Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Gussied up Thanksgiving leftovers

November 27, 2006, 11:17 PM

I usually end up with too much gnocchi when I make them; it’s not easy to, for example, bake less than a quarter of a squash or less than two potatoes.

My excess butternut squash gnocchi from Thursday went straight into the freezer, but I felt compelled to dig right back into them on Saturday night. And although I love the squash-enriched cream sauce I usually make to accompany them, I wanted to do something a tiny bit different.


I wanted to make further use of my truffles in something other than an egg dish. I was a bit worried that the truffle might overwhelm the squash flavor, but it turned out to work well in moderation. I just put a bit of shaved truffle in sizzling butter, added a tiny bit of preserved lemon, and adjusted seasoning a bit after adding some pasta water to the butter-truffle sauce.

Instead of using a cheese like parmesan, I shaved over the pasta a bit of an interesting aged goat cheese that has an almost fruity quality that contrasted nicely with its nutty flavor. I carelessly tossed the label, but I hope I can track it down again when I crave it next…


November 27, 2006, 1:39 AM


I started very quietly offering local matsutake, or pine mushrooms, on YuzuMura.com last fall. This year, I’ve had a surprisingly large number of orders in spite of relatively minimal promotion, but the season has not been as prolific as in the last two years. I wonder if the scarcity is making people notice my site more, or if it just took a while to get an audience.


This was from my first batch I got a couple of weeks ago, shipped just a day after they were picked… they were quite nice (although the photo was simultaneously overexposed and oversaturated). I wish I could have afforded to eat some of them… I did manage to score a deal on some slightly older ones, not pictured, which had lost a bit of moisture, and I turned them into a few simple dishes. I really wish I had spent the time to make dobin-mushi, which is still my favorite application of matsutake.

Matsutake are as eagerly anticipated by Japanese food lovers as truffles are to those fond of Italian and French cuisine. American and Canadian matsutake are whitish, whereas the extravagantly expensive Japanese ones (the kind that go for $300 for 6 small pieces in Tokyo department stores) are a much darker brown. However, the aroma is similar; in my experience, Japanese ones tend to have a more dramatic aroma and a milder flavor, whereas the North American variety, which is actually a different species as I recall, seems to have a milder aroma but a more intense flavor.

I actually had to raise the price a bit last week, unfortunately. Thanks to the low yields this year, the matsutake costs are close to double last year’s. Once I consider the cost of including 2–day or overnight shipping in the price, they’ve been fairly low-margin… Maybe the late season will change things if I’m lucky. Some of the local matsutake guys prefer the ones that come after the first freeze.

Culinary slump

November 25, 2006, 12:24 PM

I’ve actually been eating fairly undramatically in the last month or so… I can think of only two or three memorable meals that I prepared recently… While I usually feel compelled to cook for myself about as well as I do for guests, I’ve sometimes struggled just to come up with an adequate idea for dinner.

It has been a long time since I’ve primarily cooked for myself… but previously, when I faced such a situation, I still tended to want to eat well. So I don’t know what’s different this time. It’s not so much that I want to eat badly; I just find myself uninspired.

One meal was memorable primarily due to the leftovers it generated. I made a kind of roasted cauliflower and cannelini soup, which got me through about a week of lunches. It was a simple soup with a simple flavor, nothing particularly dramatic.

On Thanksgiving I cooked for a friend, since my nearby family hadn’t planned anything this year… I surprised myself by putting together about 9 dishes… some focaccia with a garlic cannelini spread (yes, that white bean has been a recurring ingredient as well), some sauteed broccolini with garlic, roasted red potatoes with dill, butternut squash gnocchi, a persimmon and almond salad, more roasted cauliflower, and a truffle frittata with some shavings of a nice smoked goat cheese. I also made a cranberry sauce… some marinated mushrooms, and some chanterelles with oven-braised leeks.

I don’t do mock turkey… it just seems like a disastrous concept, so I’ve never felt any urge to add it to my table… but Jennifer baked a few pieces of brined turkey for herself (and for future leftovers), along with a stuffing.

Speaking of truffles, Ballard Market started to carry black truffles at a fairly reasonable price… I only bought a couple of smallish ones, but I have gotten fairly good results… I think I’ll make a simple pasta with truffles and butter tonight.

Last night I went shopping a bit and then ate at Matt’s In The Market… I usually don’t eat by myself anywhere other than quick service restaurants, but I just felt like being self-indulgent.

