I found this little snippet of summer saved in my draft file, and thought it best to share before winter descended with snowflakes whirling and dancing across the frosty window.
I share with you a favorite summer dinner option. A favorite for Mama because it requires minimal cooking (as long as the rice is ready), and a favorite for the girls, because it includes natto, okra, and mekabu, all very uniquely mucilaginous, and beloved in Japanese cuisine.
For this particular meal, it was:
Bowl of steamed multi-grain rice topped with natto (fermented soy beans)-chopped scallion-julienned shiso–okra–mekabu topping (well mixed) with a side of thinly sliced and sautéed eringi mushrooms in a little olive oil/butter and soy sauce, accompanied by miso soup (this one had thinly cut onions).
A side of ika sashimi, or squid sashimi, served with a little soy sauce for dipping.
I point out, the topping for the rice contains ingredients that are known individually for their rather slimy, gooey nature. Iw!! May be your initial reaction, dear reader. GROSS!!! You might add.
All I can say, is that I was on a mission to ensure my girls would be able to adjust to the unique Japanese tolerance of various unique foods, including their textures!
And I must say, based on my daughters’ meal preferences, I may have succeeded.
The preparation of the natto-okura-mekabu topping is quite easy. Natto comes in little pre-portioned packets at the Japanese store. Okra, I purchase at the local farm during the season, and blanch in boiling water until they go from either a dull green/purple to a cheery green. I then quickly shock them in ice water (to keep the crunch) and cut into 1/4 inch pieces. Mekabu comes reconstituted in a convenient package, also from the Japanese store.
I chop up one bunch of scallions, a handful of shiso leaves from the garden, and start assembling.
I put everything into a bowl, and using chopsticks, mix the whole gooey concoction together, incorporating all the components together, and seasoning with soy sauce. Once everything is mixed well (until the little thin, filament like natto threads are well incorporated into a uniformly sticky mixture), pour over your rice. I omit the mustard that is included in the natto packet, as I once added an entire packet to the girls’ natto, and I almost frightened them – they almost revolted! – away from EVER trying natto again… (Too spicy). Here are two very good blogs written about natto – one by Maki of “Just Hungry“, and another referred from her site called “Welcome to Natto Land.”
The girls silently scarf down the rice with natto mixture, and often ask for more. The little one manages best with a spoon – otherwise she picks up one item at a time with her training chopsticks, which is excruciatingly time-consuming and almost painful to watch, especially after an hour and a half of her picking up natto bean + okra seed + mekabu strand and carefully placing each sticky morsel in her mouth.
Miso soup starts with adding 2 tbs ground shiitake powder in boiling water – about 4 cups, and adding thinly sliced onions in the water until they become a little translucent. I then remove the pot from the heat, and add about 4 tbs of miso paste. I dissolve the miso into the stock, well. The key is to NEVER BOIL miso, as the delicate flavor will be ruined.
When I have enough time, I will make a proper dashi with katsuobushi shavings, but on the rushed evenings, I take a short cut and make-do with the ground shiitake powder which I have come to depend on greatly.
Jiji and Baba will laugh when they read today’s blog – they will recognize the porcelain dishes as they are the same ones from my childhood.