Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Signs of Life

I have a thing about funny signs. You'll probably see lots of them on this blog.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Reads

I'm starting something new here. 

Every Monday, I'm going to try to list a few of the interesting things I've found on the Internet to read. It's a way for me to go through my boomarked recipes to remind myself to cook them. Perhaps you'll beat me to it? Let me know if you do. Otherwise, it's things that have come across my Google Reader or were passed along to me by others. 

Have a great week!


  • Melinda from One Green Generation lists 20 Uses for Baking Soda. The rest of her blog has lots of useful tips for how to live a bit greener, a bit simpler, and save some money, too.
  • Is that antique silver tableware sitting in a drawer somewhere under a special polish cloth never getting used? This lovely little post might get you rethinking about how you think about your silverware. Antique is the new green.
  • Travel head pillow. Be prepared to laugh.
Recipes I'm drooling over & hope to make soon:

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    The first basils and cilantros are here!

    I went grocery shopping this morning to pick up some things for a green smoothie post that I'll be doing and what did I see? Organic Austrian basil and cilantro! I wasn't expecting them to show up in the shops for another month at the earliest. You can find fresh basil in Vienna all year round, but it's been shipped from Sicily or Spain and is definitely not organic. Cilantro, now that's a different story. It disappears. It usually shows up in late April and hangs out until October, when poof it disappears. There's not even relief by growing it yourself on the windowsill, there aren't enough daylight hours in Vienna. I've been craving Thai food with cilantro, salsa, homemade pesto, caprese salads, the list goes on. Leaving the cilantro out an substituting dried for the fresh basil, just doesn't cut it. I don't have to wait much longer. I know that chilies and really good tomatoes will be coming along shortly. Oh why didn't I start some in February?

    See how green they are?

    How happy?

    I feel like the cilantro is waving at me.

    Yes, today is going to be a good day indeed. To celebrate, the sun even came out.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    Omu Rice Deconstructed

    I've been thinking about Japan lately, and who hasn't? The events are devastating.

    I have two old friends from university who live there. I've heard from one that she is alright; the other I don't know how to get in touch with. We've lost touch over the years, but I hope she's alright and wonder how she is.  Two other friends from here in Austria were in Tokyo when the earthquake struck, but are now back in Vienna. Thank goodness.

    So I've been thinking about Japan--the people I know and about the times I spent with them. Both of my friends I met on semesters abroad, but not at the same time. A few years ago, uh, way back in 2000 (God, has it really been almost 11 years?), I spent a semester abroad in China with one of the girls, the one I've had contact with, and she introduced me to omu rice. It was one of the reliably good vegetarian options available as delivery on Peking University's campus. On the way home from that semester, I stopped in Japan and stayed with the second friend, the one I've lost touch with, for about a week. I told her about my new found love for omu rice, and she showed me how to make it. I'd like to share it with you. It's easy, quick and completely surprising.

    What comes to mind when you think of Japanese food?


    Sushi. Raw fish. Noodles. Miso soup. Am I right?

    I would bet that you didn't think of omelets. I originally didn't either, and I still wouldn't if I never had been introduced to omu rice while studying in China.

    I was told omu rice (by the way it was spelled OmRice on the Chinese restaurant's menu) is basically an omelet with fried rice. And that it was, but the rice was pink. Yep, pink. I didn't think too much of it and figured it was some type of sauce. I loved the stuff though and every time we ordered in, I always ordered OmRice. It wasn't until I learned how to cook it that I learned what that secret pink/red sauce was....

    Any guesses?


    I know! I was in shock, too. Here I thought I'd been eating some great new foreign Japanese rice sauce, and it turns out to be plain, ole ketchup.

    You probably won't believe me, but I swear ketchup and fried rice is delish and that this is actually how the Japanese eat it. Omu rice is a staple on children's (and some grown-up) menus in restaurants around Japan and in Japanese homes as it's made quickly from things you already have on hand. I don't know how omu rice got to be a staple, quick food for the Japanese, but it has made it's way from their kitchens into mine.

    Omu rice (or ome rice, short for omuraisu, a.k.a. omelet rice) is a crêpe style omelet wrapped around fried rice seasoned with ketchup. Sometimes things like vegetables, cooked chicken, hot dogs, onions, etc. are fried with the rice. There is also often a big blob of ketchup on top of the omelet.

    Trust me on this one, it's really great. And kids especially will love it.

    Here is a clip from the Japanese movie Tampopo (Dandelion), where a guy makes omuraise with chopsticks. I wish I could fold an omelet like that!

