Sunday, July 24, 2011

For The Birthday Boy

Chocolate truffle cake

DSC_0465Portland’s acclaimed restaurant ‘Beast’ owner-chef Naomi Pomeroy’s chocolate truffle cake is mighty fine! The rich, velvety textured cake may be too rich for some but for my husband, my son and myself, we give this cake two thumbs up. Chef Pomeroy was a contestant on season 3 of ‘Top Chef Master’. She finished fourth out of 12 master chefs. I thought I taped the show but by some mishap it wasn’t, darn it!  She was a challenger on Iron Chef America too. She didn’t win but her taste score was better than Chef Garces. So there, she is good! My husband and I have been to ‘Beast’ once and had an excellent fixed course dinner. However I don’t care for the communal table seating.  Having dinner with total strangers is interesting but not all that fun even though we consider ourselves friendly people. It was as if written in bold letters on our menu ‘No speaking in foreign language/Japanese is allowed for two hours or more’. We should be polite, agreeable, should have impeccable table manners and have conversation topics focused mainly on weather because you don’t want to offend anybody do ya? Just kidding. But seriously, the first five minutes were really awkward. On the other hand, the communal table is ideal if you go there with your friends for special occasion such as (MY) birthday? Either way, get a reservation early.

Last Friday was my grandson’s ONE year birthday. He is the cutest one year old boy that ever existed on this earth!  I’m not exaggerating. Well, I am but who cares. I wanted to make him a cake to celebrate from afar. My husband was working from home on Friday and offered to make this cake featured in Oregonian Food Day (7/19/2011) to give me a break. I was quite busy cleaning house in preparation for the guests that were coming later that evening. I should have done it earlier but a hot water pipe leak in the crawl space derailed the plan.





Chocolate Truffle Cake


  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 18 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) 60% cacao or semisweet chocolate, chopped.
  • 1 teaspoon plus a pinch of truffle salt or regular salt*
  • 6 eggs


  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces bittersweet (again not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped.
  • Lightly sweetened whipped cream for garnishing.

To make cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. butter a 10-inch-diameter spring form pan. Line bottom of pan with a round of parchment paper; butter parchment. Wrap bottom and sides in three layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.
  2. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. remove from heat.
  3. Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  4. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly.
  5. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.
  7. Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.DSC_0423

To make ganache:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring whipping cream to simmer. Remove from heat.
  2. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth.
  3. Pour chocolate mixture over top of cake still in pan. Gently tilt pan to distribute ganache evenly. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours.DSC_0459

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Serve with whipped cream.

* I think a bit less salt is better.


I’m very curious to know how much chef Pomeroy’s balsamic and truffle caramel sauce over the cake would elevate the taste or to what degree truffle salt would change the flavor?We should find shouldn’t we, darling (HINT: make it again please).

Our guests finally arrived after 9:30 PM. They are very good friends of my daughter. The wife is a successful food blogger. She and my daughter travel to New York and San Francisco for food blogger convention last year. She came with her two gorgeous children and genuinely kind husband, I hope they all enjoyed a few days of great Oregon summer. We wish them good luck in their new adventure await in Brazil.DSC_0516

They too loved the chocolate truffle cake very much. As for my grandson, I’m sure that he’ll appreciate this cake as soon as he is allowed to eat chocolate. Happy Birthday!DSC_0529DSC_0448Still not finished…

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wrapped again

Pork wrapped vegetables recipes

DSC_0001-1DSC_0042A few years ago I was watching a Japanese health show – one of the segments reported that people who eat pork lost more weight than non pork eaters. Pork’s something, I think it was vitamin B6, makes people burn more calories. Really? I’m eating lots of it but I didn’t notice any difference in my weight. I’m a sucker for that kind of great (?) news and at least try once. Several years ago I was eating lots of marshmallows after seeing a TV show that claimed that someone eating lots of it gained 1/2 inch or so in height. I quickly stopped that practice when I was gaining inches sideways. I don’t watch these shows anymore. Because many such shows are cancelled for false, exaggerated  or unfounded claims which someone blew the whistle on and otherwise it’s not cost effective to produce the type of show. Japan had a banana shortage last year (?) after the fad banana diet boom. If I had known I might have tried the diet. My son teases me for being such a naïve believer. Yeah? Whatever!

