Saturday, February 12, 2011

Great side stories

My favorite meal-supporting side dishes

My husband and I love to watch movies. We usually catch matinee movies to save money. We don’t buy popcorn, soda or snack because snacking during movie is a distraction except when we go to see movies with our granddaughter. We undermine our daughter and spoil the heck out of her, because we don’t get to see her often – that’s allowed, right? Last year, we went to see ‘Tangled’ with our daughter and her children. Our then 4 month old grandson was so good throughout movie we all were able to enjoy the movie. At one point our 4 year old granddaughter said “Let’s go home. This movie is too scary for me” and had nightmares that night about the old witch though. I would be so scared if I get that old too. Anyway, our other favorite movie last year was ‘ Inception’ hands down. Interesting movie plot and great action scene and actors - especially Ken Watanabe. Since he got best supporting actor nominee from ‘ Last Samurai’ he has been in several American movies like ‘Letters from Iwojima’, ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ -- he was even in a Batman movie as a villain, He has done lots of serious movies but his comic timing was great in this Japanese phone company commercial. In this commercial, Ken Watanabe is a cell phone owned by a young man who left him somewhere outside and it is raining. Realizing that he has lost the phone,a colleague dialed the number then Ken Watanabe start singing its ring tone song – “Listen to me, Listen to my say…”.  The young man apologizes for forgetting his cell phone but Watanabe/Phone goes “ Well, I kind of like rain” (it’s a waterproof phone). Cool!

I would buy Ken as a cell phone…

While I think of side dishes as compliments to main dishes there is also the argument that main dishes without them are not that exciting. Side dishes must be underwhelming, easy to make and add color.

Japanese Potato salad – serving for two

DSC_0029I am not sure why Americans don’t put cucumber in potato salad but I have never seen it happen.

  • 3 potatoes (Yikes! mine got new shoots) Peel, cut in chunks and soak in water for 10 minutes.DSC_0008
  • 1 carrot Peeled, sliced and quartered.DSC_0010
  • 1 cucumber Sliced and quartered.DSC_0019
  • Unsweetened rice vinegar 3 tablespoons
  • Cupie mayonnaiseDSC_0021
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • 2  hard-boiled eggs
  1. Drain the soaked potatoes, put them in a medium size pan, pour enough water into the pan to cover and boil. Cook until potatoes are soft but not mushy.DSC_0023
  2. Put carrot in microwave safe small bowl, add a couple tablespoons of water and cook about 1 minute until tender crunchy.
  3. Sprinkle 2-3 teaspoons of salt on cucumber and wait 5 minutes or so then gently squeeze the juice out of the cucumber.
  4. When the potatoes are done, drain the water then put them back in the same pan. Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat and evaporate the water by shaking the pan for 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle the vinegar over the potatoes while they are hot.
  6. Add carrots and cucumber to the potatoes and mix well.DSC_0027
  7. When potatoes are cooled, add about 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise; mix well.
  8. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Chill in refrigerator.
  9. Separate boiled eggs (white and yolk) and mash both with fork.DSC_0016DSC_0017
  10. Put boiled egg white then boiled egg yolk on top of potato salad. Sprinkle paprika and if you have some, put fried bacon or prosciutto ham on top of it.

Kimpira gobo (Burdock)

DSC_0009This well liked side dish is very homey. I don’t have exact mesurments so you need to adjust for your taste.

  • 1 gobo, skined and cut in thin match sticks. Soak in water for 10 minutes.DSC_0002
  • 1 carrot skined and cut in the same length match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • Crushed red pepper - I used 1 teaspoon but you could add moreDSC_0005
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 teaspoons super fine sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
  1. Heat frying pan with oil, add red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  2. Add drained gobo and  stir fry for 3 minutes.
  3. Add carrots and stir fry for another 3 minutesDSC_0006
  4. Add mirin and sugar then cook until gobo and carrots are tender but still not limp
  5. Add soy sauce and cook until almost all the liquid is evaporatedDSC_0007
  6. Add about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
  7. Remove from the pan and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Tofu with Ricotta Cheese-courtesy of Harumi Kurihara – Author of Several Japanese cook books.

DSC_0118I like the cold tofu and warm dressing combination.

  • 1 package of soft tofu
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1/2 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • Shiso leaves for garnish-use kitchen scissors to cut into thin strips
  • Bonito flakes for garnish
  • Sesame seeds

To make sauce

  1. Mix soy sauce, sugar and mirin in a glass measuring cup. Heat in microwave oven for 3 minutes at 50% power.
  2. Add ginger to soy sauce mixture.


Place the ricotta cheese on top of the tofu and sprinkle with sliced shiso leaves. bonito flakes and sesame seeds. Pour the warm soy sauce dressing over this. Serve immediately.

Oven baked Cauliflower

DSC_0039My daughter shared this recipe with me. I’m not a big fan of cauliflower but it’s quick to make and its interesting mild flavor does not over power other dishes.

  • 1  head of cauliflower separate in small pieces
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Put cauliflower in rimmed cooking sheet. Coat cauliflower with olive oil. I used a sandwich bag over my hand to thoroughly coat the cauliflower. Disposable plastic glove is great for this task- I should buy a box.
  2. Sprinkle salt on cauliflower
  3. Sprinkle parmesan cheese too.DSC_0034
  4. Bake in over at 375F for about 10 minutes.

Academy Award Show will be on the TV soon but most of movies that are nominated we didn’t see so it is less exciting to watch. Usually the actors and actresses that I root for don’t win. Very frustrating. Really.

This is a very neat compilation of things Ken Watanabe has done


  1. ok 1st. i love ken watanabe...SO HANDSOME.
    2nd. i am gonna try the cauliflower recipe. it looks delicious. and cauliflower is the only veggie my kids dont eat.

  2. Dear FootPrints, ha ha ha. You're so funnny!

  3. That is so weird that I only am just seeing this now. I guess my blog alert didn't tell me you had a new post!
    Americans put cucumbers in their potato salad, it's just that they're called "pickles." :)
    But I think Kewpie mayo makes everything taste better. I love the ricotta tofu recipe and I also really like gobo. So I like everything in this post. I could eat a whole meal made of these side dishes.

  4. Oh, the potato salad and tofu look wonderful!

  5. My potato loving room mate from Idaho always put pickle juice and mustard w/ the mayo. It's like eating a western movie.

  6. "giggles" what's wrong with these Americans... I like Kewpie mayo, the one from Japan, I saw the one in the US has MSG? What? Gobo..kinpira... truly a favorite of mine... and Japanese potato salad rocks, reminds me of Souther Salad from the U.S.

  7. I love how much detail and pictures you have in your post. It's like a cooking class right on my computer screen.