Thursday, 27 October 2011

SmartCooks Bentos 6-10

SmartCooks here.

Bentos encore!  Numbers 6-10 for Week 2 of "Let's Go Bento-ing"!   

I can't get enough of the Just Bento and Just Hungry websites and cookbook.  They are full of nutritious, healthy, Japanese-style cooking tips, primarily vegetables but not exclusively.

The recipes for Bentos 6-10 are posted below.  I redid two dishes from last week:  Celeriac/Carrot Salad (far right) and Cucumber/Cabbage Pickles (in a silicone cup on left side) so won't include those recipes in this posting. The Red Onion and Parsley Salad is shown in the middle compartment on the bottom, the Stir Fry Bok Choy is top right and Chicken/3-colour Peppers is on the left side. 

All 3 new Bentos were easy, not large quantities and kept well in storage:  
- Red Onion and Parsley Salad;
- Stir-Fry Bok Choy; and
- Chicken with Three-Colour Peppers Stir Fry.

In addition, I made two other dishes for use during the week:  Tonkatsu Pork Chops and Sushi Rice.  I'm doing separate, short, blog postings for those two recipes as I plan to return to them again and again.  

First, New Staples!

Following my successful shopping adventure to the ever-so-claustrophically crowded T&T Supermarket in Ottawa, I was ready to go.  I now have Shichimi pepper, my new "go-to" pepper.  It is a mix of seven different spices. It’s not really that spicy in small amounts. It’s mainly used to add a little heat to dishes and as a garnish. The mix is typically made from:
Ground red pepper
Sesame seeds
Poppy seeds
Sansho pepper*
Dried citrus peel
Nori (seaweed)

And, since I've never heard of Sansho pepper, I checked  the Japanese Kitchen website.  Despite its name, Sansho pepper is not actually a pepper -- more of a spice with a bit of lemon. Sansho pepper is usually sold ground, but you can also buy the berries and grind it yourself. It’s typically used on grilled foods like yakitori (chicken).  The sansho or prickly ash tree also yields the fragrant kinome leaves -  which are often used as a garnish.

So, yummm.  A new spice to add to my collection.  

Bento Recipes

1) Red Onion and Parsley Salad (Let's Bento)

1/2 medium red onion, very thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)
pinch salt
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (I used half curly, half flat leaf)
black pepper
1 tsp rice vinegar
pinch sugar

Sprinkle the onion with a pinch of salt, and massage the salt into the onion with your hands. This takes away much of the harsh flavour of the onion slices, leaving them softened yet still crunchy.  The onion will exude a lot of water.  Squeeze to expel as much moisture as possible.  (I left them in a colander for half an hour).  Mix ingredients well and store.  (Note:  This easily lasts 3 days in the refrigerator, well covered, so judge quantities accordingly.)

2) Stir-Fry Bok Choy (Bryson's Farms )

1 lb bok choy (I used what I would call one 'head' of bok choy
4 ounces (1/2 cup) chopped mushrooms (shitake, oyster)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 T. ginger, minced
3 T. canola oil
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Few drops of sesame oil
Vegetable or Chicken stock (if on hand)
(Note:  I added a few sprigs of other greens to this since I have so MUCH green stuff.  I also cut the bok choy into smaller pieces so it fit into the Bento box)
Trim the bok choy of any discoloured leaves and slice it into 1 ½ inch pieces.  Heat the oil in a preheated frying pan or wok. Add the mushrooms, garlic, ginger, salt and stir fry for a minute or so. Add the bok choy and sugar and cook for 45 seconds or so. Add 2-3 tablespoons water or vegetable or chicken stock and cover. Cook for another minute until just tender.  Season lightly with some sesame oil and serve.
3) Chicken with Three-Colour Pepper Stir Fry 
1/2 T olive or other vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
3 T roughly chopped green onions
2 tsp peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 each of medium-sized red, green and yellow sweet peppers, de-seeded and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (can also do strips)
salt, for sprinkling
2 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (can do more chicken... I did) 
black pepper, to taste
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp Sriracha sauce (optional) 
Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the green onion and ginger and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until the oil is fragrant.  Turn the heat to the highest setting and add the peppers to the pan.  Stir fry with a spatula or long chopsticks.  Sprinkle in some salt to draw out moisture from the vegetables and cook them faster.  Continue stir frying for 4-5 minutes, until the peppers are cooked. 
Push vegetables to the sides of the pan and add the chicken to the pan.  Leave for a couple of minutes to cook, then turn over to finish cooking.  Stir everything together, and add black pepper, soy sauce and Sriracha (if using). 
Put the stir fry from the pan onto a cold plate to cool rapidly.  When cooled, pack into a container and store in refrigerator.  


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