Had a wonderful day in Napa yesterday, culminating in a picnic at V Sattui Winery in St. Helena. This morning I was inspired to bento with some of the leftovers. It’s been ages, and is forgotten how fun packing a lunch could really be.
Not much of a bento …. More like a glorified snack box. But I’m sharing it anyway because it’s not about perfection, right?
For a while I was making bento that were rather time consuming. There’s nothing wrong with that unless, of course, higher standards keep you from making a portable and healthy lunch when you have less time.
I tossed together this snack of leftover samosas, fruit and pastries in less than five minutes, and they’re in a re-used Chinese take out container to boot. So here’s one for the imperfectionist in all of us. Cheers! And happy snacking.
PS: The madeleines and financiers were made by my dear friend from SweetMue.com. She’s been blending Asian flavor favorites, such as taro, red bean, green tea and black sesame, into traditional French pastry recipes. Her green tea cream puffs (not pictured) are a personal fave. I am also a big-time fan of her black sesame puffed pastry balls! You can follow her baking adventures on her blog, sweetmue.wordpress.com.
Went to Tahoe this past weekend and had, by far, the best snow of the season. Of course, it hasn’t been much of a season this year. But it dumped from Saturday night all the way through Monday afternoon, when we headed back down the mountain.
Got home late in the evening, and it’s been go, go, go ever since. Haven’t made it to the grocery store, much less cooked up a decent meal. So this bento was all about improvisation.
Had some leftover rice from the week before, and the remains of the salad ingredients we brought up to the condo, including a vinaigrette I’d hauled there and back in a mason jar.
With the help of some vegetables and ginger out of the freezer, the fried rice got a little color and a pop of flavor. I cooked the frozen shrimp in leftover bacon fat and fresh garlic and then squeezed lemon juice over them at the end.
The cookies, I confess, are not homemade. But the oatmeal raisin cookies I made for the trip were too big for bento fare. Overall, not too shabby for the remains of the other day.
I haven’t made bento in a long, long time. While there are numerous joys of working from home, such as the irrelevance of kimchi breath, it doesn’t make much sense to pack your lunch. In addition, when you do work “out,” it’s usually at a cafe, where toting in your own food would be highly frowned upon!
That said, I’ve been cooped up in the apartment all week with a nasty cold. It began Sunday night and grew worse with each passing day … Finally, with the aid of magical antibiotics and a whole lot of tea, I am just now released from my self-imposed quarantine.
Thought I’d celebrate with a little bento-making. Year of the Dragon, this one’s for you. Hope you are healthier moving forward.
While making my lunch, I realized that my fresh mozzarella balls had little nubs that would make perfect “noses.” So I used black sesame seeds and tiny slivers of red bell pepper to finish out their faces. One face is happy and the other a bit on the cranky side. Men—mozzarella and otherwise—can be so moody!
I normally make my own Korean side dishes, but April has been a crazy month. I’ve been finishing up my master’s project and had little time to belabor my many loves, including cooking. So I went crazy in the pre-made section of the Korean market last week and have been happily transforming my purchases into kim bop, bibim bop and now a bento. Fly out tomorrow to defend. What a relief! I can get back to cooking after that … At least I made the mushrooms from scratch! Happy bento days ahead.
After an action-packed weekend of friends and family, academics and a capella, my fridge is looking pretty bare. So between my last few eggs, some cilantro on the verge, leftover rice and an old bag of frozen mini-sausages, I cobbled together this bento. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself, though I’m looking forward to going to the grocery store tonight.
In a nod to my busy day, yesterday’s pork and shrimp balls have resurfaced in another bento today. This time, I paired them with finger foods and items you could eat by stabbing them with my cute little wooden picks!
Ft. Lauderdale! The Everglades! The Keys! Napa Valley! A bevy of beautiful places and faces in a whirlwind week and a half.
I could never get enough of dolphins, anhingas, stingrays and miniature deer. Sleeping in a suite is all the better for having slept under the stars. And I love drinking beer at the No Name Pub on Big Pine Key, Fla., as much as I do sampling the wine pairings Ad Hoc in Yountville, Calif.
But have to say, I am so happy to be back home and making bento on this most beautiful of San Francisco days.
Change in plans, no time left, need lunch …Tossed this sucker together in a hurry. (Ate it in a hurry too!)
There are some lessons that you are supposed to learn again and again. I think keeping it simple is one of them. I tried cutting out all sorts of fun shapes from bell peppers: dolphins, whales, flowers … But, really, I’m feeling more somber than that.
So instead, this simple bento brought just enough sunshine into my cloudy day.
Thinking of all the folks in Japan …
Got a Nordic Ware silver-dollar waffle pan at a thrift store on Fillmore Street a few weeks ago. Woke up this morning and decided it was time to give it a try. One batch of batter from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything” app goes a long way with mini waffles! So I packed a few of the extras into a bento. I will be eating waffles for days and days …
This bento is a bit busier than I would like. Think I got carried away since it’s Saturday, and time was less of an issue than during the week. I used a flower-shaped cookie cutter for the egg and rolled the ham into a “rose,” My baby spinach leaves, however, kind of got lost in the mix.
