Monday-Tuesday Bento

Maryland has been in a cloud. Not a nice, cozy, fleecy cloud either, but a damp, wet, almost-fog of a cloud. Today promises just be just as gray – the kind of days I loved in college for their gothic beauty. They aren’t so pretty when you’re out driving in them, let me tell you. Which means I had to make my own pretty this week


A little too cheesy?

Aren’t they cute? These are the products of one of my Christmas presents, a set of aspic cutters {{1}}. [[1]] I here by vow to take a picture of them all squashed in their adorable tin, with a quarter for size comparison. [[1]] Here’s the whole bento, sans artsy angles:

Rice, Umeboshi, Carrots strips, and Lentil Balls

And then Mondays:

Rice, fish soboro, chicken, carraot-ginger kinpura

The pink stuff was supposed to be Maki-san’s Sakura Denbu, but I 1) managed to mush in into granules instead of threads and 2) put in way too much pink food coloring. In real life it’s more of a hot pink – crazy fun to look at but a little scary to eat. I have about two more cups of it stored up in my freezer.

Putting this together took mere minutes, even if you count washing the rice before putting it in the rice cooker. I was so elated to find I had made something both cute and practical that I almost showed it off at work, but I restrained. What kind of oversized ego would you need to actually do a thing like that? No, I contented myself with the knowledge that I would be posting about it here, on the blog completely dedicated to me. I couldn’t resist with the stars though. For some reason it doesn’t seem as shameless to show of a Christmas present.

Todays bento promises to be pretty boring looking – spring soup and lentil balls – but maybe I’ll spice things up visually with a sprinkle of stars, or a handful of hearts. As long as the clouds are here my attempts at cute will have to go on.

Bento with a Friend

This post is brought to you by a new friend

Get the picture?

He’s a little shy, and there were twenty inches of fingerprint grease on the mirror, so I’m afraid this blurry little picture is all your going to get of our new companion. I’m still learning about him myself and haven’t even picked out a name for him yet. What do you think? He’s on “loan” to me from my brother, who has a nicer, bigger camera now.

Thanks to our new and nameless friend I was able to snap a photo of this rare sight:

Heavily edited for your protection

Fish, rice with umeboshi, broccoli, and Spring Soup

Yes, an actual bento. I take packed lunches with me to work everyday, but even when it’s good food and well thought out, I somehow never seem to be ready to put it together until the last minute, and then there’s no time even for pretty. I’m trying to combat this, because it really is more lazy thinking than anything else, and to do so I have been adding to my freezer stock. Is it strange that I love the word stock? The idea of laying away, storing up, putting down – all of these just seem so romantic to me somehow, and preforming them gives me a feeling of contentment like warm honey in my soul. This must be how farmers feel about their freshly sown fields, or knitter’s about adding to their stash. Deep down inside, every human being is part squirrel.

The stock item in this photo is the green soup. It tastes like spring, but not much else. It’s celery and cucumber with a bite of lime and an avocado’s worth of creaminess, yet despite the fact that the first bite brings with it the promises of May, I can’t say I’m impressed. It’s not bad, but it’s so unmemorable that I’m always surprised to taste it and find it’s not bland. This picture is of Monday’s bento. I’ll be eating the soup again today with spicy lentil balls {{1}}. My mom helped me bake this concoction, and I have about 5 dozen of them in my freezer now. With a little cheese, these spiced beans make the soup into something that actually taste like a meal.


[[1]] In case you’re curious, I doubled this recipe, omitted the sesame, and used white rice because I didn’t have any brown. I didn’t have any coriander either. Doubling the recipe had the unintended side effect of surpassing my pot’s capacity, and I ended up having to cook it down in two batches. I don’t think I ever did get it to the correct dryness. When  I defrost these in the microwave they tend to crumble into soft clumps. Guilty confession:  I had them for breakfast this morning with a little honey and two fried eggs. [[1]]



Take Two

My dad took me to go see Captain America today. Me and a kid or two. It was a little weird, being in 3D, but mainly it’s your basic action movie minus explosions. Not that there weren’t explosion, there was just more punching than I’ve grown used to. Is it just me or have most movies gone over to either swords or guns?

Anyway, the dialogue can be summed up by the cutting line “You’re not going to quit?” delivered with gusto from the bad guy, and the equally fitting “nope” from our dashing hero. My favorite scene was when the grenade was thrown (waaaaaaay at the beginning of the movie), but the death of the baddie was pretty epic. And the ending was mind blowing (and tragic) to someone like me who, apparently, lives under a rock.

Further proof: I just found out today that They’re doing Spiderman. Again.

Talk about popular.