My husband likes pork. He posted awesome pork dish on my blog while I was away in Hawaii. He likes wrapped pork dishes (more like appetizer) adapted from Japanese magazine Orange Page also. Both are great for bento because they retain good flavor after cooled. It was quick (except I took time removing bean sprout’s little roots one by one-Japanese called He-GE-NE ひげ根) and it was a satisfying dish and accidently gluten free! More and more people around me are exercising gluten free diet for medical reasons. I feel really bad for them but I’m relived that I don’t have that problem. If I have to be on diet I will just cry, then no more visit to cake shop or bakery in Japan (sob).

Spinach and bean sprout wrapped pork – Makes 10 rolls


  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon rice wine (酒)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon tobanjan (豆板醤) Hot bean sauce

Main ingredients

  • 10 thin sliced side pork 豚バラ肉 or shabu shabu pork
  • Bean sprouts about 100g DSC_0002
  • Spinach
  • Oil for frying
  1. In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, rice wine, sugar,and tobanjan. Set aside.
  2. Lay down the pork slice on the clean surface then put bean sprout and spinach on it  and roll from end. Don’t worry about being neat, look mine!DSC_0006DSC_0010-1
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in pan over medium heat. Lay rolled end first in pan. DSC_0015-1
  4. Cook for 1 minute then shake the frying pan and roll the meat to brown all sides.
  5. Soak up excess oil or juice with paper towel if necessary.
  6. Pour in the sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes until sauce get little bit thick.
  7. Remove from pan and cover with the sauce left in pan and serve.

Pork wrapped Asparagus - 4 rolls*

  • 4 fat stalks of asparagus, Cut an inch off from the end and peel the lower half of the stalk
  • 8-10 thin sliced side pork
  • 2 pre-sliced cheese (any kind that melts), cut in half
  • Salt
  • 7 spice (七味唐辛子)
  1. Wrap asparagus with 2 sliced pork
  2. Towards the end of the stalk, insert cheese and finish wrapping. Cover the cheese as much as possible.
  3. Heat oven to 400 F
  4. Cover rimmed cooking sheet with foil  and lay the wrapped asparagus on it. DSC_0032
  5. Bake for 5 minutes or so then change setting to broil and brown for 1-2 minutes. Watch carefully so as not to burn.
  6. Some cheese may ooze out but you could wrap around the pork. Sprinkle with salt and seven spice. Serve.

* I doubled the recipe.DSC_0003-1I also served fried Lotus roots and oven baked fava beans

DSC_0016-1These make a shaki-shaki sound when you eat them. Much like the zaku-zaku from the Renkon burgersDSC_0046

My husband is looking forward to harvesting peas from our garden very soon. I will make his favorite pea rice (豆ご飯) with them. Pea rice has a festive connotation. My pea-hating son won’t eat it so no worrying about the need to share. He is such a PPP (pea party pooper! ) I may post about pea rice next time and a picture of him not eating peas. DSC_0377

Friday, July 15, 2011

90 days

Yakiniku dinner and Rice flour cake

DSC_0362My son is now officially single. After only 2 years of marriage. His now ex-wife wanted out. He wandered in sadness, loneliness and embarrassment for 90 days and now the wait is over. He requested yakiniku dinner to acknowledge the point-of-no-return. He is not smiling but he is not in the deep sorrow that he was in before so this is good I guess. I wish this never happened but what can you do or say really. There was no fights, abuse, unfortunately no good communication either. Simply, love dissipated at her end. My son took her rejection very hard. Helpless is what we felt were too much and while packing his stuff in his apartment in April, I was bowled over and cried. While my husband was holding my shaking shoulder in a bear hug, my son apologized as if he doesn’t know what else to say. My daughter cried with me too. “What if” questions were useless yet my mind go there all the time. After my daughter and I fly separately to our homes, my husband and my son drove, pulling a tiny Uhaul trailer two days to get back home.

