Archive for September, 2007
Sometimes I’d like to have tamagoyaki (Japanese rolled omelette) at home, but just can’t be bothered to spend the time it takes to make the individual layers. A recent Orange Page magazine story on make-ahead bento lunches showed how to make a speedy shortcut version of tamagoyaki in a round frying pan with no rolling, so I was intrigued. Essentially molded scrambled eggs, I made this the other day when I was making dashimaki tamago for four people using eight eggs. This many eggs would ordinarily mean making two separate rolls the standard way, but that was just too much to deal with on a tight schedule. So I tried out the super-speedy version and was pleased with the result. I wouldn’t serve it to impress guests or anything, but it’s definitely a nice tool in the speedy bento lunch toolbox. I used my standard recipe for dashimaki tamago, but this method is actually easier with tamagoyaki as there’ll be less leakage when the egg rests on the cutting board (recipes and full tutorial for both dashimaki and tamagoyaki here).
Spread a large piece of plastic wrap out on a cutting board, and turn out the moist egg curds onto the plastic wrap while still hot moldable. Tightly wrap the egg with the plastic wrap, and use your hands to form it into a log shape that’s slightly larger than a regular tamagoyaki roll. Let it sit, tightly wrapped, for 10 minutes so that the egg sets up in the right shape. Unwrap and cut into slices.
You can also use a bamboo sushi mat (’makisu’) to push the egg into shape, as shown here.
Tip: You’ll get best results with this method if you prepare the more solid tamagoyaki as opposed to dashimaki tamago, but dashimaki is also doable. The excess liquid in dashimaki tamago will spill out of the plastic wrap after molding (also during molding if you’re not careful). After you unwrap it, just dry the entire egg log by blotting lightly with paper towels and slice as usual. You can also make a variation by reducing the amount of dashi in the egg mixture, thus reducing the amount of leakage at the end.
- Tutorial: Tamagoyaki (or Japanese rolled omelette)
- Need for speed: A mommyâ€™s lunch manifesto
- How to pack a bento lunch and use â€œgap fillersâ€
- Choosing the right size bento box
- Packed lunch food safety
- Biggieâ€™s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews
Published by Biggie on September 20th, 2007 tagged eggs, glutenfree, lactose free, recipe, tips, tutorial or how to | 30 Comments »
A recent issue of Japanese cooking magazine Orange Page (529,447 circulation) featured a cover story on make-ahead bentos with zero morning prep aside from assembly. Now when they say make-ahead, they’re assuming that you have fresh rice, but you could also make this ahead of time and freeze in rice ball form or in the shape of your lunch container. Because the leftovers are already cold from the refrigerator, you can speed up your morning prep even more because you don’t have to let the entire lunch cool before closing the lid (for optimum packed lunch food safety). I’ve summarized the article below with general tips and recipe titles; click on either photo for an annotated view with English translations (edit: first photo link now fixed).
1. Retain flavor with oil-based sauces
(After cooking, cool, then store in the refrigerator together with the sauce. Drain before packing in a bento. Keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge.)
- Mini hamburgers with oil-based sauce (salad oil, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mirin and soy)
- Beef and eggplant stir-fry
- Chicken breast and green peppers grilled with sauce of miso, salad oil, sake and sugar
- Stir-fry of pork and kinoko mushrooms with ketchup sauce (olive oil, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce)
2. Retain flavor with vinegar-based sauces
(Cook, cool, transfer to a storage container together with the sauce, and store in refrigerator. Drain properly before packing in bento lunch. Keeps in refrigerator for 2-3 days.
- Japanese fried chicken (’kara-age’) with Asian pickling sauce (vinegar, soy, sesame oil, sake, sugar)
- Swordfish with julienned carrot in curry pickling sauce (vinegar, mirin, soy, curry powder and salt)
- Chicken breast with ume sauce (pickled plum, vinegar, mirin, soy)
- Eggs simmered in abura-age soybean pouches (sauce: vinegar, Worcestershire sauce)
3. Make egg omelettes ahead of time
(Frittatas and tamagoyaki Japanese rolled omelette — make, cool, slice, and store in little containers in the fridge or freezer. To store in freezer, wrap individual servings in plastic wrap and put into a freezer bag. To pack a frozen serving, just you can either allow it to defrost in the refrigerator first before packing, or just pack it frozen in the bento box if you allow a few hours for it to defrost naturally. Will keep in the freezer for 2-3 weeks, or for 2 days in the refrigerator. Tamagoyaki tutorial here, and tutorial for a frittata using leftover pasta here.)
