What Will Be the Food Trend in 2010?

Happy New Year!

2009 was a challenging year, for our economy, as well as many of us, including our own.  So I am excited to have that year behind us.  I read somewhere that 2010 is good year in Fen Shui, so I’m excited about what the new year has to offer.

As we look forward, one thing I want to know about is the trend prediction of 2010, you guessed it, about food.

1. Eat Fresh, Eat More Vegetables!

On recent Iron Chef, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the super chef battle of Bobby Flay & Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford of the White House vs. Mario Batali, Emeril Ragasse.  The secret ingredients were vegetables from the White House garden, to inspire Americans to cook and eat more vegetables.  I heard that Mrs. Obama actually don’t cook much even before she moved to the White House, yet the First Lady herself is involved in a major TV event like this is HUGE!  I see more and more focus will be placed on eating fresh, especially vegetables, rather than prepared food as well as meat and carbohydrates.

Given the obesity rate of the US is epidemic 33% for adults and 16% for children, 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered overweight,  this is truly a welcoming trend, and will change life of many.  The key is, it needs to happen on everyone’s home, not just on TV or at the restaurants.  We as a nation, need to change our eating habits.  The challenge is to show the general public eating vegetables are not just eating these raw celery from veggie platter, or plain boiled (and possibly cooked to death) broccoli. If that’s the only thing they know, of course they won’t want to eat much vegetables.  There are many easy, more flavorful options, if they are willing to experiment.

One of the easiest and tastiest is roasted and/or grilled vegetables.  My trick is to stick a whole vegetables like eggplants and sweet potatoes (the Obamas’ favorite veggie, according to the First Lady) in toaster oven at 400F while I’m cooking something else.  Compared with an conventional oven, it doesn’t require much pre-heating, so it’s much faster, and reduces energy as well.  Then I have them ready to go in the air-tight container in the refrigerator for various dishes later in the week. 

Click here for my super easy and healthy eggplant appetizer recipe I posted this on SFGate.com site.  It takes less than 5 minutes if you already have grilled/roasted eggplants.  You’ll love it!

Stay tuned for more posts about the food trends in 2010…

What food trend do you predict in 2010?  What’s is your new year’s resolution around food?  Leave me a comment, I’m interested in hearing from you.

PS: Is “Eating Healthy” one of your new year’s resolutions?  Then join us for my free class this Saturday, January 16th in Oakland.  Hope you can make it!

Invitation to my Free Class! “The Fastest Path to Healthy & Exciting Home-Made Meals!”

Happy New Year!

Is “healthy eating” one of your new year’s resolutions?

Would you like to learn how to cook healthy, tasty meals at home with half the effort and time, and with twice as much variety?

As a New Year gift to my loyal readers, I’d love to invite you to my class “The Fastest Path to Healthy & Exciting Home-cooked Meals!” next Saturday, January 16 at Oakland Public Library for free!  I will teach you my unique system of how to make a variety of healthy meals at home easier and faster while having fun!  

In this class, you’ll learn the first, most critical step — how to keep an efficient, flexible pantry.  After completing this step, you will be able to whip up lots of dishes and end your dinner dilemmas forever!

  1. What to keep on hand & what to shop for
  2. How to mix and match ingredients for maximum flexibility and efficiency
  3. Demo of several easy dishes – with samples for tasting!
  • When?:  January 16 (Saturday), 2010   From 11:30am to12:30pm                  
    • Optional free trip to Trader Joes (12:30 – 1:30pm) to help you get a head start
  • Where?: Oakland Public Library Lakeview Branch: 550 El Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94610    510-238-7344     
  • Questions?:  Leave me a comment!

This event is popular and expected to sell out!  Come early – seats are first come, first served (or bring a portable chair just in case).  The class starts promptly at 11:30am.

*Space is limited to first 40! Save your spot NOW and get FREE printable shopping list by signing up from Class Tab on top.

