Thanks for downloading and sharing!

Thank you so much for your downloading and sharing my “Kitchen Wizard Flexipes” during the promo last two days. Thanks to your support, it was #8 on all free Kindle cookbooks, food and wine category; #11 on Lifestyle and Home; and #1 on International and Regional Cookbooks at the end of 2 days.

Even though there was no pre-announcements, there were thousands of downloads — more than 1 download per minute!  It was so exciting! There even was one from Amazon Brazil!  It happened because of your support. I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Thank you so much!

Hope you like “Kitchen Wizard Flexipes“.

If you like my book, please write and post a review on Amazon! It’s a lifeline for a new author like me.  Thank you for your support, in advance!

Have fun Kitchen Wizarding!

Mari

Advertisements

Japan Food Report: Internet Fish Market Changed Japanese Home-Dining Scenes

blog post photo

From top R: Chu-toro (pink), Paradise Prawn (blue), Kazunoko/Herring roe (yellow), Hotaru-ika/Firefly Squid (purplish brown), Tako/Squid (white with purple edge)

Every time I go back to Japan, I’m amazed by their obsessions with fresh and unique food.  It’s getting worse every year it seems.

Now with the internet, you can order practically anything from anywhere in the world. For the Japanese, probably the most prominent is that you can order the freshest seafood that used to be only available when you traveled to a specific area. It can be on your dining table the next day, without leaving your desk or home (order by 1pm today, you get it tomorrow for dinner.)

Yes, we have been able to get sashimi of many different kind of seafood for decades (or longer) at our local supermarket, but the internet really changed the way the Japanese eat seafood, direct from the port.

On our dinner table on the first two days of our visit, we had the following:

– Hotaru ika (Firefly Squid) from Toyama (on the photo above)
– Paradise Prawn from New Caledonia (ditto)
– Shiro baigai (White Ivory Shell)
– Extra Large Zuwai Gani (Snow Crab) legs (5 inches long) from Canada

All came through internet, fresh frozen except for Baigai (fresh).  My question is, why don’t we have the same service in the US?  Canada is much closer to us than in Japan.  And their ads stated these crabs are prepared and frozen at a USDA approved plant.

blog post photo
Shiro-baigai

blog post photo
Snow Crab legs

blog post photo
My sister joyfully preparing these giant crab legs for the kani shabu/crab hot-pot.  She loves seafood, plus this was an excellent opportunity for her to impress my husband, the special guest at their household.

blog post photo
(Besides the hot-pot, we had yakitori (bottom left), bonito sashimi (bottom middle), mounds of hotaru-ika (brownish mass on the bottom right), pickled nappa cabbage (center, cream-colored thing), and nameko mushrooms with baby anchovies (brown thing right next to it), etc.)

The Japanese doctors and nutritionists often say “eat 30 different food items per day”. This alone is close to that 30 in one meal!

It was not just the variety, but the amount was pretty generous as well. We don’t eat like this when we are in the US, so we got really full quickly. Both my mom and sister kept offering us to eat more: “We got all these for you, and we don’t want to spoil them.” I started to think, now I lost weight from eating smaller portions in the US, this is the first time I would gain weight by visiting Japan.

It seems to me that because of the economy, Japanese people are not eating this über fresh seafood at the five-star Japanese restaurants, but at home for a fraction of the price (or same price, 5 – 10 times of the amount.)  Plus preparing sashimi takes practally no time.  Once it’s thawed, all you do is place it on a plate.

We used to buy a few slices of assorted sashimi — about 1/4 – 1/3 lbs or so on a small tray for $20 or so.   Now these internet fish markets sells these by the kilo, and often have special bulk offers, such as “buy 3kg (6.6 lbs), you get shipping free”.  These internet offerings are definitely cheaper if you do the math (and they do that for you in their marketing copy).  It’s basically bulk sales, like buying at Costco. It’s a smart business model though, because people buy a larger amount, share with others, then they too get hooked with the fresh seafood.  The word of mouth spreads like a tsunami!

