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Shichirin night

jason

We didn’t want to be indoors last night, since it was hotter inside than out. A hot kitchen in a hot apartment with no air conditioning seemed an unbearable thought, so we lit some binchoutan (Japanese charcoal) and set up the shichirin, a small table-top grill, outside on the balcony.

Shichirin-de-pan

My tiny table barely fit all of the plates, but we ultimately grilled some whole wheat bread, asparagus, onions, scallions, red bell peppers, green beans, and even some tofu. For dipping, I put together three options: an improvised harissa mayonnaise, and some yuzu miso, and some fleur de sel.

Hiromi put together the insalata caprese. I was the one drinking the fruity white wine, while she drank Red Hook IPA.

As the sun set, the red glow of the shichirin kept going strong.

It was too hot

jason

Sunday we endured almost unpleasantly hot weather most of the day. Seattle’s summers tend to be moderate and plesant for the majority of the season, but this season we’ve alternated between drearily cool and cloudy and excessively sunny.

To cool off, we had sakuranbo soumen, another treat from my stash of FoodEx sample booty from this March.

Sakuranbo soumen

Sakuranbo-soumen-only

Made with cherries to bring out a pinkish hue, the soumen are cut slightly thicker than typical. Hiromi kept the noodles in a bath of ice water in one of my Hagi ware bowls, doubling the pink.

Ever so slightly sweeter than ordinary soumen, you’d barely notice the difference, bu the visual appeal is certainly striking.

Sakuranbo-soumen-only

We’re not much for convenience foods, but thanks to the insanely warm weather, we did take advantage of the supplied dipping sauce, diluted with a bit of water and further chilled with an additional ice cube.

It was a refreshing dinner, especially after a heavy breakfast and lunch.

We made hiya-yakko (cold tofu) with yuzu-kosho, a sort of staple around here, to go with it, and another cold dish, an ohitashi of ingen (green breens), blanched and dressed with nothing more than ginger and soy sauce.

Ingen-no-ohitashi

In fact, for the ohitashi, we used a sesame-derived “soy” sauce, marketed in Japan to those unfortunate enough to have a soy allergy in a country as dependent on that bean as Americans are on corn. For the hiya-yakko, we used a high quality Japanese Maru-daizu soy sauce, and found the flavor surprisingly hard to distinguish when served side-by-side.

Extra soupy

jason

We’ve been on a soup kick for the last week and a half… I made a large batch of Western-style vegetable soup base from a mirepoix, and I took advantage of that for another canellini soup. Tonight I made an ordinary minestrone, but a few nights ago I put together a creamy broccoli soup.

Broccoli soup

One of the things that always bothers me about the prototypical cream of broccoli soup is the relatively dead presence of the frequently overcooked broccoli component.

In order to mitigate the possibility of such a disaster, I blanched and ice-shocked the broccoli, cooked only for about a minute, before pureeing it with soup stock. I seasoned it a bit in the pot and added some garlic. After that, I tried to minimize the cooking time, cooking it just until the vegetable matter was tender. In the last several minutes of simmering, I added a generous dose of cream.

Incredibly, the broccoli stayed a bright green, even after the cream thickened.  The flavor was essentially fresh, assisted by the a richness of the cream and a bit of freshly grated nutmeg.

I start my new gig tomorrow… I hope the additional daily commuting time doesn’t destroy all my mojo.

A smooth transition

jason

I’ve just got a couple of days left at Revenue Science, where I’m furiously finishing up some test automation code. It’s been rough going for the last few weeks, as I’m not very Java-savvy.

I’ve been trying to build tests with the help of a framework called jUnit, which required me to reacquaint myself with a set of libraries from a framework that I haven’t really used in about 8 years, and do things that are simple, familiar idioms in other programming environments I’ve used, but are done so differently in Java as to be almost alien to me.

Anyway, I’m pleased that, after a few painful hurdles, progress has since been increasingly smooth and rapid. I even made some tweaks in the build system, called Ant, today that affect the entire product build… I wouldn’t have been brave enough to consider just a week ago, though I did arrange for a quick sanity check from someone else who knows that stuff better to me.