- Tamagoyaki with sardines and mitsuba herb
- Tamagoyaki with ’sakura-ebi’ dried shrimp and leeks
- Tamagoyaki with flaked salmon and watercress
- Frittata with ham and ‘eringi’ oyster mushroom
- Frittata with ground beef and red bell pepper
- Frittata with tuna and corn
4. Add volume with potato salad and pasta salad
(Pasta salad tip: After boiling the pasta, quickly drain and toss it with salt, pepper and a little vinegar to add flavor)
- Potato salad with cucumbers, ham and onions
- Potato salad with tarako (cod roe)
- Potato salad with cream cheese and walnuts
- Macaroni salad with cucumber, onions and sliced cheese
- Macaroni salad with fake crab and broccoli
- Macaroni salad with sausage and cabbage
5. Use dry pantry items for a “healthy, delicious menu”
- Simmered soybeans (Japanese style, Italian style with tomatoes and sausage, “ethnic style” with green beans)
- Simmered hijiki (Japanese style with carrots and abura-age soy wrappers, Western style with bacon and ‘renkon’ lotus root, or Korean style with tofu and nira leeks
- Simmered daikon radish strips (Japanese style with carrots and kamaboko, Western style with corn and red bell pepper, or Chinese style with Chinese pickles)
6. Vegetable side dishes
(As with many bento cookbooks, these are separated by color for when you pack according to the 5-color rule of thumb.)
- Red/orange: Marinated carrots with lemon and honey, pickled carrots with garlic, fried red bell peppers, red bell peppers with ground peanuts, cherry tomatoes marinated in herb oil, radish slices pickled with ginger
- Green: Cole slaw, pickled cabbage and ginger, green beans with ground sesame seeds, long-simmered green beans, bell pepper strips with bonito flakes and soy sauce (’okaka’), fried bell pepper with shichimi pepper, broccoli with ’sakura-ebi’ dried shrimp, and Chinese cabbage (’komatsuna’) with spicy mayonnaise sauce
Published by Biggie on September 18th, 2007 tagged beans, bento, eggs, fish or seafood, leftover remake, meat, potatoes, poultry, rice, tips, tofu | 32 Comments »
I normally associate making Indian food with spending hours in the kitchen on a weekend. I recently picked up a copy of Julie Sahni’s cookbook Moghul Microwave, though, that’s been teaching me how to prepare authentic-tasting Indian dishes quickly using the microwave. Today’s lunch is my shortcut to homemade Indian food on a weekday — it felt quite decadent! In other news, my in-laws, brother-in-law and his wife have come to visit us for the next week and a half, so I anticipate being more sporadic on the lunch blogging front over the next week as we host a houseful. The house certainly is clean now, though! I no longer feel like such a Filth Wizard.
Contents of my lunch: Fish cake tikka masala, smothered cabbage with mustard oil (bandhgobhi sabzi), and whole wheat tortillas in place of Indian flatbreads (it’s what I had on hand). The smothered cabbage with mustard oil was a simple Bengali dish from Moghul Microwave, cooking shredded cabbage, onions, tomatoes and (frozen) julienned ginger in the microwave before dressing it with mustard oil with cumin, mustard seeds and cilantro. The tikka masala was a quick throw-together with a pre-made Patak-brand simmer sauce from Costco that was quite tasty (Bug ate it up at dinner). There’s a thread about the best food finds at Costco here on Chowhound.com, where I used to be a moderator way back when.
Morning prep time: 5 minutes, using dinner leftovers. In the morning I just heated the curry, and packed.
Packing: To keep the curry warm, I pre-heated the thermal food jar with hot tap water while I microwaved the curry in a microwave-safe dish. All packed in an insulated bento set from Ichiban Kan that lets me pack hot food and cold food at the same time. I found similar Zojirushi sets on Amazon (albeit pricey!): Metallic Stainless Vacuum Lunch Jar (Lavender) and Metallic Stainless Vacuum Lunch Jar (Green).
