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.

Little filo shreds and cannelini soup with kurogoma

May 17, 2006, 11:08 PM

I’m fond of kadaif or kataifi, which is essentially shredded filo dough, as the base for little hors d’ouevres similar to canapes. Apparently, the most typical application for kataifi is in canola-like cream filled desserts, but I tend to use the pastry for more savory purposes.

A while back I made channa gobi masala nests, and I tend to make similar dishes with other fillings when I need a dramatic take-along dish for a party. Last weekend I brought such a dish to a party filled with asparagus and morels… but I didn’t use up all of my kataifi dough.

We took advantage of that excess a couple of nights ago, and made a variation with a filling of asparagus, garlic, tomato, and a couple of cheeses.

Asparagus tomato kataifi

We wanted a little soup, too, so I boiled some canellini beans with garlic and bay leaf, then pureed the beans with some sauteed onions and celery, and adjusted the seasoning to make a simple soup. I snuck a few drops of toasted sesame oil, and heated up some kurogoma in a dry pan to add some contrast and flavor to the soup.


Things to do with eringii

May 12, 2006, 10:15 PM

Eringii mushrooms have great visual appeal. It’s possible to compose dramatic looking dishes with them, but I think they taste best with simple preparations.


I usually serve them as a side dish with two or three other options.

This dish only takes a minute of active preparation, as I can just slice some in half, set them in a skillet with a bit of sizzling butter on medium heat, let cook until slightly browned on one side, flip, and after a minute or so, finish with a splash of soy Japanese sauce.

Butter and soy sauce is a magical combination.

Introducing MoriAwase.com and the debut of my "other" blog

May 11, 2006, 10:53 PM

Pursuing My Passions has always been focused on my life after Microsoft, about indulging my passions for good food, contemporary Asian craft, and travel while somehow trying to build a business around those obsessions. But except for the occasional comment on a restaurant here an there, I haven’t spent much time looking outward at what other people are doing.

I wanted to build a bit of a community focused on changing contemporary Asian lifestyles, as well as on food, crafts, and design. Of course, with my ever-increasingly insane schedule, I never put the necessary amount of time into the project. But I’ve decided I will bite off a little at a time, much like I did originally with this blog… and for now, I’ve decided to create a blog wholly focused on an assortment of such things, rather than just on what I’m up to myself.

The first couple of entries on that blog are now up on MoriAwase.com. If you have any sort of enthusiasm for rustic-contemporary Asian craft, contemporary Asian art and design, for Asian cuisine and travel, please take a look, and consider signing up to participate in the MoriAwase.com Forums.

Pursuing My Passions will continue, focused mostly on what I’m cooking, where I’m traveling, and what I’m doing with my business, as it always has… MoriAwase will be a bit more focused on the world around me, and perhaps more traditionally blog-like with links to interesting content outside of my narrow little sphere.

Little eggplants in the spring

May 9, 2006, 11:04 PM

These small “Indian” eggplants from Uwajimaya remind me of kyo-nasu (Kyoto eggplant). I love using these small eggplants for elegant side dishes. It’s a little early for great eggplant, but they’re starting to be quite respectable again.

But I chose to lean toward spicy…. Nothing terribly complicated; just fresh and full of little contrasts.

Eggplant marinated with lime

Eggplant and cilantro

Thai chilies, shallots, and lime juice marinated with briefly fried halves of eggplant, with fresh cilantro leaves. I salted the eggplant and rinsed to keep them reasonably shapely. Pleasantly tart and exciting the first night, they have an even better flavor on the second day. Just add the fresh cilantro at the last minute for a nice balance of flavor.

Eggplant and tofu with thai basil

Eggplant and atsuage

Extra soft atusage (fried tofu), braised eggplant, seasoned with a little green curry paste, and basil, served dry. A little indulgent, but somehow comforting.

Savory bread pudding with chevre

April 30, 2006, 11:55 PM

Hiromi and I sometimes find it challenging to use up a full loaf of bread before it loses its charm. Since we tend to favor local Seattle artisan bakeries, that can become a bit expensive.

I usually like to use slightly old bread as croutons or French toast, but our other meal plans somehow distracted me from that kind of frugality. But as of last Saturday, I realized I had accumulated a fair stash of bread remnants. It turned out I had not one, but three potentially irreconcilable bits of dry bread around… one piece was the end of a baguette, one was from a walnut whole wheat loaf, and a third was a very nice rye bread from Essential Bakery, studded with pieces of onion.

