There are a few essential things that I never want to run out of in my kitchen, one of the most important of which is a big lump of ginger. I use it almost every day in so many forms; minced for stir-fry; grated for a noodle dish garnish; candied for scones or biscotti; pickled as a sushi accompaniment; and sometimes as a natural remedy, juiced into honey and lemon flavored hot water to help cure a sore throat.
Lately, I’ve been eating my way through lots of cheeses, pasta dishes and pizzas, and finally felt that I had to cook something nourishing and get a Japanese fix this week. That is my all-time go-to-dish: ginger pork donburi, AKA shouga-yaki, with rice. It’s an ultimate, one frying pan, easy meal that I have been enjoying ever since I was a child. For varied textures, I add some veggies to my grandma’s standard shouga-yaki (ginger and pork), but I remember her absolute favourite accompaniment for this dish at dinnertime was a chilled Japanese potato salad! Oh, no matter how old I have become, I can still devour this dish because the greasy soy ginger sauce elevates the simple protein and vegetable meal to a whole new level!
Ginger Pork Donburi
The key to successfully create this dish is to make sure the pan is smoking hot before cooking the pork, so that the pork’s moisture is sealed inside rather than letting the juice out of pork and creating a watery finish.
Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
4 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1.5 lbs boneless pork loin chops, sliced into ¼ inch pieces
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 small yellow onions (about 3 cups) cut into ½ inch thickness
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼ inch wedges
3 cups baby spinach leaves
Cooked rice for serving
Combine the ginger, soy sauce and cornstarch well in a large bowl, and marinate the pork, covered and refrigerated for about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the vegetables.
Heat a large, well-seasoned frying pan with half of the oil over high heat. Sautee the onion until slightly transparent, and then add the peppers. Continue until onions turn transparent. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the rest of the oil, and then add the pork when the pan is smoking hot. Do not stir until pork turns nicely brown. Repeat this to cook the other sides. When the pork is no longer pink in the centre, return the vegetables and stir to combine. Add the spinach leaves, combine well, and then immediately remove from the heat. Let the spinach wilt.
Serve hot on a bed of rice in individual bowls.
While fall season is rolling in quickly, I’ve been absent here lately. My priorities shifted a bit in recent months, and I’ve been keeping busy learning new things. As part of this transition period, photography has become something more than my passion, becoming a place where I feel genuinely comforted. I have been following my heart’s desires with my shots this autumn; the colour palette of a bright red Osakazuki Japanese maple, buttery yellow leaves of Sangokaku, the bronze hue of flame grass, early morning pinkish foggy sky, deep brown mane of my friends’ horses in the autumn evening light, etc…
Fall is, indeed, my favourite season. Everything quietly changes on land, in the sky, in the air. If I don’t pay attention and fail to closely observe, these changes just pass by in front of me. But I do like observing simple things. For that, I naturally grab my 17-year-old film camera, keeping it at the ready as I wander into nature. I guess it feels just right; it feels right when I feed my soul by photographing whatever suits my fancy . It’s just that food subjects have not been calling out to me lately.
However, today, I’m posting a muffin recipe that I made at the end of summer with abundance of my friend’s blueberries. In fact, I froze some of those wonderfully plump, juicy morsels just for a time like this: when I don’t seem to have the time or energy to cook, but would rather be taking pictures instead. The frozen blueberries have been a great helper just now, allowing me to stay on track with my blog by creating something comfortable, not too complicated or time consuming.
Blueberry Cornmeal Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup melted butter
2 cups 2% milk
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups frozen blueberries, thawed
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease or line a large muffin tin with paper muffin cups.
Combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl.
Mix together the butter, milk, orange juice and eggs in another bowl.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, and mix well until combined. Fold in the blueberries.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups, and bake in the centre rack of the oven until golden on top and a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean, for about 30 mins.
Let cool for a bit and remove from the tin. Serve warm or freeze extras in a Ziplock for later use like I did. Enjoy!
I’ve been enjoying my favourite “Aurora golden gala” apples from local farmers’ markets, and am excited about the luscious conference pears that are soon on their way… We are indeed entering the deepest part of autumn. Love the fogginess, the smell of cold air, and even the rain, which gives me a perfect reason to make this soup. There’s something romantic about sipping a bowl of French onion soup in front of the fireplace during a wet and cold season. My passion for locally made Emmental completes this love affair. Stay warm, everyone!
French Onion Soup
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
A sprig of flat parsley, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon flour
2 L (8 cups) beef stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices baguette (½ inch rounds)
2 cups or more Emmental, grated
Melt the butter and add olive oil to a large heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat.
Sauté the onion and garlic until caramelized, constantly stirring, which takes about 30 minutes. Scrape the thyme leaves from the stems and add to the onion mixture along with the parsley and the bay leaf. Continue to sauté.
Add the red wine and continuously stir until almost all the liquid disappears. Add the flour and stir to combine: this will thicken the soup.
Add the broth, bring to a boil and turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and adjust with salt and pepper. Keep it simmering, uncovered, for another 10 minutes or until ready to serve.
Toast the baguette slices until golden. Serve the soup in individual ovenproof bowls and place a slice of baguette on the surface of the soup in each bowl. Top with plenty of Emmental and broil until golden brown. Serve hot.