cooking

grilled tuna cheek

2020-09-26 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We grilled a pair of tuna kama, or cheeks -- that is, the 2 sides of a tuna head, from behind the eye and mouth to the leading edge of the gills.

The pieces are fairly large, about 30 centimeters across. The tuna probably weighed 50 kilograms.
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Terrific bargain at only 500 yen per piece! In areas where fresh fish is plentiful and mundane (such as fishing villages, where sashimi comes with every meal while buttered toast is a delicacy), fish is cheap. Where we live, the opposite holds.
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We add no flavoring. Grill at oven humidity 50 %, oven temperature 210 C, heat until core temperature reaches 65 C.
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The meat shrinks and pulls itself off of bone and cartilage. Noriko likes the crispy parts (like well-done bacon that breaks and crumbles instead of bending or folding). I like the moist soft parts. Eating together we could not finish in a single meal. Tuna salad tomorrow!
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sister gifts

2020-09-23 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Our sister brought us lots of fresh veggies!

We begin with fresh ears of corn!
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Steamed, no flavor added, superb!
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kabocha

2020-09-21 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We experimented steaming a whole smallish kabocha.

We usually cut
kabocha (Japanese pumpkin, colored green not orange, with unusually tough skin that can break knives) before steaming or baking. I am scared of cutting myself if I slip while cutting the tough skin. So tonight we steamed the kabocha whole.
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We knew that steaming would soften the kabocha. What we wanted to determine was how messy it would be to remove the fibers and seeds. This step is easy when the kabocha is uncooked.
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Turns out that the cooked fibers and seeds can be swiftly removed with a spoon or chopsticks. From now on we will probably steam kabocha whole for safety and convenience!

roast pork

2020-09-19 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are becoming better at roasting and delivering pork for our families.

First we steam through, oven humidity at 100 %, oven temperature at core temperature + 60 C, heat until core temperature reaches 60 C.
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Then we crisp the skin and heat through, oven humidity at 50 %, oven temperature at 190 C, heat until core temperature reaches 72 C, let stand while meat continues to cook.
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Meat shrinks (compare the gap with the picture of uncooked meat above). Sizable enough to feed a family for a dinner or two.
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Wrap and deliver.
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We eat some too.
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fresh delights

2020-09-19 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We decadently opened fresh jars and tins purchased at Costco.

Peanut butter has been in short supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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This Nutella impostor costs half of the real thing, but more importantly, less viscous, and easier to scoop and spread.
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Tastes pedestrian, like Yorkshire tea, just the way I like it.
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fall is in the food

2020-09-15 TOKYO, JAPAN -- You know autumn approaches when you crave warm food.

Wonton soup replaced hiyashi-chuuka (chilled noodles) today as our lunch.
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Hiyashi-chuuka just 3 days ago. We're sure that there will be plenty of hot days over the next several weeks.
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cakes

2020-09-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- On my way home from the doctor (routine checkup) I bought cakes for Noriko and Kero. A year ago this would not have been a big deal, but nowadays shopping at stores is rare.

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Kero declares "Yum!".
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satsuma-age

2020-09-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Mom's friend sent her a box of satsuma-age (fish paste fried in oil). We got to taste some, and they were so good that Noriko and her sister ordered a box each.

Sotto voce: These are the priciest satsuma-age I have ever seen.

Our box came with a pink sea bream, thought to bring good fortune.
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We grilled the fish cakes along with eggplants, shiitake mushrooms, and atsu-age (fried tofu).
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No flavoring needed! Great with beer.
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lekker belegde broodjes

2020-08-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- In 2 days it will be 6 months since my last day at work. Today I submitted yet another job application.

Noriko celebrated by getting us fancy sandwiches (belegde broodjes) from a
nearby bakery that she and her sister like.
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Almost like taking a virtual trip to Belgium!
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We reminisced over life in Antwerp with onion soup in
UA (Universiteit Antwerpen) mug. Good days!
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satsumaage

2020-08-13 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Mom's friend sent mom a box of satsumaage (deep fried fish cakes). Mom gave us some to eat at home.

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Instead of boiling them (as is customary) we baked them in the oven. Delicious!
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5 months since retirement

2020-07-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Today is 5 months from my last day of work at Hokkaido University. The 29th of each month is a temporal milestone for me. Not that I did anything special ...

I hung toy aircraft from the ceiling. Battery-operated fans make the plane fly in circles.
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A red light flashes on this helicopter. Silly things like this make me happy.
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Easy cooking with our steam convection oven. Throw all ingredients (uncooked macaroni and all) in a pan.
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Stick the pan in the oven, do something else (like taking a bath) and dinner is served.
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cookie monster

2020-07-25 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Noriko got me a box of maple syrup cream cookies.

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I spent my early childhood in Ontario Canada. My top favorite sweetness is maple syrup. Absolutely delicious!
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In one sitting ...
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deliver dinner

2020-07-14 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- We delivered grilled yellowtail to my mom.

Our
steam convection oven and its temperature probe grills the fish to perfection.
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Noriko wrapped the fish in aluminum foil, and placed it in an aluminum grill pan. These pans are unavailable in Japan. We brought them from USA years ago.
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I feel like a pizza delivery person! Wish I could chat with mom for a while, instead of dropping of food and driving away.
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umeboshi

2020-07-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- After what felt like 20 years, although in reality probably around 10, I finished a big bag of umeboshi my mom lovingly made for me.

