Thursday, February 21, 2008

Classy Leftovers

My dinner from a couple weeks ago - all out of the fridge and reheated in about 10 minutes prep time. My beau started the Japanese cooking experiment a few weeks back, and it's getting pretty good.

Clockwise, we have: plain rice; a miso-based soup with mushrooms, tofu, and fresh watercress; and pickled cabbage (two colors). The green stuff sticking out of the pickles is kombu. (And it's probably been used three times before it went into the pickles, because kombu gets recycled a lot in this cuisine.)

The inspiration was the book Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen by Elizabeth Andoh. A friend gave it to us for Christmas last year. So the beau finally cracked it open, studied up, made lists, and we headed out for ingredients.

It turns out, Japanese home cooking is pretty complicated. The food is simple, but you have to make all these broths and such from scratch. There were some misfires in the beginning - I think he accidentally skipped a step where you leave the broth overnight and then take half the ingredients out before adding the soup ingredients - but even the mistakes weren't too bad.

We did get props from the clerk at the local Japanese food store. She saw the dried anchovies, asian mushrooms, and fresh yuzu (which were like $7! are they ever in season?) and said "what are you making?" We explained we were learning to cook Japanese food. As she rang up the large bag of flaked bonito, she said "This is good. The young people don't use this any more, they just use the powdered dashi."

I have to say, after seeing how long it took to make dashi from scratch (not to mention smelling that bag of bonito when it was opened), I can understand that!

And I finally tried umeboshi, which is one of those Japanese foods that foreigners aren't expected to like. Ume are a small fruit that's like a plum. They're pickled in salt. So the result is salty and sour and pretty intense. Here's how it went:

  • Umeboshi 1: Uh, eeew. Ack. Whoah. But the saltyness is kind of nice with my head cold.

  • Umeboshi 2 (days later): That's not as salty as I remember.

  • Umeboshi 3: Mmm, umeboshi!