Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hiroshima Style Okonomiyaki: Japanese Stuffed Crepe

Note: This is a guest post by Keith Miyake.

Greetings, I am Keith. (Auntie) Karolyn is like my second mom. My mom’s family and Karolyn’s family go back like half a century. I grew up alongside her kids and spent a ton of time at their home. Auntie Karolyn has taught me many things about life, family, friendships, and cooking. One of my earliest memories of cooking for others was a time when I was probably about 5 or 6 and I made bacon fried rice for Auntie Karolyn, my Auntie Cherie, and my mom’s mom.

Ever since Karolyn started Foodjimoto several years ago, I have been promising to do a guest post. There have been multiple occasions when I started preparing food with the intention of posting about it, but I always come up with an excuse not to follow through.

Finally, this past winter I was back in Southern California to visit family and to get away from the nasty New York winter and I made it a point, thanks to much prodding by my partner, Emily, to schedule a time to cook with Auntie Karolyn for Foodjimoto. That was nearly six months ago, and I kept putting off writing my post.

Emily and I met in New York. She’s a native Brooklynite and will occasionally slip into her accent to prove it. She’s a huge fan of Foodjimoto and has been talking about wanting to do a guest post for years. We spent pretty much an entire day shopping and cooking so that we could put together our posts. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we had a fabulous time in Auntie Karolyn's Kitchen.

Shaky image of me and Emily
Shaky picture of me and Emily. I probably said something stupid that made Auntie Karolyn laugh so her hand was shaking when she took this picture.

Anyway, here’s my long overdue post on okonomiyaki.

The summer after graduating from high school, I had the privilege to go on a trip to Japan with about a dozen young adults from the California Higashi Hongonji temples. One of the most memorable meals of the trip—besides the home cooked meals at temple stays—was at an okonomiyaki-ya in Hiroshima. We went to a six to eight story building in which every floor had independently operated okonomiyaki-ya. The story our hosts told us was that each chef prepared their okonomiyaki differently, but all of them were masters of their craft so superlatives like “best” were completely subjective. Apparently, okonomiyaki roughly translates to “as you like it” or something along those lines. I don’t speak Japanese (other than food words) so I might just be spreading lies. But the point is, when you make okonomiyaki, you can change it up however you want to suit your palette and the things you have in your kitchen. Brilliant.

Before I moved to NY, I used to make okonomiyaki at least a few times per year, always varying the style since I like to try different things. My tendency is usually to do a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, which is sort of like a crepe topped with fried goodness, but if I have one of those frozen seafood mixes in the freezer (with the squid, octopus, shrimp, oysters, and clams) then I’ll mix some of that in and do Osaka style okonomiyaki, which is more like an omelete or egg foo yung.

Wikimedia image of Osaka style okonomiyaki
Omelet-like Osaka style okonomiyaki
Wikimedia image of Hiroshima style okonomiyaki
Crap on a crepe, a.k.a. Hiroshima style okonomiyaki

The batter is the base of okonomiyaki, and there are as many variations on the batter as there are variations on toppings/fillings. When I went shopping I found fresh nagaimo, which is like a long slimy yam similar to yamaimo. It’s not necessary, and you can find a lot of recipes that don’t use it, but I like it because it gives the batter a really nice texture. You can also try things like grated apple, taro, or even cassava. There is a J-dorama called Teppan Shoujo Akane, or Teppan Girl, in which the protagonist is on a mission to develop her own style of okonomiyaki to fill her father’s shoes as the top okonomiyaki chef in Japan. The show was mediocre, but it gave me lots of inspiration to experiment with different ingredients and develop my own style okonomiyaki.

The recipe that follows is for my take on Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. If you want to try Osaka style, beat an egg into the batter and mix in the cabbage, bean sprouts, meats, and anything else you like, then spoon this mix onto the griddle and cook like an omelet.

Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki


  • 3-4in. piece of fresh nagaimo
  • sliced pork belly (2-4 slices per serving)
  • 1/2c. mochiko (sweet rice flour)
  • 1/2c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2c. lukewarm water
  • 2t. hondashi powder (fish stock)
  • 1c. shredded cabbage per serving (or more since it cooks down)
  • tororo kombu (a healthy 3-finger pinch per serving)
  • 1 egg per serving
  • pre-cooked yakisoba noodles, cooked ramen noodles, etc.
  • mayonaise, preferably Kewpie or similar sweet Japanese mayonaise
  • okonomiyaki sauce, tonkatsu sauce, or ketchup/worchester sauce mix
  • katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)
  • benishoga to taste
  • chopped scallions for flare
Ingredients for Okonomiyaki


Rinse off the sawdust from the nagaimo and peel the first few inches with a veggie peeler or pairing knife. Cut off the end and discard. Grate the peeled part of the nagaimo very finely with a ginger grater, if you have one. A grating microplane or a small-hole cheese grater will also probably work. The grated nagaimo will be slimy and will make the batter gooey and runny. Middle school me would probably insert a dirty joke here, but now that I’m older I’ll pretend like I resisted the urge.