Any other time I had some excessively crusty bread, I might make a bread pudding, but I thought the onion would be a bit of a dealbreaker. I can almost imagine making a dessert built on a caramelized onion jam, but working with onions trapped inside someone else’s loaf of bread would make for a bit of a stretch.

So I went the other direction, creating a savory bread pudding instead.

Savory bread pudding with soft chevre


After soaking the breads in a fair amount of milk until they were moist, I cut everything into bite-size chunks. In a separate bowl, I whisked together a couple of eggs, and folded them into the chunks of soaked bread, along with some extra walnuts, some soft chevre, and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. I added a nice pinch of salt to compensate for the addition of the eggs, but bread is usually fairly well-salted, so I didn’t need much.

I baked it at about 375F in small souffle ramekins until they looked set and slightly browned, probably about 25 minutes. If I were picky, considering it’s a custard, I might have stuck an instant read thermometor into one of the puddings and make sure it had reached at least 140F, but I decided that I trusted my eggs and neither Hiromi or I are pregnant or otherwise have immune problems right now. Besides, it looked done.

After cooling a bit, I carefully extracted the bread puddings from their forms and put them on a plate, slathering them with Irish butter and topping them with a reasonably indulgent helping of sour cream. It turned out better than I expected: rich, custardy, smooth, aromatic with the help of the nutmeg, and studded with capricious chunks of chevre and flavorful pieces of onion. 

Asparagus season kicked off in earnest last week, so I also roasted about 12 spears of good Washington asparagus in the oven on a grill pan while waiting for the bread puddings to cool a bit.

In a small saucepan, I let some butter melt and sizzle with some miso, and, when the butter melted, added some milk. It thickened up without the aid of flour, and I spooned it over the roasted asparagus. Maybe 8 or 9 years ago I first encountered a really clever polenta dish at a restaurant on the Harbor Steps in Seattle, topped with a miso bechamel sauce… I’ve been hooked on the butter-miso combination ever since.

We had a nice brunch, and incredibly frugal, with the help of things that might have otherwise gone to waste combined with seasonally inexpensive local vegetables.

I didn’t realize it until after Hiromi and I had plowed through our bread pudding last weekend, but it turns out that An Obsession With Food is hosting an Is My Blog Burning event this weekend, Give Us This Day Yesterday’s Bread, also known as “Good Uses for Stale Bread.” So, I convienently have a relevant contribution for this month’s Is My Blog Burning 25 event. I’ve been completely distracted the last few months, so this is a first time I’ve been able to contribute for a long time. Hopefully circumstances will be so fortuitous next time…

Tuesday night at Lark

April 27, 2006, 12:07 AM

I’m really learning to appreciate dining out on weeknights.

Last Tuesday, we dined at Matt’s in the Market. If we had attempted to do so on a Friday or a Saturday, we would have waited for at least an hour, I’m sure. I’m increasingly disinclined to go out for dinner on weekends without reservations (at least at places that take them) because restaurants that have above average food and atmosphere (and even some that don’t) require a lot of waiting, and some of my favorite places in such categories don’t take reservations at all.

One such restaurant, Lark, also generally only allows walk-ins. It offers such a quintessentially Northwestern kind of dining experience that visitors to Seattle really should place high on their list of priorities. Lark’s chef, John Sundstrom has a very pan-Pacific consciouness, with a somewhat Japanese approach to ingredients. To me, this means allowing the ingredients to do most of the work but sort of awakening their fundamental characteristics with careful preparation and usually gentle flavoring techniques. At the same time, he emphasizes local and artisanally-produced ingredients, and conscientious production practices.

I’ve wanted to take Hiromi there but we’ve always missed an opportunity to go there, either because I forgot they aren’t open on Mondays, or because we didn’t have the patience to wait on a weekend. I haven’t been there since my Dragon Beard Candy tour when Bamboo Garden visited in December 2004 and we celebrated the tour on the last night of their trip.

Last night, Hiromi and I met with a friend of hers from Japan who has made it through the first two rounds of auditions for the Seagals. I thought it would be a good opportunity to make our way to Lark.

As with my previous experience, everything was lovingly prepared and spot on. We had an interesting creamy farro dish with pickled spring vegetables, including some fiddlehead fern fronds. We had a selection of cheeses with almonds, quince, and olives (one sheep, one goat, and one blue cow’s milk cheese; the details I’ve forgotten, but the sheep milk cheese bore the cutesy name “Ewephoria.”)

