amount of the very hot water/dashi, whisk to completely dissolve the miso, so that no lumps stay.

Add the miso to the original saucepan with the rest of the dashi, mix.  Add the diced tofu, let the pan covered for a couple of minutes as you place green onions inside the serving bowls.

Laddle the miso soup with pieces of tofu in each bowl, and serve immediately.

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: Obviously one cannot make miso soup without miso, but apart from that, lots of variations are out there.  Some recipes use water, some vegetable stock, others call for chicken stock.  However, for the real, authentic Japanese flavor, dashi is the way to go.  I admit to using a shortcut in my version, though.  I used instant dashi instead of making a broth with its two traditional components: seaweed and bonito flakes.  I had both ingredients at home, but when I made this soup they were somewhere in that twilight zone of boxes kept in the garage, as our kitchen is waiting for the green light from the crew working on its hellnovation.  Sanding floors and cabinets generate an amount of fine dust that you simply do not want to have over every little item in your pantry.  So, I took the easy way out and bought a little bottle of instant dashi.   It is actually a very nice ingredient to have laying around, a handy source of the funky-elusive fifth flavor, umami.


Once you have dashi (or make it from scratch),  all you’ll need is some miso and firm tofu. Green onions are a great addition, but not mandatory.  You can use either type of miso, white or red, they differ in the fermentation time, and resulting flavor. White miso will be milder.  Follow the instructions to a T, because the main thing to avoid is boiling the miso once it’s added to the dashi: that leads to an unpleasant grainy texture.  I also like to cut my tofu in small pieces and add to the pan for a couple of minutes before serving the soup.  That allows the tofu to absorb the flavors of the miso more efficiently.   With those two tips in mind, you will be on your way to a great bowl of soup to warm you up on the chilly evenings ahead.

daddy1Dad dancing with my niece Fernanda…

(No, he would not touch miso soup even if his life depended on it… ) 😉

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Of all types of cuisine, Japanese is the one that intimidates me the most. Making sushi at home is out of the question for me, but even other types of Japanese cooking give me pause.  In a recent trip to California, we met a wonderful couple who takes a different approach: they are both Americans, but mostly cook Japanese food at home and are really serious about it.  Their bookshelves are loaded with cookbooks devoted to Oriental (and vegetarian) cooking, their pantry stocked with the most exotic ingredients.  They mentioned a dish they love so much that it’s not uncommon to have it twice in the same week.   It uses a strange-looking root called “gobo“, also known as “burdock“.   They gave me the perfect spice mix to season this traditional Japanese dish (see my previous post) and wished me luck finding gobo in Manhattan, KS.   I was very optimistic, though. It turns out “The Little Apple” is home to one of the most amazing food stores I’ve ever been to, called quite simply “Asian Market“.    I could not wait to get there to search for the elusive root.  Not only they had a ton of it, but the owner said it’s always in stock.   Call me a happy camper. And call this dinner one of the healthiest meals I’ve ever put together.   And very delicious too!

KINPIRA GOBO (Sautéed Burdock)
(adapted from Hiroko Urakami Japanese Family-Style Recipes)

1 medium gobo root
2 carrots
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 Tablespoon grape seed oil
2 Tablespoons mirin (or sake)
1 + 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 + 1/2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Nanami togarashi to taste

Set up a large bowl with cold water. Peel the carrots and cut in julienne strips. Peel the outer dark skin of the gobo root, and working quickly, cut it in julienne strips.  Soak the gobo and the carrots in water for 10 to 20 minutes.  Drain well, and dry the strips using a kitchen towel.

Heat the sesame and grape seed oil on a large skillet.  Add the carrots and gobo root, and sautée them together for about 4 minutes, until they are tender.  Add the mirin, sugar, and soy sauce, and cook over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Transfer to a serving bowl, add the sesame seeds and the nanami togarashi right before serving.


to print the recipe, click here


I have a bit of  trivia about gobo for you:  in the 40’s, a Swiss inventor called George de Mestral was walking his dog through some woods and noticed that the seeds of a particular plant glued to everything, from his clothes to his dog’s fur. He collected some seeds, and inspected them under the microscope. He was amazed by its hooks and loops, and thought that it could be the basis of a new material. From that observation, Velcro was born.  The plant was burdock. Apart from its technological impact, gobo is considered by the Japanese as one of the healthiest types of food, that they claim to “purify the blood”.   It contains a lot of minerals (including iron),  it is high in fiber, low in calories, and has a very unique taste.  The soaking in water is necessary to get rid of tannins that can give it a harsh taste.
soakingI love to find a new ingredient to play with!   Our kinpira gobo was served as a side dish for boneless chicken thighs on the grill (marinated with yogurt and a few spices), snow peas, and brown rice.  It was the type of meal that makes you feel healthier with each bite.  I hope you can find some gobo and give this recipe a try, it’s a keeper…  😉

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