A few inches of nagaimo, ready to be grated. We couldn't find the ginger grater after searching for 10 minutes so we used the microplane pictured on the right side of the image.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, add the hondashi powder to the water and mix. The hondashi powder might not dissolve. That’s fine.

Put the mochiko and flour into a mixing bowl. Incorporate the dashi and then begin adding the grated nagaimo a couple tablespoons at a time. Mix as you go. You want the batter to be runny—much more so than pancake batter, similar to crepe batter, but not watery. I’m really bad about measuring things and usually just do it by texture, so I’m not sure how much nagaimo you should be adding. If you add all of it and it’s too thick, add a bit of water. If the batter is watery, just add a bit more flour or mochiko. Flour will make it heavier, mochiko will make it lighter, but also more likely not to gel together when you cook it, so use your judgement as to how much/which to add.

I should have taken the picture after getting the consistency right...
Add the nagaimo and hondashi to the flour and combine. I should have waited until we got the right consistency before taking the picture, but oh well. Shoganai.

Heat a griddle or large skillet to “hot”. We used one of those old school cast steel electric griddles that are amazing for making pancakes. I don’t remember exactly what temperature we set it, but something around 400F - 450F is probably good. If you are using the stove, get your skillet nice and hot to where a water droplet will float around.

When the griddle is up to temperature, lightly oil the griddle with some high-temperature oil (not olive oil) and use a paper towel to spread it out.

Use a ladle to spoon about 1/4c. of batter onto the griddle. Use the backside of the ladle to spread the batter out, crepe style. I recommend doing this off to one side of the griddle and not directly in the middle since you will want room to flip it.

Ladle the batter onto the griddle off to one side
Ladle the batter onto the griddle and then use the ladle to spread the batter into a thin, crepe-like shape.

Pile a generous handful of shredded cabbage on top of the batter. I said a cup per serving in the ingredients list, but I probably use more than that since I have big hands and literally use a handful. Follow the cabbage by a layer of yakisoba—about half a “brick” if you’re using the prepackaged kind. Top the noodles with a few slices of pork belly. Some people like to add moyashi in addition to the cabbage, but I don’t like it as much, and since okonomiyaki is as *I* like it, I didn’t add any. But feel free to experiment with different ingredients.

You should definitely use more cabbage than this...Just saying.
You probably want to use more cabbage than this. This is kind of weak.

Let the pile cook for several minutes until the batter begins to brown on the bottom. The cabbage should also be cooking a bit.

Starting to brown on the bottom
Pork belly is yummy.

Using two spatulas (I prefer the wide-faced type designed specifically for this purpose), one on either side of the pile, get under the batter and flip everything over so that the pork belly is on the bottom. Let this cook for another few minutes until the pork belly looks cooked through and most, if not all, of the fat is rendered so that it’s not chewy.

When the pork belly looks cooked to your liking, crack an egg onto the empty side of the griddle and use a spatula to break the yolk and spread the egg evenly into a round, roughly the same size as the okonomiyaki pile.

Crack the yolk and spread it around
Crack the egg onto the griddle and use a spatula to break the yolk, then spread the egg out to approximately the same size/shape as your okonomiyaki pile.

Before the egg has a chance to set, use your two spatulas again to pick up the whole okonomiyaki pile and set it on top of the egg, crepe-side up, producing a sort of crepe-egg sandwich. Let it cook for another few seconds so the egg can fuse with everything else, but don’t let it cook so long that the egg becomes rubbery.

Place the pile on top of the egg before it sets
Transferring the okonomiyaki onto the still-soft egg.

Use the spatulas to remove everything from the griddle and flip it onto a plate, crepe-side down. Top with a generous amount of Kewpie and okonomiyaki sauce. Both bottles should come with a small squirt opening. I like to use these to create a cross-hatch pattern all the way across the top of the okonomiyaki. Add some benishoga and scallions for a little zing.

