holy shiitake! it’s burger day on pmk!

so there is this thing called the mushroom swiss burger.  honestly, when it is cooked properly, it tastes like true love.  or magic. or maybe both.

unfortunately, this story isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

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cooking just gets miso hot sometimes.

whoever decided to call this stuff “fermented bean paste” clearly had no concept of what sounds appetizing and what does not.  if i were asked on the street, “excuse me, would you like a bowl of fermented bean paste soup?”, you can bet your butt i would say no.  but “miso soup”?  i would be all over that like white on rice.

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udon you want me, baby?

yeah, i know.  it’s a great song, isn’t it?

don’t worry, this post doesn’t have anything to do with the 80s.  it does, however, have to do with one of the simplest and most delicious foods japanese cuisine has to offer.

when my beautiful female better half came down with a nasty cold last week, i vowed that i would do everything within my power to make her better.  did i bike to and from the store a bunch of times every day?  of course.  did i pick her up two different kinds of fruit tea so she wouldn’t get tired of drinking yuzu and honey all day?  that’s a given.  did i give her a neck massage and tuck her into bed every night?  goes without saying.

but when your hubby tells you that they don’t want to eat because “nothing just looks that good,” you have to make some tough decisions.  after all, you have to bolster their strength so they can fight off that nasty illness, but you can’t exactly go around making heinously spicy burritos or steaks without breaking their delicate little sick stomach.  in such situations, i tend to turn a good friend of mine.

and that friend’s name is udon.

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a vegetarian recipe: it feels like the first time.

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is this really happening?  could the poor man be losing his pork-obsessed mind?  is the title of this post just a clever ploy to entice naive and starry-eyed vegetarians to read my blog?  who is to blame for this sudden and terrifying turn of events?

take a deep breath, and count backwards from ten.  i’ll explain everything.

i assure you, this is really happening.  don’t worry, i am not throwing in my bacon grease stained apron.  i still love meat and i will continue to love meat.  that being said, i am happy to inform you that i made a tasty dish without meat the other day, and i have no regrets.  i have my purplish-grey, stinky, rubbery friend konnyaku to thank for that.

all it took to take konnyaku from a weird wiggly block of tuber jelly to a beautiful, savory, low-calorie treat was a flash boil, a quick marinade, and a few minutes spent over a frying pan.  if any of that sounds interesting to you vegetarians out there, keep reading.  i promise you won’t regret it.

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ketchup rice, television, and the usa.

the conversations we have while we eat are pretty amazing sometimes.

while i was at school the other day, i decided to eat my school lunch in one of my first grade classes.  i love eating with my first graders, and for the most part they love eating with me, too.  i always get bombarded with all kinds of awesome questions, and i am always more than happy to answer them.  “misha-sensei, what is your favorite color?”  “misha-sensei, are you married?  do you have kids?”  “misha-sensei, do you like mini-tomatoes?”  the list goes on.

a few days ago, however, i was shocked and a little saddened by a question a little girl sitting next to me asked.  about halfway through the meal (during which i was making faces and goofy jokes and thumbwrestling kids), she turned to me all of the sudden and asked, “misha-sensei, are you really from america?”  i was a little confused and taken aback, but i said yes.

what she said next threw me for a loop.  “but you aren’t scary.  americans are scary, right?”

as an american in japan, what do you say to something like that?  what can you say?

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reishabu, mk II: twice as nice.

i’d like to think most food bloggers would agree that often times, your first try is never your best.  some of the great food bloggers i read regularly don’t try to pretend they are perfect.  when they botch a meal, they write about how they botched it and what they will do next time.  mistakes, after all, are how we learn to cook.

after all, what is the point of writing recipes if you can’t revise them?  if you really love a food, i find the best thing to do is to cook it often and gradual refine it.  evaluate the recipe and isolate the parts you like and the parts you don’t.  replace some ingredients to make it more cost effective, faster to cook, or more impressive in appearance.

i’ve talked about reishabu as one of my favorite salads of all time on pmk (you can find the mark I recipe here), and as such i owed it to myself to give it another go.  normally, i just make a large portion for myself, but on this particular occasion, i happened to be making dinner for six people on a particular hot summer night a few weeks ago.  the response was overwhelmingly positive.

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harusame salad: so light, and yet so dang delicious

think about any pasta salad you have ever had.  did it involve copious amounts of mayo and/or butter?  yeah, that’s what i thought.

as a midwesterner, i am far too familiar with that cloying texture.  the sound of pasta salad squelching as you dig a spoon into it still haunts my nightmares.  i have learned to fear the gradually deepening yellow color of the salad as it becomes warmer and warmer in the intense heat of outdoor barbecue parties.  yes, i begrudgingly enjoy it now and again.  but i can feel my arteries screaming in pain as i masticate every bite.

imagine eating a big fat plate of the southern-style pasta salad i just described as the main course of lunch.  imagine the unending stomach pains that would result.  imagine the huge spike in your blood pressure.  imagine all those veggies, still half-buried in their fields somewhere, calling for the imposter “salad” to be deposed.

luckily, somewhere in a lab deep beneath the earth, japanese scientists and farmers were cooperating to create a new breed of pasta salad implementing an innovative hybrid noodle.  a noodle with texture, a noodle with flavor, a noodle so fresh that veggies would shriek and swoon at the prospect of being mixed in the same bowl (if they could shriek or swoon).

and they called that noodle harusame.

made of mung bean starch, water, and magic, they are the perfect choice for a fresh, filling, and absolutely delicious summer salad.

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