Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Improvised rice noodle salad

Overall it's been a good day for home cooked food. Breakfast was kind of a variation on Eggs Benedict (well, any kind of poached-egg-on-English muffin combo): English muffin, split and toasted, topped with a slice of tomato, then a poached egg, and finished with a covering of chive cream sauce with a little cheddar cheese added (and black pepper).

For lunch I decided to make a rice noodle salad with more Panko chicken, since noodles are quick and we've run out of short-grain rice...

Panko chicken thighs (with basil): I just pounded out chicken thighs, coated each in an egg-and-water mixture, stuck basil leaves on each piece, then flour with salt and pepper, and finally a layer of panko, and shallow-fried in oil, about 4 minutes on a side (until golden brown and cooked through).

rice noodle salad:

-rice noodles, boiled, drained and rinsed to cool

-dressing: fish sauce, soy, grated ginger, a little rice vinegar, juice of half a lime, chopped bird's eye chiles (1-2 would probably be plenty). Amounts to taste, depending on how many people you're serving. Mix well to combine.

chopped fresh herbs, about a tablespoon each: basil, mint, cilantro

-salad: about a cup of beansprouts; one baby bokchoy, chopped

To serve: layer the vegetables on a large plate. Add the noodles. Top with sliced chicken (one breast or thigh per person). Sprinkle herbs over the entire salad and pour the dressing over, making sure the noodles get coated. Dig in.

I was kind of sweating it out over the chiles, but hey, it cooled me down!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Best cold cure

Nothing much on the food front, which is why I haven't been writing in a little while. Since it's been so hot I've mostly been making quick things with leftovers, like quinoa and bean salads. On Sunday I made some panko chicken and we ate it sliced on top of salads.

I'm getting ready to travel again, this time home to Minnesota for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, M got sick over the weekend (a bad cold) and it appears that I have come down with something too (surprise, surprise). Woke up with a sore throat and a congested feeling. Hopefully I'll feel better before I have to get on the plane.

Last night I was still feeling pretty good, and I made some Thai-style soup noodles as food medicine for M (and preventive medicine for me, I guess that didn't work so well...). Making spicy soup noodles for colds is something that I learned from my dad, who lived in Thailand for three years when he was in the Army back in the early 70's: if you're sick with some kind of a cold, sweat it out over a bowl of hot (both spicy and temperature-wise) noodle soup. I loaded ours up with chopped birds-eye chiles (I think I put in at least 12) and added fresh lime juice to the coconut-and-chicken broth. I also threw in some chopped bok choy and bean sprouts, and the "base" for the soup contained grated ginger, some shrimp paste stuff that we got at the Vietnamese market on Park (I think it's Park; it's the same street the Giant is on), just off of 14th, and one finely chopped stalk of lemon grass. Served it with tomato slices (to warm up in the broth), cilantro, shredded bok choy leaves, and extra lime, chiles and bean sprouts.

We were prepared; M grabbed a roll of tissue before we sat down to deal with the inevitable sniffling and sweating. Maybe it sounds kind of gross, but it's very satisfying. M said he felt better afterwards, although to be honest he said he wasn't sure *how* much it helped with his congestion (maybe "best" cold cure is a little misleading?). Even if it's just psychological, it's still very tasty. I had a large bowl of the leftovers for lunch today.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Uyghur Cultural Day

I'm going to Congressional Uyghur Cultural Day tonight with M. Looking forward to 羊肉串!(lamb kabobs). If there are not, I will be disappointed...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beer x 3

Not many microbrews in Japan to our knowledge. Here are three that we tried while we were there, from two breweries. One was enjoyed on the train, while the latter two were enjoyed in a Nakano park on a cloudy weekday morning (after 10 but before noon. we're bad news). It was very enjoyable sitting in the park, sipping our beer. While we were sitting there, an older man in a dark blue yukata came out, sat on a park bench a couple benches down to our right, and started smoking.
A few minutes later, he was accosted by another man, fairly fashionably dressed in a hat and suit, who started berating him for smoking (M. was translating for me; he determined that they already knew each other because the younger man was addressing the older man with "umae" which would have been rude if the two didn't already know each other well). Overall, we liked all three of the beers, though I recall that we liked the Pale Ale from Ginkakogen brewery the best. I remember that one of them tasted kind of like Hoegaarden (I'm pretty sure it was the first one pictured). If you're in Tokyo, you can find them at the Natural Lawson. I'm not sure where else they can be found. I've also included links to websites for the breweries (in Japanese, of course).

Ginkakogen beer: The pale ale was a little better.

Yona Yona: from Yo-Ho brewing company in Karuizawa, Nakano

Fish eggs fish eggs

While I was in Japan, I had a delicious dish at a cafe in Shimoda: tarako (タラコ)spaghetti. It's really simple, just spaghetti fried in a sauce of butter and soy sauce with cod roe, and often garnished with slivers of nori (dried seaweed). Usually we would have roe as a filling in onigiri (rice balls) for breakfast. It's the most delicious Japanese-Italian dish I can think of.