Finally, sprinkle generous amounts of katsuobushi and tororo kombu on top. Watch in amazement as both the katsuobushi and kombu dance from the steam. Fun!

Enjoy with cold sake or beer. Seriously, the saltiness and oiliness go perfectly with cold sake or beer.

Sake not optional.

Namu amida butsu, itadakimasu!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Faluda: A Burmese Summer Dessert Drink

Note: This is a guest post by Emily Hue, c/o Keith Miyake

I’m a big fan of Foodjimoto so posting this one is a dream come true. I’m Keith’s partner’s, Emily. You guys know Keith. He and his sister, Lauren grew up with the Fujimotos. He’s that all around camping buddy, PhD student, and handy fixer of things.  It’s been a long, cold winter in New York, where we live, so it’s nice to dream of a time when it was warm. When an ice cream dessert drink made sense.

To me, faluda is a Burmese/Indian dessert drink that ushered in summer time with my family after seemingly long rainy springs in Brooklyn. Made up of ice cream, bread pudding, and various kinds of gelatin and scented with rosewater, it's not for the faint of heart when it comes to sweetness. For special occasions such as birthdays or New Year's, this drink served as an incentive for me and my cousins to sit down, behave, and eat all the food on our plates just to get to the dessert.

After doing a bit of research on faluda, I found it's not only popular in Burma, India, and Pakistan, but also in Iran where it’s called Paloodeh. Not to mention the various diasporic populations that still make this drink to remind them of home.

The joy of faluda is that you can add whatever fixings you want to it according to taste.  This recipe includes some specialty items. You can get them at a South Asian supermarket or dry goods store. Since we did our shopping near the Foodjimoto studio, a.k.a. the Fujimoto’s kitchen, we were able to find a South Asian market called India Emporium, located in a strip mall in La Puente, at 17365 E. Valley Blvd., La Puente, CA 91744 where we got these goodies. If you ask for these ingredients by name and follow up with “They’re for Faluda,” a knowing gentleman in the front will be nice enough to ring you up.

These are the ingredients you need from the South Asian market:
From left to right: Rooh Afza, rose water, and basil seeds.
Rooh Afza: A non alcoholic citric concentrate that acts like a syrup used to flavor icy drinks including milkshakes and sherbet drinks throughout South/Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Rosewater: like it sounds, rose-scented water that brings out the flavor of the faluda so that it’s not just sweet to eat, but sweet to smell.

Basil Seeds: you soak them over night and they puff up into 1 cm shaped beads that add the tiniest crunch to a mixed drink. Some folks prefer them instead of sago pearls.

Sago Pearls (pictured below): small starchy balls, similar to tapioca pearls, only smaller. They are used to add texture to desserts throughout much of Asia, as in the ABC drink found in Malaysian snack shops.

Here’s an up-close shot of the sago pearls so you can see how small they are!

Here are all of the ingredients you will need:

Some people like to include raisins; agar agar can be used instead of jello for less sweetness; basil seeds and sago pearls are interchangeable, or both can be used together. For me, if it’s a slightest bit too sweet then it’s perfect. This one is adapted from my mother’s recipe. I prefer no raisins and used jello instead of agar agar—they have similar prep. But flavored jello is sweeter compared to agar agar which is more for texture than for taste. Also, I include pictures of basil seeds in case you want to use them. I left them out the final recipe this time around because they need to soak overnight.


Makes 4 to 6 servings  (use approx. 10 oz glasses)

Bread pudding:
4 eggs
8 T sugar
1/2 can of evaporated milk (half of a 6 oz Carnation’s can is fine)
1/2 c. of milk
10 slices of white bread (crusts off)

Bread pudding as described above
2 packets of Jell-O (whichever flavors/colors you want, I stuck with Orange and Lime); can substitute agar agar
Vanilla  ice cream (1 – 2 scoops per serving)
1/4 packet of sago pearls (approx. 100g dry measure)
Rooh Afza (approx. 1 t. per serving)
Rose Weater (approx. 1/2 t. per serving)
Raisins (optional; 1-2 t. per serving)

Preheat the oven up to 375°F

Take the crust off the slices of bread and then tear the slices into 2 inch pieces. Place these bread pieces in a 9"x12" baking dish.

Whisk together 4 eggs, mix in the evaporated milk and regular milk, and then add the sugar. Pour the egg mix over the bread pieces.

