Good morning and welcome to another week. I have a pretty good weekend – just the right amount of busy to be entertaining but not too much so that I didn’t feel relaxed. On Friday night, we went to our friend’s place with a few other people to play poker. I put up a decent fight but ended up being the first one out, sadly. I may have gotten too big for my britches after having won the last time we played. No matter. I’ll be back with a vengeance next time. On Saturday, Kramer had a lot of homework to do, so I met up with my friend Donny to go to an Indonesian food festival in Woodside. I had black beef soup, which was perfectly spicy with bits of super tender beef and lots of lemongrass, as well as insanely good beef rendang, the leftovers of which I brought home to poor Kramer, still slaving away at home. Donny went off in search of fried chicken, being the true believer that he is, and I went home to make cookies before leaving once again to meet up with my friend Taren to view and photograph The Difficult to Name Reading Series in the city. After the show, Taren, Kramer and I went to a sports bar so that I could eat wings and Taren could watch basketball. I mean, we all ate wings, but I was definitely more into the wings than I was into basketball. We finished the night with a cocktail, then Kramer and I sat on the couch and watched half of an episode of Empire before I couldn’t stay awake anymore and we went to bed. Sunday was perfect because we didn’t leave the house until around 7 to grab a drink at the bar around the corner from our apartment, only to return home to eat the lamb I had cooked earlier because I realized as soon as we sat down that I was starving. We watched that crazy Scientology documentary, too, just to make sure that I’d have sufficiently terrifying nightmares – that seems to be what HBO is trying to do to me between this and The Jinx. Seriously – watch that documentary and tell me you don’t have at least a little trouble falling asleep afterward.
Bagels from Black Seed, uni and toast with sake lees from Ssam Bar, old fashioneds, avos, a much needed cortado and larger than needed (but amazingly delicious) Pullman bread from The Bedford Cheese Shop.
I was recently gifted both this gorgeous Le Creuset cake stand and a selection of Bonne Maman jams, so clearly some sort of cake was in order. I settled on this mish-mash version of a coffee cake so that the jam could shine and I could adorn my new white cake stand with something outstanding. There’s a layer of moist cake, made so thanks to a healthy helping of full fat Greek yogurt, a layer of sweet cinnamon-y streusel, a layer of sweet cherry preserves, and, of course, to top it all off, a layer of crunchy cinnamon-sugar goodness. All together, this is perhaps one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. It’s great as a breakfast treat, definitely something to savor on a Sunday with a cup of black coffee, or good enough to have for dessert after a hopefully vegetable-heavy meal to counteract a little indulgence. I sliced this up, placed parchment paper between each slice, and gave some away but also froze about half of it to enjoy later. One night, I gave my friend Taren a few slices to take home, straigh from the freezer, and she said that it was absolutely delicious even after having been frozen – but I knew that already, because I’m of the belief that everything sweet, or at least almost everything, is better frozen or at least a little chilled.
I’m ready for sun. I’m so cold. I’m freezing. It is freezing in New York. Just when you think that spring is around the corner, I walk outside and feel like my legs and fingers are going to fall off from the wind chill. I feel as though New Yorkers have post traumatic weather syndrome. Every summer is the hottest summer and every winter is the coldest winter. I think that’s because, more than anywhere else, we’re outside. We’re huffing it from our apartments to the subway, down the slippery or steamy steps, depending on the season, then right back up, onto the street and into the office. Then we do it all over again. There’s a certain kind of person who both loves to complain about how hard it is to live where they live, while at the same time take pride in how hard it is and wouldn’t have it any other way. And that’s why I will continue to whine about how hot or cold or frigid or muggy or whatever it is. I live in New York and I’ve been here for long enough now that I feel that it’s my right to be a little curmudgeonly. Anyway, having said that, I’m looking forward, and forward means sunshine. It means backyard barbecues and cold beers and, most importantly, guacamole. I used to put tomatoes in my guac, but I have to say, I’ve met some people who hate the weather almost as much as New Yorkers, and those are Californians. The best piece of advice any Californian has given me thus far is this: don’t put tomatoes in your guacamole. And god love ‘em, they’re right.