For example, my sister got 3kg of raw baby squid (hotaru ika) at once, because by buying two 1 kilo boxes, this company will give you another one free, plus free shipping.  Just like me, she loves variety, so as you see, she orders four kinds of seafood, anywhere between 1 – 3 kgs, totalling about 10 kgs (22 lbs!) for 3 adults in 40s and one 78 years old woman!  Way too much!  The Japanese traditionally hates wasting food, especially super fresh straight from the port kind, so she shares these seafood with other relatives.

My guess is that one of our relatives first ordered a lot, and shared with everyone else.  In any case, the circle of ordering and sharing keeps going.

Despite her effort, my husband wasn’t too excited about them.  After all, he’s a white boy from the Midwest.  He freaked out with these “big shiny eyes”.  Me?  I enjoyed them a lot.  They were so rich and sweet, I loved them…  until after about 20, and still a mound of them left.  Too bad you weren’t there with us! (My sister probably still has majority of them left in the freezer.  If you are willing to visit her in Tokyo and eat some baby squid, let me know!)  Now I’ve been away from them for a while, these photos makes me long for this seafood…  (drool….)

Maybe some of you don’t agree with this national obsession with fresh seafood, and the gluttony of Japanese ordinary (middle-class) gourmands.

And excessive fishing.  I haven’t watched the Cove yet, but I can see that the same thing could happen with other kinds of seafood.

What do you think?  Is it good that Japanese can order so many varieties of fresh seafood so easily?

Batch and Fridge: Onion and Chorizo Mixture: Chickpea Chowder

Rugged coastline of pacific grove

Rugged coastline of pacific grove

Over Mother’s day weekend, we went to Pacific Grove near Monterey, CA for our 10th anniversary.

Being in a coastal town, the dinner had to be seafood.  We were lucky to be able to grab a last minute cancellation at well-known fish restaurant in town.  We were all set.

Having over 2 hours to spend before dinner, we decided to go for a walk by the bay enjoying the rugged coast line…  We ended up walking a lot further, all the way from the lighthouse to downtown. So we had to take the main road back to the hotel.

Pacific Grove  walk

Pacific Grove walk

As we walked along Lighthouse Avenue, something caught our attention.  The sign said “Passionfish”.   Even though we were on the other side of the street, we had to check out the menu. (Menu browsing is one of my favorite pastime.)  Something smelled good too.  Zagat rated…  Food 25, Service 21..  Both very good signs.  And the menu sounded really interesting, much more than our original reservation.  OK, we decided, we are eating here.

We cancelled the other reservation, and ended up having our anniversary dinner at Passionfish.  It was a good decision.

passion fish outside w flash

Passionfish Restaurant in Pacific Grove, CA

One of the specials they had that night was Moroccan Chickpea Chowder with green onion lime cream.  The thing is, people at the next table convinced us that we had to have this out-of-this-world calamari salad, and duck confit, so we decided to skip the soup.  BUT!  Food-obsessed me had to try this some way.  (Don’t worry, I didn’t beg the waitress to give me a sample.)

Since I had a garlic, onion, and chorizo mixture left over in the fridge I made for Portuguese cabbage rice, I decided to make it up at home as soon as I came home.

Since I didn’t even see the soup, it may be very different from the original version at Passionfish, but none the less, it was super fast and delicious (I’d say for this version, Zagat rating 27).  If you make it, you’ll be shocked how easy and flavorful it is.

Chickpea Chowder with green onion lime cream

  1. Heat 1 can chickpeas, 1/2 cup cooked chorizo mixture and 2 cup chicken stock. Puree.  If you just serve this hot, it’s super delicious, especially with drizzle of EVOO, lemon juice, cream or butter.
  2. (Optional) Puree green onion and creme fraiche with hand blender or in a mini-bowl in a food processor.  Mix lime juice.  Add to the hot soup.

