Back in the Kitchen Again

My third week in Okinawa was mostly spent taking a scuba certification course.  We started Sunday afternoon and finished the following Sunday morning, with class every day except Monday.  Between that and work, I was kept pretty busy.  I still managed a visit to a Sushi-Go-Round place with a couple of co-workers for dinner on Monday night.

My pile of plates at the end of the night:

The prettiest seaweed sushi ever:

My favorite views of the ocean from the week:

On Friday some of the girls I work with took me to a little cafe near base for lunch.  They do a bento box style lunch.  I don’t know what half of the stuff on the tray was, but it was all delicious.  I ate every last bite.

This is the view I walked out to following scuba class on Friday night:

Friday night I went to a live music bar with a couple of co-workers.  The place has a house band that performs Western oldies in full costumes.  It was a highly entertaining evening.

Sunday morning rolled around and after two beautiful dives at Maeda Point I received my PADI Open Water certification.

I didn’t expect to do much cooking during my time in Okinawa.  I have a kitchen in the place I’m staying and I knew that coming here.  But for how much I love to cook, I can be a bit fussy about it.  I don’t like to rough it in the kitchen.  I like having good tools. I want the process to be as easy as possible.  I assumed the kitchen would not be very well stocked for actual cooking or baking, and I was right.  For my first week here it was easy to resist the urge to cook. I was jet lagged.  Work was busy.  There were so many restaurants to try.

I managed to resist the call of kitchen for 2 full weeks.  But by my second weekend here the allure of another restaurant meal had dimmed and the urge to buy some of the gorgeous red rhubarb I saw at the Commissary was too strong to resist.

Its amazing to me the items you can buy at the Commissary.  Admittedly, if I lived here I’m sure I would crave a wider variety of spices, a greater selection of fresh herbs.  However, I was surprised to see a number of flours from Bob’s Red Mill, fresh milk (organic and regular), and of course, the rhubarb.

During my two days waiting out the typhoon I inevitably spent some time perusing my favorite food blogs, which lead me to a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for a rhubarb coffee cake.  I decided to give it a try.  I took it into work and it was a big hit with my co-workers.  My Japanese colleagues had never had rhubarb before and I wasn’t sure if this would be the best introduction.  It seems I had nothing to worry about as  I’ve heard nothing but positive reviews.  One of my colleagues confessed to having three pieces!

I suppose rhubarb is now out of season in most places but you could easily substitute another kind of fruit and still give this a try.  Honestly it’s the big crumb topping that makes this one so good and as a result would probably be good with many other kinds of fruit.  If you use a sweeter fruit however, you will probably want to cut some of the sugar.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake (from Smitten Kitchen, originally from the New York Times)

Rhubarb Filling:
1/2 lb. rhubarb, leaves on top and the base trimmed
1/4 c. sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 t. ground ginger

Crumb Topping:
1/3 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 c. butter, melted
1 3/4 c. flour

1/3 c. sour cream
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Grease an 8″ square baking pan.

Slice the rhubarb into 1/2 inch cubes and toss with sugar, cornstarch, and ginger.  Set aside.

For the crumbs: In a large bowl whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth.  Add flour.  It should look and feel like a solid dough (mine was a little dry and I probably could have added a little more butter).  Press the mix into the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

For the cake: In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and mix on low speed until the flour is moistened.  Increase the speed and beat for 30 seconds.  Add remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of bowl with a spatula and scoop out about 1/2 cup of batter and set aside.

Pour the remaining batter into the prepared 8″ pan.  Spoon rhubarb over the batter and then dollop the batter you set aside over the rhubarb.  It does not need to be even.

Using your fingers, break the topping mixture into big chunks.  They do not need to be uniform.  Because my mix was dry, I had some big chunks and lots of small crumbs.  Sprinkle the crumbs/chunks over the cake.  Bake the cake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (although it may be moist from the rhubarb).  Cool completely before serving.

3 thoughts on “Back in the Kitchen Again

  1. Amri

    I love bentos!

    That rhubarb crumble looks amazing too. I like that there’s ginger in the crumble and with the rhubarb. I have a lot of peaches maybe I should try that? I like peaches and ginger. Or maybe pears? Hmmmm…

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