Tomatoes are great – but not in guac. They don’t add anything other than filler. When you eat guac, what you want is creamy avocado, fresh lime, savory onion, salt and maybe a little cilantro, if that’s your thing. I’m never putting tomatoes in my guacamole and neither should you. It’s kind of a game changer, I have to say. Less is more, especially when it comes to guac. Don’t knock it ’til you try it, kids. This is the best damn guacamole that you’ll ever try, and hey, save that dollar or two and buy yourself something nice because you aren’t buying tomatoes. Another great thing about this guac? It doesn’t take much effort. You don’t need a food processor or a blender or anything. Just a bowl, a knife, a fork and your ingredients. Make it while you’re camping, or make it in front of all of your friends at your next get together. And may I suggest making it during Earth Hour this coming Saturday? I told you about the Timex campaign for Earth Hour earlier this month – I hope that you’ll all pledge your time and support this cause. For every pledge shared, Timex will donate $1 (up to $50,000) to Earth Hour and the effort to spread awareness about climate change.
Not only can you help make the world a better place, but you can win a navy Weekender watch from Timex, which I also have and will say is absolutely gorgeous. Finally, food and fashion coming together for a good cause, right? Use the hashtag #TimeToGLO, post your pledge on Instagram and Twitter, and spread the word! Each individual can make a difference, no matter how small the contribution – in this case, all you have to do is promise to unplug for one hour on Saturday at 8:30pm. Is that so hard? I’ll be joining you. Check out the video above, pledge your time, get some friends together and make some guac. Your cell phone and television will be there when you get back – I swear.
I picked up a new found love for Japanese food and its simplicity when I was in Tokyo last month. So many restaurants and food stands are coveted not for their range but because they do one thing really, really well. We’d go to one stand and they just served eel onigiri (rice balls stuffed with various fillings), or another restaurant only served chicken yakitori, or another spot specialized in just takoyaki (octopus balls). I really appreciate that. It takes serious skill and dedication to work on just one thing, and do it really, really well, but it also makes things easy for the customer. Sometimes you get to a restaurant and you are faced with so many options you can’t pick. I like only having to choose between a few items. It takes the pressure off. The other unique thing about Japanese cuisine is how clean the flavors are. Nothing is muddled or hard to discern. You can taste the seaweed or the soy sauce or the ponzu or the wasabi. It’s exciting to feel like you totally understand what it is you’re eating instead of trying to guess. It’s unlike any dining experience I’ve had elsewhere, and even last night Kramer and I were talking about how we just have to go back. Five days wasn’t enough and we need more time. Now, that’s not to say that we didn’t adore the food in Taipei – it was just a little different. Where things in Japan seemed delicate, the food in Taiwan really packed a punch. Pungent, spicy, and texturally interesting would be words I’d use to describe what we ate in Taipei, and the photos below are just a taste (pun intended) of what we consumed while in Taipei.
Our first stop was to the Raohe Night Market, where our new friend, Ronnie, offered to take us around. He was an incredible guide. He zigged and zagged out of crowds as Kramer and I struggled to keep up. He just kept handing us food and we happily accepted, wolfing down whatever we were given. There was spicy barbecued corn (one of my favorites) brushed with some kind of glaze, sausage stuffed into a sticky rice bun (which could be the next big thing in Brooklyn if they figure it out), fish balls on a stick, candied tomatoes on a stick (another favorite – unbelievably good), pig’s blood cake covered in peanuts (surprisingly delicious), some kind of salad sandwich in really good bread with hard boiled eggs, beef bone soup, oyster pancakes, stinky tofu soup, fried stinky tofu (my favorite of the evening), mochi, pepper pork buns, and dessert of sweet red bean with some sort of ice cream. Needless to say, we were beyond stuffed, but were able to squeeze in a quick night cap before passing out with stomaches fuller than they’ve ever been. We slept well!
