Simply Hot Pots, a cookbook review

Someone I know recently said to me, “Really, you need a recipe book for hot pot?? Lol just throw stuff in!”

Well, yes, I could do that.  At home hot pot (aka nabe)  with friends and family have always been chicken broth or dashi up until now.  But you know what? That gets a little boring sometimes. Just because it’s hot pot, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for creativity!

It is that creativity that caught my eye with Amy Kimoto-Kahn’s newest cookbook, Simple Hot Pots.  Maybe it’s because she’s a fourth-generation Japanese-American, but Kimoto-Kahn doesn’t box herself in with traditional recipes.  She doesn’t ignored them, but there’s a lovely collection of non-traditional recipes that I think deserve attention.

The book is divided into these sections:

  • Broth bases, sauce, and more
  • Pork hot pots
  • Chicken hot pots
  • Beef hot pots
  • Seafood hot pots
  • Spicy hot pots
  • Vegetable hot pots
  • Specialty hot pots
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts

As I said above, there are traditional flavors in the book like basic dashi and basic shabu-shabu broth.  But I think the stars of the show are going to be the sesame miso broth, creamy corn broth (see more on this below), Japanese curry broth, tomato broth, Thai coconut curry broth, and Vietnamese broth.  Other honorable mentions that aren’t traditional in Japanese cookery but I have seen in hot pot places are the Mongolian broth, Korean Kimchi broth, and Macanese broth.

I also appreciate the flavor pairings that Kimoto-Kahn puts forward to go with the broths.  That tomato broth? Use it for the mussels with spicy tomato nabe recipe. Kimichi broth? Match that with Korean short ribs, because that’s a tried and true pairing.  At any rate, they both sound delicious.

I legitimately love everything I’m reading in this cookbook!

To “test drive” the book, I knew I wanted to try one of the unusual recipes.  I ultimately decided on the Green Vegetable Nabe, which uses the creamy corn broth, the sesame miso sauce, asparagus, kale, bok choy, and broccoli crowns.  

The corn broth contains onion, corn kernels, nutmeg, chicken stock, milk, cream, and miso.  The result? It reminds me of mac and cheese… but without the mac or the cheese. lol! My favorite mac and cheese recipe to make is a Martha Stewart one and it includes making a roux and flavoring it with nutmeg.  It’s the same building blocks of flavor. So this broth recipe gets us part way there but without all the heaviness of a real mac and cheese recipe. It’s sweet from the dairy and the corn, but not overly so.

And pairing it with a vegetable nabe?  It was really delicious. I didn’t want to stop eating the broccoli except that I had to or else I’d have no veggies in the fridge for the rest of the week.  A worry I had while making the nabe was that maybe the broth would scorch the bottom of the pot from the natural dairy sugars. As far as I can tell, that didn’t happen.  (Though to be fair, it might be because I was making hot pot for one.  I’m not sure how the broth would hold up after longer simmering times.)

The sesame miso sauce was good too but I have to admit that I messed it up.  (Which is kind of amazing because it’s a simple sauce.)  I was having a bad kitchen day where I was constantly dropping things and just generally being a klutz.  On top of that I was trying to rush (because I was getting hungry), one will do things like miss the instructions that said to blitz the sesame seeds into a powder or suddenly forget one was making a half batch of sauce!  Even with all my stupidity, I manage to make it work. (But I’m think I’m going to blend up the leftover sauce so that it can at least look more like it’s supposed to.)

I can’t recommend this cookbook enough even though I’ve only tested two recipes.  (Well, one recipe and one inspired recipe.) I’m trying to decide what other things I want to use the creamy corn broth with.  (Sweet potatoes, mushrooms, ham, chicken? Not necessarily altogether.) I think I might be making the tomato broth next while it’s still winter in these parts.  

Kimoto-Kahn has done a wonderful job of making hot pot more interesting, offering a variety of styles and flavors.  And, I am all the happier for it.

 

Reference Links:

http://www.easypeasyjapanesey.com/

Amy’s website – I also recommend this.  A few of the book recipes are cross-posted on her blog.

https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9781631065675/Simply-Hot-Pots.html

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Race Point Publishing/Quarto for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

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Flavor Bombs by Adam Fleischman, a cookbook review

Sometimes I don’t know how to review a book.  You might be thinking “that’s stupid” or “you write reviews often, most of the time positive reviews, so just say something positive.”  There is truth to that last statement, but the reality is that I try to review books that I feel fairly certain I am going to instantly like.  