* Parking: If possible, carpool or take public transportation.  Parking could be challenging. There are a parking under 580 (right next to the farmer’s market), metered parking along main streets such as Grand, Lake Shore etc., and free street parking on side streets.

 Look forward to seeing you in person next Saturday!

The World’s Easiest Cranberry Relish Your Family & Guest Will Love

One of the (very few) dishes my husband taught me is a Thanksgiving side-dish recipe that has been handed down from his grandma Henrietta.  She passed long before we got married, soInever had the honor of meeting her nor eating her dishes.  However, her husband – Keith’s grandpa – Park who lived till 101 told me how great of a baker Hanky (that’s what he called her) was, and excruciating details of her German cakes which he missed dearly.

This is actually a very simple cranberry relish recipe using a box of jello, yet the power of this should not be underestimated. It is very refreshing, and can double as a dessert. Both children and adults love it alike.  On top of that, it’s healthy — it has a lot of fruits such as apples, pears and oranges, in addition to cranberries, and doesn’t require cooking – I can say this is highly optimized. And it’s bright red, it’s festive and surely adds color to the table. If you have a food processor, it’s super easy.  It requires all familiar ingredients that are really cheap! Probably the most exotic and expensive ingredient is cranberries.

Whenever we make it, people always ask for the recipe and nowadays it became so famous, we get Thanksgiving invitations with the requests for this.

So I decided to post the recipe on my blog. My husband first resisted — “Nooo! It’s MY family’s secret recipe!”.  But those who eat it always ask for this recipe! And I grew up in Japan where’s there’s no traditional Thanksgiving celebration, I needed this for my readers!  So I asked “Wouldn’t it be great if your grandma’s recipe is enjoyed by more people in the world, not just by your immediate family?”

So here it is.  Kitchen Wizard is revealing another cooking secret, this one from her extended family.

Grammy Hanky’s Cranberry Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small box of red jello (we like raspberry. Strawberry is a bit too sweet.)
  • 1 cup hot water (Do not add the second of batch of water, which is suggested on the box.)
  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 large apples, cored and cut in bite size pieces
  • 2 large pears (should be relatively firm), cored and cut into bite size pieces

Directions:

  1. Mix jello with hot water to dissolve. Put bit-size pieces of fruit in the food processor and pulse several times to grind roughly to about 1/4″ cubes or smaller.  Make sure the cranberries are ground up well — if they are not, it could be tart.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do it in two batches.
  2. When the jello is room temperature, add all the fruit including its juice. Mix well.  Chill in the refrigerator until set. (Because of the amount of fruit, it may not set completely.)

We love serving it with turkey in place of regular cranberry sauce or relish, or you can eat it as dessert as well, with or without whipped cream. We normally make a double batch, using the large jello box, and using 1/2 – 2/3 for the actual Thanksgiving, and save the rest for us to eat later.

Oh, this is also great when you are sick! When I had flu and pneumonia 2 months ago and didn’t want to eat, I asked my husband to make this, and I ate it everyday.

So there you have it.  Try it and leave me a comment on how you and your guests loved it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Almost) Less Than 5: Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

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Sauted Eggplant with Miso

Many years ago, my fridge (or especially freezer) looked like a morgue.  No more. Ever since I started Kitchen Wizard, my kitchen is a lot more organized and that has helped me decide what to cook much quicker, and also reduced waste significantly.

They all have the labels with dates and contents, I know exactly what I need to use up soon, and for what.

Today, that item was grilled eggplant.  As some of you older readers remember, I posted a series of eggplant recipes over the summer. Throwing eggplants on the grill whether we plan to eat on that night or not, along side our chicken and sausages is a must for us, because they are one of the most convenient and versatile thing to have on hand. As the day gets colder and shorter, we don’t grill out much, but they are still handy in fall and winter too – for different dishes.