In an effort to relive some of the flavors we experienced abroad, I want to share this miso soup with you today. I wanted to make it an accessible soup, so while it may not be perfectly traditional, I think it will hit the spot and fill your miso soup craving just as well. Most importantly, it can be on the table in well under 1 hour, making it a quick and easy after work dish to throw together, or, even better, make it on Sunday to enjoy for lunch or dinner for a few days during the week. A poached egg added a touch of luxury to your average miso soup, and plenty of savory mushrooms and cubed tofu help turn what is usually considered an appetizer or side into a dish you will happily eat for a meal on its own and feel satisfied after doing so. I like to garnish my miso soup with a little extra sesame oil, some scallions and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, but it’s really up to you. You don’t need much to make miso soup delicious, and it is endlessly customizable to fit any taste preference. I always keep a big tub of miso in my fridge because it takes forever to expire and allows me to make a hearty, comforting soup in a matter of minutes without having to spend hours building a stock. Enjoy a little taste of Tokyo tonight, then chase that feeling by packing it up to have for lunch tomorrow.
I figured that I’d take a break from talking about my trip to Asia and just share a few daily photos and a solid recipe with you today. So here I am, doing just that. This weekend was pretty tame, which we needed. On Friday we grabbed dinner with friends, then went to a bar to meet up with more friends before calling it a night before 12 and heading home. We slept in on Saturday, I think I woke up at 10:30, because I just needed to sleep, and then we went to our friends Val and Tom’s house to see them and their nearly six month old baby, which is almost unbelievable. She is huge! We watched TV, ordered pizza and had a few drinks – exactly what I wanted to do. Kramer and I went home and binged episodes of The Jinx until we fell asleep early, before 10:30. On Sunday, Kramer had an insane amount of homework to do for grad school, so I met up with some friends to see Mallrats for brunch at Nitehawk, which was awesome. I hadn’t seen that movie and years, and it just so happens that they just announced they’re making a sequel! Who would have thought it. After the movie, I didn’t want to go home and be bored by myself while Kramer toiled away, so I conned a few people into having a couple of drinks with me before finally heading home to do some chores and wait for Kramer. We finished The Jinx (so spooky) and hit the hay. And that’s how you weekend!
I’ve seen this pie make the rounds for years now, and I’ve always wanted to make it. The story behind the pie truly is heartbreaking, but what warms even the cockles of my cold, black heart is that people from all over the world came together to support a women going through an incredibly hard time. There really isn’t a better way to let someone know that you are thinking of them and care for them than by making them a casserole, pouring them a drink, or, in this case, making them what may very well be the best pie ever. This is a pie that definitely needs to be served cold, but it’s worth keeping it in the fridge. The filling is made with my two absolute favorite things: sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter. I’ve got some serious cravings just saying those words together. For a crust, I used a simple graham cracker and butter combo, topped with milk chocolate and chopped honey roasted peanuts. The crunchy graham crackers and rich chocolate pair beautifully with the silky smooth peanut butter and whipped cream filling. I don’t think that there is a pie that could be more of a people pleaser than this one. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s texturally interesting and keeps well in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for months. Make mini versions in muffin cups, or double the recipe and make it in a 9×13-inch baking dish. I should have done that, actually. Learn from my mistakes and eat lots of peanut butter!
I’ve been stupid busy catching up on everything that got set aside while Kramer and I were in Asia, so my apologies if you were looking for new recipes but I hadn’t posted any since last week. This past weekend was really low key and relaxing, but that also meant that I set aside blogging in favor of finishing House of Cards and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because it was our first weekend with no big commitments so I wanted to fully enjoy it. I hardly touched my laptop on Saturday or Sunday and it was delightful. I highly recommend doing that every once in a while. I’m addicted to my screens, as I’m sure a lot of you are, so I don’t really think about how they’re probably causing half of all of my random headaches and back pain from curling up in the standard position on the couch. I’m trying to be better. When the warmer weather finally gets here, then I really won’t have an excuse!