His suggestion of yakiniku is easy to make since I have painting class on Thursdays that means I usually home after 4 PM. In the morning however, my painting teacher called me to say that her daughter is in town from another state and that she wants to cancel class today. Suddenly I had all day to prepare meal yet I lost focus then wasted time doing nothing. I still needed to get some good yakiniku meat for tonight. I drove 25 minutes to Japanese market. I finally got home at 4 PM. Oh heck!

DSC_0350My son’s lovely friend joined us for moral support. Since she could not have gluten, I made rice flour cake. I made two mistakes though, I didn’t realize that the pan in the Japanese cook book was a lot smaller pan and that I should double the recipe to make up for the big sized one I was using. I should spray the pan too. I had a hard time taking cake out of the pan. OK, three mistakes. The end result was not pretty but it had good flavor and a light, soft, springy texture. I thought this paired well with sweet azuki beans. Covered with two big scoops of ice cream and strawberries from our garden, sprinkled on some nuts, then chocolate to dress it up for a photo opportunity. But darn Japanese cook book! No wonder there are lots of skinny people in Japan! Hmmm, if I live there, can I lose weight too?DSC_0360

For yakiniku, I chopped up vegetables I like. Peppers, pineapple, zucchini, erengi mushrooms, Japanese pumpkin (かぼちゃ)and satsuma sweet potatoes. I cooked the pumpkin and sweet potatoes slightly ahead of time so that won’t take as much time on the grill. With two kinds of store bought dipping sauce, leaf lettuce to wrap the meat in and cooked rice, dinner is ready. That pricy Kobe beef was good but is it really that much better? I don’t know but today is to celebrate his being a bachelor again. He needs to have good eats.DSC_0339

Rice Flour Cake

Make one 7 inch diameter angel food cake pan.*


  • 4 large egg white
  • Sugar 40g

Egg yolk batter

  • 4 egg yolk
  • Sugar 30g
  • Milk 4 tablespoons
  • Vegetable oil 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla essence 1 teaspoon
  • Salt 1/2 teaspoon
  • Rice flour  70g
  1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with whisk attached, put egg whites and scramble at medium speed about 30 seconds.
  2. Gradually add sugar and whip until stiff peaks form. Put in another bowl. Set aside.
  3. In the same electric mixer bowl, put egg yolks and sugar then scramble at low speed for 30 seconds.
  4. Increased the speed to high and continue to mix for 3-4 minutes.
  5. Gradually add oil while still mixing on high speed.
  6. Lower the speed to low, add milk, vanilla and salt.
  7. Add rice flour a little at a time mixing till it is well incorporated, stopping  the mixer for each addition.
  8. Heat oven to 350F.
  9. Add 1/3 of  meringue into the egg mixture. Using a spatula, scrape up from bottom and cut in motion and mix evenly but don not over mix. Do the same for rest of meringue adding 1/3 at a time.DSC_0328(I did it backwards – put the batter into the meringue…)
  10. Spray the pan with non-sticking spray. Pour the mixture into the pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.DSC_0329
  11. Cool in pan over the cooling rack then remove from the pan.
  12. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

* I think you could use a 9x5 loaf pan but don’t quote me on that. I’ll experiment using it next time and I let you know.DSC_0358

My son is still coping with the loss and him being freeter (Japanese trendy word for a person who doesn’t have a job). It is like being lost in a thick fog. You don’t know which way to go or which way is out. I hope when the fog has cleared, he finds himself standing on the right path. I pray the he has enough faith to patiently wait for that time (and me as well).

