Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Salmon Dinner at Home

     After going out to eat so much the first couple of days Yuri was here, I started to feel vegetable-deprived, as well as a little poor, so I decided it was time to have a home cooked meal. Yuri was at the Oedo Monogatari Onsen, the Edo-period themed baths on Odaiba, until late that evening (it's a good 45 minutes from my apartment), so I had plenty of time after work to shop, chop, and grill. Cooking for myself alone isn't much of an inspiration, so it was fun having an excuse to get creative for a change.  

     This salad was inspired by one we had ordered the night before at an izakaya, which was criss-crossed with not just mayo, but green mayo (it was flavored with nori seaweed).  Not having such mad mayo-coloring skills myself, I just sprinkled my messy checkerboard with sesame seeds. The vegetables underneath are steamed grean beans and okra, and raw cherry tomatoes, red peppers, and cucumbers. Japanese mayonnaise is a little sweeter than American and always comes in a fun squeeze bottle, perfect for making the designs ubiquitous to Japanese mayo use. After all, you couldn't have a potato-corn-and-octopus pizza without a criss-crossing of mayonnaise, now, could you? Just kidding, I've never seen octopus on a potato and corn pizza. Usually it's raw bacon.

     For the main course, I did foil-steamed salmon. My microwave-convection oven actually has a foil-mushi setting just for fish, so I don't even know how long or at what temperature this cooked. I think it took about 15 minutes. I first cooked the mushrooms, a mixture of enoki and nameko, in a little water and soy sauce until they were soft and salty. Then I put the raw king salmon fillets, each about 100 grams, on top of the mushrooms on its own length of foil. I sprinkled a little more soy sauce and sake (white wine would also work) on top and folded up the packages. They came out perfectly, moist and juicy. I love that foil-mushi function!

     In restaurants, rice is usually listed last on the menu, and it's usually ordered last, so I served my rice course separately in the Japanese style. It's almost never plain, but is either made into a rice ball (onigiri), stuffed with fish or a pickled plum, and maybe grilled, or else cooked with broth and eggs to make a porridge (zousui), or else served with a little kettle of tea to pour over and the same toppings that would be stuffed inside onigiri to sprinkle on top, which turns it into ochatzuke. My rice was an autumnal specialty, rice steamed with chunks of the purple-and-yellow Japanese sweet potatoes and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. The salmon roe on top was my own flourish, because I love it and wanted to splurge a little for Yuri. It went really well with the sweet potatoes - the contrasting textures and balanced sweetness and saltiness were a nice combination.
     The tarts in the photo at the top were the only part of the meal I didn't make myself - I brought them home from the newest little patisserie on the block. It's right up the street from me and just opened in July, and it's in such an out-of-the-way location that I don't know how they can stay in business. I got their macarons once, and they were a bit sweet for my taste. But these tarts were perfect. Both had a normal tart-pastry shell, but the one on the left had a citrus-custard filling and was topped with peeled grapes, peaches, and candied orange peel. The one on the left was filled with a chestnut frangipane and topped with peeled figs, candied chestnuts, and chocolate shavings. Yuri was falling asleep (jet lag and carbohydrates, fatal combination!) and is never much of a dessert eater, so I got to eat more than my share of both of them. Not that I'm complaining. 

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