Anyway, back to our trip. These photos are from our last day in Tokyo, AKA the best place on Earth. We had a chance to sleep in, finally, so we enjoyed that, then headed out in search of some really good sushi. This was the day we told ourselves we’d bite the bullet and drop some serious change on a once in a lifetime meal. Of course, we hadn’t made any reservations. That would have made sense, of course, but we didn’t, so Kramer just looked up a few places and we figured we’d try our luck. The first restaurant had no room for us, but the second place was Kyubey and after a 30 minute wait, we were seated for lunch with only 6 other diners around a sushi bar. The chef and his sous got to work preparing us the best seafood I’ve ever had in my life. And talk about fresh. I watched the man kill the prawns we ate as nigiri right before my eyes. Watching this master chef slice tuna, make sushi, even just supreme citrus, was like watching someone create art. I didn’t take photos during the meal, really, because I just wanted to enjoy it and spend time with Kramer. I’m glad I didn’t – not everything needs to be photographed. Or at least that’s what Kramer keeps telling me and in the spirit of a fancy lunch, I obeyed. We had grilled yellowfin tuna, the creamiest sea urchin I’ve ever tasted, fatty cuts of a few different glorious kinds of fish, unbelievably good mackerel, the aforementioned prawns, a few expertly made rolls, countless pieces of sashimi, and to finish everything off, the reddest, plumpest strawberries I’ve ever laid eyes on. It goes without saying that Kramer and I enjoyed sake and beer during this meal, and left the restaurant walking on literal sunshine. After a nap, though, we were ready for more. Minaë met up with us to get some yakitori and beers, followed by what we needed to round out our eating adventures in Tokyo: okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a savory, eggy pancake filled with all kinds of good stuff, from veggies to bacon to spicy sauces. You cook it together on a large flat top, pushing pieces around until they are crisped to your liking. Kramer and I struggled with this a bit, but got the hang of it after our second or third pancake. I wish they had bars like this in New York! We said goodbye to our friends, grabbed some Japanese candy (obviously) and headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before it was time to go to the airport and explore Taipei!
I made these bars at least two months ago, but life had gotten in the way of my posting them until now. Seeing as how the warmer weather is nearing closer, I figured that we needed a few more cold weather recipes to enjoy before baking seems impossible in the heat. It’ll happen quicker than you think! I had a random jug of apple cider in my fridge from an impulse purchase at the farmer’s market (see: story of my life) and I wanted to make something that let the apple cider shine more than it does in a cake (though this was a delicious cake) or muffins. My plan was to take my tried and true lemon bar recipe and convert it into these apple cider custard bars. Why not? I was a little nervous that the custard wouldn’t set, but it did, and man these were good. If you’re an apple cider fan, nothing beats having apple cider custard on top of buttery shortbread. I brought these into my office and they were immediately devoured, which is what every cook or baker wants to see. Soon we’ll be cider-less, so enjoy it now. You’ve been warned.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve partnered with Timex to raise awareness about Earth Hour, happening this month on Sunday, March 28th. For an hour on this day, I want to encourage all of you to turn off your phones, set down social media and maybe get together with some friends to eat something delicious and do something crazy like, I don’t know, talk to each other. I know! What a concept. For every pledge shared, $1 will be donated to Earth Hour. That’s a lot of donations if everyone participates! Timex is using the hashtag #TimeToGlo to get people involved, and best of all, they’re helping me to reward you for your participation by giving away a free Weekender navy/gold watch, pictured here, to one of you! To win, just use the #TimeToGlo tag on Twitter or Instagram and tell me how you try to stay environmentally friendly! You can also repost a photo of the watch on Instagram or Twitter with the same hashtag. I will admit that I’ve been wearing the watch around myself lately and I absolutely love it PLUS it glows in the dark, so I can continue to obsessively check on what time it is no matter where I am. I hope that you’ll join me in pledging to turn off your devices and dedicate some time to Earth Hour by visiting Timex’s very cool pledge site, and sharing with your friends that you promise to do your part! Spread the word and I promise that you’ll not only be helping keep Earth a better place, but hey, you may just get a free watch out of the whole thing.
