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.

Matcha gin

Matcha GinLast night I mixed about 1/4 cup Matcha Latte mix with a couple of tablespoons of warm water, stirred it a bit, then I added about 3 cups (or roughly 750 ml) of dry gin and shook it up a bit. I will infuse the mixture for about 7 days and then keep it in the freezer. I want to minimize the risk of oxidation and also keep the flavor green-tea like.

I’ve made this type of drink once before using about a tablespoon of matcha and maybe 3/4 cup sugar (it was a sweeter drink last time). I usually drank it after dinner served extremely cold, just pulled from the freezer. In that case it was more of a strong liqueur; it had a heady green tea flavor but was sweet enough that it needed to be blended with some shochu or vodka to cut the sugar.

I will infuse it for about 7 days. After that I will store it in the freezer to minimize additional oxidation, so that I can keep the color as green as possible. I think it’s discolored a bit since I first made it last night since it was more of a emerald color originally, but a little bit of color change is probably unavoidable.

I’m hoping it will make for a nice martini, just shaken and poured into a glass washed with vermouth. The last version of this I made worked for a martini but was more of a digestiv-style drink.

A rare case of tax procrastination

When I worked at Microsoft I had a habit of figuring out my taxes just after all the forms came in… I would file my return right away if I was due a refund, or wait until the last moment if I owed money.

This year my taxes were more complicated than ever before… complex capital gains, carryover of prior year capitol loss, business loss, vehicle expenses for business, travel expenses, business use of home… I had a fat stack of papers to fill out, an insane number of receipts, and I was too cheap to spring for accounting software last year to make my life easier. I also had a pretty busy February and March.

So, in spite of the fact that I anticipated a huge refund this year, I put most of the work off until last Sunday night or so. Accordingly, I was working down to the wire. I probably have to file an amended return because I didn’t include every one of my little expenses. Not to mention my return probably looks suspicious because I have such a dramatic disparity between revenue and business expenses… some of that due to unfortunate inventory management mistakes last summer, and some due to the fact that some of last year’s sales aren’t reflected until they get paid this year.

I was one of the slackers at midnight tonight. I was suitably frazzled, and I am sure I made a few mistakes. I’ll try to figure it out again after making a dent in the litany of other tasks I am trying to catch up on…

Jetlag and demos don't mix

Last night I finally slept sometime after 6am, and managed to get out of bed about 5 hours later. The previous night I slept much earlier but didn’t get up until midday. Alternating between sleeplessness and oversleeping is not much fun.

I did demos at the Seattle Uwajimaya this weekend, but I’m afraid I got a late start both days. Beyond that, my charisma quotient seemed to be down a few notches below normal, and I was probably not infrequently speaking slightly incoherently.

Food isn’t going so well… I’m eating erratically. Sometimes snacking madly, and sometimes eating too little at normal mealtimes.

I had a pleasant meal tonight… an experimental pasta dish, using a yuzu miso cream sauce and some yu-tsai, something like nanohana (basically, some lightly bitter stalky greens with pretty little flowers) Actually it probably sounds completely insane, but this is not your usual fusion restaurant overkill; I just used the miso in service of salt, waking up the pasta with the fermented complexity of miso and hint of yuzu. Plus it was a good excuse to see what Saison Factory’s products can be used for… I have a bunch of fun stuff from Japan I got as samples and wanted to look at ways to use them to see if they might be serviceable in upscale food retailers in the US… I like the things I’ve tried in the shops in Japan… though it’s a hard call if it would work in a wholesale business model.

Tonight it seems like many of the contacts I met in Asia have started touching base by email. I guess that will accelerate over the next few days. I’m also trying to nail down some other things at the same time. My sanity is decreasing, though, as I worry about finances, time, and so on.

Paneer two ways

I thought it would be fun to do something else for Is My Blog Burning again, but this weekend I think today is my last chance. I am planning to drive to Portland tomorrow and will probably be a bit exhausted upon my return.

Yesterday I bought a big brick of paneer cheese. I never got around to cooking a real dinner last night, so except for nibbling a bit and eating the paneer with a little harissa, and eating some snacks, I never got the energy to do anything more substantial with my ingredients.