I think if I can keep preparations simple but ingredients a little extravagant, I’ll at least feel a little inspired…

Last dinner with Hiromi

November 13, 2006, 12:51 AM

I guess it’s a little sad that I’ve taken several weeks to get around to writing anything about our last dinner…

Hiromi got a little restaurant weary after a few weeks of farewell dinners and , even though we generally ate very well… Over three or so weeks, we found ourselves at Volterra, Lark, Licorous, Sambar, BOKA, Nishino, Monsoon, Marco’s Supperclub, Yea’s Wok, and probably a few others…

It was a whirlwind tour of Seattle’s restaurant scene. The only time I usually go to restaurants with that much frequency is when I’m out of the country, travelling. It also hasn’t even really been in my means to do that for the last few years… even though I’ve got a reasonably reliable income stream again, it was a painful dent in the wallet, but it was worthwhile.

Anyway, she requested that I cook something for her last Seattle dinner before returning to Japan, so I tried to do a nice weeknight meal.

Goat cheese ravioli with shiitake-caper sauce

I bought some goat cheese ravioli, and Hiromi had picked up various mushrooms at Sosio’s in the Pike Place Market. So I made a sauce with shiitake, some kind of shimeji, capers, shallots and a bit of butter and cream.


The mushroom stash also included some eringii. We had some nice tomatoes but no basil, but for some reason I did have dill… so I made an improvised tomato sauce of chopped tomatoes, dill, and garlic. It turned out to be a good match for the mushrooms. The only thing I regret is slicing the eringii lengthwise, as they did get a bit chewy and tended to slice off the crust when bitten into.

We had recently made a trip to Chateau Ste. Michelle and bought about 12 bottles of wine, which is a lot for us. For this dinner, we decided to dig into a very decent Riesling labeled Eroica. It was still a couple of weeks before Halloween, but we had a couple of the trappings, thanks to a cleverly presented gift from a friend of ours and an impulse candle purchase at the Ballard Market.


I vaguely recall considering making a salad or some vegetable side dish, but either I skipped it at the last minute or it escaped Hiromi’s photographic attention. It was, after all, a weeknight… I wasn’t home until fairly late, thanks to evil traffic and a need to make a quick supermarket stop. I wanted to make something a little exciting, but still practical for after-work preparation.


Our dessert involved some pureed Kent mango, lime juice and rum… I’m sure something else went into this, perhaps a banana or something, but my memory fails me. It’s not the rum’s fault… really… It was only there to add a touch of evil to our smoothie.

Dinner was all last minute and hurried… Hiromi threw together the pizza dough from inadequate instructions I gave only a couple of hours before I was supposed to come home. I only decided to make the pasta after it caught my attention at Trader Joe’s on the way home, when I was grabbing a couple of things.

But it was a nice quiet sendoff before I took her to the airport the next morning. 

Nashi no hiyayakko

November 5, 2006, 1:06 AM

It sounded like a very odd idea to Hiromi at the time, but both of us were converts after we tasted the results of this variation of hiya-yakko.

A few weeks ago, after a rushed trip to Leavenworth, we went nashi picking near Everett, at an orchard owned by the family of a friend.

We ended up with such a bounty that we needed to exercise an unusual level of creativity to find uses for our treasure.

I suggested we try grating the nashi in the style of daikon-oroshi, to which we added some grated fresh ginger. We placed this atop of kinugoshi (soft) tofu, added a bit of chopped scallion, and splashed on a small amount of Japanese soy sauce.


It’s a surprisingly refreshing seasonal twist on a classic side dish.

Hiromi used to ask me what we needed to buy when she made a grocery shopping trip, but I usually suggest just buying whatever vegetables look tempting, and I promise to figure out something to do with them. For this meal, that was a running theme… I worked out a Japanese-ish treatment of the day’s purchases.

We ate a nice tempura of mataike and arugula.


Hiromi had picked up some patty pan squash and shiitake, so I made a simple itamemono from that.


I also made daigaku-imo, which is usually a snack rather than a side dish, but that didn’t stop me.



November 2, 2006, 12:39 AM

I impatiently made Laugen with an inadequately smooth dough a few weeks ago, and the skin never quite became glatt enough to make for attractive rolls.

I’ve actually made nicer Laugen before, but I was careless that Sunday…


Anyway, it’s another thing that Hiromi became a fan of, thanks in particular to the Columbia City Bakery, while in Seattle. So I thought I’d make some one morning.

Anyway, the technique is not particularly interesting… I just made a yeast dough, a customary Natron  (baking soda) solution brought to a boil, and stewed the rolls a minute or so, pressed the buns into some coarse salt, and baked until browned.

With more careful attention to detail, and a slightly warmer kitchen on the day in question, I’d have a somewhat smoother skin, but they tasted fairly decent.

Hiromi's eggs florentine with rapini

October 30, 2006, 9:43 PM

Well, ok, I may have done a fair amount of work on this one. But I tried to use a guiding hand rather than take over.

Hiromi got hooked on Eggs Benedict after we made a stop at Fremont’s 35th St. Bistro for brunch early in the year. I’ve made Eggs Florentine or other vegetarian variants at home, and when we’ve found ourselves at brunch at a place which offers Eggs Benedict, there’s a fairly good chance Hiromi will order it. Her favorite so far was made with a sort of truffled hollandaise with mushrooms at Volterra in Ballard.

