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.

Seattle Sakura

Sakura-branch

A weekend ago we made a trek to Washington Park Arboretum to do Seattle-style cherry-blossom viewing. That means completely devoid of public drunkenness, which would of course be de rigeur in Japan… Seattle style cherry-blossom viewing involves a moderately brisk trek across a large, uncrowded park, perhaps after a dose of coffee.

Sakura-bunch

Seattle’s cherry blossoms tend to be a bit earlier than  most of Japan, but April 4 is sort of the officially appreciated day for cherry-blossom viewing, so my sluggishness in posting these works out to have a slightly commemorative effect.

shidare-zakura

Now, if only we had a little blanket, a lot of shochu, some cold snacks, and no laws against drinking in public parks, we might have a complete hanami experience…

Edamame ice cream

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…

A smooth transition

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.

WaFooD: Konnyaku Day Roundup

I promised a roundup for Konnyaku Day… Alas, thanks to my rather late announcement, there are only a couple of entries (at least so far). A number of people wrote in that they were planning to participate, so hopefully there will be a few more. However, I’d be happy to add anything that comes in this week. Just post a comment and I’ll add yours.

From Obachan’s Kitchen & Balcony Garden comes two treats: Konnyaku no miso ni and sashimi konnyaku. Konnyaku no miso ni is a clever variation of a typical braised vegetable dish, most commonly applied to eggplant. I definitely want to make this dish.

I’m also jealous that Obachan has access to unusual flavors of “sashimi konnyaku” which aren’t readily available in the U.S. She made yuzu konnyaku and aonori konnyaku with a sumiso (vinegared miso) sauce.

Konnyaku-no-miso-ni-obachanSashimi-konnyaku-obachan

Amy of Blue Lotus took advantage of the noodle incarnation of konnyaku. With a bit of sakura-ebi and shiso, it’s an example of contrasting textures and flavors in each bite.

Sakura-ebi Shiso Itokonnyaku

From Hiromi’s blog (in Japanese), we have Houtou with Konnyaku. You may remember Hiromi made Houtou shortly after we came back from Japan in March. She did the hard work on this as well, though I helped twist a few of our konnyaku slices into twisted shapes following her instruction.

Houtou-konnyakuHoutou-konnyaku-detail

I’ll extend the Konnyaku day roundup if anyone has some other dishes, even if you’re just getting around to posting your entry this week… Post a comment and I’ll add you!

WaFood Konnyaku Day: Get your entries in

There’s still time to get your Konnyaku day entry in… post a comment or use the Email link above.

Konnyaku Day Announcement.

Little filo shreds and cannelini soup with kurogoma

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.

Canellini-soup-kurogoma

The dangers of Yurakucho

For people who appreciate food and would like to take a bit of Japan home with them, Yurakucho (Yuurakuchou) is a dangerous place. It’s home to the regional food specialty shop Mura-kara Machi-kara Kan, which features fresh and packaged foods from all over the country, as well as alcoholic drinks, and Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza, which features lots of treats from Hokkaido. A short walk from here will take you to another shop that focuses on all things Okinawan.

If you’re easily tempted, it might be best to avert your eyes as you walk by these shops.

Yuurakuchou-shopping

We left with soba karintou (buckwheat sweet crackers), haru yutari karintou (a wheat snack), black sugar peanut crunch, a shiso drink base, yomogi senbe (mugwort-flavored crackers), Hokkaido Tokaji wine caramels, Hokkaido hascup caramels, Hokkaido’s famous raisin butter cookie sandwiches (not from the most sought-after brand, but still quite tasty), murasaki-imo senbe or purple sweet potato senbe from Okinawa, another purple sweet potato snack also from Okinawa, some yuzu-flavored konpeito (hard candy), shiikuwasaa kokutou (Okinawan citron flavored black sugar), shiikuwasaa Calpis, some snackable salted konbu (kelp), kiritampo (rolls of mochigome toasted sort of rotisserie style, often used in nabemono or hotpot meals) from Akita, some heart-shaped cookies, umi-budou (sea grapes) from Okinawa, smoked eggs, yuzu-miso, yuzu kanten, yuzu-sake, ume-shidzuku (chewy Japanese apricot kanten candies) and two bottles of yuzu juice. Hiromi also picked up some drinking yogurt from the Hokkaido shop flavored with hascup berries, but we drank that before even getting back to the hotel.

Most of these items found their way into our luggage, but the Hokkaido raisin butter sandwiches have long since disappeared, because, of course, they are so perishable and we couldn’t possibly keep them…

For the most part, these shops carry items that are not widely distributed even inside Japan, so if you want to suprise someone with a little gift with minimal probability they will find the same thing in their local Asian market, this is the place to go.

FoodEx Countdown

I’m going to FoodEx for the third year in a row next week, the insanely huge Japanese food trade show, where I will go hunting for interesting Asian food products. I’ll also go to Hoteres, a hospitality industry focused trade show.

