Sunday, May 15, 2011

Adventures in Japanese Cooking

    I love Japanese food. I grew up in San Francisco eating at the famous Migaya restaurant on Union Street enjoying shabu shabu hot pot. The restaurant resembled a country inn with old school floor-seating only. Don't look for it as it's now gone and very much missed.
   Eons later we were always found on Sawtelle  Boulevard dining at either the Sawtelle Kitchen or  Mishima and shopping at the various neighborhood Japanese markets. I always keep a big jug of Mugi-cha in the fridge along with umbeoshi plums and seaweed for snacking. I have not however, been known to cook anything Japanese. Why would I with such wonderful restaurants close at hand? Then we moved to Sonoma and the only Japanese food fix I can get is on our business trips to LA. Until I was sent a new Vook to review. Watch.

   A quick explanation. A Vook is a combo book/video that can be downloaded  to the iphone, ipad, kindle, or computer via an app. The particular Vook I was sent is The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen by Eric Gower. Since the Vook people were kind enough to send me this Vook free of charge to test, and I had a craving for Japanese food, I was eager to give it a test run. I figured that if this thing was able to help me turn out some semblance of what I used to enjoy so frequently in LA, it would be worthwhile. So understand that I am not the skilled Japanese chef that my friend La Fujimama is. I am a beginner.

   My first task was selecting a recipe to prepare. There are 23 recipes and accompanying videos in this Vook. I chose to sample Scallops with Miso, Ginger and Ruby Grapefruit and Japanese Coleslaw. My second task was locating the ingredients I needed. Fortunately our local markets do carry quite a selection of Japanese foods (unlike the Indian stuff I'm always looking for). I went shopping and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. As I examined the recipe I started reading about the philosophy behind the food. This was not strictly traditional Japanese cooking but Japanese/ California fusion cooking. This I was familiar with.
  There was a teeny  tiny restaurant in deep, dark Downtown Los Angeles back in the day when we were practically housepets at  Susan Fenniger and mary Sue Milliken's City Cafe. Oh why, oh why didn't I invest when they asked me?!! I'm talking back in the day when I had a semi, two-toned mohawk and safety pin sort of things in my ears and hung out on Melrose Avenue and wore a lot of torn-looking black, Japanese clothing and fishnets. Yes, my friends, we're talking the '80s, of which I was a major fashion victim. No, we're never going to be seeing  those photos. There's not enough money in the world.
   The restaurant was called Ishi's Grill and the chef was Masayuki Ishikawa. The cusine was Japanese/French fuision cooking and I loved it! This itsy bitsy restaurant flourished in the early to mid-80's in a hole in the wall space. Ishi's had strict rules about making resrevations (he wouldn't answer the phone before noon or something like that) and when he would unlock the door. Not a moment before or after he said he would. People dining there that evening lined up outside as if they were at a soup kitchen.
   Of course once one was in Downtown LA and had ones' fill of fusion food, what better place to top things off than the now defunct Al's Bar to see Sonic Youth or the Replacements or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I have missed those days. I didn't realized how much until this Vook sent me careening down memory lane. I am the Proust of post punk LA. But, back to those scallops.
   This recipe is amazingly quick to fix since the scallops are delicately seared and the sauce just simmered. A lot of pleasure for relatively little work. Here's what to do:

Scallops with Miso, Ginger and Ruby Grapefruit

In a non stick skillet ( I don't own any non-stick cookware so I used flameware by Clay Coyote)  melt  1 Tbs of butter
When the butter has melted toss in:
   2 Tbs of finely chopped shallots
   2 Tbs of minced ginger
Saute everything until the shallots soften.
While the shallots are softening, in a blender mix together:
   the jucie of 1/2 fresh ruby grapefruit
   1 Tbs rice vinegar
   1 Tbs of sake
   1 Tbs of white miso
When the shallots are softened, add the blender ingredients to the pan and simmer until it's reduced  by about 3/4s.

 The Scallops
  12 large fresh ocean scallops..3  scallops per person.
In a bowl toss together:
 1 tbs of flour
 1 Tbs fresh chopped thyme
   2 Tbs fresh chopped oregano
  Salt and pepper to taste
Dredge the scallops in the flour mixture, make sure they're well coated.

The Cooking
 In another skillet heat 2 Tbs of olive oil
 When the oil is hot quickly sear the scallops in the pan. Turn them only once.
When they're firm and golden they're done.
While the scallops are searing place some roughly chopped radicchio in a bowl.
Place the scallops on the radicchio, garnish with a few chopped sections of the ruby grapefruit from the half the wasn't juiced. Set aside for a moment.
Pour the sauce into the pan the scallops were seared in and deglaze, scraping up pthe browned bits that remain.
Spoon the sauce over the scallops  and sprinkle a few chopped chives on top. Eat!
The dish was amazing and brought me right back to the day when Ishi was locking me out of his Grill .
   What do I think of this Vook? I like it. I really like it. The recipes are straightforward, and even for a Japanese cooking novice like me, easy to follow. The ingredients are easy to obtain and since the entire download is only $4.99 for 23 recipes and videos, a really great value. I'm going to be cooking some more dishes from this, and even if they hadn't given me this Vook to try, it is something I would buy and try anyway.
   It actually made me dig out my Comme Des Garcons jacket .

How very Bladerunner!  Coming up next, I go in search of Indian Vegetables! Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. Great recommendation - will square that away in my little head. These scallops are busting with goodness. Can almost taste the sweetness...even from here.

  2. Ok, now I am just thinking you are me. I lived near Sawtelle most of my life and shopped the same Japanese places. Remember Aakrons? It was a place like Pier One. That was further down the street.

  3. @Janis, the Twilight Zine theme is plauing in my head right now

  4. @Belinda@zomppa
    this is a great recipe and so easy to set up

  5. Hi, Kathy!

    I liked yours recipes. Very nice! Now, I'm a new follower. If you want to know the brazilian cook, visit my blog:

    Kisses from Brazil!


  6. This looks like a great scallop recipe. I've just started getting into the little buggers. Never really liked them before. Must all be part of that growing up thing. Like safety pins for earrings, mohawks and torn fishnets. :) (Been there too.)

  7. @MyMansBelly,
    yes, these were the big guys fat and sassy and 3 is plenty for a serving. They're a bit pricy but well worth it.

  8. Wow, that's the first time I've heard your voice and seen you speak... What a nice a touch. A blog post that's also a mini-vook... a vlog?

    Anyway, I love scallops, especially seared, and this dish looks both gorgeous and delicious!

  9. @Frank, thanks..I've been wanting to post a bit of video so I just rolled out of bed that morning sat down at the computer and did it. Next time I'll comb my hair and put on some make-up



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