Contents of preschooler’s lunch: Chili Colorado, whole wheat tortillas, and steamed asparagus and bean sprouts with Korean barbecue sauce (yakiniku sauce). We ran short of tikka masala (which Bug loved), so we shared both the chili and curry. Bug didn’t like the smothered cabbage at dinner, so I threw together a quick side of veggies for him. Bug ate up the asparagus, but spit out the bean sprouts. Oh well, at least he ate something green!
Morning prep time: 8 minutes, using leftover chili Colorado. In the morning, I cut up the beef into bite-size pieces for a preschooler, and quickly cooked the bean sprouts and asparagus in a microwave mini steamer followed by a toss with bottled Korean barbecue sauce.
Packing: The unique thing about Bug’s lunch is that I liberated the soup bowl from my Nissan Stainless thermal lunch tote to use without the thermal jar itself, similar to this lunch. It half fills the soup bowl, and the side dishes are packed in a 260ml “Comment vas-tu?” side dish container.
Contents of my husband’s lunch: The same as mine.
(Disclaimers: I have no commercial affiliations with Ichiban Kan, Costco or Patak’s. Amazon links are affiliate links; using the links to buy anything from Amazon supports Lunch in a Box.)
Published by Biggie on September 14th, 2007 tagged bento, curry, fish or seafood, food jar, for kids, lactose free, phyllo or pancake or other, thermal lunch jar | 14 Comments »
Broccoli rabe (a.k.a. rapini) can be tricky to cook with — my husband generally isn’t fond of it because of its bitterness, even though he loves broccoli. This penne dish has managed to break down his aversion, though, by balancing the bitterness of the rabe with the savoriness of the Italian sausage. I got the recipe from The Classic Pasta Cookbook by Giuliano Hazan (son of renowned Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan). I’m finding that I like oil-based pasta sauces in bento lunches as leftover pasta doesn’t get mushy after sitting, and doesn’t need a separate little container of sauce to re-dress the pasta just prior to eating. So it’s also slightly faster to pack in the morning.
Contents of my lunch: Penne with broccoli rabe and Italian sausage, cheese wheel, strawberries and blueberries, and spinach salad with hard-boiled egg, grape tomatoes, red onions, cheese, mushrooms, bacon and poppy seed dressing.
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover pasta and Costco spinach salad. In the morning I sliced the strawberries, arranged the salad, and put the dressing into the purple sauce container.
Packing: I used the Laptop Lunchbox to pack today’s bulky salad and penne. The little blue container and lid for the yellow container weren’t actually necessary, but I used them for kicks to keep everything contained and symmetrical. We ate our lunches outside so they were at room temperature, but if we had access to a microwave I could have lifted out the penne container and warmed it.
Contents of preschooler lunch: The same as mine, with some white nectarine.
Morning prep time: 4 minutes, using leftover pasta. In the morning I sliced the nectarine and threw the pasta and fruit into the box.
Packing: Although Bug did fine with the penne as is at dinner, if I were to repack this lunch for him to eat on his own I would cut each penne in half so they were more bite-sized for a preschooler. To keep the cut nectarine from turning brown, I dipped it in lemon juice mixed with guava juice to cut the sourness (see other ways to prevent fruit from browning here). I put the berries into the box’s hard plastic sub-container so that they wouldn’t be bruised in transit. Packed in a 350ml Power Rangers bento box.
(NOTE: The cookbook and Laptop Lunchbox links are affiliate links; using the links to buy anything from Amazon or Reusable Bags supports Lunch in a Box.)
Published by Biggie on September 12th, 2007 tagged Laptop Lunchbox, bento, eggs, for kids, meat, pasta or noodles, salad | 9 Comments »
Evidently there’s a selection of US$1 bento boxes for sale now at The Dollar Tree, a U.S.-based chain of dollar stores (the Dollar Tree website has a store locater in the upper right hand corner). Part of a back-to-school push, they’ve got two-tier and one-tier boxes with movable dividers (click for photos of the Dollar Tree bento gear).
They all have Hello Kitty logos on them — which is great if you’re into it, not so much if you’re not. If you’d rather have a plain box, buyers say that the logo scratches off pretty easily if you try. If you’d rather have a customized box, Flickr user pkoceres has created a how-to guide to replacing bento gear logos with custom stickers that will stand up to washing. Check it out, as well as her incredible bento food art on pkoceres’ Flickr photostream.