caesar salad: veni, vidi, vici.

julius caesar.  the emperor, the legend, the man.  he was a politician, a general, a passionate lover, and a poet.  he conquered gaul, unified the roman empire, and was murdered by a bunch of guys in togas.

he was a man of many great titles and impressive deeds.  but the question remains: was he a chef?  and if he wasn’t, just who is behind the deliciousness that is caesar salad?

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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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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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cobb salad: domo arigato, mister robert.

i always wondered why a cobb salad was called a cobb salad.  when i was a kid, i always imagined that it had something to do with corn (which was of course perpetuated by the fact i had no idea what the ingredients of a cobb salad were, or how to spell it for that matter).  as i got older, i just assumed someone named it after a person or a place just like most other well-known foods are.

recently, my curiosity got the better of me, and i looked it up.  looking back, i kind of wish i never had.  it is, of course, named after the restaurateur who was the (supposed) original creator of the cobb salad, none other than a mr. robert howard cobb.

yes, you read that correctly.  his name was bob cobb.

poor guy.  at least he invented a delicious salad to soften the blow of having cruel parents.  thanks for not losing faith, buddy.  i dedicate tonight’s dinner to you.  this is my japanese-style take on your classic american man-salad.

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a fish, a man, and a super sharp knife.

i like to tell my friends that, when it comes to cooking, there are three kinds of people in this world.

first, there are the people who have a million different knives, none of which are sharp or useful.  second, there are the people who use their knife until it is no longer sharp, and then throw it away and buy a new one.

last, there are people who have one knife that they keep so ridiculously sharp it is at risk of cutting through the food, the cutting board, and the counter beneath.

while this categorization is a little bit cut and dry (no pun intended), there is some truth to it.  i admit, i used to be the second type of person.  but i can confidently say that now, i am the third type through and through.  in my opinion, one knife is all you need as long as you care for it and know how to use it properly.

and when it comes to using a knife properly, japan takes the cake.  not only are their knives incredible, the people who wield them command incredible respect and admiration.  i have been to a few sushi restaurants that consist of nothing more than a counter and chairs, but left with the feeling that i had been to a five-star restaurant.  the flavor of sashimi, maybe more than any other food in the world, is determined entirely by freshness and the knife used to prepare it.

so i thought, why not make sashimi at home?  and then i thought, “i’m not a 85-year-old japanese man who can slice perfect sashimi in his sleepo, that’s why.”  and then i thought, “even those guys had to start somewhere.”

and then i went and bought some fish.  my knife did not disappoint.

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and then countless recipes sprang out of the woodwork.

i’ve been posting and cooking, and cooking and posting, and drinking coffee, and then cooking and posting some more.  occasionally, i even sleep.

but that archiving stuff, i’ve been neglecting that.

and so, in one fell swoop, i’ve decided to upload a boatload of recipes that have been skulking menacingly on the hard drive of my computer.

give them a quick once over if you have time, and should you feel the need, try cooking them once or twice and tell me what you think.  constructive criticism only makes us better, and i could certainly do with a little improvement.