COVER_Flavor Bombs

My current conundrum is “Flavor Bombs: The Umami Ingredients That Make Taste Explode” by Adam Fleischman, with Tien Nguyen.  The premise of the book is to build up an “umami pantry” and cook delicious recipes with those ingredients. The book is broken down into these chapters:

  • The Basic Pantry
  • The Umami Pantry
  • Umami Sidekicks
  • Umami Master Recipes
  • Basics and Condiments
  • Apps and Little Meals
  • Soups and Salads
  • Mains
  • Sides
  • Drinks and Desserts

The good?  The chart with umami ingredients is useful.  I hadn’t realized that umami was broken down to glutamate, inosinate, and guanylate.  I thought it was just glutamate (hence, monosodium glutamate aka MSG).  And I like that the recipes themselves are varied.  Here are the recipes that I would love to eat:

  • Roasted fingerling potatoes stuffed with smoked trout mousse
  • Nontraditional umami-spiked chowder
  • Five minute pork-conquered salad
  • Koji-porcini resting sauce
  • Chicken confit with dirty farro
  • Puerto Rican mofongo
  • Fancy make-ahead restaurant sauce
  • Sweet and savory brisket
  • Umami’d fregola sarda
  • Matcha magic cake

The bad for me (but not necessarily for you)?  A lot of these recipe require making the master recipes ahead of time.  There are just three master recipes: umami master dust, umami master sauce, and umami ketchup.  But that does mean that I’m either doing some planning or doing a weekend project. I meal prep my meals on the weekend so I am less inclined to throw in a weekend cooking project on top of my regular meal prepping.  The other minor gripe I have is sourcing the ingredients, specifically powdered soy sauce, truffles, and truffle honey. I’d probably look for substitutions or skip altogether, which will change the flavor of the end product some.

(Oh, one last issue but this one is purely from an aesthetic standpoint.  The pages have a black background. It’s going to look grimy quickly if your hands are not dry and clean.  I’ve had this book for less than a week, and I can see fingerprints on a number of pages already. lol!)

As for recipe testing, I settled on making the midnight garlic noodles.  I felt that the recipe was a good representation of the book without feeling overwhelming.  The two items that needed prep ahead were fairly hands off: burnt miso and garlic confit. Otherwise, it was pretty easy to put together requiring noodles or pasta, shio koji (which I am weird enough to have), butter, black pepper, and Parmigiano-Reggiano if you have it (which I am weird enough to not have).

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Garlic confit in progress

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How did it taste?  It was good.

Was it good enough to make the recipe as is again?  Eh, no, not really. I think if I make it again, I’ll take the lazy way out with regular ol’ miso and roasted garlic.  Or if I insist on the burnt miso, I can pop in a garlic head in the oven at the same time to make roasted garlic without using more effort or resources.  The burnt miso smelled fantastic as it baked, so I’m not hating it. (But I do feel bad for the parts of miso that burned as it’s not useable.  It seems like such a waste.)  And garlic confit can be used for other applications, so I am not necessarily hating on it either.  But as I said earlier, I’m mostly cooking to feed myself properly. I’m generally inclined prefer recipes that taste good without too much effort.  (P.S. I also served the sauce with some rotisserie chicken and plain asparagus on another night.  I think that was more interesting than serving it on noodles/pasta.)

So, in the end, if you’re more of a functional cook like me, you may not want this book.  If you’re a cooking enthusiast, I can recommend this book, and I think you’ll find it to be fun and adventurous.  

Disclaimer – I received this book from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Pantry friendly pasta sauce, version 1.0

I wanted to make a pasta sauce that wasn’t a traditional pasta sauce.  Partly because I like being difficult, and partly because my right thumb has been swollen all day for reasons unknown.  So I was not inclined to do a lot of cutting or anything remotely similar.

So I came up with the recipe below.  I may fuss with it in the near future, but I was happy with it today.  It also happens to be vegan and nut free.

Pantry friendly pasta sauce, version 1.0

  • 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted and unsalted
  • 1 garlic clove (I cheated and used 1/4 tsp Penzey’s minced garlic)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Honestly, I used 1/2 of a lemon but that was too lemony)
  • 1/4 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano

 

Blitz everything in a high powered blender.  If you don’t have one, you could probably let everything soak for an hour in a standard blender before turning it on.

Makes about 2 cups.

roasted eggplant puree for pasta

Early in the summer, I had experimented with a batch of garlic scape pesto only to find myself terribly disappointed.

Today’s pasta sauce was the antithesis of that.

I was home from work by 6pm, and I’m away from the office for the rest of the week. I went to visit the plants in the garden before heading inside, and saw that some of the eggplant my mother planted was ready to be picked. I had three pretty eggplants in my greedy hands, and didn’t know what to do with them. I knew I wanted to roast them in some manner, but not much more than that.

Then, I remembered seeing an eggplant puree recipe in one of my library books. On page 130 of Giada’s Kitchen by Giada De Laurentiis was a recipe for “penne with eggplant puree.” I used the method but didn’t follow the ingredients  exactly, and still I was very pleased with the end results.

Roasted Eggplant Puree for Pasta
inspired by Giada De Laurentiis

3 small eggplants, unpeeled, cut into one inch pieces
a large handful of sweet grape tomatoes (from the market… I wish I hadn’t eaten all my tomatoes. I pop ’em like candy if they’re sweet)
2 small onions, quartered (from my CSA)
1 small bell pepper, cut into medium slices (I had a purple one from the CSA)
garlic powder (I’m out of fresh garlic cloves)
salt
red pepper flakes
olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup basil leaves, torn

Heat your oven to 400F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a separate baking dish or sheet, spread out the pine nuts and set aside.

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