Recipes for Romance ロマンスの作り方

In this entry, I bring you a quartet of dishes to let that special someone know just how much you enjoy watching them eat. They feature a variety of textures, flavors, techniques, and ingredients from both Japanese and European cooking traditions, with a few recurring motifs to tie everything together into one smooth, sumptuous package… see if you can discern what they are.

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Mizuna and Seared Tuna Salad

mizuna or other sweet, crisp salad greens
sashimi-grade katsuo or albacore filet (about 1/4 pound)*
soy sauce
Balsamic vinegar
rice vinegar
olive oil
sesame oil
yuzu, kabosu, or lemon juice
toasted sesame seeds
ginger
green onions
vegetable oil, for searing (optional)

* You may find pre-seared katsuo filets at your Japanese grocery; in this case, please proceed to step 3.

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan over high heat.
  2. Once oil is very hot, carefully lay tuna filet in the pan. Quickly sear on all sides (no more than 1 minute per side) and remove from oil. Allow to cool.
  3. Cut mizuna into 2- or 3-inch pieces.
  4. Thinly slice green onions.
  5. Grate ginger and mix into soy sauce, Balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, and yuzu kabosu juice until homogenous.
  6. Slice seared tuna into very thin slices (no more than 5 millimeters thick).
  7. Pile mizuna on serving plate or bowl. Arrange tuna slices on top of mizuna and drizzle on dressing. Top with chopped green onions and sesame seeds.

Maitake Risotto with Hazelnuts, Cranberries, and Three Cheeses

about 3/4 cup short- or medium-grained white rice
about 5 cups prepared consommé, chicken broth, or vegetable stock
about 3/4 cup shochu, dry sake, or dry white wine
1 bunch maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, or other tender, meaty fungus
about 2 tablespoons hazelnuts
about 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
pancetta or thick-cut bacon
olive oil, for sautéing
sesame oil, for sautéing
butter, for sautéing
Asiago cheese
Emmental or Gruyère cheese
Parmigianno-Reggiano or aged Cabriejo cheese
dried thyme
dried basil
dried oregano
1/2 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
Tabasco sauce
salt and pepper

  1. Dice onion, mince garlic and cranberries, finely crush hazelnuts, and chop bacon and mushrooms into small pieces.
  2. Shred cheeses until you have about 1/2 cup cheese total.
  3. In a saucepan, bring broth to a boil and keep at a simmer throughout cooking.
  4. Melt butter in equal parts olive oil and sesame oil in a deep, non-stick pan over medium heat. Add bacon and sauté for a few minutes to allow some fat to render off bacon.
  5. Add onion, garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper.Sauté for about 7-8 minutes, or until onion becomes soft and translucent.
  6. Add rice and cranberries to pan and stir well to combine with fat. Briefly increase heat to high to lightly toast rice, stirring constantly.
  7. Reduce heat back to medium and add mushrooms, oregano, basil, and about 1/2 cup shochu, sake, or white wine. Stir into rice and cook until liquid has evaporated. Add Tabasco sauce, to taste.
  8. Add about 3/4 cup of broth to rice, and cook until liquid has evaporated, stirring often. Repeat this process five or six times, until rice becomes tender (about 20-25 minutes).
  9. Once rice has become tender, add remaining shochu, sake, or wine (about 1/4 cup) along with cheese and crushed hazelnuts. Combine well, and allow liquid to evaporate.
  10. Serve garnished with additional chopped cranberries and a sprig of Italian parsely.

Variation: For a crunch-free risotto, hazelnuts may be ground into a powder or added towards the beginning of cooking, along with the rice and cranberries.

Seafood Sautéed with Cherry Tomatoes, Sake, and Fresh Herbs

about 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
about 1/4 pound cleaned, medium-size scallops
about 1/4 pound cleaned, medium-size shrimp
meat of about 5 pre-cooked crab legs
butter, for sautéing
olive oil, for sautéing
yuzu, kabosu, or lemon juice
dry sake
fresh basil
fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper

  1. Thaw crab legs and remove meat. Cut or tear into bite-size pieces and set aside.
  2. Remove tomato stems and their bases using a paring knife or kitchen shears. Place on a baking pan and broil for 7-8 minutes, until skins burst.
  3. Let tomatoes cool, then remove peels. Set aside.
  4. In large, deep sauté pan, melt butter in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté for a few minutes.
  5. Add shrimp, scallops, a splash of yuzu or kabosu juice, and a splash of sake to the pan and sauté for about 4-5 minutes, tossing often.
  6. Add tomatoes, crab meat, basil, and parsley. Increase heat and cook for another 1-2 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Optional: Garnish with sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds.
Variation: Use oysters instead of or in addition to the shrimp, crab, and/or scallops.

Fresh Fruit with Nutella-Shochu Sauce and Whipped Cream

about 10-12 strawberries
1 mango
about 1/2 cup Nutella
about 1/3 cup buckwheat honey
about 1/3 cup shochu or light rum
whipped cream

  1. In a small saucepan, combine Nutella, honey, and shochu over medium-low heat. Set aside.
  2. Stem and halve strawberries.
  3. Slice mango into bite-size chunks.
  4. Spoon fruit into bowls or glasses and drizzle with sauce (reheat if necessary). Add a layer of whipped cream, then more sauce, and finally top with more whipped cream.

With the salad, risotto, and seafood, try a dry white wine or dry sake (with a Nihonshudo of about +10). Shochu on the rocks, Campari-based cocktails, an American brown ale, or a strong Belgian pale ale would also work well. With dessert, go for a strong Belgian dark ale, a Schwarzbier, an imperial or chocolate stout, Kahlua-based cocktails, or an eiswein.

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