Use a spoon or your hands to fully combine the bread and egg mixture. Allow the bread to soak for 2 additional minutes.

Bake at 375°F for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the bread pudding from the oven and set aside to cool. After it has cooled, slice it into chunks small enough to fit in your serving cups.

While the bread pudding’s in the oven enter into sago phase. Pour the sago pearls into a prep bowl.

Fill up a saucepan halfway with water, set to boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the the sago pearls. Boil them for 1 minute and then transfer everything to a heat-safe bowl.

Cover with foil and allow it to sit for about 45 minutes. You’ll know they're ready when the sago pearls are mostly transparent. You should taste a couple to check. They should be slightly firm but not chalky. If you come up upon some chalkiness you may want to drain off the water as it cools and try to pour boiling water over the sago pearls one more time and let the pearls sit a while longer. When they are the right texture/transparency, transfer them to a sieve and rinse with cold water.

While you are waiting for the sago to soak, boil some additional water for the Jell-O. Follow the directions on the packet. You should have two to three colors/flavors at your disposal. I ended up with a lot of extra jello this time. I’d suggest only preparing half a Jell-O package unless you want to eat the rest of it separately.

Directions to plate/serve:

Start with a clear glass, approx. 10 oz. This is not a hard and fast rule I just think it looks decadent. My favorite part of making faluda is drizzling in the Rooh Afza and watching that neon red syrup turn everything else in the drink gradations of pink. A clear glass makes it easier to witness the magic.

Visualize this as the layering of a parfait.

Add 2 or 3 tablespooons of sago pearls
Drizzle half a teaspoon of rose water into the glass
Drizzle a teaspoon of Rooh Afza into the glass.
Place a few cubes/chunks of bread pudding into the glass onto top of the sago pearls
A few tablespoons of Jell-O on top of this
Top off with two small-ish scoops of ice cream.

You can play with the ratio according to your taste, rooh afza makes things sweeter as do more jello and ice cream.

The last step is probably my favorite. As my mom would say, "YOU HAVE TO MIX IT!" Use a spoon or straw to mix the drink so that all the ingredients seem evenly dispersed. You should end up with a pinkish hue. Swirls of deeper pink are fine. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Do you ever see a beautiful photo of food and want to make that dish? That happened to me when I saw Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pastured Bacon, Garlic and Sage (Dairy Free) on Foodgawker posted by Jody Engstrom from her blog, Living Nutrition. It made me think of the Japanese word "oishisou" (that looks delicious). Go ahead, click through to her post and see what I mean. Doesn't that look delicious?!
I've had a spaghetti squash sitting in a wire basket in my kitchen for about...ah...two months. They last a long time. When I saw the photo--that's when I finally decided what I was going to make with it. It's a simple recipe, doesn't have a lot of ingredients--and resist the temptation to add butter or parmesan cheese--it doesn't need it. Really!

Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole

adapted from Jody Engstrom at mylivingnutrition.com

Serves 4-6

1 spaghetti squash, seeded and halved
4-6 slices bacon (Jody uses pastured bacon)
1/2 diced sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can of full fat, unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste

Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds using a spoon, scraping out most of the fine strings.
Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray and put into a 400ºF oven for about 35-45 minutes or until the squash is tender.
While the squash is baking, cook the bacon until crispy. I like to chop the bacon first, then fry it. Drain and set aside, reserving 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease to cook the onions and garlic.
This is fresh sage. Remove the leaves and mince enough to measure 1 tablespoon.
I've got sage growing on a mound of dirt in my front yard under my pine tree. Looking at this photo reminds me I need to get out there and clean up my herb garden. I've got paperwhite narcissus growing there amongst the herbs and I've been trying to weed them out--but they keep coming back.

When the squash is tender and it has cooled a bit, scoop the meat of the squash into a large bowl. I first used a fork to separate the strings of the squash to turn them into 'spaghetti'.
This is why they call it spaghetti squash!
This is the coconut milk I bought. I like to have some in the pantry--it comes in handy. I think it's best to find one without a lot of extra added ingredients. This one just listed coconut and water.
Pour the coconut milk into the bowl with the other ingredients and mix well. I added a little more coconut milk to moisten the mixture because I thought it was a little dry, but I think it would be just fine to add a little water since the coconut milk is so rich. No sense in opening another can/box like I did--this time.
Mix well and pour into a baking dish (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) and bake at 400 for 50 min-1 hour, or until browned on top.
I saved a little bit of the bacon to sprinkle on top and so my bacon lovers can add a little bit more to their serving.
I have to say--this dish was delicious! I too, have just had spaghetti squash with marinara--not something I get excited about--but I really liked it in this casserole. Take a look at the other recipes on mylivingnutrition.com. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the breakfast frittata in a jar that I've been wanting to try is from the same website. I'm excited to try something else--there's so much that looks delicious as well as being healthy!