I like their sort of unconventional habit of serving cheese as a mouth opener rather than as a final course, although I suppose that’s really just an Americanism born of dinner party culture. We had some very nice mozzarella and artichokes. We also had their signature Rösti, and some sauteed mushrooms. Hiromi and her friend ate some raw oysters with a citrusy dressing, salumi from Salumi, and a braised short rib dish. We also had a smooth, creamy panna cotta topped with a wine jelly and a lacy cookie for dessert.

We each ordered an unrelated glass of wine owing to our idiosyncrasies, but everyone left happy.

Afterward we made a brief stop at Chapel for cocktails, which was reasonably busy but not insanely crowded, perfect for a relaxed evening out.

Roasted vegetables, broiled nagaimo

April 22, 2006, 11:02 PM

I was a bit at a loss on what to make for dinner Thursday night, but I had a few things in the refrigerator that I wanted to take advantage of. I was home a little late and wanted to keep it simple, so I just cut some vegetables up and prepared them for roasting.

Roasted artichokes, sunchokes, and acorn squash

Roasted purple artichokes, sunchokes and danish squash

We had a medium-sized purple artichoke handy, some acorn squash, and some sunchokes, sometimes called Jerusalem artichokes. I tossed the sunchokes in a bit of salt, and everything else just went in a grill pan straight into a hot oven. While the vegetables were roasting, I whisked up a harissa-seasoned mayonnaise. I also toasted some walnuts, chopped finely and seasoned with salt, and pressed some soft chevre, which has been sitting neglected in the refrigerator since I first used it last weekend, and it needed a sense of purpose.

I also made a quick pesto pasta, taking advantage of some leftover pesto.

Actually I wasn’t very excited by this meal, because I put no thought into it. I didn’t think roasting vegetables was anything to write home about, but Hiromi was far more enthusiastic… Simplicity is also rewarding.

Last night I also kept things simple,  I made a few slightly tweaked Japanese dishes, including a nimono of acorn squash, a suimono or clear soup of fiddlehead fern fronds and tofu, some kyuuri no sunomono with iyokan no kurosu (cucumber marinated in citrusy black vinegar), and some grilled tofu drizzled with soy sauce seasoned with yuzu-koshou (yuzu peel and chilies). Each dish just requires a couple of minutes of attention, and it all comes together when it’s time to eat.

Nagaimo no negimiso dengaku

Nagaimo negimiso dengaku

The most interesting dish of the night was sort of izakaya-ish. I lightly broiled some slices of nagaimo, the starchy tuber that is an essential component of good okonomiyaki and a breakfast staple served as tororo-imo with rice and soy sauce. I boiled miso, mirin and sugar together until it was bubbly and thick, then added some minced scallions into the mixture. I flipped the nagaimo, topped them with this negimiso concoction, and put it under the low-heat broiler again just long enough to bubble. Topped with a little more chopped negi, it’s a pleasing twist on dengaku dishes. The yamaimo took on a slight softness, retaining an almost juicy quality, without providing much of a hint of its nebaneba (sticky) tendencies, and the sweet-salty topping provided enough flavor and contrast to balance the starchy base.

Matt's in the Market, and other kinds of desirable simplicity

April 21, 2006, 11:57 PM

Tuesday night Hiromi and I set out to join a Japanese language meetup group that I’ve been fairly regularly attending for the last year or so, but which seems to have quietly fizzled in the last couple of months. We’ve tried to attend the last few weeks but they’ve been rather sparsely populated and the one or two people we do see usually lose their inspiration to stay when they see how small the group is that week.

Well, we found ourselves the only ones there this week, and decided to duck out and find dinner after a few minutes. Not terribly inspired by the Belltown options we stumbled upon, we headed toward Pike Place Market and made our first trip to Matt's in the Market, a place often spoken of reverently by its devoted followers.

I'm a little bit late to the party, as I've known about Matt's for years but never found my way there for dinner. Even though the Pike Place Market is a quintessential Seattle institution, I'm primarily dependent on the market as a source of local and unusual fruits and vegetables, and I just never think of it as a dining destination.

For those who haven’t encountered Matt’s, there are three things you should know: the menu is short, simple and seasonal. This is not a place filled with fancy kitchen equipment, as the space is simply too small and the ventilation just too limited. Including counter seating, only about 23 people can squeeze in to the place. Most dishes are cooked on one of three butane burners, and some are at least partly finished in the oven. The atmosphere is a bit like a dinner party at a private home. Nobody rushes; there’s no point, because the food just takes as long as it takes.