Each umeboshi is the size of a chicken egg yolk.
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Umeboshi are horribly (sorry mom) salty and sour. I was unable to eat them until recently when Noriko began to soak them in hot water.
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The sodium and acid would leach into the water that I could drink as a refreshing beverage after physical exercise. Then I would eat the not-so-salty-or-sour umeboshi.

Incidentally, we do not add salt to our cooking. The salt in whatever sauces or prepared food we use is enough. We have yet to finish a 100-gram jar of salt that we bought in 1996.
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The humongous bag of umeboshi is finally empty. Noriko is wondering what to put in the special corner of our refrigerator that was occupied for so long by this bag. I am not asking mom for a refill!
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cool dessert

2020-06-27 TOKYO, JAPAN -- On hot humid days, cold desserts cool mind and body. We enjoyed mango jelly in a Thai pot (originally for serving steamed rice). 203 yen for 1 kilogram, if i remember correctly.

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tortilla pizza

2020-06-24 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We baked pizza using tortillas instead of pizza dough. Excellent if you like ultra-thin pizza. Stack 3 tortillas if you like thicker crust. Sandwiched pizzas are fun too.

We drew with pizza sauce.
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Tortillas puff up during baking.
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Kero inspects his creation.
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masked mom

2020-06-07 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- We delivered roasted pork to my mom this morning. Alas we were forced to wear masks, and to part in less than 2 minutes. I felt like a newspaper delivery person.

Truth be told, as far as family is concerned, I can hardly wait for COVID-19 to become less of a concern.

I have few complaints other than being unable to see my friends and family. We were planning to quit my job and stay at home anyway. However, I confess that our house is not being organized or improved at the speed I promised myself.

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kama and saku

2020-06-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Tonight's menu: grilled yellowtail.

The temperature sensors adjust heating.
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I set the finishing core temperature to 72 degrees Celsius, clearly meeting and exceeding guidelines for safe food preparation.

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The cheek is called
kama, literally meaning sickle, due to the curved shape of the gill cover. The filets are called saku, meaning wood blocks, again due to the boxy shape resembling wooden blocks or planks.
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We delivered to our sister who lives downstairs. What a shame that we are forced to leave the food outside the front door so that she can bring it in. I haven't talked to her in months.

grocery shopping

2020-06-02 KAWASAKI, JAPAN -- We rented a car, walked at a bayshore park, and shopped at a hardware store, supermarket, and Costco. This is our 3rd time going shopping since we returned to Tokyo on 2020-04-11.

We watched ships enter port.
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$500 worth of groceries. I'm becoming numb to grocery bills, haha!
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Items that were scarce are returning to shelves (or, at Costco, on pallets): rice, toilet paper, pasta (spaghetti and macaroni), and hygenic masks (I know the proper term is surgical mask but few people buy them for surgery). I could not find peanut butter. Good news: tomorrow we are grilling fish!

I wish we had a car with a big refrigerator. The weather is getting hotter day by day.
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refrigerator

2020-06-01 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are pleased with ourselves for cleaning our refrigerator.

Years ago we needed to defrost the fridge. Ironically fridges (or reefers if you prefer that term) were cleaner back then because you would periodically empty the fridge and wipe it down. Today's fridges are frost-free, so we tend to forget to clean them.

We bought our fridge 25 years ago, when I began my PhD program.
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We emptied our fridge. Noriko washed all the shelves and boxes. I wiped the fridge itself with bleach.
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Spick and span!
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Our fridge door is decorated with frogs (one plays trumpet) and my plaque for my food processing certification (which allows me to operate a restaurant).
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trivet

2020-05-31 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We polished a silver-plated bronze trivet that Noriko received as a wedding gift.

The trivet was hand-made by an artist named Michael Aram.
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We replaced the felt pads with synthetic cork that was originally intended for my trumpet's waterkey valves. (A waterkey valve lets water flow out of the trumpet tubing.)
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The new feet are softer, quieter, and raise the trivet away from the tabletop.
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sushi

2020-05-29 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We ordered sushi delivery. Yummy!

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Enjoy life!

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hone knives

2020-05-18 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Weather was bad. Instead of running, I exercised by honing kitchen knives.

Can you guess which knives are my favorite?
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In the above photo, from left to right: (1) Noriko's heavy Chinese chopping and crushing knife, (2) my favorite Japanese nakkiri (veggie chopping) knife that was a gift from my mom, (3) my favorite Japanese gyuto (meat) knife that I bought in Sapporo about 15 years ago, and (4) Noriko's mom's Japanese deba (meat and bone) knife, which alas is beyond repair.

3 photos of nakkiri showing detail after sharpening.
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3 photos of gyuto showing detail after sharpening.
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cooking for family

2020-05-13 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Now that our pantry and refrigerator are full with food, it's time to feed the family!

I made diabolically hot mabotofu. Oops!
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Baked sweet potatoes. These are beniharuka potatoes. Big and sweet.
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Roasted beef. I improvised a roasting rack out of a yakitori (skewered barbecue chicken) rack and chopsticks.
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We shared food with our sister and her family. I wish we could eat together! 10 meters away but not a word exchanged face to face.
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an immovable feast

2020-04-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- We are ordered to stay indoors for 14 days except for medical emergencies. Our sister can leave the house for grocery shopping and exercise. But we cannot, because we returned from the USA, which is deemed an area of concern by the government of Japan. So we dine splendidly at home!

Sushi delivery! Seen with red suitcases in the background.
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Delivery rice pot! Complete with soup.
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Our sister Keiko bought us fresh produce for us to cook.
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Our cousin Satoko sent us fish and roe.
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Fresh steamed rice!
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Well-stocked pantry.
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