When I was making this dish, I thought of my friend Jen, thinking--she's really going to like this! She likes to eat healthy and clean. She has a spaghetti squash recipe she cooks in the crock pot.

Jen's also an athlete. She recently ran a half-marathon!

Remember Jen & Bobby? You saw them in my Takikomi Brown Rice post--they're part of my friend Sue's family.

Last year, at about this time, they were visiting from North Carolina for Rick & Jessica's wedding. Bobby was coaching football at a college there, and now their family is back here living in Southern California. We're all happy to have them back! 

Look how much Payton & Avery have grown!

Now Bobby is coaching football and basketball at Victor Valley College. It doesn't seem so long ago that Bobby was playing basketball with my son Rick.
Take a lot of pictures--they grow up fast!


Creamy Spaghetti Squash Casserole

adapted from Jody Engstrom at mylivingnutrition.com

Serves 4-6

1 spaghetti squash, seeded and halved
4-6 slices bacon (Jody uses pastured bacon)
1/2 diced sweet onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can of full fat, unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste

1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scrape out the seeds using a spoon. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray and put into a 400ºF oven for about 35-45 minutes or until the squash is tender.
2. While the squash is baking, cook the bacon until crispy. Drain and set aside, reserving 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease to cook the onions and garlic. Cook the onions and garlic until translucent.
3. Chop bacon and set aside. (Omit if you chopped your bacon before cooking.)
4. When squash has cooled, using a fork, string the spaghetti squash and put into a large bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
5. Bake at 400ºF for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until browned on top.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Spicy Sashimi with Umeboshi on Crispy Renkon

Have you ever had renkon chips? Renkon is lotus root. The only time I remember eating renkon when I was little was on New Year's Day--my grandmother said it was traditional--you ate it "so you can see the future". Renkon is also in nishime and umani--but I've never had it fried and crispy. Namiko Chen over at Just One Cookbook has a great tutorial on making renkon chips. If you want to cook anything Japanese, you can most likely find it on Just One Cookbook.

My daughter sent me this photo of a dish she was eating at the restaurant Nobu, in the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, and wanted me to try to make. I had no idea of what it tasted like--which was probably a good thing--it made me use my imagination. What would I WANT it to taste like?

My imagination led me to shiso and umeboshi, my favorite Japanese flavors and another favorite flavor, jalapeños--the result is this Spicy Sashimi with Umeboshi on Crispy Renkon.

You might remember this package of Butsugiri (cut in pieces) Wild, USA Sashimi--like the one I bought at Marukai for my Spicy Tuna on Crispy Rice post. The cost was under $5 for less than a quarter of a pound. Be sure to ask the man behind the counter which packages are ahi tuna.

Spicy Sashimi with Umeboshi on Crispy Renkon

Makes approximately 20 pieces


1/4 lb. ahi butsugiri tuna, diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste
1 teaspoon to 1/2 finely minced jalapeño pepper
20 shiso leaves
1 teaspoon shoyu

1 piece fresh renkon
1 teaspoon vinegar
oil for frying

optional: kaiware (daikon sprouts) for garnish

If you have umeboshi at home, you can finely mince into a paste 1 whole umeboshi. If you don't, my suggestion is to buy the umeboshi paste in the red tube--it's a lot smaller portion than the umeboshi paste in the larger, clear bottle. In my Stuffed Chicken Rolls with Shiso and Umeboshi post, I explain umeboshi a bit further.

If you don't care for the umeboshi taste, you can simply mix the jalapeño with some thinly sliced green onions, sesame seeds and a teaspoon of sesame oil and shoyu.
I diced the butsugiri tuna pretty small and mixed it with 1/4 teaspoon umeboshi paste and 1 teaspoon finely minced jalapeño. The ume taste wasn't apparent (to me) with such a small amount, even though the umeboshi paste is strong, so I added another 1/4 teaspoon of umeboshi paste and then added 1 teaspoon of shoyu (soy sauce). 1/2 teaspoon umeboshi paste gives it a subtle ume taste--if you like umeboshi, I'd add 1 teaspoon total. 