Hiromi wanted to learn to make hollandaise sauce before leaving, so I walked her through one of the effective “cheating” methods that involves melting the butter with the warmed egg yolk and lemon-water mixture. I’ve done the traditional method, the blender method (particularly effective when a rescue effort is required), and  this approach, and I think it’s the most fool-proof.


I had blanched some rapini for ohitashi the night before, but we had a bit leftover. The slight bitterness of the rapini is a good way of balancing the luxurious richness of the hollandaise and poached egg.

We also had some crispy fried potatoes, which I oil-blanched and fried like frites.

Mushrooms en croute

October 26, 2006, 9:48 PM

One of the oddball recipes I internalized when living in Germany was the idea of “stuffed bread” filled with mushrooms in a bechamel sauce.

I don’t remember where I first saw it… it may have been in one of the cheap, slim cookbooks I used to see in front of bookstores as a student there, where I would often spend a few minutes doing tachi-yomi (reading while standing, in Japanese) between classes or whatever. I just recall the concept, which usually involved taking a square loaf of unsliced “toast” bread from the bakery, chopping it in half, hollowing out the center, and oven-toasting the bread with a liberal application of butter on the hollowed-out walls, then stuffing it with a savory filling.

Unsliced breads in the US don’t usually stand up on end, as the good quality bread in the US is almost always hyper-rustic. So on the rare occasions when I feel like making such things, I choose something like this medium-sized dinner roll.

Kinoko cream cup

As in the recipe I stole the concept from, I hollow out the roll, but I use a less extravagant application of butter around the inside.

I sauteed the mushrooms a bit with some onions or shallots, added some garlic and maybe some fresh dill. I made a bechamel sauce… actually a browned butter sauce, not a true bechamel, to add a bit more of a hazelnut color than the mushrooms alone would provide… I combined the sauce and mushrooms, and filled the bread again, warming for just a few minutes in the oven while I prepared some quickly cooked brussels sprouts.

This was one of the last dinners at home when Hiromi was still here…

Better living through caffeinistry

October 26, 2006, 1:32 AM

On Tuesday the kitchenette in my building where I do my little survival gig was taped off like a crime scene or city excavation project, marked with the word “Danger”. I’m not sure what was dangerous, but perhaps the “Farmer Bros.” branded coffee equipment being removed, which I lived in fear of during my 7 year tenure as a full-time employee of this company, contained toxic waste.

Walking down the halls was strangely quiet yesterday. I doubt there was any correlation between the the lack of coffee and the unusually languid vibe , but when I arrived this morning I noticed a substantially greater amount of noise, including more animated office conversations.

This new energy may have been directly traceable to particularly high doses of caffeine caused by people trying out the new Starbucks equipment.

Though the coffee itself is still mediocre, the ground-to-order brew is vastly superior to what it replaced, and the excessively roasted brew can be muted with a splash of milk. There was no hiding the stale flavor and hostile acidity of the predecessor.

Until everyone gets caffeine overload, I suspect the atmosphere at work will be unusually frenetic…

Maybe sugar will help

October 24, 2006, 11:46 PM

A couple weeks ago, Hiromi got a job offer that was hard to pass up, back with her old team, and decided to go back to Japan, even though it complicates a few things… She had informally extended her unpaid internship at a quirky Seattle-based mobile phone software company, and planned to start school again in January… Hopefully the sudden change will not make her next visit in December too messy when she goes through passport control.

The post-9/11 security rules make going “out of status” (including unplanned changes) on a student visa particularly subject to scrutiny.

After a long period of having a roommate last year, and the almost continuous presence of Hiromi this year, coming home to a completely empty home is very strange. I couldn’t sleep very well the last four or five nights, as my mind and body adjust to unfamiliar circumstances. When I’m traveling, I don’t have this problem, but at home, my mind is not at ease when new stressors enter my life.

Though I’ve been eating particularly lightly and suffering from a bit of stomach irritation the last few days, I just remembered how nice this key lime meringue pie tasted…

Key lime meringue

It has been languishing, almost forgotten in my archives, from around the time Hiromi went out of town for a few days late in the summer. The meringues weren’t so pretty, but the lime curd was great. I think this might have been my first or second attempt at key lime curd. I really don’t want to over-indulge in sugar right now… my waistline has expanded over the last few months and I’m not very happy about that… Increased commute time and more eating out than average since September has puffed me up a bit.

The crust was decent, though it looks a little sad in the photo… more crispy-crumbly than crispy-flaky, it was neither a great example of an American pie crust nor a pate sucree. But it did wonders for the meringue, which likes to sabotage the crispness of pie crust; the crust stood up to the curd and retained a pleasant crispness.

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