Sukiyaki and Holiday White Wine Sale

This recipe should be called "Japanese-American Style Sukiyaki" because it is stronger and deeper in flavor than the traditional style served in restaurants. My dad was born in Japan and I loved to watch him make it. Though he was a "issei" or first generation Japanese-American, like many immigrants, his dishes had a "nikkei" flavor to them--meaning that the traditional recipes had changed to reflect American tastes and available ingredients. At New Year's parties, mochi making gatherings, picnics and Buddhist Temple suppers, and at home, I remember cucumber with bay shrimp and fennel seed, teriyaki green beans, potato salad with chiso and other recipes common to the community but never found in a restaurant. I've thought that Japanese-American style recipes would create an interesting and unique cookbook, but a Google search yielded just a couple of links for "Japanese American cookbook". The first for Avenue Food has a post by Sarah Kiino that describes recipes from Japanese-American church cookbooks: "Of course, many of the "Japanese" recipes are about as Japanese as General Tso's Chicken is Chinese. They have Japanese elements, sure, but were created by Japanese Americans, often several generations removed from the homeland." From the National Association of Japanese Canadians forum: "there is a Japanese American culture and that culture is based not on exact rules, but on the recollections of what our Issei parents and grandparents interpreted of their homeland into their lives in America. Food products like they had back home were not available and so they tried to get something that was similar (like using yams in tempura instead of kabocha)." Only a few cookbooks are mentioned, and the National Japanese American Historical Society cookbook is no longer available on their site. Like the small Japantown in Denver, which used to house mom-and-pop groceries, restaurants and shops clustered around the Buddhist Temple, the cultural heritage of Japanese-American food may disappear, assimilated and dispersed into the mainstream.
Though Sukiyaki contains beef, this is one example of when a clean, crisp white wine pairs better than a red wine which would conflict with the deep flavors of soy sauce, ginger and sugar.
3 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 cup thinly sliced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. ginger, minced
1 lb. sliced steak (if you have an Asian market--use the very thinly sliced sukiyaki beef, otherwise slice filet mignon as thin as you can, or use lean ground beef made into small meatballs, see below* for more notes)
1/4 Mirin (Japanese cooking sake)
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup loosely packed brown sugar
2 cups vegetables, cut into bite size, such as bean sprouts, green beans, zucchini, broccoli, green pepper, baby corn, water chestnuts
2 cups coarsely chopped napa cabbage or bok choy
1 cake of tofu, cut into 1" cubes
1. In a wide, deep pan, cook the ginger, garlic and onion in the oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the onion is translucent, add the beef, browning on all sides. Then add the soy sauce, Mirin and sugar and stir gently to mix. Add the cut vegetables and stir, then cover the top of the beef and vegetable mixture with a "lid" of the napa cabbage or bok choy.
2. Turn the heat to low and simmer for approximately half an hour--until the vegetables are nearly cooked. Then stir the top layer of bok choy or cabbage in with the rest of the ingredients and add the tofu cubes. Cook another five minutes, stirring carefully so the tofu doesn't break apart (turning the ingredients with a wide spatula works well). Serve with hot Japanese rice and the 2007 Greenwood White Riesling. Serves 4. Leftovers can be piled onto a bowl of the leftover rice and reheated in the microwave to make a sukiyaki "donburi" or rice bowl. Top with kizami (red pickled grated ginger).
*Note on beef: if you can buy prepared Japanese sukiyaki beef, this is best. This can be found in most Asian markets and is made by freezing the steak, then using a machine to slice it very thin. If you have to slice your own steak, use filet mignon if you can afford it because less tender types of steak will become tough in the cooking. Another alternative that's easier on the budget is to use lean ground beef, shaped into small meatballs.

