Breakaway Cook

Guest Post: Healthy Persimmon Crêpes

I’m very happy to present the first guest post, from the talented photographer, blogger, and nutritionist Emiko Taki, while I tend to the fulltime job of feeding and caring for Delia and Daphne. I’m delighted that Emiko is part of this community. You can see some of  work at her blog,  KitchenEm.


persimmons emiko


By Emiko Taki

This is very similar to the Persimmons Grand Marnier in The Breakaway Cook, but was made rather spontaneously. Recently, I was working on a recipe involving lots of egg whites/meringue, and hated to waste all the egg yolks that were piling up in my poor neglected rice bowl.

So I decided to make some crêpes. But I didn’t want them to be another anonymous number on a crêpes shop menu.

One recipe I consulted called for a quarter-cup of melted butter — a half stick.  Now,  I do realize that butter is often essential for many, many desserts, but do I really need, or want, that much butter in my crêpes? I decided to replace the butter with some 1% milk, and added some cardamom and cinnamon to spice up the batter. (The nutritionist in me can’t help but say: people often mistake the percentage on the milk carton for the amount of fat, but it’s actually fat percent measured in weight. So, whole milk is about 50% fat and 2% milk is about 33% fat.)

The crêpes looked and tasted pretty good, much better than I expected. But then what? Do I dress them up by adding a blob of whipped cream and smearing on some chocolate fudge? That would totally defeat the purpose of making it low fat. I looked around the kitchen and found a few persimmons that I got from my colleague, still not quite so Persimmon-orange, and not ready to be eaten fresh just yet. Fantastic! I sliced it thinly, simmered in a little water, and  finished with a little bit of sugar and bourbon. That’s when I thought of Eric’s book and there it was! Okay, my version is cheap – not quite the Grand Marnier, but it tasted great. I’m not too fond of overly syrupy, sugary desserts, yet the crêpes & persimmons just by themselves were a bit too dry; I added a tablespoon of Greek yogurt, which rounded it out perfectly.


persimmon crepe emiko

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Happy Thanksgiving, Breakaway Cooks!

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I think everyone can guess what we’re most thankful for this year . . . .

It’s incredible how important food has become, even more so than before — eating well means Delia’s happier and healthier, which in turn means Daphne is, too. Even one “off” meal of takeout seems to start a somewhat negative cycle, only to be corrected by something whole and homemade and whipped up with love. I did manage to slather a bird with mole (thinned with pickled fennel brine) and stuck it in a large cast-iron chicken fryer. It’s roasting away right now and is filling the house with great smells.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! We’ve got enough love floating around here to sate the planet!

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Daphne Camille Gower — Irasshai!

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We interrupt this regularly scheduled broadcast to bring you the breaking news of the arrival of Ms. Daphne Camille Gower, who parachuted into the world on November 18,  all 3.3 delicious kilograms of her. Her father, a certain breakaway cook, managed to talk the OBGYN into letting him deliver/catch her and place her on the chest of her heroic, epidural-free mother, Ms. Delia van der Plas, to the great delight of everyone present.  Ms. Daphne and her parents, who are getting used to the life without the precious commodity known as sleep, are now home, eating all the food prepared weeks before her arrival.

Her father is resisting, often quite mightily, the urge to drizzle a few drops of pomegranate molasses on her mother’s breasts to give her a direct foretaste of what is to come! He is also being kept wildly busier than he imagined, and is still accepting ideas/submissions for guest posts that can run in this space during these next few weeks. Ms. Daphne will likely make semi-regular appearances here; if you have any bubbly around, perhaps the collective CLINK of the glasses will reach her unbearably cute ears. Ms. Daphne gratefully accepts all well-wishers.



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The Coolest Umeboshi Poem in the World




All the Difficult Hours and Minutes

by Jane Hirshfield


All the difficult hours and minutes

are like salted plums in a jar.

Wrinkled, turned steeply into themselves,

they mutter something the color of  sharkfins to the glass.

Just so, calamity turns toward calmness.

First the jar holds the umeboshi, then the rice does.


.(first appeared in Poetry magazine; used with permission).


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Persimmons and Chicken Broth? Oh Yes!

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Who knew that hachiya persimmon goop and chicken broth went so well together? I got a huge box of on-the-edge hachiyas at the farmers’ market for just a few dollars, and spent about an hour dealing with them: separating the goop from the skins and tops, sieving it, and placing it it one-quart freezer bags for later use, long after persimmon season is over.  I couldn’t help but toss a few cups of it in the blender with some chicken stock I had just made, just for fun, along with plenty of salt and pepper. Oh yes, did it work! Here’s what I added to the soup pot:

  • chicken stock/persimmon mixture
  • zucchini slices
  • cooked potato slices
  • cooked rice noodles
  • matcha salt
  • chives

It yields a broth that’s light and vibrant and tangy, yet slightly creamy. It feels preposterously healthy while eating it, and long afterward.

Is anyone doing anything interesting with persimmon goop? I’m also making oatmeal with it: milk, water, persimmon goop, crystallized ginger, currants, cinnamon, dried apricots.  What else?