    It's supposedly a Japanese comedy filled with food, a love of life and cultural differences. I think it sounds like my kind of movie.

    I don't speak Japanese, but according to YouTube the dialogue is as follows: 
    - You're not eating much, sonny. Can I fix you something? What do you want?
    - A rice omelet.
    - Rice omelet. Hmm. Okay, follow me.

    I'm going to give you two versions of omurice, both with quinoa (perhaps we should change the name to omukinoa?). It's what I had on hand when I thought of omurice; I'm certain other grains work just as well. I've also added a bit of chili powder as I like things spicy. We don't eat much ketchup in our house so we rarely have it, and I'm not about to go buy a bottle of ketchup just for one recipe. If you do have ketchup, feel free to use it to replace the sweetener (optional) and tomato paste.

    This is a really easy recipe and great to have on your fingertips for those times when you open the fridge and don't know what to make or you have a bit of left over rice and don't know what to do with it.


    (printable version)
    Notes: Yes, I made that name up. As for the sweetener, honey, molasses, maple syrup, white, brown sugar are fine; they all work. I've also just left the sweetener out. I think a bit of Mirin would work nicely, if you have it. I use whatever vegetables I need to use up so take this recipe as a starting point.

    Prep time: <5 min
    Cooking time: 5-10 min
    Servings: 1-2

    1 tablespoon oil
    small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
    1-2 cloves of garlic
    1 2-inch piece of zucchini, chopped
    1 small carrot
    1-2 savoy cabbage leaves, shredded
    1-2 cups left-over quinoa (substitute rice or other grain)
    2-3 tablespoon(s) tomato paste
    approx. 1 teaspoon sweetener (optional, see note)
    1-2 teaspoons cayenne pepper or chili powder
    ½ - 1 teaspoon soy sauce
    salt & pepper
    toasted sesame oil
    2-4 eggs

    Heat oil in medium skillet.
    Add ginger and garlic. Heat until fragrant. Add vegetables. Fry until they start to brown. Add quinoa. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon. When the quinoa starts to fry, add the tomato paste, sugar, cayenne pepper, soy sauce. Mix in well. Salt & pepper to taste. Sprinkle with toasted sesame oil.  Set aside.

    In a small bowl, combine eggs with a splash of milk. Scramble them lightly with a fork. Pour them into a hot, well-oiled, skillet. As you pour, move the pan back and forth, keeping the eggs moving over the bottom of the skillet. Then (I like to use a rubber spatula, but a fork is good) swirl the eggs constantly. Best results come from moving the pan and stirring all at the same time. When the eggs have set and are cooked to your liking, carefully tip the pan and slide them onto a plate.

    Fill the omelet no more than half full with the quinoa mixture. Fold the omelet in half and arrange the remaining quinoa around the omelet.

    The following version is good for a quick breakfast or big snack. 

    Omu Rice Deconstructed
    (printable version)
    Notes: This is what I made for breakfast one day. Amounts are not really exact. Feel free to play around with them. As for the sweetener, honey, molasses, maple syrup, white, brown sugar are fine; they all work.
    Prep time: <5 min
    Cooking time: 5 min

    small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
    left-over quinoa (substitute rice or other grain)
    1-2 eggs
    olive or peanut oil
    1-2 tablespoon(s) tomato paste
    1 teaspoon sweetener (optional)
    1-2 teaspoon(s) cayenne pepper (substitute chili powder)
    Seasoning (some suggestions are salt & pepper, a pinch of Japanese green tea ground between your fingers, toasted & shredded nori, a sprinkle of soy sauce, or a mix of all of the above)


    Heat oil in medium skillet.  Add quinoa. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon. When it starts to fry, add the tomato paste and sugar. Add cayenne pepper. Mix in well. Add a pinch or two of crumbled Japanese green tea, salt & pepper to taste. When fried, put into a bowl.

    In the same pan (add a bit of oil if necessary), cook ginger until fragrant, but not browned. Crack the individual eggs, keeping the yolk intact, over the ginger. Fry the egg. 

    Top the fried quinoa with the fried egg. Sprinkle some blackened sesame seeds, a bit of toasted sesame oil, and toasted nori over the top. Voila! Breakfast is served.

    If you liked this one, here are some other omuraise recipes on the web(warning: not all are vegetarian):

    Just Hungry's Omuraisu
    Just Bento's Special Occasion Omurice
    Just Hungry's Tampopo Omuraisu

    © 2011 Nicole


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