Today I came home relatively early because today’s promo event was an outside thing at Uwajimaya Bellevue, and everything shut down around 4pm. I brought the luggables from that event back to my office and went home and relaxed a bit. I’m afraid I’m a bit pink… I didn’t remember to bring sunscreen today.

This month’s theme was “Let’s Get Frying,” and although I was inclined to do another matcha fritter recipe, I’ve eaten a lot of sweet stuff in the last few days, so I decided against it.

I remembered that I have a couple of peaches still, so I made quick peach chutney, seasoned with a bit of lime juice, ginger, and various spices. I thought the bittersweetness of toasted fenugreek and the aroma of a little clove would work well, so those were the dominant accents. I did add a bit of sugar after tasting to balance the acid and spices.

I cubed paneer and coated it with some seasoned katakuriko; I had mixed in a bit of salt and garam masala, plus a bit of cayenne pepper. After coating, I let the cubes rest a bit in the freezer, atop the remaining katakuriko to prevent anything from sticking.

It might seem strange to use katakuriko when chickpea flour would be far more typical for such a dish, but I love using katakuriko for frying tofu and I just wanted to see how it would turn out. It was quite nice because the coating was very light and crispy, whereas chickpea flour tends to produce a dense and not all that crispy result. I might have used a thicker coating than would really be required, though… my fried tofu is not usually this well-covered. The most interesting thing about this little experiment is that the cheese seems to have browned inside, but the katakuriko remained mostly translucent.

Fried Paneer with Peach Chutney

Paneer Age with Homemade Peach Chutney

The chutney was better than I expected, and was a very suitable accent for the mild paneer. Unlike European cheeses, where the compliment to the cheese would tend to be either mild, such as quince paste, or salty, like olives or almonds, the paneer benefits from something a little more aggressive; in this case, sweet, acidic, fruity, and moderately spicy.

I don’t know what’s possessed me to be doing so many spicy cream sauces lately. Actually, this is only the second one this week, but I can count the times I’ve otherwise made anything resembling a spicy tomato cream sauce in the last year on one hand. This one I cut a bit with some milk, but it was still quite rich.

This second dish isn’t meant for the “frying” event, but I was actually looking forward to making this ever since the idea to pick up some paneer popped into my head on Friday.

Paneer in a spicy tomato cream sauce

Paneer with a spicy tomato cream sauce

The dish also proved a fair way of highlighting the paneer’s texture while allowing flavors from the sauce to coat each little piece.

I was surprised at how durable the paneer was. Although it softened, it didn’t show the slightest hint of melting, either in the fryer or simmering in my sauce.

Of course I ate leftover rasam and grilled eggplant from a couple of days ago. I couldn’t finish everything today by myself, and my roommate is not around, so leftovers will likely languish in the refrigerator until Monday.

If I can keep this momentum...

Today I got two new wholesale accounts for the green tea latte and filled one re-order for Uwajimaya Bellevue, and took care of a couple of decent weekend internet orders. Small victories, all, but if every day of the month was like this I’d be in respectable financial shape. I’m spending the whole week being a salesman whenever I’m not filling or delivering orders.

Overall this was a pretty productive day. I am having fun, feeling motivated, and relatively at ease.

On the other hand, when I sell the green tea latte at coffee shops I feel obligated to order something so that I’m not just another annoying salesman. At the end of the day on Friday I was full of caffeine.

Cheese, green tea, connections

I went to the Pike Place Market cheese event today and tried to jockey for position to taste samples from various unfamiliar dairies, and a couple of familiar ones.

A woman with very good pitching skills from Ritrovo introduced a truffle salt, which I thought was quite nice; hydrated in some olive oil, the taste was at least as nice as a decent truffle-infused olive oil. They sampled the salt dressing some cheese curds and olive oil. I was sold… tonight’s dinner included some blanched broccoli with olive oil and this very salt. Very simple, very earthy.

I also acquired some fennel-studded soft aged chevre cheese from Rollingstone Chevre in Parma, Idaho, and some “Camellia” fleur de Chevre from Redwood Hill Farm of Sonoma County, California. I had a bit of buffalo mozzarella acquired recently at PFI, so that was the mild end of the spectrum. Accompanied with a very nice fig jam and some quince paste. We had a bit of a Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot, which was moderately complex and nice, a gift from Kaori’s boyfriend.

