Popsicle Report

gin and tonic popsicle made with Zoku Round Pop mold.
gin and tonic popsicle made with Zoku Round Pop mold.

Each summer I promise myself I’m going to do something icy to beat the heat and humidity that is a Japanese summer. This year, I finally got around to doing something. I saw on facebook something about a gin and tonic popsicle. Having just discovered the beat-the-heat property of gin and tonic last summer I was keen to try.

But popsicles have always been frustrating failures. Usually they get stuck in the mold or never freeze and I end up with a collection of plastic that mocks me everytime i open my kitchen cupboards This year, I decided, would be different. Undaunted, I took to the internet to take the guesswork out of which popsicle mold to buy. I found this great post by Sweethome.  They kindly tested a bunch of molds and based on their recommendation I bought the Zoku Round Pop molds. The silicone molds are supposed to be easy to remove. Definitely check out their website. Their post is a good read.

Zoku Round Pop mold
Zoku Round Pop mold

The Verdict:
They WORK! Happy Snoopy dance of icy popsicle joy! The molds really are easy to remove. The round shape means that the base is narrower than the widest part but I still found it fairly easy to take it off. It doesn’t slide off but it wasn’t too bad. The fact that the silicone mold is removable from the tray means that you can remove one at a time quite easily.

If you look closely you can see some of the soda bubbles caught in the ice
If you look closely you can see some of the soda bubbles caught in the ice

The Recipe:
I didn’t bother to research the recipe I found on Facebook. I took some Schweps Tonic Water, squeezed half a lime (which was stingy with the juice) and added a shot of Bombay Sapphire. I split the liquid between the four popsicle molds. I didn’t want it to be too gin-y because alcohol doesn’t freeze well. I ended up being a bit short of liquid because I wanted the liquid to meet the base of the popsicle stick. I just added water figuring that would help with the freezing. Seemed to have worked. it did take a long time to freeze. It took over 6 hours and was better the next day.

gin and tonic popsicle

The Taste and Texture:

It was quite refreshing but didn’t taste really strong. I think I’d like to get a juicier lime next time to kick up the flavor a notch. The texture was more like granitas on a stick. It probably would have worked just as well to leave out the stick and serve it in a bowl. it was easy to bite chunks off so would work with a spoon and bowl.

So next up in the popsicle recipe testing:
*coconut milk with tapioca pearls and pineapple
*espresso or latte

Cacio e Pepe. Cheese and Pepper Pasta

A few weeks back I saw a video about how to make cacio e pepe, cheese and pepper pasta. It is a pasta dish that has 3 ingredients: cheese (usually parmesan), butter and pepper. The video was a case of good timing as I had a hunk of parmesan cheese in my fridge but not many good ideas what to do with it. So I tried the recipe with the following result:

Cacio e Pepe

I added rucola to the side for some bitter taste, and some sweet cherry tomatoes. The biggest surprise for a garnish was the tiny grapes. I put them on the plate to use them up, but they had enough tartness and sweetness to cut through the richness of the butter but still complement the cheese.

It was pretty easy make this dish but you definitely must have the cheese grated and ready to go. If I would change anything, I’d probably use a sharper parmesan than the one I had on hand. Due to the large butter and cheese content, this dish is very rich.

A week later I tried using this recipe as a template to make macaroni and cheese. I had some aged cheddar and it worked really well. Best mac and cheese I ever ate. The recipe still had the high calorie problem so I’m relegating both to the In Dire Need of Comfort Food File instead of Regular Menu Rotation.



I Just Invented a Salad Dressing

Daikon salad was on the menu tonight. I’m not keen on the shoyu-based Japanese salad dressing from the store but it goes really well with daikon. I like it better if I add wasabi which is a trick I learned from the izakaya chain, Tengu. But I didn’t want to shop so I decided to make do with what was in my fridge and the tips learned from my friend Chieko. The result was much better than anything I could have bought premade.

Because I love my friends I am going to share the recipe with you. If you are familiar with Japanese cooking this probably won’t be ground shaking for you, but if you are looking for a new taste sensation give this a go.

Flavor target: amazuppai (sweet and sour) with a strong umami base.

Miso koji 2 Tbsp
Kurozu (black rice vinegar) 2 Tbsp
Lemon juice squeeze from one quarter wedge
Olive oil 1 tsp
Sashimi shoyu 2 Tbsp
Sugar 1.5 tsp
White onion minced 2 Tbsp
Green onion 1 Tbsp

Explaining the Ingredients

Miso koji is a fermentation starter for miso. It seems to be quite popular this year. It tastes just like miso but is less processed. This is a great site if you want to read more about it. Variation: if you can’t find miso koji use regular miso.I don’t recommend red or aka miso but if you prefer that taste, go for it.

Kurozu is rice vinegar made from genmai (brown rice) and is less filtered. It has a more pungent taste. This ingredient has also been experiencing a popularity boom for its reputed health benefits. Variation: regular rice vinegar will work fine. Cider vinegar might do in a pinch. If you try the cider vinegar let me know.

Sashimi shoyu just tastes better than regular shoyu. Maybe it’s more refined or fermented but it has a lighter taste to it that is almost wine-like. It’s a smaller bottle and more expensive but worth it. Not to be used if you are doing teriyaki or niku jaga. Variation: reduced salt kikkoman brand is kind of close.

Sugar is self explanatory but traditionally it would be mirin instead of sugar. Mirin generally sits unused in my fridge so I stopped buying it. I can’t taste any real difference between mirin and sugar and I feel like I have to add heaps of mirin before I notice any effect.

Onion gives it some flavor and some body to the dressing. It also seems to keep it attached to the daikon. Variation: red onion would probably taste better but none was at hand tonight. Green onion is completely optional.

Olive oil could be replaced by any salad oil.

My friend Chieko’s know how has been a basis for trying different recipes in the kitchen. According to her, shoyu, vinegar and mirin are the main basis for a lot of Japanese dressings with miso not to far behind. Yuzu (citrus type), yuzu kosho (spice made of yuzu), wasabi and sesame are all common things to add to the base to get different favors. Experiment with amounts and spices to come up with something you like.

More Variations:
The amounts can be varied in order to suit your taste. I prefer a strong vinegar taste so I add more vinegar. The lemon juice adds some zip if you want more liquid without adding more vinegar or oil. Adding more shoyu is also an option but it gets quite salty and the miso koji is already salty.

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