    Passionfish inspired Chickpea Chowder

    Passionfish inspired Chickpea Chowder

For the detailed review of Passionfish restaurant I posted on Foodbuzz, click here.

Bon appetite!

Batch and Fridge: Flavor Booster: Chorizo and Onion Mixture

One of my favorite base I keep in my fridge is Chorizo and Onion mixture.

Chorizo is packed with flavor, it’s so handy as a flavor booster for soups and vegetable dishes, especially Portuguese or Spanish inspired dishes. If you don’t like it spicy, feel free to substitute with other kinds of sausage.  They now have “Turkey Chorizo” (or was it chicken?) at Whole Foods.

Do not use this for things like Bolognese sauce or Chili, it will be too “Chorizo-ey”.

Chorizo and Onion Mixture:

  1. Sauté 1 –2 cloves of garlic, 1 large onions (sliced), and 1 uncooked chorizo out of casing in EVOO until cooked.

Usages: soup, potato dishes, braised vegetables, egg dishes, lentils, stuffing, risotto, etc…  Just like Sautéed Mirepoix Meat mixture.  Also great with seafood, especially clams.  Yum!

Unless you like it really spicy, you’d need only a little bit, so add a little less than you think you need – it’s always easier to add than subtract in kitchen math!

I will share a great “Restaurant-Inspired Recipe” using this mixture on my next post.  So stay tuned… Or better yet, subscribe to “Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard” via Email or RSS from the link above the calendar!

Happy cooking!

Secret of a Tiny Big Eater: How to stay thin and fit and still eat a lot

I was asked recently by a few people about how I stay thin and fit with all of this cooking… And they probably meant “all of that eating”…

Home cooked meals definitely help one lose weight. Because I’m so small (5’1”, very small-boned, even for a Japanese), a few pounds make a huge difference on me. My weight is back to my college level finally mainly because I’m not eating out as much. I’m in my late 40s, my metabolism has slowed down, so I try to keep my portions smaller, and eat more variety and vegetables. (Back to a Japanese style diet.) Actually, Japanese dishes only shows up on our table once or twice a week. And you can do the same type of diet with any other cuisine.

The key is a balanced diet — many different things in smaller portions. To accomplish this, eat slowly and use smaller plates (if you use bigger plate, everything looks small, so you end up with more).

For example, we have been eating about 4 oz of meat/fish maximum each meal vs 6 oz that we used to. (It’s easy, there’s 2 of us, so I just buy 1/2 lbs. and split.) I now use about 2.5 oz of pasta (divide 1 lb of pasta into 3, and use one of them for 2 of us) vs 4 oz before (1/2 bag each time for 2.) The difference looks small, yet both translate into a 33% portion reduction.

Do I get hungry? No. Because we eat more vegetables. You save not only calories but money per meal too!

When you do Kitchen Wizardry, keep your vegetables in stick form, or separate into smaller portions, just like you see on a crudite/veggie platter. Then not only do you save time for meal preparation, you can also use them for healthy snacks or as an appetizer, instead of crackers, chips, etc which have a lot higher calories. Also when you bring lunch to work bring these veggies instead of getting a bag of chips that often comes with a store-bought sandwich. It saves you money, time and calories. Go for a walk with the time saved!

Another thing is I barely eat any sweets, nor do I drink much soda or alcohol. My snacks are mostly leftovers or make-over versions, not typical American snacks of crackers and cheese, chips etc. According to my husband, an American, that’s probably the real reason why I can still eat a lot and stay pretty thin.

If you have a sweet tooth, have a very small portion.

Whatever it is (especially those small portions), eat slowly, put down your utensils after you put one small bite in your mouth, and really savor the flavor. This way, your brain will be satisfied even from just a small piece of chocolate. Rather than depriving yourself of what you love and rebound with binge eating, you could enjoy your guilty pleasure more often without guilt.