The 2007 Greenwood White Riesling is one of six white wines in this week's Online Grapevine special. The Online Grapevine changes each week, but always offers FREE wine shipping in the continental US. (sorry, Alaska and Hawaii)


Thanksgiving Wine, Menu Planning and Minty Gazpacho

It's not too early for those of us who love to cook to start planning our Thanksgiving menu. It's bound to be a heavy feast with a lot of rich food, so starting with a light, lo-cal soup sounds perfect to me. It's chilled and crisp with enough flavor to pique to the taste buds' interest but won't fill you up before the main course arrives. Plus, you can make this a day or two beforehand, cutting down on the time in the kitchen on the big day. I'm always looking for an excuse to chop vegetables with my chef's knife (see Aug.10 post); but if you don't have the "joy of chopping", this soup is quickly prepared in the food processor. Historians believe gazpacho was created during the Roman occupation of southern Spain--no blenders then! Originally crushed in a dornillo or large wood bowl in the fields, the soup was a common lunch for the agricultural workers. The addition of tomato to the gazpacho originated with Christopher Columbus who initiated the era of exchange of plants and animals (and unfortunately, diseases) between the Old World and the New. Imagine if the exchange had never happened. Italian cuisine would be without tomatoes and the Swiss would be bereft of chocolate! In Spain, there are regional variations of gazpacho, some without tomato, some adding almonds, or cumin. I made this version with mint from the garden. Instead of adding bread to the soup, as is common with Spanish recipes, I toasted the bread Italian style with olive oil and Parmesan for crunchy croutons.
4 medium very ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves
1/2 small sweet white or red onion
2 tsp. white vinegar
9 Tbsp. olive oil approximately (5 for soup, around 4 for the croutons)
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. minced mint plus one sprig for each serving as garnish
2 Tbsp. minced cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 slices whole grain bread, 2 day old is best
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan
2 tsp. fines herbes (purchased in spice section or made from recipe below)
Boil enough water to submerge tomatoes, when it boils, add the tomatoes and cook a couple of minutes or just until the skin splits. Remove and cool, then peel off the skins. Put the tomatoes in a flat bowl and mash thoroughly with a potato masher (or process in food processor). Peel the cucumber and cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Mince the cucumber, bell pepper, onion and garlic finely by hand or with food processor. Add to the tomatoes along with the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, minced cilantro and onion. Mix well and chill (at least an hour). Cut the crusts off the bread, toast until dry, then remove and brush with olive oil, sprinkle with cheese and fines herbes then toast until golden brown. Cut them into small croutons about 1" square. To serve, put 3/4 to 1 cup of gazpacho in a small bowl (this recipe makes 4 cups) and garnish with croutons and a sprig of mint. Refreshing with a crisp glass of the 2006 RaDog Dry Gewurztraminer.
This week's Online Grapevine wine discount special is four perfect Thanksgiving wines: RECIPE FOR FINES HERBES:
Simple! Mix equal parts chopped chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon and use for sprinkling on salads, cooked eggs, soups and croutons.


Chicken Pot Pies and Half Price Wine

When the weather turns colder, there's a temporary sense of loss and a lack of energy. Chinese philosophy would ascribe it to the seasonal movement of chi. For me, it is the realization that the hot, lazy days of summer are over. No longer can doors and windows be flung wide open letting in the brilliant sun and the air thick and heavy with the scent of growing things. No more watering vegetables and searching for the bright red of tomatoes and strawberries among the deep green foliage, eating them hot and juicy right out of the garden. I have a sadness to see long days shorten. But life turns inward, towards hot cups of tea by the fire and the preparation for the holidays. I enjoy the fellowship of the holidays, sharing food and conversation with friends and family but there is a sense of dread, too, mostly centered around gift giving. I hate shopping! So, working for a wine company has helped enormously as I increasingly give wine at the holidays (sometimes with jars of homemade jam, tins of cookies or bundles of sage from the garden). Those of us in Southern California are fortunate to be within driving distance of the Wine Warehouse sales at Touring & Tasting. I stocked up with $58 Cabernet Sauvignon for $25 a bottle and $26 Whites for $13 at the last one, so I'm set this year! For those who are too far for the Santa Barbara wine events, this week's special would make a great gift. It's a half price sale on a wine sampler that's already a great deal at full price--with free shipping to boot! Send the gift of wine this holiday--no parking hassles, no crowds, no fuss!
This week's recipe is perfect for the colder weather. Enjoy with a bottle of 2008 Saucelito Canyon Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc from the Wine Cellar.
1 14 oz. can of chicken broth (almost 2 cups)
1 lb. chicken meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup peeled and diced potato (about two small potatoes)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup peeled and diced carrots (two large)
1 cup frozen peas
1 bay leaf
5 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup half and half
1 cup milk
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (thyme, sage, marjoram, rosemary, nutmeg)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 frozen deep dish pie crusts
Let the pie crusts come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 400°F. Bring broth and bay leaf to a boil then add the chicken, potato and carrots. Cook 5 minutes or until the carrots are softened but not mushy. Remove the bay leaf and turn off the heat. In the meantime, cook the onion in butter in a saucepan (at least a quart size) over low heat until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the flour until well mixed. Using a slotted spoon or sieve to keep the chicken and vegetable back, carefully pour in a third of the broth and whisk until well mixed. Continue with the next two thirds, whisking after every addition. Then add the half and half, milk, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Whisk well and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the mixtue has thickened. Add the chicken and vegetables, adjust seasonings, then ladle into soup bowls. Turn the pie crusts over onto a lightly floured cutting board and pat it flat with your hands. Cut the dough into wide strips. Weave the strips over the tops of the bowls and trim the ends 1/2" below the outside rim. Roll leftover dough in long "snakes" and put around the edges of the pies, pinching the dough around the edges to seal the edges. Crimp with your fingers or a fork. Let some spaces remain between the woven dough for steam to escape. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the filling is bubbly and the crusts are golden brown. Serves 4.