DSC_0352I’m  grateful for his friends who are helping him in this difficult time. Especially this friend who he could talk about his feelings openly and make his healing process much faster. Despite it all, the pain may never go away but I want him to get married again and find a job that he enjoys. I dream of the day that I can I baby sit his children.  DSC_0382DSC_0385

Monday, July 11, 2011

Zaku Zaku Burger

Lotus root burger/Renkon Hamburger

DSC_0110Zaku Zaku is the sound that certain foods make when you bite into them; similar to crunchy. When I’m craving particular Japanese foods and I happen to have it in my house then I feel really lucky! The lotus root (蓮根) is not readily available at the local super market. I need to drive 25 minutes to the Japanese/Asian market to get it, not what a lazy person like me wants to do. I like tempura lotus root but when I was browsing Food Buzz’s top 9 other day, Just One Cookbook’s Fried Lotus Root with Pork made me excited. Yes! That’s what I’m going to make tonight! Then I will post it in my blog! Wait, she already done that and posted too. Duh! I need to make something of my OWN(?) from my favorite Japanese magazine “Orange Page”. Besides, I didn’t have pork.

This recipe calls for aibikiniku (合びき肉)which is a combination of ground beef and ground pork. Since I don’t have it I needed to modify the recipe slightly because it would have been too dry if I just used ground beef. I add rolled oats and some milk to moisten it.

DSC_0142Lotus roots don’t have a pronounced flavor but has great crunch and full of holes that look interesting. If someone asked me what vegetable I would be, I’d probably pick this one. At first meeting, you think I’m polite and shy but after you get to know me, I’m quite loud and not so sweet. Though I pair well with others, I’m afraid I’m not very bright and lack many skills as the holes represent. But with some seasoning and other ingredients help, lotus root can be an irresistible, unique dish. At least my husband thinks so,,, What am I talking about?

Ingredients for 4 or 6 mini hamburgers

  • Lotus roots about 9 oz. peeled and washed. Slice 4-6 rounds then mince the rest and soak in water with 2 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar for 10 minutes*. Drain, set aside.DSC_0093
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg scrambled
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper-white pepper preferred, to taste
  • Corn starch or katakuriko (片栗粉)-potato starch for dusting
  • 1 or more table spoon vegetable oil for pan frying
  1. In medium bowl, put rolled oats and milk. Wait few minutes for oats to moisten.
  2. Add meat, egg, salt (probably 1 teaspoon) olive oil and pepper. With clean hand, mix well.
  3. Add minced lotus roots. Mix well. Make 4-6 hamburger patties. DSC_0096
  4. Pat dry the sliced lotus roots with paper towel then dust with corn starch on one side. Put on the top of the patty with dusted side down. Press the slice into the patty.DSC_0098
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in skillet at over medium heat. Arrange the patties in a pan lotus root side down. Fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Turn heat down to low, Cover with lid and steam for 3 minutes.
  7. Turn the patties over. Cover and steam for another 4-5 minutes.

* Do not skip this process. This prevent discoloration. If you using packaged lotus roots then never mind.

I served with Ponzu sauce with grated daikon but that is optional.

DSC_0109Roses are still doing well in our back yard. We have more strawberries to pick then next is figs and blue berries are ready soon. Asian pears will be another month or so. Cold spring hampered growth of vegetables but still there is something for the blue jays and deer to eat in our garden. Birds ate all our grapes before we get that chance to pick them last year. Deer in particular like pansies. It’s quite OK but don’t leave your droppings on my porch! Sheesh! I feel somewhat sad to think that those visit are getting more rare each year though. But don’t tell that to my friends who deal with uninvited, rude creatures who visit their 20-some acres of land that they own.DSC_0156DSC_0157

A neighbor brought us a bouquet of lavender picked from her back yard yesterday. I think it has healing power (癒し). It is fragrant and so relaxing that my husband and I fall asleep on the couch watching TV.  Anyway, I’d love to visit the lavender field in Furano, Hokkaido (富良野、北海道)someday. Yeah, that’s one of my bucket list items.DSC_0163

