on July 3, 2009 at 2:06 AM
It's finally feeling like LA summer weather. The patio is turning into an oven. Perfect temperature to dry my laundry in the sun. I have worked out a primitive system for drying clothes. The sheets go on the big limestone table and get stretched like canvas. I hang the shirts on the chairs. Towels on the side table. The wrinkles don't come out and the clothes feel coarse but everything smells incredibly sweeter and cleaner, not to mention, I save energy. The last two summers I spent in Brittany turned me onto drying clothes this old fashion way. I haven't gotten around to putting up a clothesline in my house but that's coming soon. Drying clothes in the sun also brings me back to my childhood in Kamakura. There was a merchant that used to come around to our neighborhood selling bamboo for hanging clothes. They were freshly cut bamboo that was still very green. My grandmother bought new bamboo every year. Then one day, some of the bamboo merchants switched to plastic bamboo. I can still remember the first time I heard them calling out, "blue bamboo, blue bamboo that never fades." The bamboo was cobalt blue. I didn't care for plastic bamboos but I can still hear the man singing.
The sun also helps me decide what to cook. sunny weather calls for cold soba noodles, which brings us into summer. I am going to also make a fresh batch of dipping sauce.
With the steamed chicken I made last night I make a chicken salad. I chop some butter lettuce and scallions to make a bed of green. I slice the chicken and on top/. I get a little carried away and sprinkle way too much cilantro on the chicken. This dish is a failed work of art but the little red mound of pickled ginger (amazu shoga) gives a nice color against the turqoise plate.
COLD SOBA NOODLES WITH DIPPING SAUCE
For this lunch menu, make your life easy by fixing the dipping sauce and steamed chicken the night before so it doesn't become a big cooking project on the day of the lunch. This is one of the easiest Japanese lunch I can think of if you follow what I do. The noodles only take about 5-6 minutes to cook so do this part last minute. If you let cooked noodles sit long, they will go limp and starchy.
- 4 bunches of dried soba noodles (100 grams per person)
- 8 oz daikon radish, peeled and grated.
- 4 scallions, sliced thinly.
- Wasabi, Shichimi peper - optional seasonings
- Basic Dipping sauce (see below)
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil. This water will be used to boil the noodles later.
- First make the grated radish sauce. Peel and grate the radish. What you will get is a watery substance. Pour out most of the daikon juice and use the grated part but do not squeeze too much of the juice out. You want the grated radish to have be juicy but not runny. Put it in a small bowl.
- Slice the scallions and put them in a small bowl.
- Bring the grated radish and scallions to the table along with the other garnishes, such as chopped scallion, wasabi and shichimi pepper. Pour the dipping sauce in individual serving bowls and bring them to the table. You will need chopsticks for everybody. Once you have set the table, you can cook the noodles.
- Cook the noodles in the boiling water for approximately 5 minutes. You want the noodles to be al dente.
- Prepare a large bowl with a dozen ice cubes. The ice water will be used to chill the noodles.
- Drain the cooked noodles in a strainer and rinse under cold running water to remove the starchy film. Transfer the noodles into the cold ice water and let the noodles chill for 1-2 minutes.
- Drain the noodles in a strainer and serve on a flat basket or plate.
- Let everyone help themselves to the soba noodles. The way to do it is to first put some grated radish (about 1 teaspoon) or wasabi and a sprinkle of shichimi pepper into the dipping sauce. Take approximately one or two mouthfuls of noodles with a pair of chopsticks and dunk them into the sauce and eat them. Repeat until the noodles are gone.
- Serve the soba noodles with the Steamed Chicken Salad.
soba noodles chilling in ice water
BASIC DASHI DIPPING SAUCE
This is an all purpose basic dipping sauce that I use for dipping Tempura, Soba, Somen noodles. You can use this as a basic recipe and make some adjustments with the seasonings to suit your palate. The sauce is sweetened with Mirin, sweet sake, which unlike sugar has more depth in flavor.
- 1 cup of Dashi (Link to Basics for Dashi Recipe)
- 1/8 cup - light color soy sauce (Usukuchi-shoyu) or regular soysauce. (I prefer light color soysauce)
- 1/8 cup - Mirin, sweet sake
- 1/2 cup - bonito flakes
- Bring the Dashi broth, soysauce and Mirin, sweet sake in a medium size pot and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add the bonito flakes and let the flakes sink to the bottom. Strain broth. Discard bonito flakes. Let the broth cool down to room temperature.
- Makes about 11/4 cups of dipping sauce.
- Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days.
NOTE: To make the sauce a little stronger in flavor, do 1/6 cup of soy sauce and sweet sake each instead of 1/8 cup. Use koikuchi soy sauce for soba.
STEAMED CHICKEN SALAD
(link to Recipe with Picture)
- 2 chicken breast with skin
- 4 scallions, roots cut off. sliced in halves and then cut horizontially
- 4 tbls ginger, peeled and sliced thinly
- 6 tbls sake
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- salt and pepper
- 10 leaves butter lettuce
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 4 tbls cilantro, chopped
- 2 tbls pickled ginger (amazu shoga) - optional
- Bring the steamer to a boil over medium heat.
- In a soup or pasta bowl, put the chicken. Top with ginger, scallions, sake and sesame oil.
- Put the whole plate in the hot steamer. Be careful not to spill the liquid. Cover the steamer and steam for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Let the chicken cool completely. Best if you let it rest in the refrigerator for a few hours to chill. You can keep the chicken in the liquid. This will turn into a gelatin which makes a nice sauce for the chicken.
- Just before you plan to serve the dish, take the chicken out of the fridge. Discard ginger and scallions. Peel the chicken skin off or leave it on, whichever you like. Slice the chicken crosswise, about 1/4-inch thick.
- To make the salad, slice the butter lettuce leaves into strips, about 1/4-inch wide. Make a bed of butter lettuce strips and scallions. Arrange the sliced chicken on top. Sprinkle with cilantro and garnish with a small mound of pickled ginger (amazu shoga). Serve with soysauce and wasabi.