Dressed up the waffles with cheese and ham flowers and tossed in a “bottle” of real maple syrup. Plan to sprinkle the pecans and fruit on top. It was silly but amusing to cut my strawberry into a strawberry shape with a cookie cutter. Very meta, no?
Most excited about the pint of kumquats I picked up this week. They remind me of Florida, of sunshine and of being a kid. All things I miss right now …
So I’ve been getting bento inspiration from all over … But I must give credit where it is due. I first fell in love with the idea of bento this January, when I spotted “The Just Bento Cookbook” at a bookstore in Santa Cruz.
I was making my annual New Year’s pilgrimage to the coast and contemplating ways to bring new joys into 2011. And there it was, this book that I just couldn’t put down.
Since then, co-workers have gifted me books on bento, and I’ve found so many amazing bento-makers on the Web. It has been a pleasure cooking, learning and eating my way down this road.
So thank you, Makiko Itoh, for the inspiration. This bento’s for you!
Just came back from a long weekend in Utah. I had made a few molded hard-boiled eggs before I left. My hearts, however, didn’t turn out quite as nicely as my star. One heart, with a yolk so off-center that it poked out the side, was so unattractive that I had to eat in on the spot! The other one wasn’t quite so bad, but it still didn’t look much like a heart … Still, why waste food?
So I rolled the misshapen sucker around in some soy sauce, sugar and ginger until it was nicely coated, cut it in half and then popped some asymmetrical nori hearts on top before tossing it in the bowl. If you’re going to be misshapen, might as well be proud.
The kiwis I bought at the Ferry Building after my run today took to their strawberry cookie-cutter shapes much more nicely. (Though you can’t really tell from this picture.)
And speaking of being shape … I had thought, after a three days skiing downhill and one day cross country, that I must be in pretty descent condition. But then I stepped on the scale this morning and found myself four pounds heavier than when I left. (And I wasn’t happy with my weight then either.)
Guess, like my bento, I am both in and out of shape.
In light of yesterday’s crab roll disaster, I decided to keep it simple today. Besides, I’m about to get on a plane. So I prepped the mixed mushroom rice and eggs last night, and then all that was left this morning were the fun bits — making stars.
This was my first time using a “bowl” as a bento. Kinda liked the simplicity of one round space to work with …
The pink silicone liner was the most I could cough up for Girls’ Day. Pink has never been my favorite color, unless you count magenta. I need something bold.
I confess: Today was not one of my better bento days. I’d been so psyched about making something with my lump crab stash, and debated between mini curry crab cakes and California rolls for way too many days. Then finally, fixed on the latter, I proceeded to make the ugliest inside-out sushi roll you’ve ever seen. So like any newbie bento-maker, who is running late to an appointment and potentially facing embarrassment at work, I carved up a big haphazard “crab” to cover my wonky rolling results. At least it has a theme …
My roomie noted the funky crab-shell-like texture of the bell pepper. “How did you do that?” she asked. Truth be told, it’s just puckered from being in the fridge too long. But sometimes, things do work out. And it’s OK to make mistakes.
Off to the Utah slopes for a long weekend. I’ll be making bentos out of snow.
Oh, yeah. And that’s supposed to be a pickled ginger and Italian parsley rose. Ha!
As I’m going through a Japanese cuisine cooking phase, I’ve been studying up a lot on the subject, watching video series on YouTube, like Cooking with Dog, and pouring over my favorite Japanese cookbooks in the tub (favorite pastime).
I’ve realized that sometimes I’m not sure if something is Japanese or Korean … For instance, the above-mentioned omurice. Now, I first ate the omelet-over-fried-rice dish while studying abroad in Seoul. We would slather ketchup all over the tasty egg and then dig in with one of those long, wide Korean spoons down to the steaming rice below.
But then, I look in my Japanese cookbooks, and there it is: omurice. So which one is it?
And then there’s the matter of rabbit-shaped apple slices. My mother made these for me my whole childhood. It was the only way I would eat apples, which I never much cared for … Even today, I never eat apples (thought I do love apple sauce, juice, pie, etc.) But I guarantee that if you slice an apple up like a bunny, I will finish the whole thing!
Then, earlier this year, I discovered the apple bunnies in the pages of The Just Bento Cookbook, which states that all Japanese kids grow up knowing and loving these tasty treats. What? They’re not Korean? How can that be?
But I guess growing up where no one else’s mom packed apple bunnies in their lunches, much less roasted seaweed squares and stinky kimchee, I had no one to compare with … There wasn’t another Korean kid in my class until high school and certainly no Japanese!
I guess in the end, it doesn’t matter whether apple bunnies or omurice originated in Japan or Korea. They’re still a part of what I see as my amorphous and ever-changing Asian-American culture/identity. But I’m still curious who invented them.
Here’s a video on making omurice on “Cooking with Dog.”