happy matryoshka bento

25 04 2011

tonight for dinner i made an awesome pan-seared cod dish, served with shitake-miso-arugula-quinoa salad (recipe below) and a fat slice of oven-roasted beefsteak tomato.

for tomorrow’s lunch, which is my last passover lunch for the year (YAY!), i packed some of the cod beneath a layer of the quinoa salad, topped with a cheese-and-nori matryoshka.  the side portion has steamed broccoli, a fish sausage heart, steamed asparagus, sweet potato “doilies”, pea pods, and a lettuce border.

quinoa has been a controversial grain for those observing passover — because it was not a part of the diet of the jews who fled slavery in egypt, it was never placed on the list of forbidden passover foods, even though it expands like rice and other forbidden grains.  that’s good enough for me, and because quinoa is protein-packed, it’s a nice change from rice.

the basic recipe is simple, and the number of potential add-ins is infinite.  here’s the combo i came up with tonight:

shitake-miso-arugula-quinoa salad (if you can come up with a better name, let me know!)

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 8 medium shitake caps, julienned
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • olive oil to coat a medium skillet
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. shiro miso paste
  • 3 big handfuls of arugula
  • pepper to taste
  1. coat your skillet with olive oil and heat it up.  add the sliced garlic and julienned shitake caps, and sautee until golden.
  2. add the quinoa to the pan and stir until it’s evenly toasted but not burned.  (this is the same process you would use when making risotto and toasting the arborio rice prior to adding liquid.)
  3. in a separate pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil, and then whisk in the miso paste.
  4. add the quinoa-shitake-garlic mixture to the boiling miso broth, cover and reduce to a low simmer.  allow to cook for 10-15 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed and the individual quinoa grains are plumped.  turn off heat and leave lid on to steam for an additional 2 to 5 minutes.
  5. transfer the quinoa-shitake-garlic mixture to a mixing bowl, and fold in the arugula.  it will steam/wilt in this process; make sure fold until it’s evenly incorporated.

that’s it!  it’s good hot or cold, and very nutritious.





“picnic for one” bento

11 06 2010

today, if the weather holds out, i’m planning on taking the dog to the park for lunch.  i’m still exploring my new neighborhood, and the dog is a chubster who needs to walk more, so this is killing two birds with one stone.

i wanted to bring a simple and easy (and mostly recyclable) lunch with me — i’ll still need to worry about bringing the actual box and the little dip container home, but both of those have lids, so any food residue stays pretty self-contained.  the food cup, wax paper “baran” and recycled wood silverware will all go in the appropriate bins.  and the food itself is mostly finger-friendly: summer veggies i can dip and munch with one hand, and tea-sized sammies that are really only two bites each.

the sandwiches are vegetarian ham, cheese, and butter lettuce on sourdough with mustard; i topped them with two flowers stamped into potato bread (actually, leftover potato burger buns from a BBQ last weekend — these work well for impressions because potato bread is sooooooo soft).  the vegetables are ripe grape tomatoes, quick-steamed corn and brussels sprouts, and raw asparagus (there’s ranch dip in the container).  a paper-lined foil cup with grapes, strawberry quarters and a mint garnish, and i’m all set.

wishing all my bento pals a tasty weekend!  i’m in new orleans tomorrow through tuesday, so no bentos from me for a bit, but maybe some beignet pictures on twitter?

[as seen on more design pleaseapartment therapy, and re-nest]





kimchi grilled cheese bento

9 06 2010

late last week i received an awesome housewarming gift from one of my sweet bento pals:  a small, detailed, mouse-shaped cutter.  thanks a million, you-know-who, i love it!  and what better way to use a mouse cutter than in a cheese-filled bento?

inside this box is a yummy kimchi grilled cheese sandwich (inspired by the sandwiches we saw being sold by one of the vendors at last weekend’s renegade craft fair!) cut into thirds, topped by beet mice.  in the top section is a piece of panko-fried chicken, some pencil-thin asparagus wrapped in thinly-sliced turkey, a few tomatoes, a piece of steamed broccoli, and the wedge of cheese those mice are looking for!  i made the cheese by cutting a small wedge of parmesan off the block in my fridge, and then topping it with a piece of american out of which i cut holes with a round cutter and a drinking straw.

kimchi grilled cheese

for each sandwich:

  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 slices american cheese (or another yellow cheese of your choice; cheddar would be great)
  • 2 slices monterey jack cheese (or another white cheese of your choice)
  • 2 tbsp. diced kimchi
  • 1 tbsp. each butter and canola oil
  1. cover your cutting board or work surface with saran wrap or tin foil.  butter one slice of bread and place it on your work surface, butter side down (this is why we covered!).
  2. place a slice of yellow cheese and a slice of white cheese on the bread.  spread your diced kimchi evenly over the surface of the cheese.  place another slice of white and then another slice of yellow.
  3. butter your other slice of bread and place it on top of the stack, butter side up.
  4. in a frying pan, heat your oil and then turn the heat to medium-low.  place the sandwich in the pan, and then cover the top of the pan loosely with tin foil.
  5. place another heavy pan (or whatever comes in handy — i used my teapot) over the tinfoil, thereby weighing the sandwich down.  this encourages even heating and compresses the sandwich so that everything melts together more smoothly and the crust gets crustier.
  6. after 2-3 min. (or however it takes on your stovetop for the bottom side to get crusty golden brown), lift up the weight and the foil, flip your sandwich, and replace the weight and foil.  continue cooking for another 2 min. or until the other side is golden brown too.
  7. rest the sandwich on your cutting board for a few minutes — if you cut right away, all the cheese will ooze out.  but maybe you like it that way!




yum-yum bento box: frogs bento

1 06 2010

over the long weekend, i received my long-awaited copy of “yum-yum bento box: fresh recipes for adorable lunches,” by pikko and lucky sundae.

