Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cookbook Review: A Cook's Journey to Japan

This is the second cookbook I'm choosing to review at the request of Tuttle Publishing: A Cook's Journey to Japan - 100 Homestyle Recipes from Japanese Kitchens, by Sarah Marx Feldner. It's a large paperback volume filled with clearly written recipes and prose accompanied by vibrant full-color photos on every high-quality glossy page.

The author is an American woman who wanted to develop a cookbook based upon recipes which she obtained by traveling on her own through small towns and talking with the people she met along the way.

I found this to be a good reference for people wanting to learn the basics of Japanese cooking along with a selection of specific dishes which she introduces with short anecdotes.

I made two recipes from this cookbook. The first was Hiyashi Chuka, or Cold Sesame Noodle Salad. I found the instructions to be straightforward and easy to follow. I substituted cherry tomatoes (since that's what I had), and used furikake (because we like it). The salad was delicious, and perfect on this hot summer day. The two photos below are mine, which I point out because I neglected to watermark them with my blog url and name.

It was a hit with the family too. I also made Soy-Glazed Chicken Wings. This was very good as well, and I should have made much more. The skin browned nicely, and the flavor was excellent.

Beautiful, aren't they? There are a number of other recipes I am definitely going to try from this book, and I recommend it even as an interesting read with interesting tidbits about Japanese culture and cuisine. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cookbook Review: My Japanese Table

Hello! It's been awhile since I've posted, since we've been on summer break from school since beginning of June. The kids have been busy with the usual summer schedule: various sports, arts, and craft camps, travel with us, and general hanging out. Remember how nice that summer agenda was when we were kids?

I'm posting again because I was asked by someone at a publishing company to review a few cookbooks that they thought would be of interest to me. I read through them and this one caught my attention first. It's called My Japanese Table, by Debra Samuels. The author is an American woman who found herself living in Japan for several years throughout her adult life, and became enamored of Japanese cooking while there. This book contains general staples as well as a selection of various types of dishes suitable for home cooking and bento. I made a few recipes from her book.

The first one I tried was her recipe for sweet and spicy celery salad. It is a simple recipe, with only a few ingredients for making the sauce. It came out a little darker than her picture in the book, but it was tasty and the kids liked it.

The next one I tried was crabmeat and seaweed salad. I've eaten this before and it's utterly simple as well: just shaved Japanese cucumbers, reconstituted wakame, topped with crabmeat. The dressing is a light vinegar and I had all the ingredients in my pantry for this. It was refreshing and delicious.

Next I made simple mixed pickles, also known as tsukemono. I love tsukemono, and it brings back memories of dinners with my dad, who always had tsukemono alongside. I never realized how easy it is to make! It's a quick "pickle" procedure, and you can use all kinds of vegetables besides cabbage, including cucumbers, carrots, and even radish. This had a subtle flavor, the vegetables were slightly softened, and everyone loved it. I made what I thought would be a huge batch, but the family ended up eating the whole thing.

Finally, I made this main dish, named Shoko's Summer Sesame Chicken Salad. It was perfect on this warm summery day. I changed the recipe a little by adding chopped romaine lettuce underneath the poached chicken. The added vegetables and tangy dressing made this a nice and substantial supper. It was a hit with everyone.

This is an overhead shot of the dinner I made my family using recipes from My Japanese Table. First thing I appreciated was how beautiful it all looks! And then I realized that I need to buy more varyingly sized Japanese dishes. I was very pleased with how everything tasted and looked, and my family agreed. I am looking forward to trying more of the recipes in this book in the future. The writing is clear and concise, there is a large color picture to accompany each recipe, and the ingredients are easy to come by. There is even a bento section, which I thought was a nice addition to the whole idea of a Japanese Table. I recommend this book without hesitation; if you get a chance to check it out, please do. Enjoy!