vegetables

Bento filler: Classic Kinpira Gobo (burdock and carrot kinpira)

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Spicy-salty-sweet kinpira, crunchy vegetables that are quicky stir-fried and optionally simmered, are perfect for bento. So far I have given you carrot kinpira and forgotten vegetable kinpira, but Japanese food purists might have noticed that I haven’t posted a recipe for classic kinpira gobo (or goboh). There’s a simple reason for this: here in Switzerland, the only gobo or burdock root that I can get in the stores is an exorbitantly priced frozen version. But recently I was able to get my hands on some fresh gobo (no I didn’t smuggle it from Hawaii!) - so here, finally, is kinpira gobo. continue reading...

Mediterranean flavored green vegan burgers

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I’ve loaded up the recipe archives with several chicken recipes, so now it’s time to add some more vegan and vegetarian recipes! To kick things off, here is a versatile, very tasty and very nutritious tofu based burger.

I haven’t done much in the garden this year, but I did rather randomly sew a whole lot of ‘cut and come again’ type greens seeds. Despite not taking much care of them, at the moment we are inundated with loads of slightly insect and slug-nibbled arugula or rucola, Swiss chard and other greens.

These vegan burgers are a very nice way to use up lots of greens like these in ways other than in salads. They are light yet very flavorful, so that even the most hardened carnivore is likely to gobble them up. They are good plain, or with a dipping sauce, and are great for bentos. continue reading...

Cooked to death hot and sweet peppers

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Greenhouse grown peppers are available year round, but summer is when peppers are really in season. I picked up a bushel load of colorful hot and sweet peppers at a market last week, and some of them turned into this item which is great for bento.

It couldn’t be easier to make, but does take a little time. A mixture of mildly hot chili peppers and sweet peppers are briefly stir fried in sesame oil, then simmered for about half an hour or more. The peppers are falling-apart soft, spicy, sweet and salty. It’s great to tuck into the corner of a bento box, and, well drained of the cooking liquid, also makes a great and unusual filling for onigiri (rice balls).

My grandmother used to make this kind of ‘cooked to death’ or until very limp (kuta-kuta ni) vegetable dish quite a bit. It’s a great way to reduce a big pile of vegetables to a manageable eating amount. This method works well with green beans too. I think it’s rather similar to the way some vegetables such as greens are cooked for a long time in American Southern cooking. I’m no nutrionist, but you do eat all of the ‘cooking liquor’ alongside the vegetables, so nutrition loss may not be so bad, though raw-food advocates may shudder.

The key here is the selection of peppers. The spicy chili pepppers should only be mildly spicy. In Japan you would use shishito peppers. Here I used a variety from Italy that I’m not sure of the variety name of, but it is similarly thin-walled and mild enough not to burn my mouth. Jalapeños or anchos might be good choices too. For the sweet peppers, I used the long red peppers that are called banana peppers, Hungarian peppers or paprikas, depending on who is selling them and where. continue reading...

Bento no. 44: Pre-made inarizushi and bean sprout stir fry (vegan)

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Bento contents:

Total calories (approx): 360 (how calories are calculated)

Time needed: 5-10 minutes in the morning Type: Japanese, vegan continue reading...

Bento filler: Cherry tomato and leftover vegetable gratin cup

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This vegetable gratin in a cup is a great way to use up leftover vegetables in a tasty way. It only takes a few minutes to assemble too. The only thing you should have are the cherry tomatoes, which make their own sauce in a way. Otherwise you can use any cooked or frozen vegetables you have on hand. Here I’ve used some leftover zucchini and frozen carrot and peas. You could use the ever popular sweet pepper and onion confit too.

The ‘sauce’ used is mayonnaise. Cooking with mayonnaise may seem a bit odd, but it works very well. It’s a very popular all-around sauce in Japanese home cooking. Cooked mayonnaise sauce tastes very nice when cold, making it very suited to bento dishes. I have used a ‘light’ mayonnaise here to halve the calories (50 calories per tablespoon, instead of about 100 for regular mayo), and added a little pesto from a jar to make it even tastier. I seem to always have jars of sauces spreads and pestos and so on around in the fridge - if you do too, try experimenting with them!

You do need a toaster oven to cook them up fast, but for serious bento makers this is a really handy piece of kitchen equipment to have (see essential bento making supplies).

This is a lacto-ovo-vegetarian recipe. To turn this into a vegan one use a non-egg mayonnaise substitute and omit the cheese. You can up the nutrients by adding chopped up leftover meat, more cheese, and so on. continue reading...

Bento filler: French green beans with carrot and ginger

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Fresh green beans are available year round, but their real season in the northern hemisphere is the summer to early fall. I count crispy green beans among one of my favorite vegetables, so I enthusiastically eat as much as possible.

There are several kinds of green beans - large and fat, flat and broad, and so on. These are skinny little haricots verts or French beans. They can be rather expensive, so I like to cook them as minimally as possible. Here they are paired with julienned fresh ginger and carrot, stir fried then steam-cooked in a frying pan. The ginger adds some heat and the carrots add sweetness. They are cooked in less than 5 minutes, though allow some extra time to cut the ginger and carrot. You can use fatter green beans if you can’t get haricot verts - allow for a couple more minutes of cooking time.

This is great hot or cold, so it’s a very good bento vegetable dish. It will hold in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, so if you buy a big bag of green beans at the market it’s worthwhile to make a batch of this. continue reading...

Bento filler: Spicy miso marinated green asparagus

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We’re nearing the end of the green asparagus season around here, so I’m trying to eat as much of it as possible. This miso marinated asparagus dish may look very spicy, but it’s only mildly so - it just looks rather hot because I used a red miso. The miso marinade does not overwhelm the asparagus flavor, but just enhances it. It is great in a bento since it’s salty, a little sweet and spicy all at once. continue reading...

All natural vegetable based green, pink and orange rice

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Previously, I showed you how to make orange colored carrot rice. The make-in-a-few minutes microwave method was especially popular. So, here’s how to make pink (or purple) and green colored rice just as easily. The best thing about them is that they are colored just with vegetables - no hard to pronounce ingredients in sight.

I’ve used white rice for color clarity, but you could use regular or sprouted brown rice instead. I used leftover rice from the night before; you could also use defrosted frozen rice. continue reading...