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.

Last reminders of summer

October 3, 2006, 10:39 PM

My absence of late is thanks primarily to excessive exhaustion… My new old commute has been draining. In fact, the traffic between Redmond and Seattle seems decidedly more painful than it was a couple years back…

But 2004 was a painful year in the digital economy, and I know some substantial hiring has gone on in the Eastside since then.

At the end of the day, I have rarely had much energy to take photos of dinner or write about the growth of YuzuMura.com. I have a few photos that were stashed on my camera’s memory card, but they’re all reminders of the peak of summer.


These were some heirloom tomatoes we bought from Sosio’s in the Pike Place Market… one day we got an incredible deal on seconds, and I made 4 quarts (a shy 4 liters) of really dangerously sweet and flavorful tomato sauce with minimal handling… just basil, garlic, a little wine, olive oil…

But we also made some insalata caprese…

Insalata caprese

And a spread particularly suited for a potato rosemary focaccia, made with cannelini beans, garlic, and olive oil, topped with some tiny heirloom tomatoes.


Hiromi’s parents actually came to visit for a couple of weeks recently. Her father professes a distaste for tomatoes, but I suspect this is due to the flavorlessness of Japanese supermarket tomatoes (which pretty much match the flavorlessness of US supermarket tomatoes); he reliably took several helpings of almost any tomato dish I served.

We only have another week or two left to get decent tomatoes in Seattle, but we’re lucky, as the season is pretty much over in the rest of the country…

We interrupt this silence...

August 23, 2006, 11:46 PM

My laptop died another, more unfixable death a few weeks ago, and this has made me a bit sluggish posting recently.

I caved in and replaced it with a Dell, after agonizing about whether to buy a cheapo replacement or something suitable for longer-term use. I decided to get something more long-term, because even though I think I’d get a good deal on a Windows Vista-ready laptop if I buy something cheap now and something average later, I just can’t stomach the idea of discarding a laptop after less than a year if I can help it.

I chose Dell mostly because of the good deal ex-Microsoft employees get through an alumni program… I was tempted to buy a Mac, but ones with suitably large storage and comparable processors were at least $500 more, and quite outside of my price range.

After an unfortunately unsuitable stint as an agency temp in MSN, which turned out to be a substantial mismatch between what was pitched to me and what I was actually needed for, I found something else more interesting in the SQL Server team, which is going reasonably well so far. I’m actually kind of hoping that, at some point in the future, I’ll find a web development role or internationalization-focused coding assignment, but for the moment, I’m spending a lot of time digging into test automation code and refactoring it into something hopefully saner. (For my non-geek visitors, refactoring refers to a series of small, isolated changes that over time improve the design of the system).

Sometimes a little homemade falafel does the trick

July 24, 2006, 4:04 PM

My little falafel adventure

My falafel

From 1994–1996, Imbiss falafel was one of my staple starving student lunches in the city of Marburg, Germany. Most of the Turkish restaurants in Marburg served falafel on wedge of a large round dough which they called pide, but has more in common with focaccia than the standard pita. The usual cost for such a lunch was about DM4 (give or take 50 Pfennig), or about $3, making it one of the most inexpensive lunch options in town.

I don’t know why I never make falafel at home; perhaps the relatively ready availability at various quick-service Mediterranean restaurants around Seattle is a bit of a distraction. But I can usually hope for no better than uncharismatic, flabby pita when I go to such an inexpensive place, although there are some notable exceptions when I am willing to spend a bit more for a full-service meal, such as at Mediterranean Kitchen (Bellevue, Seattle).

But at home I have the power to escape the travesty of stale or flavorless pita bread; I can make my own, and serve them just seconds after they leave the oven. It’s surprisingly easy to make good pita, as the more familiar variety requires only a quick knead and is a fairly moist, easy-to-handle dough. Rolling the dough out evenly is the most difficult thing, but is a surmountable challenge.