*Note for vegetarians: substitute 2 cups chopped portabello mushrooms for the chicken and vegetable broth for the chicken stock. Rather than cooking the mushrooms in the stock, like the chicken in the recipe above, cook them in the butter with the onion. Portabellos will give the pies rich flavor, replacing them with button mushrooms will not give the same depth of flavor.


Cheers To Saving $40--Plus Feijoada, The National Dish Of Brazil

The "city of love and mysteries" as Antonio Carlos Jobim sang, will host the 2016 Olympic Games. The gorgeous scenery of Rio de Janeiro will bring our flat panels to life with the lush green of Corcovado, the azure blue of the bay and the sensuous color and movement of Brazilian samba. Years ago, I captured the sounds of Brazil on tape: the soft patter of rain on the roof in the pretty fishing village of Buzios, brightly painted fishing boats bobbing in the harbor; the melodic sound of Portuguese weaving through the bustle of a marketplace; Caetano Veloso's melodic jazz on the car radio as we drove through verdant hills of papaya and palm; the jungle sounds of parrots and the buzzing and chirping of innumerable insects. The sounds evoke the aromas of Brazil--fertile, lush to the nose with the scents of tropical flowers, wet earth, sweat, and humid air redolent of cooking spices like cumin and clove. I used to have a brother in law who rode his bike from Sao Paolo, through Central America and Mexico, to California. Before we went to meet his family and see his hometown, I read every Brazilian book I could find, like Jorge Amado's mesmerizing novels of sensuous women and the working men who loved them, set in the frontier towns of the Recife and Ilheus where jungle was chopped and natives slaughtered to make way for prosperous plantations, and his vivid descriptions of local cuisine like vatapa (mashed shrimp, bread and coconut milk). I was a meat eater then and enjoyed the churrasco: skewers of grilled meat, and the fish and pork stews complex with spices, plus the first tuna pizzas I'd ever seen (this was way before Wolfgang Puck!). Brazil is the largest country in South America; the fifth largest in the world. Its native population has seen the influx of many immigrants--the Portuguese colonists, African slaves, Italians, Germans, Syrians, Lebanese, and Japanese. The beautiful contemporary Brazilians come in every shade of skin color and Brazilian food is as varied, too much to cover in a few paragraphs! But, I dug out some this recipes from when I had Brazilian family. Enjoy!
Brazil's national dish! You can make it with traditional meat ingredients, or with the adapted ingredients for the American kitchen.
Adapted Ingredients:
1 lb. smoked ham, cubed
1/2 lb. pork or beef ribs
1/2 lb. lean pork roast
1/2 lb. lean beef roast
1 lb. Mexican chorizo, sliced
Traditional meats:

1/2 lb. of each: salt-cured pork foot, ear, tongue and tail
1/2 lb. carne seca (dried beef)
1 lb. linguica sausage, sliced
1 lb. dry black beans
6 strips of smoked bacon
2 Tbsp. of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
salt to taste
black pepper
hot sauce (like Tabasco)
6 oranges: one for juice
How to prepare authentic feijoada meats:
Wash the salted pork parts (not the linguica) carefully and cut off excess fat. Soak in water with the dried beef for 24 hours, changing the water four times during this period. Then bring the water to a boil, pour the water out and fill the pot again and reboil. Repeat this so you have boiled the meat three times (this removes excess fat and saltiness plus tenderizes the meat). Take the meat out of the water and set aside.
For BOTH authentic and adapted recipes:
Soak the black beans in 2 quarts of water overnight in a separate pot. Then, put the pot on low heat and simmer for 4-5 hours (add water, if necessary, to keep the beans covered). In a Dutch oven, fry the bacon then pour out the grease. Chop up the bacon and set aside. Add olive oil to the Dutch oven and cook the onion, garlic and cumin in the pan for two or three minutes. Add sausage and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Add the rest of the meat, bacon, and beans with 1 quart of the cooking liquid the beans were in (add water if not sufficient and save any extra cooking liquid for use later if you need it), vinegar, hot sauce and the juice of one orange. Bring to a boil, stirring, then turn the heat to low and put the cover on slightly ajar (so there is a 1/2" gap) and cook for 2 hours or until the meat is tender. You may have to add some water (or the leftover bean cooking water)--so the stew has some sauciness but not is not thin. If the soup is too thin, put 1/2 cup of beans in a small bowl with some of the broth and mash into a paste, then stir the mashed bean into the stew to thicken the sauce. Separate the meat from the bones and cut into bite-sized pieces; put it back in the stew. Add salt to taste, if necessary. Serve over white rice and orange slices, with the Molho A Campanha on the side. Traditionally served with farinha de mandioca (flour made from cassava) which is a bit tart and nutty. Serves 10-12.

1 large onion, minced
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 hot pepper, minced (malagueta pepper if you can get one)
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 tsp. salt
Mix well. If the vinegar taste is too strong, add a little of the cooking liquid from the beans. Wine pairing for this recipe: the 2007 Carmichael "Sur le Pont" Syrah.

This week's Onlne Grapevine wine discount special can save you $40!


Recipes to pair with Pinot Noir

Quick and easy!
Seared Halibut Salad with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Sesame:
1 lb. Alaskan halibut (Ocean-friendly per Seafood Watch) cut into bite-sized pieces
5 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. sesame seed
1Tbsp. almonds, chopped
1 sun-dried tomato, minced
1/4 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt, or more, to taste
1/2 head of romaine lettuce, chopped
1 handful of arugula, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 avocado, sliced
1 ripe tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 Tbsp. vinagrette or Italian dressing
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used farmhouse cheddar)
Prep the salad by tossing the lettuce, arugula, and cucumber in the dressing (the salad should be lightly dressed). Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat and add the garlic, onion, oregano, almonds, sesame seed, sun-dried tomato and the halibut and cook until the fish is just cooked and not overdone. Rather than stirring as it cooks, which will break up the fish, use a spatula and turn the fish carefully to cook on all sides. Sprinkle with salt and adjust to taste. Spoon the hot fish over the salad, sprinkle with cheese and garnish with the avocado and fresh tomato. Enjoy with a nice glass of the 2007 Trifecta Pinot Noir.

From Riverbench Vineyard, a recipe to pair with their Estate Pinot Noir:
Cranberry Glazed Cornish Game Hens:
This dish is so easy to make yet so elegant. The high toned cranberry glaze pairs perfectly with our Pinot Noir that’s just bursting with red fruit nuances! Enjoy a glass while you baste the hens and you’ll be in heaven.
• 2 cornish game hens
• 1 cup canned cranberry jelly
• 1 tbsp. lemon juice
• ¼ cup white wine
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
• 1 tbsp. butter, softened
• Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove any giblets from the hens, then rinse them and pat dry. Rub with butter and then season liberally with salt and pepper or your favorite poultry seasoning. Place the hens, breast side up, in a sprayed baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, melt the cranberry jelly until smooth in a small saucepan. Add the wine, lemon juice and thyme and warm through. Keep on low heat and continue to stir so that it remains melted. After the hens have roasted for about 30 minutes, coat them liberally with the glaze. Continue to roast for another 20 minutes or until the hens are done, basting often with the remaining glaze.
The hens are delicious served with sweet potatoes or wild rice. Enjoy with the 2006 Riverbench Estate Pinot Noir!

Check out the Online Grapevine wine discount sales--every week a new offer! This week is a special discount on California and Oregon Pinot Noir: