Today’s lunch: Japanese-flavored winter vegetables

Vegetables in the pot

Still steaming hot in the pot, last night

Even though I’m usually at home during the day, I’ve started packing lunches for myself lately, so I remember to eat enough fairly well-balanced food–instead of getting caught up in other things, waiting until I’m starving,  and going to stare into the fridge in hopes that something appealing and ready-to-eat will magically appear in front of my rather glazed eyes. (I get a lot of cheese and oatcakes or Corn Thins that way!) Since my energy requirements are pretty high, if I do that, I also end up ravenous later and raiding the fridge for more energy-dense cheese at 2 a.m., which is especially not great when you have a low-level dairy allergy. 😐

A bento-inspired packed lunch has proven to be an excellent workaround. I’ve been packing something at night, usually for a couple of days at a time, mostly supplementing leftovers to make sure it has a decent balance. (Especially important with multiple special dietary needs; besides gluten-free food, I need to make sure there’s plenty of protein and veggies/fruits but not so much starch, managing my particular strain of Type 2 diabetes. That complicates the usual grab-and-eat options.) I’ve been pulling food out of the fridge while coffee brews in the morning, so it will come back up to room temperature by the time I’m ready to eat something. I could heat it up, but I actually prefer a lot of food at room temperature. 🙂

At any rate, yesterday we didn’t have a lot of suitable leftovers, but I ran across a delicious-looking recipe from Maki at Just Bento: Stewed winter vegetables with kouya dofu (freeze dried tofu).

I had enjoyed a similarly seasoned basic simmered vegetable dish before, usually with just carrots and rutabaga/swede–very simple, and delicious. (But, I’m a fool for the umami anyway.) But, reading this variation reminded me that we had a suitable shortcut bag of stew veg in the freezer, and I decided to make something similar. The veggie mix has carrot, turnip, rutabaga, a bit of celery, and some onion. Normally, I’d prefer to use fresh vegetables–especially with the weird texture of frozen carrot!–but that mix can be very convenient.

For lunch, I supplemented this with a few oniony mini-hamburger patties I diverted from last night’s supper, and a miso-marinated hard-boiled egg (also from Just Bento).

Japanese-flavored winter vegetables

What I ended up using:

  • A knob of ginger, cut into a small julienne
  • About 1/3 of a leek we had lurking in the vegetable drawer (can substitute onion)
  • About a tsp. of sesame oil
  • A third of a kg bag of frozen stew veggies
  • Four or five new potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • A couple of handfuls of shredded collards (or other fresh greens)
  • 3 c. (700mL) water

Sauté the ginger and thinly sliced leek in the sesame oil until you can really start smelling the ginger. Add the water and all the veggies except the potato and greens, and bring it to a boil.

Seasonings: (I pretty much scaled the quantities she suggested, but with less sugar and more salt)

  • Some instant dashi powder (it would be good with chicken or veggie broth, instead)
  • 1.5 tbsp. mirin
  • 1 tbsp. sake
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • Optional: A block of kouya dofu, prepared per instructions there and cut into large bite-size pieces (I picked up some before for an easy shelf-stable vegetarian source of protein to throw in Asian dishes), some firm tofu, or chicken

Add these, and let it simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes. Add the potato and greens, and whatever protein you’re adding (if any), and let it cook another 10 minutes or so until the potatoes are done.  Let it cool down and put the whole pot in the fridge overnight to marinate and let the flavors blend, then scoop veggies out of the liquid and enjoy. 🙂

I will probably save the yummy, vitamin-laden broth for a soup, likely with chicken and some King Soba brown rice noodles from Tesco I’ve fallen in love with. (Now I’m wishing Tesco carried the 100% buckwheat soba, and that King Soba made some of the flavored ones gluten-free!)

The verdict: The frozen root veggie texture was a little intrusive, but the flavoring perked them up a lot. Overall, delicious! And satisfying in a very similar way to the very seasonal, classic Appalachian pork neckbones and ribs dish my mom used to make at least once every fall, with turnips, potatoes, carrots, and maybe parsnips, rutabagas, Jerusalem artichokes, and/or salsify stewed up in the super-rich broth. Only, this doesn’t have annoying little pieces of bone to chomp down on in every bowl. 😉 (Or, for that matter, the nutritional content of a rich bone broth, so it’s a trade-off.)

Now I am very tempted to try making a version of that with the not-so-meaty kind of ribs you can get here, but with similar Japanese seasonings (and fresh veggies!). I think the flavors would work nicely together.

On that note, one I’m also tempted to try with the available ribs: the Filipino Pork Sinigang. It’s hard to go too wrong with green beans, cabbage, and tomatoes!

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