Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A la Japonaise

Cooking used to be one of my favorite activities, something tangible to use as an escape from intellectual work, but it doesn't hold the same interest for me anymore. Maybe that's because I now live with a better cook, one who is constantly trying new things and working to improve on our favorites, with unlimited time to plan and execute. We eat extremely well, and it's because Jeffrey has picked up my slack and then some.

For Christmas I bought him Shizuo Tsuji's Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. We've both been surprised at how true that title really is——many dishes are surprisingly basic. Having grown up with a Japanese father who often opted against making things from scratch (as most people do), Jeffrey continues to be amazed at how much better homemade preparations of even the simplest things, like somen tsuyu, can be.

I won't lie, some preparations are complicated and time consuming, like the shoyu ramen above. Jeffrey made that while we were stuck inside during last month's blizzard, and between the broth and the marinated pork belly, it took the better part of an afternoon.  But other things, like shime saba, are so simple that we have them every week.

The "recipe" is hardly a recipe at all. Simply take fillets of saba (mackerel) and salt them generously with coarse sea salt a few hours before you'd like to serve it. Then, about 10 minutes before serving, rinse off the salt, and lightly coat it in rice vinegar. After 10 minutes peel off the outer layer of the fish's skin. Slice and serve with grated ginger and shoyu (soy sauce). We like to have ours with gohan (rice), nori, and Chinese broccoli.

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