vegetables

Roasted carrot spread

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I do love carrots. They are full of nutrients and fiber, inexpensive, available year around, and durable. And their bright orange color (or other colors, if you delve into the exotic varieties) add instant cheer to any dish or bento box. So when I saw that my favorite vegan author Yumiko Kano was coming out with a new book of just carrot recipes, I reserved it in advance without a second thought.

This is a recipe adapted from that book. It’s a soft, light carrot spread or paste that is sweet, salty and a bit spicy. It has tahini (sesame seed paste) in it, which adds richness as well as protein. The spiciness comes from cumin and red chili pepper powder, and the sweetness comes from the carrot itself, which is roasted to intensify the flavor, and a tad of raw cane sugar. It is great as a spread on crackers or rice cakes or toast, or as a dip. The soft texture means it can’t quite substitute for peanut butter in a pb and j sandwich, but it’s fantastic in a wrap sandwich. It is of course totally gluten-free and nut-free too, so if your child’s school has a “no-nut” policy, which seems to be increasingly common these days, this is great. continue reading...

How to cook lotus root on Just Hungry

Just in case you follow Just Bento but not Just Hungry, I’ve put up How to cook lotus root over there. Lotus root is a nice alternative starchy vegetable, with lots of fiber. Plus it looks pretty without the need to fuss with it - perfect for bentos. (This is for you fossettes :))

Stovetop leftover vegetable frittata

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Frittata, a thick Italian omelette, is an egg dish that’s great hot or cold. It’s perfect picnic fare, which means it’s also great for bento. The usual frittata recipe calls for baking it in the oven, but it’s hard to find the time to heat up the oven and then bake something on a weekday morning. This method of cooking it on the stovetop appeared in the April issue of kyou no ryouri (Today’s Cooking) magazine. The total cooking time is only about 10-15 minutes.

The original recipe just used broccoli, but I used a mix of steamed broccoli and the ever-useful red pepper and onion confit . You could make it with any cooked vegetable mix, so it’s a great way of using up leftovers. You could add chopped up leftover meat to this too if you like. Cheap, frugal and tasty! continue reading...

Carrot rice two ways

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Carrot rice is basically just rice cooked with carrots and some flavorings. It makes the rice colorful, as well as sneaking in some more vegetable content into your meal, bento or not. (It should work on kids too.) It does not taste ‘carrot-y’ at all, just slightly sweet.

I’ve been experimenting with different ways of making carrot rice, and these are the two methods that produce the best flavored rice so far with the least effort. One or the other may fit your routine better, so they are both here. continue reading...

Bento filler: Green asparagus and scrambled tofu

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When I woke up this morning, it was snowing heavily! By mid-afternoon the sun was shining brightly and the snow had completely melted. Such is early spring. And speaking of early spring, it’s asparagus time! The ones we are getting in the markets here now are from Spain, which is not totally local, but at least they’re coming to us from on same continent.

Asparagus goes very well with eggs and egg-based sauces like hollandaise and mayonnaise, and scrambled eggs and asparagus is a classic dish. This is a vegan version, using scrambled tofu. Don’t scoff at it until you’ve tried it - there are some ingredients in there that make it taste creamy and just slightly tangy, a perfect foil to the asparagus.

For speed purposes, use just the tips and tender stalk parts of fairly skinny spears for this.

This is also great for breakfast, piping hot with toast. continue reading...

Bento filler: Spring greens namul (namuru)

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Namul (or namuru as it’s called in Japan) is a very versatile vegetable side dish from Korea. It’s one of the key ingredients of a bibinbap but I make namul much more frequently than I make bibinbap. Various vegetables are quickly boiled or blanched, and then dressed with a simple dressing of sesame oil and salt. It’s a great way to eat a lot of vegetables, since the boiling or blanching shrinks down the mass quite a lot. The compactness makes it a perfect bento side dish. It’s so good for you, but tastes great!

I make namul with all kinds of vegetables, including the most commonly used one, bean sprouts. But at this time of year I like to make it with brightly colored spring greens. The toasty sesame oil dressing is a perfect foil to the bitterness of many of these greens. Here I’ve used three kinds of greens that are easily available to me, but do use whatever you have around where you live. I’ve used the dark green, mildly bitter leaves of a puntarelle or catalogna (which I used to think was cima de rapa), spinach leaves, and lamb’s lettuce (also known as mâche - see more about ithere). If I were in Japan at this time of year I’d use spinach, nanohana, and maybe some komatsuna. I’ve listed some green vegetables that would work below. continue reading...

Bento filler: Vegan Japanese potato salad

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It’s time to get back my bento mojo! Here’s a vegan version of Japanese potato salad, that is a great bento side dish, or the main carb in a salad bento. continue reading...

Bento filler: Blanched spinach with soy sauce or sesame sauce

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You may be used to eating spinach leaves in salads, or sautéed. In Japan spinach is rarely eaten raw. The most common way to eat spinach is to blanch it briefly. You may lose some nutrients when you do this, but it’s more than made up for I think by the fact that you can eat a whole lot more spinach than in a salad or so.

In the U.S. and Europe, it’s probably easier these days to buy ready-washed bags of the leaves only. This is a bit of a shame really, because spinach stalks and roots have a different texture which adds interest. In any case, the instructions here assume that you are dealing with the leaves only. continue reading...