staples

Making your own frozen kabocha squash, plus a simple recipe for simmered kabocha squash

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It’s the best time of the year to stock up on your own frozen kabocha squash; here’s how to do it. Plus, an easy to remember recipe for classic simmered kabocha squash. continue reading...

Bento filler and staple: Sweet stewed haricot, navy or white beans (Ingen no nimame)

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Nimame (煮豆 にまめ), or stewed beans, are a standby item for bentos. They are usually rather sweet, though not dessert-level sweet, and serve the purpose of a hashi yasume or “chopstick rest” (see anatomy of a Japanese meal), a little something that contrasts in flavor and texture from the rest of the bento.

While it takes rather long to cook these, like most bean dishes, this is a terrific staple item. The beans keep for at least a week in the refrigerator, and freeze well in small batches too. Tuck in a spoonful in any bento for something a little sweet, a little salty, and good for you.

You can make nimame with any kind of dried beans, but here I’ve specified white or navy beans, or haricot beans, which are widely available and inexpensive. You could use cannellini beans instead.

You’ll notice that the only remotely exotic ingredient used here is soy sauce, so anyone can make this! Yes it’s still authentically Japanese. (It’s another one of my mom’s recipes.) continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 11: Spicy radish leaves

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This furikake may not even look like furikake, since it’s wet, but it can be used in every way dry furikake can. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a week or so, or freeze it in small batches. And since it’s using radish leaves (leftover from making radish pickles for example), it’s very frugal and nutritious too. It’s a vegan variation of the first furikake recipe I posted, and just as delicious. continue reading...

Miso Tamago (Miso Marinated Eggs)

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Joining the list of delicious things to do with the humble hardboiled egg alongside soy sauce eggs and lazy easy tea eggs, are these delicately beige, utterly delicious eggs marinated in miso. They don’t have the burnished brown color of soy sauce eggs, but are just as, if not more, delicious. And they get tastier the longer you let them marinate.

They are very easy to make, if a bit messy. They last in the refrigerator for up to a week, so are a nice staple to have and eat over the course of a few days.

Good miso is expensive, so this recipe uses as little miso as possible while still doing the job. continue reading...

Bento sized mini-meatloaves

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Who doesn’t love a meatloaf? (If you eat meat, that is.) Sliced leftover meatloaf is great in sandwiches, and it’s also very nice in a bento box. Meatloaves also freeze very well, since they have a moistness to them.

While I do like to make a big meatloaf now and then, I also like to make these mini-sized meatloaves specifically for the bento freezer stash. I often reserve a couple for dinner, and wrap and freeze the rest.

You could use your own favorite meatloaf recipe for this, but here is one in case you need it. The key point here is the size, perfect for bento boxes and sandwiches. continue reading...

Homemade furikake no. 6: Gomashio, sesame salt

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[Updated: Originally published back in January 2008, this is one of the most popular articles on Just Bento. I’ve updated it with a much more hands-free oven method for making gomashio.]

Gomashio (ごま塩), sesame salt, is the most basic furikake. This is the best way I know to make homemade gomashio, where each sesame seed is coated with its own fine salt mantle. continue reading...

How to make shuumai / shumai dumplings

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Shuumai or shumai dumplings (焼売)are a standby for dim sum, and are very well suited to bentos. They are small, taste good cold, freeze very well, and are a lot easier to make than gyoza dumplings.

You’ve probably encountered shuumai dumplings in the freezer section of Asian or Japanese grocery stores. Frozen ones are usually pretty good, but if you make them yourself you know exactly what you put in them. I just make a double batch whenever I decide to make shuumai for dinner. Just follow along with the photos and you’ll be turning out lots of shuumai yourself. continue reading...

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...