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mango Flan


DSC_0129I love flan! Well, I love all sorts of sweets, so flan is no exception. One of my must-do things in Japan is going to the convenience stores there. Japanese call those 24/7 stores konbini(コンビニ)(a Japanese contraction for the word convenience). They have proper names like Family Mart or Lawson and also Seven-Elevens but people just call them konbini  and  they are nothing like in the states. They sell great tasting bentos, onigiris, breads, desserts and a variety of cold drinks. I had oden (おでん)a seasonal  item on cold winter’s night and it was not bad at all. Of course there are other non-food items and services available -  like a home delivery called Takuhai(宅配). Once I sent a suitcase ahead of time to my destination because I didn’t want to be bothered by carrying  it for the side trip for sightseeing. Probably the first thing my husband and I do is visit a konbini when we go to Japan. The flight to Narita Airport from Portland, Oregon is an ordeal of over 10 hours then we take the Shinkansen to the 1st stop, arriving quite exhausted in Nagoya at 9 PM. We are too tired to go to a restaurant so we usually head to a konbini for a cheap yet tasty meal. I almost always look for flan for dessert. My favorite is creamy and light flan torofua purin (とろふあプリン). Incredibly light and creamy just like the name! Some flan tastes eggy (is this a word?) but this one has a more milky flavor that melts in your mouth. Really! This won the 1st prize in a now cancelled Japanese TV competition show called TV Champion some years back. Even if you don’t like custard, you will like this one I’m sure. It tastes like softer version of pots de crème.

I have several flan recipes which are all fabulous, but I incorporated left over mango puree in this one because I didn’t want to waste it.  It needs to be chilled for 6 hours or more so make it in the morning if you want to have it in the evening. Or make it in the evening and have it for breakfast? Just kidding.DSC_0090

Mango flan for 8 individual 6-ounce custard cups


  • 1 cup sugar and 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 and 3/4 cups  pureed mango- 2-3 good size mango skinned, pitted  and pureed in blender or food processer.
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 cups  half and half
  • 5 large eggs
  1. First  make caramel syrup by combining 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup hot water and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Without stirring, though occasionally swirling the pan, boil the sugar until it turns deep amber in color.  Be careful not to burn the sugar.
  3. Pour syrup equally into eight custard cups. Set aside.DSC_0111
  4. Now the main part. Whisk mango puree, lime juice, ginger and 1/3 cup sugar in heavy medium sauce pan at medium heat until mixture thickens and large bubbles break surface; about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool mixture by stirring. Preheat oven to 350F now.DSC_0116
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the half and half and eggs together.
  6. Stir in the mango mixture and then strain the custard.*
  7. Pour custard into the prepared custard cups equally.DSC_0123
  8. Place custard cups in large 9x13 glass casserole dish.
  9. Pour enough hot water into pan to come halfway up sides of custard cups. 
  10. Cover pan with foil then bake flan for about 30 minutes. TURN OFF HEAT and leave it there for another 30 minute.
  11. Remove from casserole dish, remove foil cover, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight.
  12. Run a small knife around sides of cup. Place plate atop cup. Invert flan onto plate. Serve (cover) with sweet whipped cream if you like. I had to. Because flan didn’t come out cleanly.

*Do not skip this part for smooth mellow texture.DSC_0128

When we were in Sapporo, Hokkaido in May of last year, we ventured out to get Samurai pudding (侍プリン) we heard about. The ad said that Samurai purin is made for men (男のプリン)Supposedly,the bitter caramel taste and not so sweet custard is suited for men. Hmmm,,,. Nice!  But we still liked torofua purin better.


We brought the Samurai Purin glass home

As for mango flan, my guys (my husband and back home son) like regular flan and voted down this new creation of mango flavored flan. They protested by saying why fix a good thing? I don’t know… because I had left overs?

Today is the 4th of July. We came home from Independence Day celebration at a friends. We really had a fun time having good food, playing in the field and visiting.  They neatly adorned the table with 4th of July theme homemade decorations that were charming!  Then for me, holding a young couple’s few weeks old baby was the icing on the cake, how blessed for him to be born to loving parents and in this great country! I too am blessed to live here, not all perfect yet perfect in a sense. I hear noises of the fire work show my neighbor puts up every year. We pull up lawn chairs to watch them going. “Ohhh”, “Ahhh” then clap our hands in approval. Perfect end to this marvelous day.

A Happy Independence Day to you all. 

P1010803This is not me holding the baby