I think my only regret was not picking up a supply of the Rollingstone brandy-aged chevre or any blues, but I don’t want to go completely broke.

I chatted a bit with Ilyse of Ritrovo and exchanged cards. She spent a few years in Japan and said some of her customers have been requesting yuzu, so perhaps there’s some potential mutual assistance in the future. 

Cheeseplate-320w

I did have a demo scheduled today, but I didn’t get started until almost 2pm. I needed a bit of lunch so I stopped for a quick bite on the way. I was kind of feeling frustrated by the idea of encountering more slow traffic at the Bellevue Uwajimaya store, so I didn’t really feel like rushing over. But actually Bellevue Uwajimaya was busier than the most recent Sunday demos I’ve done there, perhaps due to dreary drizzly weather. Sales weren’t bad at all; the matcha latte in particular moved fairly fast. Beaverton yesterday, by contrast, was incredibly quiet, due perhaps to relatively pleasant weather and a new nearby supermarket’s grand opening.

Friday afternoon I did a little afternoon demo at Seattle Uwajimaya, where the traffic was fairly light as well. Apparently I ended up at the least busy stores on Friday and Saturday, alas… It’s hard to predict.

My new shipment of dragon beard candy probably departed on Sunday but the shipper probably messed up FDA prior notice, so I guess it will be delayed as it was last time.

Godoufu memories

On eGullet, someone asked about what to eat in Fukuoka, but most of what I could think of was not particularly special to the city, alas. But it triggered a memory of godoufu (ごどうふ, more likely to be rendered in English as godofu), of which I’m a huge fan.

When I visited Arita on an outing in March 2000, I tried this mochi-like soymilk-based “tofu” in a little restaurant on my way to go ceramics hunting. Served three ways in the picture below: in the center is godoufu with ginger, soy sauce, and possibly some daikon oroshi. On the upper right is a bowl with godoufu, some sea vegetables, and dengaku-miso type topping but still served cold. This might have had some ginger or some ground sesame seeds in it… My memory has subsequently faded. The suimono in the bottom right has a smaller cubes of godoufu, some tamago-yaki, and some fu. The rest is standard teishoku fare; tsukemono on the upper left, chawanmushi below that,  rice, and some mostly vegetable tempura. (Ah, and shiso… mmm).

Godoufu has a nice chewy texture and could easily find its way into both sweet and savory dishes. I think you could serve it with some kuromitsu and kinako to get something approximating soy milk warabi-mochi (豆乳のわらびもち). You could have it replace siratama or mochi in an oshiroko/zenzai (sweet red bean “soup”). It might even be an alternative to the jellies often found at the bottom of cream anmitsu or mitsumame… As is usually best with Japanese foods, simple preparations are likely to be the most impressive.

If you ask the average Japanese person about godoufu, they’ve probably never heard of it. It’s fairly specific to Saga prefecture, though like most regional specialties, through the magic of mail order and perhaps the mura-kara-machi-kara-kan type places, you may have a chance to get this in other parts of Japan. It is completely nonexistent, to my knowledge, in the US.

I have attempted to describe the process to make godoufu. I’ve probably made it about four times successfully, with usually very nice results, save one time when I scorched the bottom of my pan.

I think I have a weekend project ahead of me sometime soon.

Oh, that espresso machine problem

Sunday I mentioned that my espresso machine failed during a matcha latte demo. It turned out to be a trivial thing… my thermal cutoff died. My initial impression that it must have overheated was correct.

I went to Home Espresso Repair in Phinney Ridge, just in my neighborhood. They were brilliant and helped diagnose the problem without so much as a bench fee, and sold me the fuse for $5 + tax. I also got a replacement for a slightly broken portafilter handle—a small plastic endcap had mysteriously disappeard some time ago—and they replaced the handle for a mere $1.

I went home and installed the fuse myself, and it seemed to work, and then I closed up the machine, and it seemed not to work anymore. Yesterday I went back to the shop and they weren’t terribly busy, so one of the partners tested and replaced the fuse in front of me, and made sure it worked before I departed.

When I got home, it seemed not to work, but I tried another wall socket before running back, wanting to avoid seeming like a larger idiot. That was a good idea, because it turned out that somehow a circuit breaker associated with that socket had been tripped recently, maybe when I was testing the machine the day before. Everything is good.