If you want to impress someone with over-the top improbable towers of culinary audaciousness, it’s not the place for you, but if you appreciate simple preparations of top-quality, incredibly fresh ingredients, it’s a good bet.

We shared a grilled asparagus salad, served with some pistachio-encrusted soft chevre. It was served with some marinated peppers and a tart vinaigrette featuring small bits of pickled lemon. Hiromi wasn’t expecting much from the restaurant, and then she tasted the salad… she quickly changed her tune.

Halibut, I learned Tuesday night, is apparently Hiromi’s favorite fish. Despite brief temptation to try the night’s salmon special, she polished the plate of a harissa-seasoned halibut with olives and a potato-fennel base. I had the sole vegetarian main, which was a superbly comforting, if somewhat heavy, baked macaroni dish with mushrooms and cheese. Both are served with broccoli rabe, which Hiromi appreciated because they remind her of nanohana, the bitter greens of rapeseed plant. It’s somehow not spring in Japan without nanohana; rabe provides a decent proxy.

We also dug into a lime cheesecake, prepared off-site by another company, but quite respectable; it had just a hint of acidity, and was just sweet enough to bring out the richness of the cream cheese.

Atypical in our Seattle dining experiences, we left exactly sated, without feeling incredibly stuffed, and without leaving mounds of leftovers behind.

Expect to wait for a table, even on a Tuesday night…Stop in next door at Chez Shea for a cocktail, and, if the staff isn’t too distracted, they will come and get you when seats are available.

Tax season

April 17, 2006, 12:07 AM

Yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised that my taxes went a little more quickly this year than last year… I guess I understood the stuff a little better. The business schedule is fairly tedious, and the instructions are rather bewildering to parse, but somehow I figured it out.

However, I’m pretty sure that next year I’ll need a real accountant. The list of numbers to keep track of is just getting too long.

I face a lot of buy-vs.-build or pay-for-help vs. do-it-yourself decisions for which the correct answer is not entirely obvious… in theory, I should pay for help for things that are not part of my core business, but I sometimes feel tempted to do it myself when I have the skills. For example, I’m not running a technology company but I frequently debate with myself whether I should pay for someone else to do my web design and storefront work, and often find myself doing it because it’s not that difficult for me to understand, even if it can be terribly time consuming.

But I think that I don’t have much of an excuse for doing my taxes myself. I can’t possibly keep track of all of the rules and exceptions related to preparing taxes, and I don’t have much to gain from doing it myself except for moderate cost savings. Yet I’ve hung on to the habit of handling the work on my own… Am I stubborn, foolish, or something else?

An donuts

April 10, 2006, 10:35 PM

Now considered kind of quaint and old-fashioned, an donatsu or sweet azuki paste stuffed donuts were once a staple of Japanese-style bakeries. Increasingly, mushy, cloyingly sweet, preservative-laden versions sold at convenience stores have displaced the fresher incarnations of this sweet, but it’s worth indulging in when you find the real thing.

An Donuts


I can’t think of anywhere in Seattle to buy a decent an donut. But I can make a fairly decent interpretation myself...

Sunday morning, after realizing I had no more yeast left, I abandoned the idea of making anpan, the baked bread stuffed with the same kind of red bean paste. I did, however, have eggs, baking powder, and milk, so I put together a cake-like dough, incorporating a bit of melted butter and sugar. The dough was slightly sticky, but solid enough to allow for wrapping the dough around the filling.

The day before I had prepared some ogura-an, sweetened, coarsely mashed cooked azuki beans. I broke the usual convention of using about 50% sugar in the bean paste, preferring to use just enough sugar to taste the sweetness. I probably used no more than 25% sugar.

The main challenge is to make the outer layer thin enough that the dough can cook through, and almost all of them turned out just fine. After frying, I tossed the balls with some granulated sugar to add some textural contrast and an initial hit of sweetness.

We made a couple of lattes and indulged in a late breakfast.

Fresh from the fryer, our homemade an donuts were a totally different experience than I’ve even been able to have in Japan, since those are almost always sold after they have cooled down to room temperature. A tiny hint of crispness as we bit into each piece yielded to a soft cake texture, followed by the warm, sweet bean center.

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