In keeping with the Earth Hour theme, I wanted to share a recipe that was simple, fresh and can be made without too much energy or electricity. So, I present to you this Winter Citrus Salad. You can serve it with a dollop of Greek yogurt or maybe even a little whipped cream, or maybe drizzle a little golden honey on top if you’re feeling adventurous, but really, the star here is the fruit. I’ve used my favorite tart blood oranges, alongside wonderfully bitter grapefruit, refreshing oranges and sweet kiwi, then tossed everything together with roughly chopped pecans and chia seeds, for crunch and fiber. This is just what you need to get you going first thing in the morning, or to jumpstart your internal energy levels when you start to slow down around 3pm. I will admit that I ate every single bite of what you see pictured on my own before I could even bother to ask my husband if he’d like a bite, but that’s what is bound to happen when you stick with the basics and let the produce shine without muddling it up too much with other things. I can taste all of these juicy winter citrus fruits together now, and honestly, it’s making me hungry. I’m ready to make this again for brunch this weekend.
So, I’m ready to tell you about the rest of my Tokyo trip. I would have posted sooner, but I’m still acclimating to “regular life” and my body isn’t a fan of the change, believe me. Well, sorry to my body but I’m in charge here, so I have the final say in what we do and where we go and how we feel. That’s why I have a shiny new prescription for antibiotics and anti-nausea medicine and I’m ready to kick this week’s ass. Theoretically. Anyway, Tokyo! These photos are from the morning we woke up ungodly early to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market. You have the option of waking up at 3am to be in line by 4am in order to watch the tuna auctions at the market, which is A Big Deal and seemingly very special. I, however, do not have that kind of willpower and the idea of waking up at 3am for anything short of catching a flight did not appeal to me, so Kramer and I woke up at the still early but a bit more manageable hour of 5am in order to be at the market by 6. Once we arrived and figured out which direction we were headed, we wandered around for a bit, trying to figure out where the actual market was and where we were and weren’t allowed to visit. We stopped for a cup of coffee and thick piece of delicious Japanese milk bread smothered in butter and jam, then headed out. The outer markets were amazing. You could really buy anything there, from kitchen supplies to cookbooks to specially made knives to dried squid snacks. We wandered back and forth throughout the stalls, grabbing a tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet) for fuel as we perused. I did pick up a pair of beautifully painted chopsticks that I’m sure you’ll see on the blog at some point, but for the most part I was just in awe at how much could be squeezed into such a small space. Sadly, I’ve heard that the market is being moved to make way for the 2020 Summer Olympics, so the fate of some of these small vendors is unknown. I heard that the move in taking place in March, so my best of luck to all of these people, especially the ones who have spent their entire lives working at the market. I hope that the move goes smoothly and that people aren’t pushed out for the wrong reasons.
Our last stop at the market was a place that I’ll probably never know the name of, but as you can see above, it’s worth mentioning. That bowl of delicious sashimi, prawn, salmon roe and uni cost only about $10, and it came with a bowl of miso soup complete with crab legs swimming in it. No matter that it was 7am – Kramer and I washed everything down with a cold beer and couldn’t believe our good luck. I know a lot of people stand in line for hours to eat at one specific sushi restaurant, but I’ve got to say, this bowl was insanely good and I can’t imagine standing in line for hours at the wee hours of the morning for anything better. Kramer and I needed to do a little walking after our feast. We made our way over to the Harajuku neighborhood, which is super cute and adorable, which tons of shopping, fashionable looking people, and most importantly, good coffee. We grabbed a couple of Americanos (just like us, haw haw haw) and a doughnut from The Roastery, then sat and rested our tired, old bones in their adorable shop for a little while. Onward and upward, we did a little more shopping, I grabbed a sweater with a sad bear on it, you know, the usual. We finally found ourselves in a park at the end of the day, where we purchased beers from the park’s vendor (Japan really has its shit together) and sat to watch some fountains before heading home to take a quick nap before the greatest show of our lives at Robot Restaurant. There really are no words to describe Robot Restaurant, but Kramer and I, full of beer and yakitori from making our way through Shinjuku, sat down in their basement studio and had our faces blasted off with complete and total awesomeness. I posted a short video on Instagram, but even that is just a sampling of what you can expect from this place. You may have seen Anthony Bourdain talk about how much fun it is on his show, and I can only echo those sentiments. Go to Tokyo and go to Robot Restaurant. It will make you a better person.
