salmon cakes bento

21 09 2010

another super simple bento for tomorrow’s lunch:  mini salmon cakes (from the frozen section at my organic market), brown rice with lentils and a black-and-white sesame seed stripe, “health salad” (cabbage, cucumbers, peppers, carrots and dill wilted in a light vinegar dressing, almost like a mayonnaise-less coleslaw), a few takuwan flowers, and a cherry tomato.  banana ooyoo and a lady apple for dessert.

tomorrow after work, i’m meeting up with joe mcpherson of zenkimchi, one of my favorite food blogs.  he’s in NYC after giving a presentation on buddhist temple cuisine, and hosting a meet-up for other foodies — we’re gonna grub down in K-town (which means bento-able leftovers, yay!).  if you’re interested in joining us, check out the facebook page and RSVP!

[posted at what’s for lunch wednesday — check it out and add your link!]





confetti rice bento

8 09 2010

tired work nights call for quick, easy meals; it’s no surprise that fried rice is one of my favorites. this batch has everything but the kitchen sink (leftovers from the last few weeks of summer produce): red and yellow peppers, serrano chiles, mushrooms, kosher hot dogs, spanish onion, kimchi, and zucchini, plus freshly-ground black pepper, soy sauce, gochujang, and a bit of sesame oil for flavor. the boyfriend hates peas and carrots, so i added a few of those, plus some takuwan strips, on top (rather than mixing in, which would mean he couldn’t pick them out) — i think the scattered effect looks a bit like festive confetti.

the rest of the box has steamed broccolini, cucumber sticks sprinkled with black sesame seeds, a fried quail egg, and a grape tomato. for dessert, i have a sidecar with green and champagne grapes, plus beautiful early-fall raspberries from my CSA share, garnished with a bit of mint.  that’s it; no fancy decorations this time (save for one pick), just a quick transformation of leftovers into a reasonably appealing lunch for tomorrow.

i need to take ruby on one more walk tonight, and then i’ll probably fall asleep watching the giants game.  g’night bento pals!





new miffy fork bento

28 07 2010

so, i treated myself and ordered a few things from rakuten… i’ve been slowly working them into my bento repertoire.  the new item i’m featuring today is a melamine miffy fork, it’s so adorable, and it’s not even really child sized, so it’s actually comfortable to eat with.

today’s bento has a cheese, radish, and nori miffy, on top of a mixed rice batch from my cuckoo pressure cooker — i used near east’s lentil rice pilaf, as well as some brown nishiki.  some baby cucumber slices also accent the rice, which is separated from the rest of the food by a strawberry-wax-paper divider.  the top section has baked tofu (recipe below), carrot flowers, steamed corn, a tiny yellow tomato and three tiny sweet peppers (from various brooklyn rooftop gardens), and steamed broccolini (which i love because it has a more delicate look than regular broccoli).

yummy baked tofu

  • 1 package firm tofu or tofu “steak” (i like house foods’ garlic-pepper tofu steak)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic or garlic paste
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (gochugaru)
  1. preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. cut the block of tofu into 4 pieces, cutting the long way.
  3. line a baking sheet or brownie pan with tin foil, and place the 4 tofu pieces on the foil with at least 1″ of free space around all sides of each tofu piece.
  4. in a small sauce pan, bring glaze ingredients (honey, garlic, soy, sesame oil, pepper flakes) to a simmer so that everything combines.
  5. using a basting brush, evenly coat 5 of the 6 sides of each tofu piece (don’t baste the bottom side right now). bake for 8-10 minutes, then re-baste those same 5 sides, and bake for another 8-10 minutes.  if any water has leached out of the tofu, carefully (e.g. with pot-holders) drain that liquid into your sink — we want a dry roast, not a steam!
  6. flip the tofu so that the un-basted side is on top; baste and bake for 8-10 minutes. re-baste and re-bake.
  7. are you getting the picture?  keep basting and turning, until the tofu has been in the oven for a good 60-70 minutes (we’re using a low heat , so don’t worry about the tofu burning).  once all sides are sufficiently glazed (they should be a deep, sticky brown), the tofu is done.  you may want to run the top side (or top and bottom sides) under the broiler for an additional 30-60 seconds, to get the glaze even darker and bubbly-caramelized.
  8. cut into even slices (the inside will still be pale, gradating out to the lovely brown crust), and if you wish, garnish with sesame seeds or chopped scallion.

has anyone noticed that almost all of my recipes involve soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and pepper flakes?  well, i guess i know what i like…

want to see more fab wednesday lunch bentos, or add a link to your own?  check out “what’s for lunch wednesday” at bento lunch!

[as seen on japanistic blog]





fried chicken sushi bento

10 06 2010

“fried chicken sushi”… that sounds weird, right?  well, i had leftover chicken, and i thought it might be nice to have a sushi roll in my bento, since that’s pretty rare for me (due to the fact that i don’t trust raw fish to keep fresh in the box at variable temperatures).  this maki includes vinegared rice, butter lettuce, thin slices of red onion, thin strips of jalapeno, and lime zest grated over the chicken just before rolling.  i think the combination is fantastic — try it and let me know if you agree!

the rest of my box contains quick-pickled cucumber slices (in a squished paper food cup), a puffy tomato “heart,” two tamogyaki slices, two steamed brussels sprout halves and a steamed broccoli floret, three carved carrot flowers, and a few pea pods.  i propped a juicy-ripe strawberry up in the background before popping it in my mouth!





