Sunday, August 16, 2015

Best Newlywed Recipes: Summer

It was about 2 months before our wedding that the thought came to me, "Hm, I might want to learn how to cook" --and that I'd probably be doing a lot more of it than when I was single! I was correct. As a single girl I didn't cook for myself very much, between living with cramped/shared kitchen spaces and being content with plain rice and a piece of fruit for dinners, it was hard to find the motivation. Oddly enough, men are not so easily satisfied! I also got tired of eating bentos (boxed lunches) from the supermarket--the processed food that really messed with my gut after a while.

So this year of being married I've had to start learning a new skill and cook dinner nearly every day. We don't really follow any particular regimen or diet, and my favorite recipes are ones that take no more than half an hour with a minimum of ingredients and dishes to wash up later. When people ask whether I cook Japanese or American dishes at home, I'm not really sure, though according to Yuya it's mostly Western dishes. I do try to use cheaper Japanese ingredients and steer away from recipes that use dairy or cheese (so expensive here!) and I try to make sauces and condiments from scratch as much as possible, in an effort to not depend too much on pre-packaged/processed stuff.

The other day I realized I don't own a single cookbook, and that all my go-to recipes are online. I don't know what I'd do without Pinterest and Cookpad! So here are some of my favorite online recipes in our summer rotation. What makes for a good summer recipe? In my mind, a) something that doesn't heat up the house too much b) something that needn't be served piping hot and c) something that makes use of the delicious summer foods available here. As I mentioned in this post about Japanese customs I like, in general the Japanese pay attention to eating foods in season, and some are not available at all out of season. Here are our favorites, click the titles for the recipes:

Tuna Poke

Yuya LOVES this dish and we've had it so many times this summer, but he assures me he won't get tired of it! I like it as well because it's so quick and easy to put together, and uses no heat or electronics except the rice cooker since we like to eat it over rice. To be honest, I've actually never made it with tuna as per the recipe--it's expensive, and in June young katsuo (bonito) comes into in season and is sooo good. Braised bonito gives the dish a smoky flavor we love. I've also tried it with hamachi (amberjack?) and I want to try it with salmon sometime too. I've substituted the red peppers with wasabi paste a few times for a more Japanese taste. I highly recommend trying this recipe if you can handle raw/braised fish. For us it's good enough for when guests come over!

This littlejapanmama blog is great for all kinds of Japanese recipes in English, and I really like this recipe because I can make the tare (sauce) from scratch! I use raw handmade ramen noodles for this and for toppings I like summer veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, and okra. Instead of ham I use what's called 生ハム here, probably prosciutto in English? So good! 

This is an Okinawan dish I first had in Okinawa, and loved it! Goya (nigauri in mainland Japan) is a very bitter summer gourd but one I look forward to eating every year. I love that this recipe is packed with protein (pork, egg, and tofu!)  though any of those could be left out depending your diet. Blanching the goya really helps tone down the bitterness; what's left is a stimulating zippy flavor that coaxes along a reluctant summer appetite. 

There's nothing like summer tomatoes, and this recipe uses as many I can fit in the oven! It does have a long roasting time so it heats up the kitchen, but it's so good I can't resist it when tomatoes are on sale. I'll never buy store-bought tomato sauce again. This is great just over spaghetti noodles, or as a base for tomato soup. I've noticed if I have a little scratchy throat and I eat this, I feel better almost instantly. Packed with vitamins! 

This is another favorite of ours Yuya doesn't seem to get tired of! It's so simple and the grated daikon (Japanese giant radish)  adds a hint of cool spiciness perfect for these hot muggy days. The recipe is in Japanese and it only says "stir-fry the eggplant" with no details on how; I found out using a tablespoon or so of sesame oil to stir-fry the eggplant really makes this dish sing. I've yet to try it with shiso actually as per the recipe since it's not Yuya's favorite herb :(

Here is my translation of the recipe: 

-eggplant (about one per person; the sauce makes four servings I think) chopped into bite-size pieces
-chopped green onions (a handful) 
-two inches of a daikon, grated
-one shiso leaf, cut in strips
-spaghetti noodles (up to four servings) 
-1 tablespoon of sesame oil 
• 1 cup of mentsuyu (I use the brand pictured here, but this link also includes a recipe on how to make it yourself!)
• 1/2 cup of water
• 1 tablespoon of cornstarch 

Mix the • ingredients together and refrigerate. Stir-fry the eggplant in the sesame oil, and boil the water for the spaghetti noodles. When the noodles are al dente, strain them and rinse with cold water to cool them. Dish them out on plates for each person and top with the eggplant, daikon, green onions, and shiso. Pour the • sauce over it all and you're ready to eat! 

Of these summer favorites I probably make two every week! I plan to write at least three more recipe posts for each season, stay tuned for more good simple recipes. Of course, if you know of any good summer recipes, send me a link! I'm always looking for new favorites to add to my little repertoire. 


  1. Thank you!! I love this post! I definitely could use the ideas ♡

    1. I'm glad it's useful, thanks for your comment^^


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