My husband doesn't like too much heat, so I took the seeds and veins out of the jalapeño and only added 1 teaspoon, but if I was making it for my parents who love jalapeños, I'd add half a jalapeño, seeds & all.

Refrigerate the sashimi until ready to use.

This is fresh renkon.

I bought this at Marukai market, and this is how it was packaged. 

If you can only find this poached, processed renkon, it works too, but it doesn't come out quite as crispy.

I peeled the renkon, but Nami doesn't. I peeled it because that's how I was taught, but you really don't need to peel them when you're frying them.

Slice the renkon thinly, about 1/8 of an inch, put the slices into a bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, adding 1 teaspoon vinegar to keep the renkon from turning brown. I tried slicing them with a mandolin kitchen tool, but the slices came out broken. I'm going to have to work on my technique.

If you buy the processed renkon, there's no need to soak them.

Drain and blot the excess water from the renkon slices with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

Heat oil over medium heat until about 350ºF and fry renkon slices until crisp.

Fry them until they're hardly bubbling, that's when they're crispy--like making tortilla chips. The fresh renkon will turn a golden color and the packaged renkon will come out more white. Be sure to try one--so you can tell if you're frying them until they're crispy.

These are the fresh, fried renkon chips, sprinkled with furikake nori. They make a great snack.

This is the difference between the fresh on the left, and the packaged renkon, on the right. This one I sprinkled with himalayan salt--skip the kelp granules--I thought it was my bottle of aonori!

Back to the sashimi--Take the sashimi mixture out of the refrigerator, taste and adjust seasoning--I added a little bit more shoyu. Put the crispy renkon slices on a shiso leaf and put a generous teaspoon or two of the sashimi mixture on the renkon--dividing the sashimi mixture amongst the 20 pieces. Garnish with daikon sprout tops.



Remember the vegetables I planted in my Maple Miso Dijon Salmon post? They're growing--and I've planted more. This is cabbage. It's small, but I think it's ready to pick.

We've been eating the kale--picking off the leaves as needed. We did that with the romaine, too. The romaine is finished--it grew really fast since we've been having such hot weather for winter, but we still ate a good amount of romaine.

I didn't have a lot of success with my cauliflower. I was expecting to get big, nice heads--like I see in the grocery store--but they were small. The hot weather made some of them look like they blew up!

I've got some new vegetables going--this is swiss chard.

 Arugula. It's got a nice, spicy peppery flavor--delicious!

I just planted some broccoli. Maybe we'll get some cooler weather and it will grow nicely. My mom grew broccoli and she said the taste was incredible.

This one is collards. I wonder if it will get HUGE like the collard greens in the store.

We planted this little tree last year. I was afraid it had died--it's never a good idea to plant fruit trees in the grass, they'll get too much water--but there didn't seem to be a place in the non-grassy areas, so it got planted there. It bloomed! I was worried that the flowers wouldn't get pollinated--the person that helped me at San Gabriel Nursery where I bought it said that it needs an apricot tree nearby for pollination--but my apricot tree still isn't even budding. NONE of my other fruit trees are budding yet. I kept thinking I should have gone to the nursery to get some branches of apricot trees that are blooming to put next to my little tree for pollination like they advised. But I didn't.

But look! There are 5 small fruits! HOORAY!
There must have been an apricot tree blooming somewhere in my neighborhood. This tree is a Japanese UME tree--someday I'm going to be able to make my own umeboshi!


Spicy Sashimi with Umeboshi on Crispy Renkon

Makes approximately 20 pieces


1/4 lb. ahi butsugiri tuna, diced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon umeboshi paste
1 teaspoon to 1/2 finely minced jalapeño pepper
 20 shiso leaves
1 teaspoon shoyu

1 piece fresh renkon
1 teaspoon vinegar
oil for frying

optional: kaiware (daikon sprouts) for garnish

1. Dice butsugiri tuna and place into a bowl. Add umeboshi paste, jalapeño and shoyu. Mix gently. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Slice renkon and put into a bowl of cold water with 1 teaspoon vinegar if you are using fresh--skip this step if you are using poached renkon. Pat slices dry with paper towels.

3. Fry in 350ºF hot oil until crisp, drain on wire rack.

4. Take tuna mixture out of the refrigerator. Taste and adjust seasonings. Place crispy renkon on a shiso leaf and top with a generous teaspoonful of tuna mixture. Garnish with kaiware (daikon) sprout tops if desired.