More on godoufu

I guess I never got around to mentioning that last week I made some godoufu (godofu). It’s been a while since I’ve last done this, but I posted recently on eGullet about it and thought it would be good to revisit it. The pictured godoufu is served after it had only minimally set; it’s in ideal condition after chilling for a few hours. But, alas, hunger won out over flawlessness. I garnished it with some shiso, dressed with some shouyu and konbu-shiitake dashi. There might be a little bit of yuzu zest in there.

Godoufu meal

This is most of the spread.

Godoufu to shiso

A close-up of my not-quite-fully-set godoufu. When fully set and cut, it looks a little more like a bulging block rather than an amorphous blob. It tastes good either way: creamy with a mochi-like texture.

Nasu-no miso-ni and misoshiru

I made misoshiru with daikon and leeks, as well as nasu-no-miso ni. Nasu-no-miso ni is made in many different ways, but it’s basically a braised eggplant dish with miso, usually some mirin, sometimes some sugar. The eggplant is salted and rinsed to remove aku. Sometimes it’s pan-grilled and sometimes it’s deep-fried before simmering with the miso-based sauce. In west Japan it tends to be sweeter; in north Japan it tends to be saltier. Since I was making Arita-style godoufu, I chose to make it a bit sweeter to match the region.

Nasu-no miso-ni is often garnished with sesame seeds (either black or white). It always tastes best on the second day.

Bokchoy

A very basic bok choy no itamemono served with a few raw pine nuts. The sauce is shouyu, mirin and my own dashijiru. This takes less than a minute to prepare.

kyuuri to konbu no sunomono

Some simple sunomono with konbu and Japanese-style kyuuri.

This dinner may look moderately complicated, but the only time-consuming part was the godoufu, which takes about 50 minutes, not counting the chilling time to make it set. If, for example, I had my godoufu and tsukemono ready to go, this dinner could be prepared in its entirety in the time it takes to cook rice.

Individual Japanese dishes are rarely terribly complicated, but the time it takes to prepare Japanese food increases with the number of dishes presented. Fortunately, unlike other cuisines, most Japanese foods can be served lukewarm or chilled; other than soup, usually Japanese only serve one or two hot dishes. A number of simmered foods like nimono improve with rest. Ohitashi (blanched, lightly dressed vegetable dishes) are often served cold.

I didn’t take any photos because it was a fried food and I was hungry, but a few days after I made my godoufu, I was trying to think of a way use up the remainder in a different way than I had tried before. So I cut the remaining godoufu and cut it into modestly-sized cubes, and coated with katakuriko. I deep-fried these cubes at about 375F. I served them in a bowl with some Japanese soy sauce, cold Japanese tea and daikon oroshi, much like agedashi-doufu. I was lazy that day and didn’t have any soup stock handy, but I did have some iced Japanese tea on hand, so I improvised. It worked fairly well.

I hate to compare something that most people have likely never tried with something else that most people have never tried, but it reminded me of tamago no tempura. This is one of the few kinds of food which I find a mystery, but basically tamago no tempura is like a poached egg that has been deep fried with a tempura coating. When I had it in a restaurant in Japan, it still seemed to have a relatively soft yolk, and the basic texture was “fuwa-fuwa” (umm… fluffy?) but with a nice crisp coating. My agegoufu was similar except it had a creamier texture.

A little work, a little distraction

The day started off with a blast of heat and never quite cooled down.

I hit most of my planned tasks today, most of which were mundane: phone calls, a quick check on a customer of mine who had been out sick for a few days, packing internet orders, and making an Eastside delivery and a couple of follow-ups, and by the end of the day I handled a couple of less pressing things.

After everything I met up with Jennifer at Lake Union and went kayaking from Portage Bay to Gasworks park, then made a stop at Agua Verde for a margarita and something to nibble on. Service staff was a little distracted but the food was about the same level of quality that I remember from the last visit, a notch above standard Seattle-area Mexican restaurant fare but not dreamy. Oddly enough, both Jennifer and I had independently found ourselves eating tacos for lunch, so there was an element of redux to the whole event, but there’s not much that compares to paddling up some place for dinner.

It’s still a little too hot, even after 11 pm. I hope I can get some decent sleep tonight.

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