RECIPE: Japanese Dashi Stock

Dashi is the MOTHER STOCK in Japanese cooking.  It is very light and unassuming but damn, it is delicious.  I think it brings the flavor of the sea into foods and really heightens whatever it is you are cooking.  Great stuff.  Dashi seems to be in almost every Japanese dish known to man!  You’re going to need to visit an Asian grocery store (or health food store, this is very macrobiotic) to pick up the konbu and the bonito flakes (these are the dried shavings of a salty, smoky mackerel…they’re also very popular in Japanese cooking…they kind of taste like bacon.).  While you are there you might find instant packets of dashi stock.  Sure you can buy those, but that’s cheating!  Besides, making dashi is easy as pie and it is so good for you!

4 C Water
4” Piece of dried konbu (kelp)
1 Small handful (about an ounce) of dried bonito flakes

Rinse off your kelp and put it in a stock pot with the cold water.  Turn on the heat to medium and just before it boils remove the kelp with tongs.  Quickly add the fish flakes and just as it reaches a boil turn off the heat.  When the bonito flakes sink to the bottom of the pot, strain the stock.  That’s it!  I freeze my leftovers so that I always have some ready to go for a quick bowl of miso soup.

Yields 4 cups.


V is for VINEGAR and, well, it is pretty much everything.  Food lacking acid is lacking life…it’s like salt for flavor boosting!  Check out this groovy video to learn how to make a simple and killer balsamic reduction AND Chicken Adobo from the Philippines.  ¡VIVA!

V is for VINEGAR

V is for victorious vinegar!  There are so many different types out there and they’re all so delicious.  Different colors, different tastes, different levels of acidity, different bases for making them.  Let’s get started.

Vinegar is basically an acid.  Chefs talk a lot about adding acid to dishes to finish them off, while lemon juice is frequently the acid of choice, a variety of different vinegars also do the trick.  More than just a component in salad dressings, a little vinegar on a dish can really help heighten and enliven the flavors, bringing out the flavors within.  Give it a try!

People always say that old wine turns into vinegar.  This is not entirely true.  The wine would need to be fermented a again with something call a “mother”, a blob of friendly bacteria (like a sourdough starter).  The mother starts a secondary fermentation process which turns alcohol into acetic acid.  Since vinegar starts off as a juice (or wine or cider) or some sort, it’s a good idea to branch out into organics.  Since I only eat organic apples the same goes when it comes to my apple cider vinegar!

I love balsamic vinegar a whole lot, but in truth it is a bit of a trendy food item.  Joel Dean, from Dean & Deluca fame, is largely credited with starting this fad when he began imported balsamic vinegar from Modena Italy to sell in his New York shop.  Before long it took it and by the ‘90s was sold nationwide.  By the 2000’s it seemed every crappy café in the country was offering balsamic vinaigrette on its salads.  Back in Italy, it’s not widely used outside of Emilia-Romagna region in the north where it is so beloved folks apparently bring their own bottles to restaurants with them and dole it out by the eye-dropper!

No question about it, balsamic is great stuff.  Dark, rich, earthy, sweet.  Good balsamic is made from trebbiano grape must (leftovers from wine-making) and the great stuff is aged in oak barrels for years and years.  The über-expensive stuff that was aged for decades is thick and intense and tastes so good you would not believe it.  Worth the $$$.  Read the label on your vinegar…if it has caramel or coloring or thickeners added to it…throw it out!

But lets not forget about the other vinegars out there.  Classic RED WINE is great stuff and deserves another shot in your kitchen, sherry is one of my favorites with its intense, bright acidity.  Yummy and health apple cider vinegar is used as folk medicine for a million things and a splash will turn you apple pie into an award winner.  I also really enjoy Rice Vinegar (NOT seasoned…seasoned means it’s been sweetened which you can easily do yourself at home so get XXX rice vinegar…), strong umeboshi vinegar and coconut vinegar for when I’m doing the Asian thing.  Shoot, I can even see the value in white vinegar!

For well over a year I’ve been using a spray bottle of white vinegar to clean things up in my home.  The acid cuts through grease, a little goes a long way, I know EXACTLY what I’m spraying around my house, the scent dissipates quickly and it costs next to nothing.  It is an amazing household cleaner.  I even make floor soap out of it!

For this episode I show off how to turn cheap and crappy balsamic vinegar into something a little more exciting—a balsamic reduction.  There’s nothing to it really…in fact I didn’t even show it on video I just talk about it and eat it!

I also got bold and made the classic Filipino dish, Chicken Adobo.  I could have gotten fancy and used some rice vinegar or my beloved coconut vinegar (which I’ll do when you come over for dinner sometime) but instead chose to use the plain, boring, distilled, white vinegar.  I chose this one ‘coz ANYONE can find it ANYWHERE and it makes a surprisingly great adobo!  You have no excuse but to try it out.

I’m barely scratching the surface here.  There are hundreds of different vinegars out there and each one has its own thing going on.  Vinegars offer you a great opportunity to explore the fun and functional addition of acids in your food and your pantry.  Create your own home cleaners, make tasty and complex reductions, bust out the world’s greatest dressings and pump up the flavor in all of your dishes with help from the mighty V, vinegar!

RECIPE: Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo

Chicken Adobo


How do you say delicious in Tagalog?  ADOBO!  If you’ve ever been to a Filipino restaurant, you’ve noticed the unusual use of vinegar in the dishes.  Very inventive, very cool.  Adobo is a classic, traditional dish and there are thousands of different ways to make it.  Here’s mine.  Ordinarily I’d pump up the flavors with rice or coconut vinegar, but I wanted to use plain old generic and boring white vinegar here just to show that it too has culinary use!  And there’s not excuses, anyone can get white vinegar.

2 lbs chicken pieces
1 1/2 C white vinegar
1 C water
1/2 TBS peppercorns, whole
4 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
2 bay leaves
3/4 C soy sauce

In a big pot add your chicken pieces, vinegar, water, peppercorns, garlic cloves and bay leaves.  Turn on the heat and bring it up to a boil.  Cover with a lid, turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the soy sauce and continue simmering, lid on, for another 20 minutes.

At this stage you could eat the chicken.  It will be delicious.  But to take it a step further I love to brown the braised meat and reduce the sauce further.  Remove the chicken pieces from the pan and set aside.  Turn the heat on the pan to medium and let the sauce reduce and thicken.

While the sauce is reducing Heat up a sauté pan over medium high heat and add a couple tablespoons of oil (canola, peanut or my personal favorite OLIVE).  When hot, add the chicken pieces and brown each side well.

Hopefully you’ll time it all just right and you’ll have reduced the sauce by half just as you finish browning all the chicken.  Serve the chicken and the sauce together over rice and go crazy!

RECIPE: Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Watermelon and Feta

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction Watermelon and Feta

Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Reducing balsamic vinegar is easy to make and delicious too.  I’ve seen it for sale at many gourmet shops and just laugh!  Use a cheap bottle of balsamic for this, certainly not a good quality aged one!

1 Cup of  balsamic vinegar

Put the vinegar in a non reactive pan and set on medium-high heat.  When it begins to boil, turn the heat down to medium so it’s a simmering.  The fumes coming off of the pot will be quite intense, so don’t take a big breath…might want to crack a window or turn on your oven’s vent fan.  Keep an eye on it, you don’t want it to burn.  After about 15 or 20 minutes the vinegar will have reduced significantly and it’ll be a thick and gooey syrup.

You can flavor this as you go.  Some folks throw in some orange or lemon peel, figs make a nice addition, even aromatic herbs like rosemary do the trick.  I usually keep it plain. If I decide I want a sweeter syrup I might add a little honey to thin it out after I’m done reducing it.

Using a whole cup will give you a pretty good amount of balsamic reduction.  It’ll keep for a LONG TIME covered in your refrigerator.  Cut the recipe in half if you just need a little.  It’s quite powerful and intense stuff–a little goes a long way.  It’s a real treat!  Add this to fruit salad, on top of strawberries, on roasted veggies or meats or salads…vanilla ice cream.  You can’t go wrong.