Fighting robots and burlesque dancers aside, this cheesy bread is also pretty good. Has a less enthusiastic sentence ever been written? Obviously nothing can live up to Tokyo in one dish, but I have to say, layers of pillowy soft bread with gooey cheese, garlic, butter and scallions sandwiched in between can do a pretty good job of it. I saw Kelly’s pepperoni pull-apart bread a while back, so I whipped this up based on that recipe and I have to say, it was pretty damn good. I will admit that I did make this last month for a Superbowl party, but life happens, guys! I was busy. At least I am finally sharing it with you now. The recipe may seem a little complicated, but it’s mostly about waiting – waiting for the dough to rise once, rolling it out, shaping it, letting it rise again, then baking. The end product is to die for, and perfect for a fancy brunch or even a casual picnic, as long as you make the bread the day before. My favorite way to eat this is alongside a few runny eggs, or even as a buffer in between bites of spicy hot wings. The choice is yours, but really, take a look at those heavenly folds and bubbles of cheese and tell me that this bread isn’t calling to you.
I’m back in the US of A! It’s certainly good to be home. Comforting, even. I’m excited to sleep in my own bed, drink strong American coffee and to catch up on hours of my favorite television shows. Having said that, I desperately miss Japan. I fell in love with it, as I was told I would and sort of thought I wouldn’t, because really, people seem to romanticize the hell out of Tokyo so I figured I’d like it well enough but not fall head over heels like I ended up doing. It’s just the best place in the world, I have to say. The people are amazing, the food is unspeakably good, and sweet lord the subways are so efficient and clean (so were Taipei’s, but that’s for another post). I. Love. Tokyo. I already want to go back, but not in the same way that you want to go back when you come home from most vacations. We weren’t really ~relaxing~ in Tokyo. It’s not that kind of a place, but that’s what I adored. It didn’t make me feel wishful, it just felt normal. That’s what’s so exciting about it. It seemed like a place I could actually live, not in a “I wish I were still on the beach” way, but in a way where you start to think about how much stuff of yours you could sell on Craigslist before you’d be able to move into a small Japanese apartment. It’s a little hectic, sure, but you do find moments of tranquility as you speed through the stalls in the markets and the hoards of people in the streets. There are places of refuge, like the temples on the outskirts of the cities, or the quiet restaurants where people slurp up his or her ramen quickly and disperse without uttering so many words. It’s much like New York in so many ways, and then again, it’s the complete opposite, despite being a bustling metropolitan city. I thought that I’d be overwhelmed with Tokyo. People kept telling me that it was “insane”, and not in a fun way, more in a chaotic way, but I didn’t find that at all. It reminded me a lot of home, but with a few differences that make it a city unlike any other. I felt totally comfortable and happy in Tokyo. Sure, it’s busy, but it didn’t feel any more busy than NYC, and hey, everyone there STANDS IN LINE for the (albeit incredibly crowded) subway, so there’s already one victory point checked in the Tokyo column in my brain. You can also get really good food in the subway, and did I mention that the stations are so. freaking. clean. Kramer and I were very subway-focused on this trip, probably just because we were absolutely amazed at its condition. New Yorkers, get your shit together. Visit Tokyo and see what your daily commute could be like if we all stopped eating on the subway and threw our trash away in the proper receptacles. It’s possible to not live like a bunch of dirt bags! Mine eyes hath been opened.
