All recipes are for 2 servings unless noted. Oil is canola oil and salt is kosher salt.


Breakfast, January 1, 2013

The first meal of the year is big.

Along with ozoni, the New Year’s special soup with rice cakes, we had our usual dishes but with slightly different ingredients and fewer variations than in other years. As I started preparing most osechi New Year’s dishes on December 29th (I usually start on the 28th), I could not finish making some of the things we usually have. But I did make kuri kinton -- mashed satsumaimo sweet potato with sweetened kuri chestnuts, both colored with kuchinashi dried gardenia fruit to symbolize gold -- for our financial luck and prosperity this year!

  • Ozoni / New Year's Day soup with mochi rice cakes, gobo burdock root, carrot, konnyaku yam cake, kamaboko fishcake, yakidofu broiled tofu and grilled lingcod
  • Kuromame no fukumeni / slightly sweet soy sauce-flavored black soybeans: mame has a double meaning – beans and health
  • Kohaku namasu / daikon radish and carrot in yuzu citrus vinegar marinade: red (carrot) and white (daikon) is a celebratory color combination
  • Tataki gobo / simmered burdock root in sesame soy sauce vinegar dressing: the long, strong root implies stability and strength
  • Ebi no umani / prawns in light soy sauce-flavored broth: bent prawns imply longevity (living until your back bends)
  • Kamaboko tazuna-giri / fishcake cut in the shape of horse reins: the reins imply a good marriage (usually for singles wanting to land a good marriage), and fine, lucky horses. White and pink (red) are for celebrations.
  • Kuri kinton / mashed satsumaimo sweet potato with sweetened kuri chestnuts: colored with dried gardenia fruit for a bright yellow to represent gold and prosperity
  • Takiawase / assorted ingredients cooked separately and then put together, including
    • Warabi to ganmodoki no nimono [bracken and deep-fried tofu patties simmered in broth]: serving preserved sansai [mountain vegetables] harvested in spring is part of my parents’ osechi custom
    • Koyadofu no fukumeni [rehydrated freeze-dried tofu simmered in light broth]
    • Hoshi-shiitake no fukumeni [dried shiitake mushrooms simmered in sweetened broth]
    • Umeninjin no nimono, shoga-aji [plum-blossom cut carrot simmered in light ginger-flavored broth]: plum blossoms symbolize early spring; a color of celebration
    • Yabane kinusaya [snow peas cut in arrow-shaft feather shape]: the arrow shaft wards off evil sprints; snow peas also add something green to osechi overall
  • Gindara no saikyozuke / grilled Saikyo-miso marinated black cod: a standard addition to our osechi
  • Hotate no misoyuanzuke / grilled miso-yuan marinated sea scallops: another of our osechi additions
  • Surenkon / lotus root marinated in sweetened vinegar: see-through holes for a good perspective
  • Kikukakabu / chrysanthemum-cut Japanese turnips in sweetened vinegar
  • Omiki: more typically called otoso or toso (often infused with herbs). My father always calls sake for the New Year’s meal omiki, or sacred sake. Once a year, we drink good sake.

There was also datemaki [seafood omelet], which turned out the best ever compared to previous years, probably because of the shiokoji salted rice malt I added to partially replace soy sauce. I was somehow spaced out on New Year’s morning and forgot to put it on the table. Datemaki is for intellectual enhancement. Hmmm… already a big stumble there.

Missing on our table this year were two old standbys: nanbanzuke deep-fried fish marinated in sweetened spicy vinegar, and tsukune no teriyaki chicken meatballs. With these two items missing, the big breakfast was a bit lighter on our stomachs than in other years, and both Tom and I actually liked it better. These are handy party dishes, but since we were going to have Western food (including chicken) with guests in the afternoon, not having them left us with fewer leftovers, and we were happy about that.

I wanted to pack jubako lacquered square boxes with various osechi this year, but our oju (another name for jubako) is too big to fill with food just for both of us. Oju usually has two, three or five tiers of lacquered boxes or ceramic containers. Yep, they have a meaning, too. They are to multiply your luck. Because we did not have enough food to pack our oju, I used two boxes as square serving bowls. So we doubled our luck! That works for me.

Here's to auspicious wishes and hopes to start the year!

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