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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summertime, and the living’s izu.

i’ll admit it, i loved summer break as a kid.  summer meant making nachos everyday in the microwave, playing video games, and frolicking outside until i got so sunburned my skin started to peel.  ah, memories.

but looking back, i never truly appreciated summer for what it was when i was a kid.  it was just a long period of time without school, which made it inherently good.  i could have spent my summers in a junkyard or on the sub-zero front lawn of a gulag and i probably still would have had a blast.

in other words, summer isn’t for the kids.  it is for the teachers.

here’s a quick list (in no particular order) of what i did this summer vacation.

  • hopped on a plane and went to the good old usa
  • saw my family for the first time in six months
  • spent as much time as i could with my best friend/love of my life
  • drank cheap beer
  • enjoyed top-notch missouri humidity
  • ate a truly appalling amount of meat and starch
  • evened out my heinous farmer’s tan
  • played with my cats
  • fired up the smoker

and so, as summer draws to a close here in japan, i figured i would cook a tremendous (see: over-sized, far to big for one human to finish) meal to celebrate all the good times i had.  and here’s what i came up with.

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the club sandwich: and i’m not even a member.

the term “club sandwich” is misleading for a lot of people.  some people think it is a particular sandwich composed of cold cuts, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.  some people attach the word club to a frilly toothpick.  still others qualify any sandwich that has three pieces of bread as a club sandwich

because it doesn’t seem like this issue will be settled any time soon, i decided that i too should contribute to the quagmire of opinions.  if you ask me, a club sandwich, rather than being defined by its contents, seems to be defined by its shape and the sides with which it is served.

some club sandwiches contain roast beef, some contain mustard, some are served with pickles and still others are not.  but i challenge you to find a restaurant version of the club sandwich that isn’t cut into triangles and served with a side of some form of potatoes (whether chips or fries or potato salad).  although it might seem strange, it makes sense to me that the defining feature of a club sandwich is its sides and the manner in which it is plated (namely, cut twice instead of in half).

my personal club sandwich contains bacon, tomato, and three pieces of toasted bread, but that is where the similarities to your run-of-the-mill restaurant club end.  homemade chips, homemade condiments, and crispy home-cured bacon make my club a homey force to be reckoned with.

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breakfast: an american tradition.

i love breakfast, and i’m not ashamed to say it.  i can honestly and with 100% confidence say that, especially in the states, it is one of the most under-appreciated (if not completely ignored) meals in the course of a single day.  i make sure to wake up nice and early almost every day (including the weekends, i know i’m crazy) to make myself a good old-fashioned 1950’s style breakfast.

and as an avid breakfast fan, i’m here to tell you that while breakfast might not scientifically be proven as the most important meal of the day, it can easily become the meal that sets the pace for an entire 24 hours.  suffice to say, cereal won’t cut it.  if you start your day with cereal and some milk everyday, you are going to be sluggish and starving by lunch time.  it just isn’t good for you.

personally, i make sure to eat hearty.  eggs are a staple, and i always make an effort to include some fresh veggies and little bit of starch, too.  in all honesty, the only food group that i regularly completely ignore is fruit.  i’m not too big on sweet stuff, and high concentrations of sugar tend to make you crash later in the day.

today i was in rare form.  i woke up nice and early, made a big pot of coffee, and got to work.  my farmer friends have thrown produce at me left and right this month, so i resolved to use as much of the fresh goodies as i good today.  the result was absolutely delicious, super manly, and chock full of nutrients.

sometimes you just have to wake up in the morning, look in the mirror, and remind yourself that you are from ‘merica.  and today was one of those days.

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pork and kimchi: beer’s best friends.

i’ll admit it.  there are times when i don’t really feel like spending an hour or two making a spread large enough to feed the russian army.  sometimes i just want to cook something quick and easy, and in this weather, the less i use the stove the better.

yesterday was one of those lazy days, and i found myself with an abundance of kimchi on my hands.  while normally i would default to kimchi hot pot (one of my favorite autumnal foods in japan), the “hot” part of hot pot didn’t sound that appealing in the 34ºc heat.  instead, i decided to go for something with which i could enjoy an ice-cold beer.

and as soon as i thought the words “ice cold beer,” buta-kimchi sprang to mind.

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