When they travel together to hunt for mushrooms, she explains, "Satoru and Toru had skillfully prepared the mushrooms they had collected. Toru had cleaned the mushrooms of any dirt or mud, and Satoru had torn the large ones into pieces, leaving the smaller ones as they were, before briefly sautéing them in a small frying pan they had also brought along. Then he put the sautéed mushrooms into the pot of already boiling water, stirred in some miso, and let it all simmer for a little while."
Even more food mentions..."Daikon, tsumire, and beef tendons, please, Sensei ordered. Not to be outdone, I followed with Chikuwabu, konnyaku noodles, and I’ll also have some daikon. The young man next to us asked for kombu and hanpen. We left off our conversation about fate and past lives while we focused on eating our oden for the moment. Sensei, still off-kilter, brought to his mouth the daikon that he had cut into bite-size pieces with his chopsticks, while I hunched forward a little to nibble on my piece of daikon."
And this passage encapsulates their intimacy, "We were at Sensei’s house, eating yudofu. Since it was the middle of the day, Sensei had prepared yudofu in an aluminum pot for us to eat while we drank some beer. He made it with cod and chrysanthemum greens. When I made yudofu, tofu was the only ingredient. As I sat there, my head a little fuzzy from drinking in the daytime, it had occurred to me that this was how people who didn’t know each other developed a familiarity."
I decided to pull out a Japanese cookbook and make dinner.
Grilled Miso-Marinated Fish
Four ingredients are all that it took to create this miso-marinated black cod.
Ingredients serves 4
- 1 cup miso (I used a white, light, sweet miso)
- 3/4 cup organic granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons saké (I used an organic sake I found at Whole Foods)
- 2 Tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
- 1 pound black cod, sliced into 1/4 pound filets
Pour an inch of water into a saucepan and place a metal bowl suspended over the water - or you can use a double boiler if you have one.
When you're ready to cook, preheat the oven to broil with a rack about 4" from the heating element. Wipe off most of the marinade and slice each filet in half so you have four 1/4 pound filets.
Smashed Cucumber Pickles
- 1 pound crunchy, narrow cucumbers (I used organic Persian cucumbers)
- 1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2" knob of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- one 3 to 4" piece dried kombu (dried kelp)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper chile flakes
- 3 Tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 Tablespoon gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
Halve the cucumbers lengthwise and cut them into 2" pieces. Using the flat side of a chef's knife, firmly slap each cucumber to bruise it. Hopefully it stays in 1 piece. Most of mine did.
Combine the salt and water in a large container with an airtight lid and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the ginger, kombu, chile flakes, and cucumbers and stir well. Place a weight on top of the cucumbers to keep them submerged.
Cover the container and refrigerate for between 24 and 72 hours. When you're ready to eat, toast the sesame seeds and let them cool. Crush them with a mortar and pestle and stir them into the gluten-free soy sauce or tamari to create a paste. Spoon out the cucumbers and toss them with the sesame-soy paste. Serve immediately.