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Cook's Corner

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Diana Parker | The Journal Gazette
Dorothy Kittaka enjoys making Japanese dishes she grew up eating.

Japanese dishes in retired teacher’s repertoire

– Dorothy Kittaka of Fort Wayne was trying to think of something special to make for a family reunion when a friend recommended a cookbook.

The suggestion prompted Kittaka to put together “Tastes of the Teradas,” which is in its third edition.

“My friend, Janice Furtner, suggested a cookbook because we like to eat. This book is not all Japanese (recipes). Some are Filipino, Cantonese or Thai. There’s a whole section that’s just Asian,” she says.

Kittaka thinks everyone in her family has a copy of the 200-page cookbook, which has family photos at the beginning of each section. She says it is available at The Olive Twist, 6410 W. Jefferson Blvd., and sells for about $20.

Throughout her 75 years, Kittaka says she has lived in a variety of places. As the child of Japanese parents, she spent two years in Washington state, then her family was moved to California and Wyoming to Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

Describing how the family ended up in the Midwest, she says, “We started at Tule, Calif., and we were moved to Heart Mountain in Wyoming. We were there two years. My father got an offer from a candy company outside Chicago. Churches got together and said we could come. Five families came. My cousins all took their families back to Japan.”

Sharing her experiences, Kittaka has done presentations on the internment camps at Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast, Huntington North High School and at middle schools for Southwest Allen County Schools.

Kittaka is a retired music teacher. Altogether, she taught for 47 years, taking 10 years out to raise her three sons: Paul, an anesthesiologist at St. Vincent in Indianapolis; David, a fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources in Bedford; and Mark, a local attorney. She is also a grandmother of 10.

“Presently, I do (Kamishibai) presentations to young children. It’s done with cards. I teach songs, dances and games,” she says. She’s also a singer.

“I was a piano major when in college at Northern Illinois University. I was an alto. My junior year, I turned to a vocal major. That teacher turned me into a soprano. I learned how to breathe. I auditioned and sang with the Chicago Symphony Chorus. When we came here, I sang with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Now, I sing with Bach Collegium,” she says.

Q. What’s your favorite cookbook?

A. The one I rely on for Japanese recipes is like a bible – “Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art” by Shizuo Tsuji – that’s for me. It has the history. Putting (the family cookbook) together, I was trying to find a recipe for the Lady Baltimore Cake. It took up four pages! I found the recipe in this cookbook, “All About Home Baking.” Betty Crocker one was my first (cookbook). I think my mother (the late Sakaye Kometani), gave it to me for my wedding.

Q. Who’s your cooking idol?

A. Well Julia Child was a stitch, but I didn’t cook with her. Rachael Ray is fun. She does things so quickly. Get good ideas. I love watching “The Chew.”

Q. What’s your favorite cooking utensil?

A. I like to cook with chop sticks. Oh, good knives. Good sharp knives. Different kinds of knives. I have a ceramic knife that I use to cut things real thin.

Q. What’s something people would not find in your refrigerator?

A. You wouldn’t find lard. You wouldn’t find a lot of beef. I do cook it once in a while.

Q. If you were stuck on an island, what’s one thing you would have to have?

A. A seafood stew with everything – salmon, white fish, crab. Something with seafood and lots of vegetables.

Swiss Chard Okazu

6 to 8 stalks of Swiss chard

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 large sweet onion, chopped

1 (4-ounce) can of drained mushrooms or fresh mushrooms, optional

Soy sauce, to taste

4 eggs

Wash the Swiss chard. Cut the leaves from the stems. Put stems in boiling water and then put the green leaves on the top. Salt, cover and cook for 4 minutes, drain and run cold water over the cooked chard. Squeeze out as much of the water from the chard as you can and cut into 1-inch pieces.

In a large frying pan, sauté the bacon bits until browned and crisp. Drain all but 1 tablespoon bacon oil. Fry the chopped onion until translucent in the same pan. Add the cooked chard to the bacon and onion and cook together. Add canned or fresh mushrooms mixture and add soy sauce to taste.

Make 4 equal indentations in the cooked chard mixture and crack an egg into each of these “pockets.” Cover the frying pan and poach the eggs until the yolk is cooked but soft.

Serve by cutting the chard so that you get the whole egg and the chard underneath. You can also prepare it with 1 or 2 beaten eggs, which you stir and cook into the entire mixture or you can eat it without the eggs. Eat with white rice and add soy sauce and pepper to taste. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

Cucumber Nori Salad

6 to 9 pickle-size cucumbers or 3 large cucumbers

1/4 cup of salt (for soaking cucumbers)

2 cups ice cubes

1/4 cup of dried fueru wakame (dried seaweed)

1 (10- to 12-ounce) package of surimi (imitation crab or lobster or fresh or canned crab or lobster)

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1/2 tablespoon sugar or sweetener

Salt, to taste

Peel cucumbers in stripes, leaving enough skin to give color to the salad. Slice cucumbers very thinly and soak in ice water – enough to cover cucumbers. Add salt to the water and let it soak for at least 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Put into a large bowl.

Soak the wakame in warm water until soft. Squeeze out water and chop into smaller pieces. Add wakame and the surimi or crab or lobster to the cucumbers. Combine the vinegar and sugar, sesame oil, pour over the cucumbers, wakame and surimi and toss lightly. Salt to taste and sprinkle sesame seeds over the top and toss again. Salt to taste. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Cook’s Corner is a weekly feature. If you know of someone to be profiled, write to Cook’s Corner, The Journal Gazette, P.O. Box 88, Fort Wayne, IN 46801-88; fax 461-8648 or email dparker@jg.net.

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