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How to Make "Japanese" Bacon


Here’s a clip from the new Vook. I’ll have a lot more video to upload in the coming months, so I’m hoping everyone likes this direction. Feedback is hugely appreciated! Btw, there’s nothing inherently Japanese about this dish, other than the cut of meat — sukiyaki cut, which is quite hard to find in mainstream markets — and possibly the addition of minced ginger. Whatever its origin, it’s really, really tasty.

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The New Cookvook! The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen on the Iphone and the Web


It’s finally up! Late last spring I inked a deal with the Vook people to produce a breakaway “cookvook” — a redo of the Breakaway Japanese Kitchen with video. Vook has garnered lots of press of late, so I’m really happy to be the first food foray in their lineup.

Lots of people have written me over the years, asking when a new edition of the BJK will be out. I’m happy to say: this vook is a rather breakaway version of the book! There’s definitely something nice about actually seeing the recipes being put together — it’s a very different experience from a regular book.  I hope everyone here will check it out. And: buying a copy would also help me defray some of the costs of keeping this site up and running — treat yourself and help me at the same time!

Check it out at Vook’s main site. And ask questions here, please! I’m happy to chat about all aspects of it.

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Superkraut — More Fermenting Action


It had been far too long since my hardcore German Harsch fermenting crock had seen any action, so I thought it might be fun to make some “superkraut” — in addition to the classic cabbage and salt, I added carrots, quite a bit of fresh younger ginger, and even more fresh turmeric, all sliced very thinly with the benriner. After six days of ferment, it’s perfect in my book: tangy, lively, almost medicinal (in a good way). Instead of using just kosher salt, I used herb salt and tangerine salt.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of making your own sauerkraut, it’s a marvelous thing to do. You simple shred a boatload of cabbage (I used two very large heads), take a big handful, toss it into a crock, salt it, and punch it down with your fist, both to break up the cabbage pieces and to squish them down. Add more and do another layer. And again, either till you run out of cabbage or space in the crock, whichever comes first. The salt draws out the considerable amount of water of cabbage, which then provides a kind of salt bath, which prevents some bacterias from forming, and encourages lots of probiotic activity. The veggies then get a heavy ceramic “lid” placed over them, which gets pushed down to make sure everything is sitting in brine.  The crock itself has a little “moat” around the top so that critters can’t crawl in. Here’s a photo of what the crock looks like. I got the 20 liter version — must have been feeling a surge of optimism when I hit the purchase button that day! A much smaller one would have done just fine, say the 7.5 liter one.

It’s just delicious stuff. I love having several gallons of it around, for snacking, for part of lunch, to give away to friends and neighbors. If anyone’s around Marin and wants a taste, let me know! I have a feeling the crock is going to see constant action this winter.

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Making Automatic Chicken Broth: Star Anise Vegetable Soup with Green Tea Soba

star anise fennel soup625

I’ve lately developed a little habit that I’d like to share with you. Everytime we have chicken, there are always bones left at the end, either the whole carcass if I’ve roasted a whole bird or if I’ve purchased an already-roasted one (yes, I sometimes do that), or just the thigh bones from the bone-in thighs I sometimes make. After dinner, as we’re cleaning up, I’ll just chuck every bone into the pressure cooker, chop up an onion and maybe a carrot, toss in a dried shiitake or two, season with some s&p and whatever else beckons, and saute the massacre in some olive oil. I’ll then add some water, bring it to a boil, secure the lid, and cook under pressure for about 30 or 40 minutes. All of this has become so automatic that I don’t even think of it as extra work — it’s part of the cleanup, almost.

The payoff is the next day: I’ve got some incredibly flavorful broth with which to make a simple vegetable noodle soup. You just saute a sliced onion, a carrot, and whatever other veggies are laying around your vegetable crisper: chard, kale, green beans, fennel, broccoli, cauliflower, whatever. I saute the veggies in some olive oil, and usually add a generous pinch of dried shiitake powder (made by pulverizing a few whole dried shiitake in the spice grinder or, even better, in the Vita Prep blender, which turns them to dust in no time flat) for the extra umami hit. If I’m in a hurry I’ll add a small ladleful of the broth to cook the veggies faster.

While the veggies cook, heat up a small pot of water for the noodles. Udon and soba are my two favorite noodles to use in soups, but you could use egg noodles, rice noodles, even spaghetti. I used to cook the noodles in the boiling broth, to save time, but that method creates too much starch for me, so I cook the noodles separately, and then just lay the al-dente noodles in a heated bowl, followed by the veggies, followed by plenty of simmering broth, followed by chopped up fresh herbs and salt. In the photo above I’ve used green tea soba, fennel, carrot, onion, and chard sauteed in plenty of freshly ground star anise, and topped off with purple basil and kaffir lime salt.

It’s hard to overestimate how good this kind of soup makes your body feel. The hardest part of making soup this good is making good broth. But if you can mentally link the making of a quick, easy broth as just part of your chicken dinner cleanup — and it really does just take a few minutes of active prep — it’s a snap. The broth freezes nicely in ziplock bags too, just in case you don’t have time to use it the next day.

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