So I decided to make an easy Japanese dish that can be made with pantry items.  This really is a cinch if you already have grilled or sautéed eggplants (ideally cooked in vegetable oil, not olive oil). Obviously, grilled eggplants are healthier – it uses much less oil and salt.  You can also stick the whole eggplants in the toaster oven until soft. You can use a conventional oven too, yet a toaster oven heats much quicker (doesn’t require pre-heating), plus uses much less energy.

If you are vegetarian/vegan, omit the meat or chopped shiitake mushrooms as substitute.

Sautéed Eggplant with Miso

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

  • Ginger, sliced: about 1 ts
  • Green onions, chopped: about 3
  • Crushed chili (optional)
  • Japanese, Chinese or Italian Eggplants: (ideally already grilled) 5-6
    • This is a cinch if you have already grilled or sautéed eggplants. Cut in bite size pieces. You do not need to peel skin for this dish.
  • Ground meat: 4oz (100g)
  • Sake: 2 TBS (sprinkle 1 TBS on the meat, mix 1 TBS into miso to create paste.)
  • Soy sauce: 1 ts
  • Sugar: pinch
  • Miso: 1 – 2 TBS

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet. Cook sliced ginger and green onions (and chili, if you are using) on medium-high heat until fragrant. (If you don’t have cooked eggplants, add oil and sauté sliced eggplants. Add a little bit of salt to shorten the cooking time).  When soft, move toward the edge of the pan.
  2. If you have the cooked eggplants, add to the onion ginger mixture. Add ground meat and any sake residue, and cook until brown.
  3. Add soy sauce and pinch of sugar, and mix in the miso/sake mixture. Taste and adjust seasoning.  Serve hot with steamed rice.

Kitchen Wizard Leftover Make-Over Tip:

If there’s any left over, add hot water and miso and make eggplant and ground meat miso soup.  Add extra green onion on top.

This is a kind of dish they serve at Izakaya as well as at home in Japan…  So maybe you should have some beer or sake with this, and pretend that you are in Japan!

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 3: Turkish Eggplant Salad (Patlican Salatasi)

eggplant dip and pita

Eggplant is THE national vegetable of Turkey, and they are everywhere.  Appetizers, salads, casseroles, fried, stuffed and pickled, even pureed eggplant, served with a nice lamb stew with a strange name…

When we  traveled around Turkey, I was fascinated with this fact, and wanted to try all possible preparations of eggplant.  Even though I start getting bored of it toward the end (remember? I love VARIETY, so too much of the same thing, even if it’s wonderful AND prepared differently it’s bad news for me), I faithfully ate all the eggplant that showed up in front of me, and some extra on my husband’s plate.

As you can imagine, when we came back, I had to go cold turkey with eggplant. I even avoided the eggplant section at Berkeley Bowl, my favorite gourmet grocery store in our neighborhood, especially because they have 10 different kinds of eggplant (and 20 differnt kind of radishes) and I did not see any.  At all!

But my effort was in vein.  It didn’t last that long.

It was such a great trip, my husband and I shared the stories and photos with many friends as well as among ourselves.  And you know what happens.  Maybe it’s only me, but the conversation always end up “Oh, and such and such at this place was so delicious!” and many of them were eggplant dishes.

So quite a few eggplant dishes started to end up on our dinner table, (almost) night after night.  We even visited our local Turkish restaurant with our friends within a month of our return (they didn’t know it wasn’t our first time to have Turkish dishes after we left). Finally my husband had to force me to stop the eggplant experimentation. Crazy me!

One of the dishes I make often since that trip is Patlican Salatasi, pureed eggplant salad, actually more like dip.

It’s super easy and refreshing, and in my humble opinion, better than bababanouj, because you don’t need any “exotic” ingredients like tahini (sesame paste).

The good news is there are two versions.  One is with yogurt, and another without.  The Kitchen Wizard kind of split recipe indeed. So either split the recipe in half and try both at the same time, or enjoy the no-yogurt version first, then add yogurt later.

