August 8, 2014

Have Fresh Eggs, Have Fresh Veggies ~ It's Time for OKONOMIYAKI

The ducks and chickens are giving us so many eggs! This spring's Buff Orpington chicks just began laying today ... one beentsy little egg in the nesting box ~ the size of a large grape ~ tells me that they're coming online. By late November, the newest chicks on the block ~ our surprise batch of bantam babies ~ will be giving us some green eggs to go with our Christmas ham. When a person has chickens (and fowl) and a productive garden, you have to get busy and creative to use up all the goodness coming into the kitchen. 

As a big fan of Asian cuisine, one of the recipes I turn to for using up all the bounty is one from Japan. Okonomiyaki are Japanese savory "pancakes" which have an egg base and a few key ingredients which make up the traditional batter. But, from there, the additions can be as varied as you can imagine. It's the perfect recipe for using up extras, leftovers and overloads you may find yourself with. Okonomiyaki literally translates as: "how you like it, grilled/cooked". Perfect!

The beauty of okonomiyaki is that they freeze very well. No worries about making a big batch of one or more variations. Properly packed, the leftover pancakes will wait up to 3 months in your freezer. Flash fry or bake them back to crispness (DON'T microwave them or you'll be eating rubber Frisbees), drizzle with okonomi sauce and maybe some Japanese-style mayo and you have an almost instant (and fairly healthy) meal! Give it a try and have fun with it.

** Using dashi is best, but you can use just plain water, too. Napa cabbage and green onions are in every recipe, but the rest of the additions are up to you! Dashi and Okonomi sauce are available at Asian groceries and some grocery stores.


Basic Batter:

6 large eggs
1 ½ c. cold water
1 packet Dashi powder or granules (Japanese soup stock)
2 c. flour
1 t. salt

In large mixing bowl, combine cold water and dashi powder and whisk to mix. You can also just use plain water or cold vegetable stock. Add eggs and salt, whisking to completely combine. Add flour and whisk until nearly smooth. Let batter rest while you prepare your pancake additions.

1 ½ c. shredded napa cabbage
1/3 c. chopped green onions
Shredded zucchini
Fresh or frozen peas (thawed)
Finely shredded carrot
Roasted red pepper
Shredded daikon radish
Fresh shiitake mushrooms
Sliced kamaboku (fish cake)
Bay scallops
Cooked chicken or pork, chopped
Smoked salmon
Salad shrimp or chopped prawns

** All okonomiyaki have shredded cabbage in them. All the other additions are your choice. Okonomiyaki literally translates as : cooked as you like it! Just remember that, whatever your ingredients, they must be in small enough pieces to cook thoroughly in the short time it takes to make the pancake. Do not use uncooked meats or fish unless they are very small pieces, such as the small scallops or pieces of small, raw shrimp.
Peanut oil is recommended for frying – it gives a nice crust and is a lighter oil so the pancakes don’t become heavy or saturated with oil.

Serve hot, drizzled with Okonomi sauce. Popular additional toppings are Japanese mayonnaise  +/- hot chili paste.

Makes 8-12 pancakes

February 27, 2014


Last spring's starts

The weather this week has been in the fifties, with a few perfect, sunny days. The smell of warming earth is heady and hopeful. My garlic is already up three inches in the starter pots in the greenhouse and five inches out in the garden. I like Rocambole (hard neck) types of garlic and have chosen German Red and Duganski varieties to grow this year. The radishes have already sprouted in my containers in the greenhouse, with spinach, arugula and cilantro close behind.
Ever since January, the seed catalogs have been filling up the mailbox like crazy, much to my delight. The x's and circles proliferate until I just know I have to cut down and get real! It's so hard to choose! I also save seeds from previous seasons so I have my own stock to grow on. 
I run a sustainable living group on Meetup called Urban Farmers and for the last two years, we've had seed exchanges in late winter. The beauty of it is that you can share your extras with others and get seeds in return, for more variety than you could have in buying everything yourself. I mean, not many of us are going to plant 25 pumpkin hills, right? After the seed swap, I am all set! Some unusual varieties to try this year, including some Dutch brown beans called Kapuciner beans. They're a small, brown, wrinkly bean used as a dried type. I've seen them for sale in Europe, but never here. The man who brought them is from Holland and these seeds are sixth generation. He included a recipe with each packet! He also brought seeds for "feldsalat" also known as mache or corn salad. Another thing that one has to grow in the U.S. if you want to eat it. It's a common leaf green in Europe and I eat a lot of it when I'm there, but it isn't yet available much for purchase here. 
This year, our raised beds will be built and the field will get partially plowed so, in addition to the greenhouse, I'll have good growing areas outdoors. With the drought in California seriously threatening general produce supply, it's more important than ever to try to be as self-sufficient as possible. Besides, it's hard to beat the satisfaction of seed - to plant - to harvest when you do it yourself. And the taste ... well, no contest! 
Okay, spring...I'm ready! What will you be growing this year? 


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Aspenglow / Buttered Lips by Gayle Nabrotzky is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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