The Yomiuri ShimbunWhen cooking for one, it is often hard to use all the ingredients. Cooking expert Eiko Yanagisawa recommends preparing more than one serving and freezing what’s left.
The key to this approach, Yanagisawa says, is to cut ingredients into bite-sized pieces so they can thoroughly absorb seasoning before being frozen.
Unlike freshly made dishes, frozen dishes tend to lose their distinctive flavors when defrosted. Yanagisawa does not recommend using more seasoning to compensate.
Instead, she says, set aside some of the ingredients for freezing and then simmer or stir-fry them for additional minutes.
“When dishes are cooked in bite-sized pieces, it’s easier for them to absorb seasoning,” she said. “Also, they freeze faster and retain liquids.”
When freezing, Yanagisawa recommends dividing dishes into portions that fit bento box compartments.
Dishes can be frozen for about two to three weeks. If left in the freezer for longer, they will gradually lose their moisture and flavor. Defrost dishes in a microwave.
The three dishes Yanagisawa prepared this time are well seasoned, meaning they are tasty even after defrosting.
Ginger salmon features mild onion, and the pungent ginger can bring out the umami of the fish.
The second dish features meatballs, but sliced pork for shabu-shabu is used instead of mince. Slices of pork can easily be made into balls that do not lose their shape, and seasonings penetrate the thin meat.
The third dish, featuring chicken, is filling but contains few calories. The chicken is well seasoned with curry and ketchup, and green dried parsley used as garnish makes the dish even more appetizing.
Using your spare time to prepare and freeze vegetables can be convenient. Yanagisawa recommends broccoli and ingen green beans because their lower water content allows them to freeze easily. In contrast, leaf vegetables such as spinach are not suitable for freezing because they tend to become soggy when defrosted.
“When preparing meals, set aside a portion for you to treat yourself with in the future,” Yanagisawa said. “This also allows you to stock meals for coming weeks.”
Cut 2 fillets of fresh, unsalted salmon into 3- to 4-centimeter-wide pieces and sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper. Season a pan with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Grill salmon on both sides over medium heat. Add thin slices of half an onion, 2 grated ginger knobs, and 1 tablespoon each of sake, soy source and mirin. Cover pan to steam ingredients over lower medium heat for about 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir fry further by mixing salmon and onion well.
Sliced pork meatballs
Thoroughly mix 250 grams of sliced pork (like the type used for shabu-shabu) with a pinch of salt and pepper. Divide the meat into eight portions and make golf ball-sized balls by pressing them lightly. Season a pan with 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Pan-fry meatballs by rolling them over. When meat is browned all over, turn off heat and wipe off pan with paper towel. Turn to medium heat again and add 6 to 8 pods of ingen green beans sliced diagonally, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of mirin and 1 teaspoon of soy source. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes.
Put 8 chicken drumettes in a pan seasoned with half a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When browned, flip over meat and add 1 teaspoon of curry powder, half a tablespoon of tomato ketchup, ¼teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Mix with seasonings and cover pan to steam over lower medium heat for 5 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle a pinch of dried parsley to finish.
Set aside a portion you are about to eat on a plate, leaving the remaining ingredients in a pan. Simmer them further so that the liquid disappears and the seasonings penetrate before freezing. All dishes serve two people.
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