rather than just doing a straight-up review of the book, which i spent a good portion of yesterday browsing, i thought that this week i would post some of pikko and lucky sundae’s bentos, recreated and re-mixed by me.  this is a great way to show how the boxes illustrated in the book are customize-able — you can take the characters from one, and use decorations or side dishes from another, etc., to end up with a creative, colorful and nutritionally balanced meal!

today’s lunch consists of two froggie onigiri, as pictured in the “frogs” bento on p. 26 of the book.  i dyed my rice green with the green salmon furikake from my five-color decoben furikake pack, and added cheese and nori eyes and nori mouths, just like in the book.  however, i replaced the nori nostrils with sesame seeds, and used a smaller mouth that i had already punched out and stored in a zip-loc bag a few weeks ago.

as far as the food, i don’t eat pork (though the pork patties in the book’s picture look perfectly yummy!), so i replaced that protein element with vegetarian chicken tenders.  instead of sesame spinach, i used steamed broccoli, and instead of carrot music notes, i used sliced baby carrots and a music note food pick.  i changed the corn-on-the-cob to a pretty corn-and-pea flower (as seen on p. 73 of the book), and added some salami-wrapped asparagus bundles (like the bundles seen on p. 62) and a hot dog tulip (instructions on p. 65).  for another cute touch, i added a molded quail egg (instructions on p. 117).  finally, i was out of baby tomatoes, so i used cherries for red color, and added some pea pods to fill in empty spaces around the bento.

accompanying me to lunch is a dancing froggie keychain/phone tassel i received in today’s mail from a thoughtful bento pal.  thanks you-know-who, it’s the cutest!


i also want to mention that this is the first chance i’ve had to use my new two-layer tiffin, my prize from the kawaii bento club’s “i love robots” contest (i’ve also got dip for my veggies in a cute yellow striped case that was part of the same prize package).  thanks again to briton for hosting this fun activity and for the generous prize!  if anyone hasn’t been over to kawaii bento club’s HQ on squidoo, surf on over for a wealth of information!





hot pink bento

27 05 2010

i got this chic black furoshiki as part of my last bento & co. order, and i’ve been waiting to use it because i think it requires an equally chic and “adult” meal. this was my attempt at the required level of sophistication: three ume-furikake onigiris with ooba leaf wrappers, roasted asparagus and brussels sprouts (layered over pan-fried tofu), carved beet flowers, an oribenishiki from minamoto kitchoan, and a couple of blackberry skewers.

i know it’s the wrong season for roasted veg, but i wanted to stick to a limited color palette of hot pink and bright green.

phew, thank goodness tomorrow’s friday. and it’s a long weekend here in the US, too! hope all my bento pals and readers have a good one!

[as seen on love and trash]





kitty sausage bento

24 05 2010

no, not sausage made from a kitty, a piece of sausage made into a kitty…

i guess cats are just what people see when they stare at their food waiting for the characters inside to show themselves?  this happened to pikko recently, with cute results!  in my case, i knew i wanted to use a sausage disc, and the darkish brown color made me think of using light-colored features, which led me to a pink fish sausage nose, white cheese eyes with white sesame eyelashes, a yellow cheese mouth, and pale somen whiskers.

this kitty left her paw print on a quail egg, which is packed with steamed broccoli, my last asparagus tip, takuwan slices, blackberries, a juicy tomato, some peapods, and a sweet potato blossom.  the rice is decorated with some edamame halves and black sesame seeds.  alongside this lunch i have a sakuranbo (cherry jelly), one of yesterday’s purchases at minamoto kitchoan — can’t wait to try it!

UPDATE: i found the place where i got the idea for a paw-print on a quail egg… should have guessed it was the always-genius lucky sundae!





shikai maki bento

23 05 2010

thank you all for sharing so many wonderful links in your contest entries!  i had a wonderful time this weekend browsing through them — some took me to blogs i already know and love, and some took me to totally new sites i had never even heard of.

tomorrow’s bento has a few sources of inspiration:  one is the luxirare shikai maki bento that brenda posted in the comments, and another is the beautiful work of my good bento pal jenn (bentobird).  i tried to echo the natural elegance that her boxes epitomize, and it seemed fitting to incorporate her style into this meal, since her boxes often include sushi.  for the sushi component, i tried my hand at this interesting square-format sushi (using a handy how-to video on youtube!).  my roll contains shiso rice, kiwi strips, cucumber, and fried tofu… i need some more practice (the kiwi layer, in particular, didn’t hold its structure because the kiwi was so slippery), but i have the general idea and am sure i can improve!

another source of inspiration this week was a long-postponed first trip to minamoto kitchoan, the fine purveyor of gorgeous wagashi (japanese sweets) located on manhattan’s chi-chi 5th avenue.  here is a photo from their display case (these are plastic, but do look just like some of the items they are selling):

alongside tomorrow’s box i have a shobumochi packaged to look like a beautiful iris.  this will cap off my dessert fruit section (kiwi slices, pomegranate seeds, two juicy blackberries and one ripe cherry), which will in turn balance my veggie section (peppery arugula, a tiny sweet red pepper, two asparagus tips, two carved takuwan flowers, and a quail egg). to fill up the empty space in the box, i placed a bottle of soy dressing and a pair of disposable chopsticks (both decorated with washi tape in complementary colors).  the box is packed in a pretty red-patterned furoshiki that i received from another sweet bento friend.

— ♥ —

getting back to the contest… i edited the entry comments in order to number them, and then used the random.org website to generate a random integer from 1 to 95:

the winning entry, number 79, is abby of totoro bento!  congratulations!  please get in touch with your mailing information and i’ll mail your prize package right away.