Falafel, too, sometimes suffer from the flaw of premature frying, to save some effort on the part of a harried staff far more concerned with pushing out orders than getting the best possible flavor. Unfortunately, falafel set aside for an hour or so and microwaved tend to be displeasingly dry. It is, alas, a fairly common strategy, but again, home cooking comes to the rescue. I soak dry chickpeas and fava beans for a few hours, chop them in a blender, add onion, various seasonings, and salt, then shape into small balls and fry.

In this case, since I was making dinner and not eating on the run, I served the falafel more like a salad, and used the pita as a utensil. I made a little yogurt sauce with a little garlic and salt, which should actually probably be served with the cucumber, but which mysteriously snuck onto the falafel itself, in addition to coating the salad.

Not a disappearing act, and grilled donut peaches

July 22, 2006, 4:38 PM

Sorry for the long delay between postings. I suffered another laptop disaster, as the graphics controller or monitor seems to have given up the ghost. I should have known that the flaky hard drive of a month or two ago was only the beginning, but I was a tad too optimistic.

Repair would likely cost as much as a comparable replacement, since that machine is now approaching 3 years old. Accordingly, I’ve decided to delay purchase of a replacement for a bit, since I have a machine at my commercial space and I can occasionally make off with Hiromi’s laptop as needed.

I’ve also been fairly busy working on unrelated things, and catching up on some necessary reading.

We have been cooking, and we’ve made more use of the nifty shichirin. We bought some white-fleshed donut peaches at Sosio’s and grilled them for dessert. Donut peaches are more interesting for their shape than their flavor, and they tend to be less sweet than comparably seasonably appropriate peaches. But grilling them a bit creates a very nice caramelization, and provides the illusion of a sweeter taste. When eaten with a little lightly sweetened mascarpone with a few drops of good vanilla extract, magical things happen.


Gougères, or something like them

July 3, 2006, 9:40 PM

On the heels of my savory choux, or Gefüllte Windbeutel, I wanted to revisit the “embedded” treats we had at Pair Restaurant few weeks ago.

Unlike our last choux, these gougères have cheese right inside the choux pastry dough, instead of being sliced and stuffed. I add the cheese just after whipping the finished dough.

Gorgonzola gougères


I used a couple of cheeses that I had on hand: in this case, a bit of gorgonzola and parmesan, along with some scallions. Because they are already reasonably buttery, no further adornment is required when consumed warm, but an additional pat of butter or cream cheese wouldn’t hurt.

These don’t require a piping bag, but they’d probably look a bit more presentable if piped.

Edamame ice cream

July 1, 2006, 10:52 PM

Sure, I usually use edamame in the simplest way possible… boiled for a few minutes in salted water, and seasoned with coarse salt.

In spite of the perfect simplicity of that summer treat, I occasionally move beyond the obvious.

Several years ago, I stumbled into a special event at a Tokyo department store where I first encountered zunda with shiratama. Zunda is to edamame what anko is to azuki beans: a sweet paste, but instead of being red, it’s brilliantly green.

Thanks to that experience, I realized that edamame had a broader potential than I had first imagined. I experimented with other sweet applications.

A couple of summers ago, I made my first attempt at an edamame ice cream. It worked out well, but was a little light on the edamame flavor and heavy on the cream.

I adjusted the proportions again, using more edamame and less cream, after realizing how much fat the edamame contribute to the mix. This Wednesday, I made another batch, with some more adjustments. Now my only problem is that the ice cream is incredibly hard when it freezes, so I think I need to tweak the sugar balance to get the texure just right, but with this batch, I was very happy with the taste.

Edamame ice cream

To add to the edamame experience, I made a sort of glace of edamame, and spooned it over the ice cream when serving.

This weekend is the tail end of Sweet Pleasure's Summer Ice Cream event, so I have an excuse to consume a lot of ice cream. I’m looking forward to some other indulgences, vicarious or otherwise…

Shichirin night

June 27, 2006, 11:28 PM

We didn’t want to be indoors last night, since it was hotter inside than out. A hot kitchen in a hot apartment with no air conditioning seemed an unbearable thought, so we lit some binchoutan (Japanese charcoal) and set up the shichirin, a small table-top grill, outside on the balcony.


