temple food . . .
So yesterday, while I had some free time to myself in the quiet of the house and kitchen, I took out my books on food and solitude, Japanese Zen temple dishes and recipes for preparing somen noodles since it’s been so hot and humid. Somen noodles are thin white noodles that are eaten cold, dipped in a sauce with dashi, soy, mirin and a little sugar. Once cooled, the dipping sauce is enhanced right before eating with strips of nori, some grated ginger and some prepared wasabi (horseradish). Dipping bitesize helpings of the cool noodles in the piquant sauce was not only delicious, but also calming and peaceful.
I had a small eggplant in the refrigerator that I poached in a similar sauce to the dashi dipping sauce, slits made lengthwise to allow the vegetable to soften and take on the flavors of the simmering broth. At room temperature and drained of the cooking liquid, I made a marinade of Japanese flavored vinegar, sesame oil, a little soy and sugar with some freshly grated ginger, which I poured on top of the eggplant after slicing it diagonally into pieces easily picked up by chopsticks.
Finally, my daughter had told me a couple of weeks ago about a dish she had made of matchstick sliced Japanese yam and hijiki seaweed, soaked ahead of time. Having scoured our local vietnamese grocery and natural foods stores for hijiki to no avail, I had to resort to ordering it online at Amazon.com! It arrived yesterday and this afternoon, I sauteed the vegetables with a little of the hijiki soaking water, soy, mirin and sugar until the dish cooked to a golden brown.
Tonight, there have been thunderstorms, lightning and rain. Our days seem to be filled with the same kind of intense activity plus lots of knitting and watching the olympics on TV. The sun is now shining on windows streaked with rain. The evening is coming to a close led by this peaceful and tasty repast drawn from Zen temple food traditions. Another way to change my life, I thought to myself.
I just saw my first Japanese yams while in Texas, at a Whole Foods store. I had not heard of them. There were four different types of yams, all from different countries. I am going to see if my “local” (an hour and a half away) Whole Foods carries them on my next trip.
Japanese yams are our favorite and they’re fine quality at Whole Foods. You can also find them at asian grocery stores–are there any closer than an hour and a half from where you live? When you bake them, make sure they are really cooked through (425 degrees for an hour). Their flesh is white-yellow, fine textured and heavenly with unsalted butter. When the weather is cooler, I bake them often and serve with roast chicken and as an accompaniment for just about anything. Enjoy!
Mmmm, these dishes sound very good! I love to try new foods, will have to look around in some of our speciality stores. And what a peaceful way to end your day!