My business focus has gradually shifted to be less focused on importing itself and more on building the web retail customer base, even if I use other U.S. importers as my vendors for that project, but I am still trying to keep connected to a network of suppliers so that I’m able to move on new opportunities. Also, one of my customers has now dramatically increased their volume requirements, and I need to get in touch with a supplier in Japan to see if I can gain some advantages by working with them.

Hiromi and I have been gradually preparing for our departure on Saturday, but I neglected to snag a reservation at the hotel where we originally planned to stay. It’s probably for the better, because I am really tired of staying in Shinjuku, where the other hotel was located. Instead, we booked a reservation at an even better hotel near Meguro for almost the same price.

I have two days that aren’t fully booked yet, but one of them is on the weekend… I’m not sure if I am going to go to Mashiko to hunt for pottery, or maybe just do something a little more leisure-focused. I’m not sure I can buy any crafts on this trip, although it’s a little less crazy from a cost/margin perspective to import small amounts of pottery than small amounts of food. It does take a bit longer to sell artisanal pottery, though.

We’re only gone for 9 days, departing this Saturday and returning the following Sunday. This is probably the shortest trip I’ve made to Japan in a long time, outside of weird 2–day weekend trips I made bordering other business trips to Asia when I worked for Microsoft. But my contracting gig limits how much time I can spend traveling, and even if I weren’t doing that right now, I’d be a little concerned about the insane costs of spending a couple of weeks in Japan. Of course, the cost of 2 weeks isn’t very diferent from 1, but the distraction from my business is pretty painful.

This time I’ve got some meetings planned with some companies that I think will be interesting to work with, and I look forward to opening some new doors.

Tomatoes in January

Not usually a good idea, you say… and yes, you’re correct. I don’t normally consume tomatoes in the winter, as they tend to be rather tough and flavorless. I’m not deluded into the idea that aroma-free “roma” tomatoes or the B.C. Hothouse winter collection is suitable for anything remotely tomato-like. I am a sucker for tomatoes in Seattle starting around August, but especially when our local tomatoes are fantastic in September and October, a huge percentage of my daily budget is sacrificed to the tomato gods.

Most of the winter, I avoid tomatoes entirely. But I occasionally dig in to some adequate canned tomatoes.

Earlier this week, one of our weeknight dinners was a simple spaghetti with tomato sauce, made with fresh basil, onions, garlic. I made it with a little bit of feta and some olives.

Spaghetti with tomatoes, feta, and olives

Feta olive spaghetti with tomato sauce

I don’t ever really stop thinking about food. One morning Hiromi and I were just finishing up breakfast and she asked me what we should do for dinner, and I reflected on my schedule for the day and immediately started making a simple yeast dough, suitable for either pizza or calzone. She picked up some vegetables and cheeses on her way home, including some asparagus, mozzarella and parmesan.

When I got home that night, I started sauteeing some onions, and soaked a few dried porcini in water; I used the soaking liquid and the porcini with a bit of wine to caramelize the onions. I rolled out my dough and layered in onions, asparagus, olives, basil, mozzarella, garlic, and parmesan. I used some decent canned tomatoes, but decided not to make a separate sauce because I figured in the 20–30 minutes in the oven, it would make its own… I usually make a sauce ahead of time, but actually the self-saucing approach worked out quite nicely.

Asparagus porcini calzone

Asparagus calzone

You can’t see the insides because we hungrily devoured the end result without cutting and posing the cross section, but you can see that, even with ventilation ducts, we had a minor eruption or two…

Utthapam, dosa, and Chinese New Year

We were supposed to do a supermarket demo at the Bellevue Uwajimaya today, but they were a little bit more crowded with Chinese New Year demos than expected and we decided not to become a fire hazard. We did have a fairly substantial delivery for them, so it wasn’t a total loss, but a bit of a complication to our carefully laid, if a little haphazardly executed, plans…

Since we found ourselves firmly planted in the Eastside, we went to eat dosas and utthapam at the Crossroads (Bellevue) location of Udupi Palace, a fairly decent south Indian restaurant that’s actually an outpost of a successful suburban Bay Area group of restaurants.  I used to come here fairly often when I was a Microsoft employee, and to its predecessor called Golkonda.

Today, we ordered rasa vada (fermented lentil fritters in rasam, or spicy tomato soup) to start. We each had half of a pineapple utthapam (thick lentil pancake) with cilantro, and half of a dosa (thin lentil crepe) stuffed with an apparently Sri-lankan style shredded spiced coconut mixture.

Utthapam and dosa

These are served with coconut chutney and sambar… our lunch was full of fiber, and sustained us well past a normal dinner hour. Alas, we only had a cell phone handy to record our excessive consumption, so we ended up with a blurry photo.

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