In other news:

This is the remainder of the dinner I made sunday: coconut rice and curry. I had the curry again the next day with noodles and it tasted even better. I actually zapped it, and I think that made the coconut cream I put in there stand out.  Back to the bento, the green stuff in the corn is some leftover cilantro, and the white liquid in the pink cup is the coconut cream. It’s some kind of sweet, and oh so good when you mix it with the rice and curry. Yes, I put it in the curry and ate it with the curry. Despite  that, we still have a little bit of it left in the fridge and I’m trying not to eat it raw. Maybe if I mix it with yogurt I can call it a “natural dessert” and thereby pass it off as healthy. Cause, you know, despite giving us the bubonic plague, yellow fever, and tuberculosis, nature is looking out for us.

I finally gave in and stood on a chair for this shot. 

This is a zucchini/squash cake. It was really good, the last one leftover after Thursday’s dinner – a dinner where neither my dad nor my two older brothers were present, just to give you some perspective. My aunt made these with the veggies from my grandfather’s garden. The zucchini she used was immense. I didn’t recognize it at first, thought it was some strange kind of squash to be honest. Thicker than my upper arms, almost as wide as my head – that’s how big it was. And probably two feet long. The rice is just normal rice, with a little bit of red pepper paste, curtesy of Korea, and leftover steak. I put some dashi (or is it bonito?) flakes in it, and some rice vinegar and mirin. Despite all that it didn’t really taste asian to me. I’m finding that Korean and Thai food don’t. Especially Korean.
          The rice was actually almost bland, it probably needed more dashi, however the paste provided a nice kick that went well with the surprisingly flavorful veggie burger. The salad was mainly to keep the red pepper off my cherries, but I like the color it added to the “box.” I actually left my stacking boxes at work the day before I took this picture, which ended up as a blessing since it forced me to use a chinese take out container (dumplings, I’m assuming). I love the circular shape and how it impacts food arrangement, and it’s fun to have that much space. Those white boxes are skinny.  My next bento buy will be a circular box, probably one of these, but it won’t happen for a while. I’m still not making bentos consistently enough to classify it as a hobby, definitely not enough to call it a lifestyle. I don’t think it will be long before I reach that stage, though. Unlike so many other things I’m trying to get into, bentos are instant gratification. I’m happy when I’m making them, when I’m planning them, when I’m hungry at work and thinking about lunch, and, most importantly of all, eating them is like eating satisfaction. It feeds both my desire to be able to make beauty and my need to make something useful. It’s creative and crafty, pretty and practical, indulgent and industrious. But mostly, it taste good, and really, that’s all I care about at lunch time.

I don’t mind the warm colors so much when the box is black.


Burrito in a Box

It’s bad form to gush over food, to eat in front of people when you have no plans of sharing, and to pat yourself on the back.

I’m going to do all three.

This is the lunch I packed for myself last week. It’s really simple: leftover rice (I made extra on purpose the day before), black olives,  a layer of boiled egg, a layer of chopped tomato (salted and peppered), and crumbled bacon. The white tube is a rolled up tortilla, which turned out not to be big enough for all of my goodies. In the orange cup (isn’t it just too cute?) there’s chipotle mayonnaise. Do not ask me why this was in the fridge. All I know is it was there and it was good. It helped my ingredients stick together and, if you’ll excuse the expression, kicked the rice up a notch.

This picture has been modified to fit you perception of the world

Though I intended this bento to be a burrito, because alliteration tastes better, I ended up eating it like a salad.  I ate most of it too, even though there was a lot more rice in this than proportionally necessary. I would make this again, but I would like to try avocado slices soaked in lemon juice instead of the mayonnaise. Oh, that green with the red and yellow . . . it’s enough to make anyone hungry.

Now, regarding the photos: I know I was using the wrong lens. I had the big, long one on and I should have switched it with the short one. That’s why all my shots have weird angles to them, I’m not tall enough take an overhead photo with a lens a foot long. I’m actually really bad at photography, because, in a strange reversal of the Thermian transporter system, photography is more science than art. Exposure time, aperture, lighting – it’s all beyond me. Not to mention my dad’s camera has more options than a Starfleet ship panel.
             I do know that this kitchen is extremely hard to take photos in because it’s so warm. Warm counters, warm lights. Taking these photos only an hour after the crack of dawn on a cloudy day didn’t help much either. But lighting issues are only something to work around. They force you to confront a fact about picture taking that people in good lighting can blissfully ignore. So, in the great tradition of the List-People, my personal photography goal is to take one bright, colorful bento picture before summer ends completely. One worthy of the new Willy Wonka, only more appetizing.

Which brings me to my closing thought, which is namely this, you know starfleet isn’t all that bad when their replicators pay just as much attention to arranging the food on the plates as they do to making who-knows-what taste just-like-mother-used-to-make. How would you even begin to tell a computer about garnishing dishes? And what invention do you think marks a civilization as, well, civilized?