Homemade Dashi Stock

I used to be under the mistaken impression that miso soup simply consisted of hot water, miso paste, and any “extras” the cook desires (cubed tofu, seaweed, sliced green onions).  When I tested this theory, however, I ended up with the saddest bowl of miso soup I had ever tasted.  It had the characteristic saltiness, yes, but the flavor was very one-dimensional.  A little internet research yielded information on the missing ingredient: dashi. A tasty broth, dashi is the backbone to any good miso soup; it’s where the lovely umami flavor comes from.  And it turns out to be surprisingly easy to make.  I found the necessary ingredients on a quick trip to the asian grocery store.

Kombu (seaweed)

Kombu (seaweed)

Bonito (fish) flakes

Plus a little something extra.

Steamed fish cake. I have no idea of what to do with this.

It can be intimidating to cook foods from different cultures, but dashi is a good way to start with Japanese food.  I am a complete novice when it comes to Japanese cuisine, but I found this recipe to be surprisingly simple.  In less than half an hour, you will have a delicious, savory broth that can be used for miso soup or for cooking rice.  I used mine to make mushroom rice (it’s just what it sounds like: rice, shiitake mushrooms, dashi, and some soy sauce for good measure).  I definitely plan to experiment more and will be posting the successes here!  Enjoy!

Dashi
makes 8 cups
from Alton Brown’s recipe

Ingredients
– 2 (4-inch) square pieces of kombu
– 10 cups water
– 2 cups bonito flakes

Place kombu and water in a large saucepan and let sit for about 20 minutes.

Place over medium heat and remove kombu before the water boils.  You can tell it’s time to remove it when small bubbles begin to appear on the surface of the water around the side of the pan.

Add the bonito flakes and simmer for an additional 10 minutes.  Use a fine sieve or mesh to strain the broth.

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On another note, do you know what you shouldn’t do?  When baking an eggplant, you should not take it out of the oven and decide you can make it cool down more quickly if you run it and the glass baking dish under cold water.  Don’t do that.

Spinach Ohitashi and Sushi Night

Near the very beginning of our relationship, Jeremy and I discovered a mutual love for sushi.  And then we discovered a mutual love for good sushi, which usually translates into expensive sushi.  Lately, I’ve been looking for ways to trim our dining-out expenses and sushi seemed like the perfect place to start.  A new shop has opened near our apartment that focuses on sustainable seafood, grass-fed meats, and local eggs and dairy (oh, Portland, I love it when you live up to your stereotypes).  The owner is extremely knowledgeable about all of his products and he carries a good selection of sushi-grade fish along with frozen seaweed salad and octopus salad.  I think that sushi night at home is going to become a tradition.

Please excuse the poor-quality photo.  We had our chopsticks poised and ready to go when I remembered that I wanted to take a quick picture.  🙂

This is also a meal that allows us to cook together.  Our kitchen is so small that there really is no way to get two people in there at once.  With sushi night, I’ve been taking over all the make-ahead meal components and Jeremy has been artfully composing the nigiri once we are ready to eat.  I think I’m going to use some of my winter break to learn more about Japanese cuisine that I can cook at home.  Stay tuned for more on that!

My first venture outside the realm of  sushi rice was when I made Spinach Ohitashi last week.  The recipe was fast and simple and the ingredients were already in my pantry.  Cooking a new type of cuisine can be intimidating and so it felt nice to start small.  The simplicity of this dish made me feel that I could tackle it without any mishaps and the simple, healthy flavors were a wonderful complement to the tasty sushi we enjoyed.

Dan likes sushi night, too.

Spinach Ohitashi
serves 2

Ingredients
– 4 cups spinach, rinsed
– 2 tsp soy sauce
– 1 tsp sesame oil
– 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

1.  In a large pot, bring plenty of salted water to a boil.  Add all the spinach at once and cook until tender, 2-3 minutes.

2.  Drain spinach and quickly submerge in ice cold water to shock it.  Remove from water and carefully squeeze out excess water.  It may take several minutes of squeezing to get out most of the water.

3.  With a fork or your fingers, separate the spinach a bit so it is not too compact.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil and mix.

4.  Transfer spinach to serving bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

*This recipe is included in Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Freaky Friday at Real Food Freaks, and Fresh Bites Friday and Real Food, Whole Health.