If you are splitting the recipe, start with less lemon juice, since the one with yogurt will get more tang from whey in yogurt.

Serve them with toasted pita chips, crusty bread or crackers.

Turkish Eggplant Salad

Ingredients:

  • Grilled eggplant (about 1 cup)
  • 2 or more cloves, garlic, minced
  • 2 TBS or more Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • lemon juice to taste
  • lemon zest to taste
  • salt

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients and puree in food processor or with a stick blender.
  2. Adjust the seasoning (garlic, EVOO, lemon juice, salt) to taste.

Turkish Eggplant Salad with Yogurt

  • Add 1/2 C yogurt to above recipe. Mix well.
  • Optional: Top with chopped tomatoes and dill as garnish.

They are easy and the crowd pleaser.  My 2 year old nephew Hugo loves it too. He ate it with the dip all over his face! (I forgot to take a photo, so this is actually the ice cream photo just like the last one, but you get the idea.)

So make them for your next party or potluck, and remember to leave me a comment on how you liked it!

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Hugo eats everything with 100% commitment.

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 2: Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken and Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad)

Chinese chicken cukie and eggplant salad

There are so many dishes you can make with grilled eggplant.

Today’s recipe is Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken.

This is really easy to do especially when you have shredded chicken (click here for how to make it) on hand, and perfect for summer.

Chinese Eggplant Salad with Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Cooked, shredded chicken – 1 c
  • Grilled eggplant, cut in about 2” –1 c
  • Cucumber – 1 small cucumber or about 2” English cucumber
  • Napa cabbage or romaine lettuce – 2-3 c (preferably center part and/or top 1/3 of the bulb)
  • Sliced tomatoes (Optional) – 1 or 2
  • Chinese dressing (recipe follows)

Directions:

  1. Roll up the napa cabbage leaves and slice thin. If using romaine lettuce, you can just chop them into bite size pieces. Cut cucumbers into thin sticks. (If using regular cucumbers, peel the skin, cut in half, remove seeds first.)
  2. In a salad bowl, pile up napa cabbage/romaine lettuce at the bottom, and arrange shredded chicken, eggplant and cucumber (and tomato if using).
  3. Serve with Chinese dressing. Optionally, top with cilantro, fried wonton skins etc.

Note: If you don’t have chicken, you can substitute with a can of tuna (in Olive Oil preferred.)

Chinese dressing:

  • Mix equal parts sesame (or vegetable) oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and some sugar (adjust the amount based on your taste). Add either grated ginger, chopped green onion and/or ground sesame seeds. Add chili oil if you have any.
  • You can use this dressing for Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad), or on any other salad, as well as dipping sauce for gyoza and marinade.  Especially tasty with vegetables with high water content, such as grilled eggplant, cucumber, tomatoes as well as wakame seaweed.

Since summer is almost over, here’s the bonus recipe of Hiyashi Chuka.

hiyashi chuka w sesame sauce

Hiyashi Chuka (Cold Chinese Noodle Salad)

It’s pretty much the same with the Chinese eggplant salad above, except, you’d want to use boiled and chilled fresh Chinese noodles instead of napa cabbage.

When it gets really hot, I lose my appetite (many of you who know me personally probably do not believe that’s possible).  I survived the muggy summer in Tokyo with this dish, and still make it when it’s hot in the Bay Area (even though the the humidity is a lot lower, we don’t have an air-conditioner, so all I want to eat is something cold when it gets beyond 85F!)

Traditionally we use shredded toppings of various colors and nutritional values – protein from egg and ham or chicken, and vitamins from vegetables. The most typical veggies we use for this dish are tomatoes and cucumbers. Yet you can use bean sprouts, boiled and julienned asparagus or green beans, as well as corn (my favorite!) or wakame seaweed.

