We had dinner tonight at "The Little House That Serves Homemade Dishes In The Woods" at "Pocket Garden DokiDoki". I can't help but think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears when I read that. See the post "DokiDoki is Yummy Yummy" if you don't know what I'm writing about. It is a bit of a drive from here - fifty minutes - but worth it according to my driver. (That comment should get me some attention from certain quarters)!
We got there about 6 PM, 30 minutes after they opened, so there were not so many people yet and we were seated right away. We piled our plates with our favorites from last time, plus new dishes, like a bonito salad with thin slices of bonito sashimi that had been lightly seared on the outside beforehand, mixed veggie and mushroom tempura, and boiled daikon radish in a miso sauce. Mmmm.
Half an hour later, in the midst of our repast, the pianist arrived. She was better than I expected and played music that was very suitable for dining - not too loud or dramatic, but interesting enough so as not to put one to sleep. Windham Hill kind of sound. Some were very familiar, like "Stella By Starlight", and others more vaguely familiar like (I think) music from the movie "Spirited Away". We went back for seconds, strawberries and apples, and a desert of milk curds, apple jam and azuki bean sauce. We were satiated to say the least.
A bit of a drive, but the food is wonderful, the staff gracious, and the atmosphere warm and relaxed. I noticed this time that the decor includes dividers filled with charred bamboo, as well as plants. The open beam ceilings are really large wood trusses, and the wall space has painted line drawings - if you can picture that - with homey natural themes - a mother and child; a woman surrounded by roses; evergreen trees; and thoughtful words. The price of about $11 for all you can eat seems amazing.
Next time, we'll go for lunch. The music, only offered on Sunday and Monday evenings, was nice, but we'd like to go when the store and the garden shop are also open.
DokiDoki is more than "Okay Doky" with us.
Well, just so you don't think I'm heartlessly teasing you with my good fortune at dining, here is my recipe for a healthy, warm meal to get you through any winter day or night. I make this from scratch in big batches and store it in the refrigerator and freezer for a quick lunch or dinner. Don't let the simple name fool you. This is not like what you may have come to expect from a can or truck stop - guaranteed, or I'll treat you lunch at DokiDoki (travel expenses to Japan not included).
First, the chili:
1 small onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
(I use a combination of green, yellow, and red ones mixed for visual interest)
3/4 cup (180 ml) chopped celery
3/4 cup (180ml )dry red wine or water
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped - I love that aroma and it keeps vampires at bay
2 (14.5-ounce) (428 ml) cans recipe-ready diced tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 (354 ml) cups water
1/4 cup 60 ml) tomato paste
3 teaspoons (15 ml) vegetable bouillon granules
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 tablespoon (5 ml) chili powder
Okay. Hold it right there. I am sensitive to hot spice, so I use a small amount - sometimes half of this. If you like it really hot, and I know some of you are used to much more spice, you can use up to six times a much - after that I take no responsibility ;^) Experiment a little. This amount tastes plenty hot enough for me without overpowering the other flavors.
1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) ground cumin
2 (15-ounce) (443 ml) cans kidney, black, or pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Frankly, I don't use canned beans. I cook organic dried kidney beans in a pressure cooker. It does take longer of course. If you use canned beans, try to use low-sodium kinds, and be sure to rinse them very, very thoroughly to prevent, well, you know, gas, and wash away some of the added sodium.
Sour cream for accompaniment (optional) or yogurt. We like to use a little grated cheddar cheese on top, when we can get it, or some yogurt. Here in Japan sour cream is very expensive and most cheese is depressingly bland. Besides, plain yogurt is a healthier choice. Try it. It's a great substitute.
Combine onion, bell pepper, celery, wine and garlic in large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Add tomatoes with juice, water, tomato paste, boullion, cilantro, chili powder and cumin; stir well. Stir in beans. Bring to a boil; cover. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Serve over rice with cheddar cheese, sour cream or yogurt topping.
Makes 6 servings.
Most people are used to white rice. I prefer to use brown rice. White rice is just brown rice stripped of alot of fiber and nutrients. Why do that? I really can't understand taking all the time and effort to grow a food crop, then throw away much of its food value like that. Kinda weird, yeah? But we get into habits. Brown rice does take a bit longer to cook, and white rice stores much longer than brown, which is reason people in earlier times chose white rice. Today this is not a big consideration, but people have aquired a taste for white rice.
If you use brown rice in this recipe you will probably not even notice the difference anyway because of the flavor of the chili. But suit yourself. As a favor to me, at least try mixing 1/3 to 1/2 brown rice into your white rice, before you judge. We get "free" white rice from K's family rice fields, but I have gotten her to mix in brown rice and even K - one raised on white rice - doesn't mind. Personally, I find brown rice has a more satisfying flavor and in addition to nutrition, there are - ahem, shall we say - digestive benefits.
To serve, put rice in a bowl, spoon chili on top of the rice and add your favorite topping of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese or yogurt.
You can freeze the chili and rice (separately) for up to two months. Pop it in the microwave or heat in a saucepan for a quick meal that will satisfy the biggest of appetites. Sometimes I get my hands on some whole wheat tortillas and we make burritos with this recipe.
And forget the meat, O.K.? I know we've been brainwashed about the need and taste for meat, but that is all just advertising. Eat steak if you want, but leave it out of this chili. For me. For you. For the animals the rainforests, the atmosphere. For hungry people. For the Earth. Trust me. You won't miss it. And you don't need it. There is plenty of protien here. You'll love the chili without the "con carne". Gauranteed.