The other week I picked up a container of mentaiko (明太子/めんたいこ), marinated pollock roe, from Daruma grocery in Bethesda. Last night M. used it to make a version of roe spaghetti, adding green onions. We ate outside on the deck (the air surprisingly thin). Next time we want to try it with the spicy version of mentaiko, karashi-mentaiko. I read here that pasta is a good way to use cheap mentaiko, although the stuff we used had a very clean flavor and would probably be good in onigiri as well.

The more I think about it, the more I think that it wouldn't seem that strange to an Italian from a coastal area of Italy. Even the addition of seaweed might not be so weird. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a similar dish enjoyed there. At the moment I'm too lazy to look into this, but am filing it away.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My cold noodle fusion

When summer hits D.C. I always struggle to find good hot-weather options for cooking. Last summer it was salads, including one that I posted about on here involving apples and sesame seeds. This summer it's turning out to be some version of cold noodles, with a Japanese-Chinese fusiony flavor. The base is always pretty much the same, although last night I threw in some peanut butter and made them into peanut noodles. Since I am growing some herbs on our deck this year, they inevitably end up as a chiffonade garnish on top. Although I have made other noodle recipes of a similar type in the past, I started on this kick partially after being inspired by one of Heidi's posts on 101Cookbooks: Lazy day peanut noodle salad. Here's my take on it. Feel free to top with whatever combination of chopped veggies you have handy, either stir-fried or raw. M had the leftovers for lunch today, a combination of raw veggies with a stir-fry from lunch yesterday. I like to use the thin Chinese wheat noodles that I grew up with in lo mein, but any other thin, long noodle would work, including spaghetti or soba, which Heidi uses.

In individual bowls, mix the sauce ingredients until smooth (what I have listed here are amounts per serving):
approx. 1 tablespoon soy sauce
approx. 1 tablespoon mirin
approx. 1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons rice vinegar
freshly grated ginger root, about 1 teaspoon
freshly cracked ground pepper
sesame seeds, to taste
a little shake of red pepper flakes

this is the base, and then optionally, you can add either:
a generous shake of oyster sauce
or, a heaping spoonful of peanut butter, crunchy or smooth (I used crunchy)

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to the boil and prepare the toppings. These are just some suggestions:

thinly sliced sweet red pepper
cubed cucumber
chopped green cabbage
thinly sliced raw bok choy leaves and chopped stalks

Fried tofu, if you have it.

thinly sliced green onion
fresh basil leaves, in chiffonade
finely chopped fresh parsley

And this is what makes it, for me:
yuzu (or other) togarashi (Japanese hot pepper), shaken over top of the whole bowl.

When water comes to a boil, add the noodles, approximately the equivalent of a bundle of incense for two people (a handful about an inch and a quarter across? I'm not very good at eyeballing lengths...I just figure, if you have more noodles-to-sauce than you'd like, just add more sauce ingredients after you've mixed the first time, and mix again!). When noodles are cooked, drain, then toss with sauce in individual bowls, top with veggies followed by garnishes followed by togarashi, grab some chopsticks, and enjoy. Makes great leftovers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

An attempt to update and Domku, finally

It's been a busy summer. Here I thought I'd be able to update more with school being out... June was basically weddings and traveling -- we spent two weeks in Japan and I did a lot of good eating there, though I'm not sure how much of it will end up in this blog. I kept daily food notes, though, so it's all there waiting to be documented more fully. Back in D.C. I've been trying to take advantage of my work-from-home situation this summer to do some more cooking, and have tried to fit in the farmer's market weekly. The heat has kind of limited my options, but some of the highlights have been: a ground beef-eggplant-chickpea stew of sorts in tomato sauce over orzo; a zucchini and lime soup; beet and fennel salad (all three in the same meal, incidentally); stuffed grape leaves made with fresh grape leaves from the Adams Morgan farmer's market; sweet potato tacos with dill-and-green onion sour cream (a collaboration with my friend A.); kale sauteed with soy sauce and sesame seeds, and most recently, tsubu-an (Japanese chunky red bean jam). We had the tsubu-an over thick buttered toast for breakfast, something that I tried for the first time while we were in Maebashi, Gunma prefecture and loved. I also found another market for Japanese staples in a pinch; it's in Bethesda, so a little far, but still more convenient than going out to the Asian mega-groceries in the Arlington area: Daruma grocery, 6931 Arlington Rd. Bethesda, Md 20814 (301)654-8832. They have a little cafe in addition to the grocery store; things are a little spendy on the grocery side but again, good in a pinch. I also enjoyed muddling through a mostly-Japanese conversation with one of the store owners (very friendly). In terms of new restaurants we've tried, M. and I splurged for our second wedding anniversary dinner and went to the Tabard Inn restaurant. I had a goat ragu with homemade orecchiette pasta, and he had duck with swiss chard. For starters we tried the homemade charcuterie plate, a specialty of the house; all very good.

With that brief summary, onward and upward...


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