Directions:

  1. Boil fresh Chinese noodles (thin egg noodle or spinach noodle – I use 3 oz per person,  6 serving to one pound of noodles).  Should be done in 2-3 min. Drain and wash with cold water until noodle is cold.
  2. If using egg (about 1/2 per serving), either boil eggs cut into thin wedges, or beat egg with a little bit of salt and sugar, make a very thin omelet (just like you would make a crepe). When the egg is set, let it cool, and julienne.
  3. In a salad bowl, pile up cold noodles in the center, and arrange shredded chicken/ham, and julienned vegetables and egg attractively.
  4. Pour generous amount of Chinese dressing. (Note: You’ll need enough amount of dressing to coat all the noodles, make a large batch and dilute the dressing with water or dashi broth a bit.)

Our 26 month old nephew Hugo loves Hiyashi Chuka (he’s 100% American, no Asian blood at all as you can tell from his size), and so are many of our friends and their kids.  (Sorry I forgot to take photo of him when he was eating it…  So instead, here’s the photo of him adult-size coffee ice cream – all by himself.  I’m so proud of him!)

Try it before the summer is over and please leave us a comment on how you liked it.

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Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 1: Yakinasu

Do you like to grill?  Then next time, make sure to throw on several whole eggplants on while you are cooking your meat, veggies or seafood.

Why whole eggplants?

Because while you are grilling something else, they basically cook themselves and you can use them for hundreds of dishes, or eat as a side dish to eat with your BBQ.

Rather than huge globe eggplants, I prefer smaller and more slender Japanese, Italian or Chinese eggplants which cook much faster and are more versatile. As you see in the glimpse of what you could do with Eggplant curry recipe, there are so many dishes you can make with grilled eggplants; Japanese to Thai to Turkish and Italian.

How to make grilled eggplants:

  1. Poke several places with a folk or knife on eggplant skin.
  2. Grill at 400F or so until tender (Do not use oil). The skin should be charred. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin (and seeds if there’s a lot, especially in the globe eggplant). Or if hard to do so, use a spoon to scrape the flesh.  If preferred, cut into bite size pieces. Keep in a tight container in the fridge.

Note:

  • Alternatively, before you start grilling, you can beat or roll the eggplants on the counter.  Create a shallow incision around the calyx, and around the long side of the eggplants. It’s a bit cumbersome, but helps you peel the skin very easily.
  • In winter, you can do the same in the oven, toaster-oven or even right on gas stove.There’s a lot you can do with this.

Probably the easiest is to just eat it with your grilled food on the side. The smokiness of grilled eggplant is great even without any seasoning, yet when soaks up vinaigrette, it’s a wonderful summer treat.

Here’s the easiest and probably the most refreshing of all, a summer favorite of all Japanese households and restaurants around the world called Yaki-Nasu (simply meaning grilled eggplant.)  Every time I have some, it reminds me of how I survived the hot summer days in Tokyo with this (and cold somen noodles), and how I appreciate living in San Francisco Bay Area now, the place with year-round natural air-conditioning (even thought we don’t have one installed at home!)

Yaki-Nasu (Japanese Style Grilled Eggplant)

  • It’s the best to use the chilled grilled eggplant.  If you only have eggplants that’s hot off the grill, you can put them in a small bowl (metal is best), cover with aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer until cold.
  • Top with grated ginger and drizzle with soy based Japanese sauce, such as  soy sauce, thinned men-tsuyu (Japanese noodle soup base), ponzu, or just by itself.
  • Alternative garnishes: beside grated ginger, try shredded ao-shiso (green perilla), bonito flakes or toasted sesame seeds.

Enjoy!

We’ll cover more international recipes using grilled eggplants later this week.  Be sure to subscribe to “Secrets of Kitchen Wizard” from the 3 options on the top left (E-mail, RSS or Facebook NetworkedBlogs application), so you won’t miss any.

Ao Shiso (Green Perilla) plant on our vegitable garden

Ao Shiso (Green Perilla) plant in our vegetable garden

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