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.





jalapeno-fried chicken bento

21 04 2010

a while back i placed a fresh direct order, and the amount of jalapenos that was delivered was waaaay more than what i thought i was ordering!  what’s a girl to do with extra jalapenos that have been lingering in the fridge for almost too long?  how about jalapeno-fried chicken fingers, and a hearty salad topped with jalapeno-citrus dressing!  that’s what i made for dinner (recipes below), and tomorrow’s lunch includes two good-sized chicken pieces.

the rest of the bento has brown rice topped with peas and two cute bears made from two hard boiled egg slices (nori and sesame seed facial details), a beautiful vine-ripe tomato, some steamed broccoli, three butterflies cut from fish sausage, some pea pods and clementine wedges, and some cucumber and takuwan slices.

— ♥ —

jalapeno-fried chicken fingers

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package panko (japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika to taste
  • 1 medium-to-large sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  1. get yourself a nice, big, and clean workstation, where you can set up three bowls.  put the flour in the first bowl, and mix in your salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika (if you haven’t made spiced dredging flour before, start with about 1/8 teaspoon of each and add more as you like).
  2. in the second bowl, crack and beat the two eggs.  add a few teaspoons of milk or water if needed to thin the egg mixture down.
  3. in the third bowl, toss your diced jalapeno with your panko.  now you have your breading station, and you should line up the three bowls so that the panko/jalapeno mixture is closest to your frying pan.
  4. cut your chicken into approximately uniformly-sized pieces — i like mine longer and thinner (like “fingers”), but you could easily do squatter “nugget” style pieces.
  5. in a large frying pan, heat the oil until you can drop a piece of diced jalapeno in and it bubbles and sizzles.
  6. once the oil has come up to temp, bread the chicken, one piece at a time, by first dredging through the spiced flour, then dipping in the beaten egg, and then rolling through the panko/jalapeno mixture.  i find it works best to use just one hand as your breading hand (just hold the chicken piece in that hand and work it through all three bowls).  that way you have a clean hand left to turn on the faucet when it’s time to wash the messy hand!
  7. once you have about 5 or 6 pieces breaded, gently place them in the oil (if you drop them with too much force, the hot oil will splatter and burn you), and fry until both sides are golden brown (about 2 minutes on the first side and 90 seconds on the second).  i like to blot the fried pieces with a paper towel and then pop them into a 375-degree oven for a few extra minutes, just to make absolutely sure they are cooked through.
  8. you will want to fry the chicken in batches (that’s why i said 5 or 6 pieces for the first go), being careful not to crowd the pan. crowding the pan will result in stuck-together pieces and non-uniform browning.

jalapeno-citrus salad dressing

  • light syrup from a can of mandarin orange slices (if you don’t have a can handy, you can make a simple syrup by combining equal parts water and sugar in a pan and stirring over a low flame until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is slightly thickened — the mandarin flavor is lovely here though, and worth the price of the can)
  • juice from 1.5 limes
  • 3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar (plain white vinegar is fine too)
  • 1 small to medium sized jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed
  • 1 kiwi, skin removed, cut into chunks
  • 4 mint leaves
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. in a food processor, blend about 1/2 cup mandarin (or simple) syrup with the lime juice, vinegar and jalapeno, until the jalapeno is finely ground and gives the syrup a green-speckled, slightly opaque appearance
  2. add the chunked kiwi and mint, and continue blending until thoroughly ground
  3. through the pouring hole on the food processor container, pour a thin stream of olive oil, allowing the food processor blade to emulsify the dressing
  4. season the dressing to your liking

the dressing is super simple, right?  it’s deliciously tangy, and removing the seeds and ribs from the jalapeno makes it just spicy enough to give the dressing a real kick (a bit of an after-burn, actually), but without setting your entire mouth on fire.  i like this dressing over a salad of spinach leaves, chunked avocado, kernels of sweet corn, thinly-sliced red onion, chunked (or grape) tomatoes, and some sliced jalapeno-fried chicken fingers!

speaking of those, here is a picture of the finished product:

enjoy!





froggie garden snack bento

19 04 2010

tomorrow i have a lunch meeting at work, so i only need a little snack bento.  this box combines two objectives:  a garden theme for hapa bento’s contest with japanistic, and a froggie theme to inaugurate the kawaii new box i received from a dear bento friend (thank you so much, you-know-who!).  plus, a lush and damp garden always has froggies hiding in it, so i think the frogs really are perfectly appropriate for the garden contest.

my frogs are made of cucumber (cut with a small veggie cutter shaped like a teddy bear head — just use the ears for eyes!), with cheese-and-sesame-seed eyes and vegetarian ham mouths.  the middle froggie is looking surprised, tee hee!

the rest of the box has my usual rice layered over tofu, then a layer of sliced takuwan, and then some double-cut carrot and purple potato flowers topped with white soy paper punched flowers.  to accent this garden, i added two grape tomatoes, and a bunch of pea pods to simulate the leafy area in which the flowers and tomatoes are growing.