A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Salmon in miso broth and noodles

Miso is a paste produced by the fermentation of rice, barley, or soybeans. Although some evidence suggests it originated in China over two millennia ago, it has long since been a staple in Japanese cooking. There are several different kinds, but to simplify, it comes in red and white varieties, the former more suitable for red meats and the latter for fish and seafood. The chickens I’ve spoken to about this are still undecided and are willing to go both ways. It’s healthy and flavorful, and it’s becoming increasingly available in ordinary grocery stores. Scarcity is no longer an excuse not to use it. Check it out on the web for recipes and edification. 
Dashi is found in Asian markets in the form of flakes in small bags, although you could make your own, which I won’t describe here. The flakes are simply dried bonito, a fish, and usually seaweed; thus, dashi broth is fish broth with an hint of seacoast. It’s well worth seeking out, but if you can’t be troubled, or if you live in an area devoid of civilization for a two hundred mile radius, use bottled clam broth, watered down; otherwise, you'll have to be willing to purchase several bottles.

Japanese-style noodles such as soba are also becoming increasingly available, but, once again, use if necessary thin spaghetti or angel hair (capellini) pasta. 

Sansho is Japanese pepper. You’ll have to get this at an Asian market; otherwise, use ordinary black pepper, its provenance being irrelevant.

Actually, the more I suggest substitutes, the more I'm inclined to say, "If you can't get the real ingredients, just move on to some other recipe."

I’ll spare you a long excursus on the different types of salmon and the wild versus farmed issue. Just get the best your finances and personal preferences allow.

This recipe is low-fat, low-calorie, easy, and flavorful. 
Salmon fillets, about a pound for two people, skinned. Leftovers are good.
White miso, 4 Tbs
Mirin, 1 Tbs
Soy or Tamari sauce, 1 Tbs
Dashi flakes
Chopped onions, around a cup
Garlic cloves, a couple, smashed
Scallions, a bunch, sliced diagonally
Carrots, a couple, thinly sliced
Sansho, according to your inclinations
Tea flavor noodles, 6 ounces or so
Sesame oil

Mix 2 tablespoons of the miso paste, the mirin, and the soy or tamari sauce. Slather the mixture on both sides of skinned salmon filets, cover in plastic wrap, and put them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

In the meantime, fill a pot with water and dump a package of dashi into it. Bring to a boil. As soon as the dashi flakes sink to the bottom, drain, discarding the flakes but keeping the broth. Return to the pot (rinse first if necessary), add the chopped onions and a couple of smashed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat a bit, and allow to simmer for a half-hour or so. Drain, keeping the broth. Return to the pot again, and add the sliced carrots and 2 tablespoons of miso. Simmer for a while.

Scrape most but not all of the miso off the salmon filets and broil until lightly browned but not yet done. Set aside.

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. It usually takes 6 or 7 minutes at most. Drain and toss in sesame oil.

Transfer the broth to a saucepan, raise the heat to medium, and place the salmon filets in it. If the broth doesn't cover the filets, flip them after a minute or so. Poach only until done. Check to assure you don’t overcook them.

Place the salmon on plates, pour the broth with some of the carrots around it, scatter diagonally sliced scallions over the top, and place some of the noodles to the side of the salmon. Serve.

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