Thursday, April 21, 2005

wowza the steamer basket

Wowza, the steamer basket!

I woke up extremely late this morning since I was formatting and editing this website (ask me about my 3 in the morning coding epiphany if you're nerdy enough to rejoice with me on this one) until the wee hours of the morning. Instead of breakfast, I've got "healthy lunch".

I lived in Tokyo for about a year, and that has heavily influenced my kitchen habits: eating, and utensils etc, in addition to my Asian (Thai-Chinese) upbringing. So this morning, still under the Perricone credo, I scanned my memory for things appropriate to this diet.

I actually cheated yesterday eating Grammie's Macaroni & Cheese from The Chip Shop, and to be fair, I *tried* to eat the protein first. I nosed under the gooey buttery mac 'n cheese to the sausage bits and ate them *with ketchup* which qualifies for that weird thing where the more processed tomatoes are, the healthier it is in fighting cancer. Don't ask me why, I just read the articles.

I still feel like a beginner with cooking. I am known among my friends for being a good cook, but as usual, my method in life is picking the most complicated things to do first, and bumbling around a bit, instead of being a more traditional learner and start out with something simple. Like when I started with knitting lace, hmmm, yes, that was a wee bit confusing, or submitted poems to The New Yorker (rejected! And they only allow you to submit every 6 months).

In any event, this is why I was overawed by the steamer basket this morning!

I eat lightly salted edamame (in pod, in situ, the hairyness is so much more fun), as my veggie/protein supplement as often as I can remember to eat it.

First, I buy frozen edamame from the Japanese Grocery Store Sunrise Mart, you can usually buy them for $1 a bag, and then cook up half a bag (since I am only one small Joy), and depending on how hungry I am, eat most of it, and refrigerate the rest for quick snacks.

You'd be surprised, if you're not from Manhattan, how much Japanese restaurants will charge you for edamame, upwards to $8. Criminy.

I noticed my roommate had steamed her asparagus the other morning in the steamer basket. I had made aspargus-edamame risotto the other day and used the boiling method.

Asians are big on steaming. We steam rice in rice cookers, steam to finish off cooking dumplings, most of dim sum is steamed in bamboo baskets, tied up in banana leaves. My mom has me steam cook the tops of my eggs (as evidenced by yesterday's posting), you steam sticky rice to make fabulous mango sticky rice. I've heard you can steam veggies atop of rice in your rice cooker. I'm a little suspicious still, but haven't tried it yet.

The traditional way of making edamame is steamed in one of their pretty straw woven baskets which you can buy at my favorite Japanese outlet store, again Samurai on Grand St., cross street Mott.

However, I usually just boil water and then throw in the frozen edamame for 3 minutes, but that's only after the pot has come to boil.

How to Make Edamame - Steamed Fresh Soybeans

This morning I boiled one inch of water, which of course came to boil really quickly, plopped down the steamer basket, which always looks like a fun metal flower blossoming and closing alternately, and put in half a bag of edamame. Then I set the timer for 3 minutes. I also covered the pot for the full steaming effect.

I was completely astonished how quick the whole process was. At three minutes it was still a little too crunchy for my taste. My friend Lynn prefers them that way, but I prefer a little softer than that, so within 1 more minute voila! Edamame strewn with sea salt.

Other efforts at health included a mango lassi. However, mango is on the inflammatory list for Dr. Perricone (sorry!), but organic yogurt is on the plus list. However, there is a lot of sugar in mango lassis, admittedly, but that's why they taste so good. I had a spot of iced jasmine-green tea, and I zapped some shu mai I bought at Sunrise Mart, which have shrimp in them. Perricone highly suggests salmon or crab, shrimp is my mild attempt to get along with his recommendations. Remind me to put up my roasted garlic salmon and goat cheese dumplings with french mustard recipe up eventually.

One thing that bothered me to no end were Swedish ceramics when I lived in Stockholm. They had no little bowls for garnishes or sauces. Swedes generally have some gravy sort of sauce or flavored butter (Swedish butter is divine!). However, if you're going to eat shu mai or dumplings, you really need a dipping bowl to control over-salting or over-moistening your food.

Going along with the French Women Don't Get Fat edict, my breakfast set up is very prettily. Here are some things I bought from Samurai to help me Japanize my kitchen for very little money (most items cost around $1.29 - $5).

Used in my lunch today bought from Samurai:

2 straw baskets, one for edamame, one for edamame empty shells
1 pair of orange stripey chopsticks (no Jared, you can't have them)
1 pink plastic small bowl (so many uses)
1 green plastic child cup
1 wooden Japanese style mat

It might also help that everything they sell is quite small, which helps you eat less, I think.

Used in my lunch today bought from Sunrise Mart (The East Village location is less expensive than Soho)

Frozen Edamame
Itoen Jasmine-Green Tea
Frozen Shu Mai

Another thing that Perricone suggests is that all spicy things are very healthy for you. I had the chance to try unadulterated harissa on my omelet the other day, woo, too spicy! I decided this morning to add some hot chili sesame oil to my soy sauce and dab a little harissa on my shu mai.

In light of the no white flour rule, I think that they should start making brown flour wrappers since all dumplings are usually wrapped in white flour skins. Although the amount of skin is pretty minimal in shu mai, not dumplings/potstickers/gyoza/mandoo though.

For the warm weather I'm going to post a few of my favorite combating summer heat cool drink recipes.

Mango Lassi

Mango pulp (buy at Indian/Pakistani stores)
Whole Yogurt (the Indian yogurt was the best, but try to buy yogurt that doesn't have pectin)
Skim Milk

The ratio is 1:3 mango pulp to yogurt, then thin it out with milk, and add sugar to taste. I bought a great little plastic pitcher, again, from Samurai (I'm crazy about that store I tell you). Since the plastic is clear you can eyeball everything, then I just snapped close the lid and shook it until everything was mixed, and I used a chopstick too (heehee, so Asiany).

White Peach Iced Jasmine-Green Tea Frappe

Itoen Jasmine-Green Tea (it comes in 2 liter bottles at Sunrise Mart), use maybe a liter
Ripe white peach (skinned, peeled, I suppose you could freeze them too)
Tray of ice cubes
Peach nectar (Goza)
Mint leaf for garnish (optional)

The ratio of tea to juice is about half and half. Using a blender with a stellar ice crusher function, blend together. You can get about 3-4 glasses from this concoction. A glass of this sold at Afternoon Tea in Shinjuku for about $8. Another option which is more Chinese-y is to use Litchee Juice insteach of Peach, etc. al.

Mango Lime Fizzer

This is inspired of the sorbet sipper at Haagen Daaz

Mango nectar (again Goza)
Perrier (get lime flavored if possible)

Ratio is 1:1 for the fizzer, I never realized Perrier has such delicious little bubbles. Garnish with an orchid if you'd like.

Another variation is peach nectar with perrier, serve over ice and a few fresh raspberries on the top.

Strawberry-Cranberry Frappe

1 tray of ice
Cranberry juice
Half a bag of frozen strawberries

Just blitz it up, it's very yummy.

How to glam up your drinks

It's simple, buy straws. Serve these drinks over ice or not, but in a long slim glass with a straw and with a garnish that makes sense.

Those are my main summery cooling off drinks. To finish off my healthful lunch, I'm going to eat a quartered navel orange sprinkled with cinnamon and pecans. Itadakimasu!

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