Conveniently enough, I have a new project starting next week. It turns out to be in a discipline quite outside of my usual domain, but probably rewarding enough. I’ve never been an SDET, formally speaking anyway, so this will be a bit new to me. Ironically, it means that I’ll be working not far from my old office for a while, as the position is a contract gig for an MSN project.

I get a couple of days off midweek next week, which I should spend taking care of some tasks related to YuzuMura.com and maybe give myself some time to regain my sanity.

Gefüllte Windbeutel

jason

Pâte à Choux is the pastry base for a number of sweet cream-filled treats, but it’s often overlooked as a stage for more savory flavors.

Savory choux detail

In Germany, I remember running into “cream puffs” with such savory fillings, generally built on Frischkäse, essentially anything along the lines of cream cheese, quark, or soft chevre. Sometimes the filling is little more than whipped butter, an egg, and cheese. It’s possible for the filling to involve cured ham, and I’ve seen some recipes that have them topped with a bit of extra soft cheese and some variety of caviar. Occasionally such treats are served to guests at the home of a particularly generous host.

Maybe due to the weight of all that cream and butter, they are often described as “hearty” (Herzhaft), though sometimes as “pikant” (savory).

I went the savory route, with American style cream cheese, parmesan reggiano, thinly sliced scallions, garlic, pepper, and a tiny splash of whiskey for aroma. In an ideal world, I should have used cognac, but none was handy Sunday morning. It worked well enough, and I might even specifically seek out that peaty character again.

Hiromi was fond of the blue cheese gougères we recently indulged in at Pair Restaurant, a tasting-friendly small plates-focused restaurant hidden away in the Ravenna area in Seattle. I thought it would be fun to make gougères at brunch, but then I remembered I had a package of cream cheese in the refrigerator crying for attention, and found myself distracted by the temptation of something creamy surrounded by that crisp choux.

The biggest difference is that gougères have the cheese incorporated into the choux pastry, whereas in savory cream puffs the cheese is a filling. While I’m attracted to the simplicity of gougères, I just can’t help but indulge in the tempting contrasts of savory cream-cheese filled puffs.

Konnyaku Soba!

jason

I’m afraid I didn’t get around to making it for “Konnyaku day”, but I got this nifty sample of konnyaku soba from a Yamagata-ken based company at FoodEx. That company makes “konnyaku balls” as well, which have a nifty texture, but they don’t travel as well as soba.

Konnyaku soba

Anyway, on the weekend, we were craving a light lunch, so I made zarusoba from the sample package, a homemade tsuyu with negi, porcini-konbu dashi, a touch of real Oregon wasabi, and daikon-oroshi (grated daikon). Hiromi shaved some gobo (burdock root), and I turned it into kinpira gobo. I also made renkon baataa (renkon with butter and, in this case, some miso, instead of the usual soy sauce)…

Does it look like I’m putting enough butter in my Japanese dishes lately?

Anyway, the texture of the konnyaku soba is noticeably different than more typical variations like yamaimo soba, but not unpleasantly springy. I definitely recommend trying it if you can get your hands on it.

If I can figure out a way to bundle it into an order for other stuff from Japan this fall, I might import it myself, but I’m not quite sure yet.

and we're back

jason

I’m not completely up and running again, but I got my replacement hard drive for my laptop installed and the OS is back up… now I have to install all the stuff I used to have and try to recover as much of the data of the old drive as possible.

I bought a USB device that’s supposed to allow me to plug in the old hard drive and use it as an external device… I suppose that’ll work until the old one is completely dead, though it didn’t arrive with the hard drive itself. Or rather, FedEx seemed unaware of it when I went down to their sort facility to pick it up, and the tracking number from Buy.com was useless.

Tomorrow I’ll try posting some food from the weekend.

Expect delays

jason

My laptop at home suffered a hard drive failure. Hopefully I can recover some of the data, but it'll be out of commission until I get a replacement hard drive next week.

That's my primary machine at home, so I might not have the patience to do much blogging for the next few days.