simple dinner: japanese breakfast (for dinner)
The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas always feels like one of such extremes--I'm either rolling around in a pile of cheese throwing rum balls in the air and juggling three drinks, or attempting to eat as many leafy things as I can to make up for the gluttony.
But there are only so many nights you can eat the kale before you start to feel like your life is over. On those nights, when green curry and pad thai start to beckon (...for the third night in a row...) we always turn to japanese-breakfast-for-dinner, an easy concept with many permutations. All it requires is some form of fish, some sort of vegetable and most of the time miso, though I skipped that here for the sake of ease.
This is one of my favorite quick dishes - deliciously addictive, but extremely healthy (minus the sodium). The recipe is taken from the lovely cookbook Tokyo Cult Recipes from Maori Murota.
- Salmon filets
- Coarse salt
- A few hours, or ideally overnight time
If your salmon isn't already in filets, slice them down. Cover each side liberally with salt (roughly 1 teaspoon for each filet). I find it easiest to pat the salt into the fish to ensure it sticks. Then wrap each tightly in saran wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
When you're ready to cook them, preheat oven to 400 degrees (or thereabouts). Place salmon in baking dish and bake for about 10 minutes. Note that the salmon will stay quite nicely in the fridge and makes for a nice snack (or addition to a soba lunch).
Smashed cucumbers are best in the summer, but you can flavor up bland winter ones too.
- Cucumbers, ideally persian
- Sesame oil
- Rice vinegar
- Toasted sesame seeds
- Shichimi togarashi (Japanese 7-spice blend) or a touch of chili oil
Place a cucumber on a large cutting board and roll a rolling pin along the length. You want to put enough weight into it that the cucumber literally splits apart. Break it down into bite sized chunks and place into a colander. Sprinkle heavily with salt. Repeat for all cucumbers. Once all the cucumber is in the colander, place something heavy (and clean) on top of them to force the water out. Let drain for at least 30 minutes, but ideally an hour or two.
When ready to eat, take the cucumbers out of the colander, leaving behind as much of the seeds and water as possible. Sprinkle very lightly with a tiny bit of sesame oil and a bit more rice vinegar (be careful with the sesame oil - it overwhelms easily). Add seasoning to taste, then sprinkle with shichimi togarashi or the chili of your choice and finish with toasted sesame seeds.
Wild bitter greens with miso dressing
This is one of my dressings and honestly delicious on just about anything -- eggplant, soba, cucumbers, green beans.
- Grapeseed oil (or any flavorless oil)
- Sweetened rice vinegar
- Sesame oil
If you're feeling feisty, grate an inch or so of ginger. If not, chop it up nice and small.
Take two tablespoons of white miso paste (any miso paste will do, but white is generally best for these purposes) and mix in two tablespoons of water and a quarter cup of oil. Stir until smooth. Add roughly a tablespoon mirin, tablespoon of rice vinegar, a dash (teaspoon or less) of sesame oil, then stir in ginger. Taste and adjust ratios until delicious (though note that you'll want it just slightly too pungent when plain.)
Drizzle onto a medley of bitter greens, or the vegetable of your choice.
I don't know if this even counts as a recipe, but a good egg seems very important.
- Shichimi togarashi
To prepare: bring a pot of water to boil. Add eggs and set timer for 7 minutes. Set aside a bowl of cold water. Once timer goes off, place eggs in cold water. As soon as they're cool enough to handle, gently wrap each against the counter to slightly break the shell, then place back in the water for a minute.
Peel the eggs, slice in half, and sprinkle with shichimi.
Soba, because rice was too damn hard
Is brown rice a more classic accompaniment to this? Yes, but it's also way more time consuming, and we're going for simple here.
- Soba sauce or soy sauce
Bring water to a boil. Add soba. Cook according to the package. Drain, rinse with cold water, then squeeze out with your hands. Place in a bowl.
For the dipping sauce: use premade soba sauce, or water down soy sauce.
Sides as you please
You'll see pickled ginger and sour plum here, but really anything a bit sour or spicy will do.