My tiny table barely fit all of the plates, but we ultimately grilled some whole wheat bread, asparagus, onions, scallions, red bell peppers, green beans, and even some tofu. For dipping, I put together three options: an improvised harissa mayonnaise, and some yuzu miso, and some fleur de sel.

Hiromi put together the insalata caprese. I was the one drinking the fruity white wine, while she drank Red Hook IPA.

As the sun set, the red glow of the shichirin kept going strong.

It was too hot

June 26, 2006, 11:28 PM

Sunday we endured almost unpleasantly hot weather most of the day. Seattle’s summers tend to be moderate and plesant for the majority of the season, but this season we’ve alternated between drearily cool and cloudy and excessively sunny.

To cool off, we had sakuranbo soumen, another treat from my stash of FoodEx sample booty from this March.

Sakuranbo soumen


Made with cherries to bring out a pinkish hue, the soumen are cut slightly thicker than typical. Hiromi kept the noodles in a bath of ice water in one of my Hagi ware bowls, doubling the pink.

Ever so slightly sweeter than ordinary soumen, you’d barely notice the difference, bu the visual appeal is certainly striking.


We’re not much for convenience foods, but thanks to the insanely warm weather, we did take advantage of the supplied dipping sauce, diluted with a bit of water and further chilled with an additional ice cube.

It was a refreshing dinner, especially after a heavy breakfast and lunch.

We made hiya-yakko (cold tofu) with yuzu-kosho, a sort of staple around here, to go with it, and another cold dish, an ohitashi of ingen (green breens), blanched and dressed with nothing more than ginger and soy sauce.


In fact, for the ohitashi, we used a sesame-derived “soy” sauce, marketed in Japan to those unfortunate enough to have a soy allergy in a country as dependent on that bean as Americans are on corn. For the hiya-yakko, we used a high quality Japanese Maru-daizu soy sauce, and found the flavor surprisingly hard to distinguish when served side-by-side.

Extra soupy

June 21, 2006, 9:13 PM

We’ve been on a soup kick for the last week and a half… I made a large batch of Western-style vegetable soup base from a mirepoix, and I took advantage of that for another canellini soup. Tonight I made an ordinary minestrone, but a few nights ago I put together a creamy broccoli soup.

Broccoli soup

One of the things that always bothers me about the prototypical cream of broccoli soup is the relatively dead presence of the frequently overcooked broccoli component.

In order to mitigate the possibility of such a disaster, I blanched and ice-shocked the broccoli, cooked only for about a minute, before pureeing it with soup stock. I seasoned it a bit in the pot and added some garlic. After that, I tried to minimize the cooking time, cooking it just until the vegetable matter was tender. In the last several minutes of simmering, I added a generous dose of cream.

Incredibly, the broccoli stayed a bright green, even after the cream thickened.  The flavor was essentially fresh, assisted by the a richness of the cream and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg.

I start my new gig tomorrow… I hope the additional daily commuting time doesn’t destroy all my mojo.

A smooth transition

June 14, 2006, 9:44 PM

I’ve just got a couple of days left at Revenue Science, where I’m furiously finishing up some test automation code. It’s been rough going for the last few weeks, as I’m not very Java-savvy.

I’ve been trying to build tests with the help of a framework called jUnit, which required me to reacquaint myself with a set of libraries from a framework that I haven’t really used in about 8 years, and do things that are simple, familiar idioms in other programming environments I’ve used, but are done so differently in Java as to be almost alien to me.

Anyway, I’m pleased that, after a few painful hurdles, progress has since been increasingly smooth and rapid. I even made some tweaks in the build system, called Ant, today that affect the entire product build… I wouldn’t have been brave enough to consider just a week ago, though I did arrange for a quick sanity check from someone else who knows that stuff better to me.

Conveniently enough, I have a new project starting next week. It turns out to be in a discipline quite outside of my usual domain, but probably rewarding enough. I’ve never been an SDET, formally speaking anyway, so this will be a bit new to me. Ironically, it means that I’ll be working not far from my old office for a while, as the position is a contract gig for an MSN project.

I get a couple of days off midweek next week, which I should spend taking care of some tasks related to YuzuMura.com and maybe give myself some time to regain my sanity.

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