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Tanabata is a summertime festivals which pays tribute to bittersweet star-crossed love between the weaver and the cow herder, represented by the constellations of Vega and Altair respectively. Destined to meet only once a night out of the year, these two celestial lovers are celebrated on the night of Tanabata – where it is believed that dreams and wishes come true. Colored paper inscribed with wishes are adorned to a bamboo branch and the night of Tanabata has a certain magical quality of the mysterious and unknown.
When it comes to Tanabata, soumen is the traditional noodle to eat. Delicate and white it represents the Milky Way the plate with star-studded vegetables to guide the appetite.
1/3 container soumen
1 Japanese cucumber, julienned
2 pieces ham, julienned
3 okra, sliced thin
5 mini tomatoes, cut in half
½ carrot, peeled and julienned
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin
1 teaspoon crushed sesame
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, lightly salted. While the water is boiling, prepare the sauce of the noodles. Combine sugar, soy sauce, and mirin.
2. Boil the noodles and once cooked, drain and run under cold water to cool immediately and soak in a large bowl full of ice water for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the egg. Whisk 1 egg with a dash of water in a small bowl. Heat a small frying pan to medium-high and grease with oil. Once the pan is hot, add the eggs and allow them to cook in a single layer. Once the bottom layer is cooked through, use a spatula to flip. Once cooked, let the eggs cool on a plate or paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, slice into thin strips and set aside.
4. Drain the noodle and arrange either a) in a large bowl or b) divided in separate bowls. Adorn the top with the cucumber, ham, okra, tomatoes, carrot, and egg.
2 tablespoons milk
A dash of salt and pepper
¼ small onion, chopped finely
1 generous handful fresh spinach, thoroughly cleaned and chopped
Butter for sautéing
1. Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
2. In a small frying pan, sauté the onion in melted butter until translucent.
3. Add the spinach to the butter until thoroughly wilted.
4. Add the spinach-onion mixture to the eggs and gently combine.
5. Grease the pan again with butter. Add the egg mixture. Do not touch the egg until the bottom has thoroughly set.
6. Once able, attempt to flip the egg mixture as you would a pancake or flapjack. If that is not possible, use a spatula or other cooking instrument and divide it down the middle, flipping one semi-circle at a time.
7. Once cooked through, set aside on a plate to let it cool slightly. If you wish, you can cut the omelet into squares, diamonds, or other shapes.
Sweet Potato and Chestnut Rice
サツマイモと栗ご飯Satsumaimo to Kuri Gohan
Sweet potatoes and chestnuts are a classic autumn combination. The natural sweetness makes this dish almost a dessert. Edible chestnut trees grow throughout Japan, and are historically believed to be the work of cultivation dating back over 5,000 years. In ancient days, chestnuts were used in religious or ritual ceremonies, and during the Warring States Period (1467-1603 C.E.), they were particularly important as a nutritious preserved food. Large varieties were given the name Kachian (Kachi Chestnut). The word kachi, or katsu, is a homonym for victory, so the nut then took on significance for the warrior class as a representation of strength and a morale booster. (Serves 3-4)
1 cup uncooked short-grain white rice
1 ½ cups water
½ cup cooked and peeled chestnuts
½ small Japanese sweet potato, peeled and chopped small
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black or white; optional)
A dash of salt
Small saucepan + lid
1. In a saucepan, rinse the rice a few times through with water to remove surface starches and prevent clumping, yielding a clean, fresh taste. Drain. Add 1 ½ cups water, chestnuts, and sweet potato, and cover with lid.
2. Bring the rice mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 30 minutes or until rice is tender and the surface is matte. Flush and serve, topped with sesame seeds (if desired).
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Perhaps nothing signals the last hurrah of autumn more than the remnants of a bumper crop of tomatoes and zucchini. Zucchini have a reputation for being one of those types of vegetables that, once they get going, it’s hard to stop them. With any luck you’ll be harvesting zucchini until the end of September. Zucchini itself is a great vegetable. As someone once said, “They are a vegetable that doesn’t get in the way.” (Serves 2-3)
2 cups water
½ medium zucchini, sliced into thin half moons
1 3.5 oz. package shimeji mushrooms
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1 large egg
1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add the zucchini. A minute later, add the mushrooms and chicken bouillon. Bring the mixture to a boil, and boil for 1 to 2 minutes.
2. Turn off the heat. In a small cup, whisk the egg, and slowly pour into the hot broth without stirring. Let the egg set for a few seconds before stirring the broth. Serve and enjoy.
鮭茸うどんあんかけ Shake Kinoko Udon Ankake
Ankake is a generic term for a starchy, savory sauce that is served atop rice or noodles. It is considered a Chinese-style dish, and its variations are endless. Throughout Japan, different cities are known for different types of ankake. For example, Nagoya is known for ankake pasta or spaghetti, while Nagasaki is known for an anakake variant called sara udon. Most often ankake includes seafood, Napa cabbage and some type of fish cake. Our ankake features salmon, an autumn fish, and mushrooms—ingredients associated with the season. The Japanese word for salmon is sake, and is believed to originate from the verb sakeru, or “to tear.” Before its popularity grew as a sushi ingredient, salmon was always cooked. (Serves 2-3)
½ pound salmon steak
½ medium carrot, medium julienned
½ medium onion, medium julienned
¼ small napa cabbage, medium julienned
1 3.5 oz package maitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped into bite-size pieces
1 3.5 oz package shimeji mushrooms, ends cut off
1 14 oz. package udon noodles
1 3/4 cups water, divided
1 teaspoon dashi granules
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sake
2 teaspoons cornstarch
Black pepper to taste
Chopped green onions to taste
Large frying pan, bowl, medium saucepan, small bowl
1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Coat a piece of aluminum foil big enough to hold the salmon and any run-off juices with cooking spray. Salt the salmon generously on both sides, and place on the foil on a baking sheet.
2. Bake the salmon for 10 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked through (a little raw in places won’t hurt it, as it will be getting sautéed again in the vegetable mixture).
3. Meanwhile, heat a small amount of cooking oil in a large frying pan, and sauté the carrot, onion and cabbage until slightly softened. Then, add both mushrooms, and continue to sauté until tender. (Avoid browning.)
4. Once the salmon is cooked through, remove the skin (if there is any), and gingerly cut the salmon into bite-size pieces. Transfer to the frying pan with the vegetables ,and gently stir to incorporate.
5. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, and cook the udon noodles according to the instructions. (If they are fresh, their cooking time will be marginal. If they are dried, I recommend beginning the boiling process after step 1. It’s okay if they are drained and cool slightly before serving —the sauce will add moisture.)
6. Add the 1 1/2 cups water, dashi, soy sauce, mirin, and sake to the salmon-vegetable mixture, and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer the fish and vegetables for a few minutes to allow them to soak up the flavors.
7. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with the remaining ¼ cup water, and add to the frying pan. Continue to simmer, stirring the mixture gently.
8. Drain the udon, and serve in a wide bowl. Top the udon with hot fish and vegetables, being sure to spoon generous amounts of the ankake sauce on top.
Garnish with black pepper and onions.
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