Aside from the immaculate subway system (that, to New York’s credit, does not run 24 hours a day), Tokyo had a lot to offer. We arrived super late the first day, a little after midnight, so Kramer and I dropped off our stuff at our Airbnb in Shibuya, then immediately found a bar to grab a beer and some grilled meats in. Then a second bar, where we had offal skewers of liver, heart, chicken tail and more, alongside fried octopus balls (takoyaki), beer and sake. We slept in as best as we could the next morning, then grabbed some delicious, porky ramen, walked around the Akihabara neighborhood, then made our way to the Tokyo National Museum. We headed home for a quick nap, then met up with our friends will and Minaë, who took us to their friend’s amazing restaurant, where we feasted like locals. We had whole fresh scallop on shiso leaves, scallop tartar with nori that we ate like tacos, fluke sashimi, cod liver with pickled plum, grated yam with raw oyster and uni, seaweed shabu-shabu, then that same shabu-shabu broth served with egg and rice, plum sorbet and so much more that my jet-lagged brain cannot currently recall. It was d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. and I am so grateful that they took us there. After a street beer (or streeties, as Will says he calls them, because you can just buy a beer at a deli and walk around with it in the street and subway – amazing), we stopped at Minaë’s friend’s bar, Bubbles, before calling it a night. The next day, we bravely woke up early to catch a train to Kyoto, grabbing bento boxes per Will and Minaë’s instructions to eat on the train. The shumai and rice really helped absorb the previous night’s alcohol, along with a little catnap. We got to Kyoto around 11am and just started wandering. We walked through the Kyoto Imperial Palace, then ate our way through Nishiki Market, where we had skewered smoked scallops, eel onigiri, scallion fish cakes and sausage wrapped in rice dough, and did a little shopping. Still hungry, we stopped at a casual sushi place for a little nigiri, then hopped on a bus to Kiyomizu-dera, a temple just outside of the main city. It started to rain just a little, but it lightened up and when the sun came out, it was absolutely beautiful. Kramer and I couldn’t believe that something so perfect was hidden so far up on the top of a mountain. As we explored, a group of school children stopped Kramer and wanted to interview him about why he was visiting Kyoto and where he was from, then they had their teacher take a photo of them with him. It was adorable. On our way back down the mountain, we stopped for some warm sake, then ate soba at Sobanomi Yoshimura, where we watched talented chefs make noodles right in front of us. Exhausted, we got back on the train and slept the whole way back to Tokyo, where plans to grab a nightcap faded as we could barely keep our eyes open after our long day. Not to worry – there’s always tomorrow!
As you can see, we did a lot of eating in Japan. Obviously. That’s half of the reason that we went! I’m not ready to fully get back into the swing of things quite yet (I still need pizza, after all), but when I am, this cauliflower soup is going to be back on our weekly menu. I love winter vegetable soups, but sometimes I do not feel like roasting them in the oven, then grabbing a bowl, pureeing everything, then heating it up – that’s two or three cooking vessels and a lot more dishes than I’m ready to handle right now. That’s why this soup from Clean Slate is so awesome – just simmer everything in a pot for around 20 minutes, puree and eat! For a little texture, you can certainly crisp up some cauliflower leaves, which I didn’t know was possible but plan to do again because it’s just so damn pretty, but that’s for those of you who have the time and energy. Otherwise, the soup will keep you plenty happy, especially when you consider that each serving only has 80 calories and 1 gram of fat, yet still packs in 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. That will definitely help make up for all of the takoyaki I ate in Japan. And while I was lucky enough to be gifted a set of these gorgeous Martha Stewart white dishes from Macy’s, you have the chance to get more recipes like these, as explained in my previous post, by winning a copy of Clean Slate! To enter, simply comment here and tell me about your upcoming travel plans for 2015, or Tweet or Instagram a photo of this soup or salmon with the hashtag #cleanslate! I’m extending the giveaway until Saturday, March 1st, so be sure to enter! I love this book and I know you will, too.