Duck is one of my favorite ingredients, and Kamo Nanban Soba became one of the most repeated summer soups in my kitchen. This dish can be made with duck tsukune (meatballs) and/or seared and thinly sliced duck breast. Duck meatballs should be pre-cooked, and they are the best when grilled. I prefer duck breast in this dish. One breast is enough for two portions. It takes time to render fat from its skin, so it makes sense to start doing it while making buckwheat noodles. The rest is simple — baste the breasts with hot rendered duck fat until 80% cooked, let rest and cool, keep refrigerated until ready to serve the soup. Thinly sliced and arranged on top of the soba in a bowl, the duck is cooked to complete doneness with steaming hot stock poured right over it.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.
Edward Lear — 1871 Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets
“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat”
I’ve seen it at the Central Market almost always available but never considered buying because of the price. Then a month ago, I came to shop for something else to the H Mart, and its fragrance attracted me from the moment I entered the fresh produce department. I followed the perfumed scent and after a few turns found a pile of quince with smooth golden skin. It was impossible to miss and irresistible.
Quince is known as one the most difficult fruit to approach. It is tough to prep and long to cook. I’ve been thinking is there a way to cook it elegantly and effortlessly?
“My mom just made her signature Gata. It smells like summer, sun, and a mountain breeze.
— This recipe is traditional, — she anticipates my question.
— Why is your Gata ten times better than mine?!
— It’s the quality of ingredients. The sour cream and matsun are the freshest and made of real milk. The butter is a Flower butter I melted myself.
Flower butter! It is made in June-July when high in the mountains wild strawberries are ripe, and flowers are in bloom. Cows then are milked with cream, and the butter churned of this cream makes any other butter seem like a mockery. If happiness has a taste, it should be the taste of Flower butter.” — read more: (in Russian) Narine Abgaryan Facebook post
After this story, I’ve been dreaming of the Flower butter, trying to imagine how it smells and tastes. Since Gata is made of 4 ingredients — flour, fermented milk, butter, and sugar — the quality of each component is what makes this pastry special. I can use the best there is in the states. And then a crazy idea came to my mind. What if I also add the flavor of edible flowers? How about Roman Chamomile? For the first experiment, I powdered 2 teaspoons of dry flowers and added them to the dough and the stuffing. For the second, I’ve infused heavy cream with Chamomile flavor and then fermented it. That was a hit!
I thought learning how to make soba at Cooking Sun would be fun but impractical skill. How would I find proper buckwheat flour and soba making tools in the U.S.? Little I knew! This summer, soba became my favorite meal.
Saikyo Miso originated in Kyoto — a city that has been a center of politics, economics, and culture for more than a thousand years—and has been cultivated by the elegance of royalty. (Saikyo means “west city,” the former name for Kyoto.) Saikyo Miso has been a valuable part of the Imperial Palace’s hare (soul rejuvenation) ceremonies and has developed along with the food culture of the capital city. It is known for its generous amount of rice malt, its sweetness due to its low sodium content, and its beautiful light beige color.
The fermentation period for this miso is relatively short which contributes to the color and the buttery, smooth consistency. Compared with other miso, saikyo has the least amount of salt (5 percent to 10 percent) which minimizes the intense flavor to a naturally sweet, mild taste. Fish fillets are marinated in sweet miso for at least 2-3 days or up to 5-7 days for thicker slices before being grilled.
If you ever made a good Southern-style cornbread, you most likely came across Mark Bittman’s recipe, which was featured and adopted by many online sources. James Brown shared his adaptation during the workshop at his mill. Obviously, James’ cornbread was made with his heirloom corn, yellow and red, and was wonderful. I skipped yellow corn and added some diced roasted peppers and Spanish sweet smoked paprika.
“The Corn Mother from whom we receive our nourishment is thus an entity like Mother Earth, and so closely are they united that they are virtually synonymous. Because we build its flesh into our own, corn is also our body. But corn is also spirit, for it was divinely created, so we are also offering spiritual thanks to the Creator.” — Book of the Hopi
I started with Nopi’s soufflé corn cakes recipe and … changed it to make them greener and gluten-free. I also walked away from the Mediterranian flavors. Oaxacan Green corn flour, miso-glazed shishito peppers, and Roth’s Moody Blue (American smoked blue cheese) made a wonderful contribution to a complex flavor and color of the cakes.
It’s already scorching hot in Central Texas. But early in the morning, the light is golden and gentle, and the air is still fresh. Socheni and some tea in a shadow of live oaks filled my morning with dear flavors, nostalgic images from the past, and piece. And it was good.
If you recognize the pastry in the picture, you and I probably belong to the same culture and generation. Most likely you are smiling and wishing you could get one of those right now. I bet you are thinking about your school years and other favorite cookies and pastries from a long time ago, aren’t you? Socheni, aka Sochniki, don’t need any introduction to those who know what they are. The rest of people would probably pass them by as they look pretty rustic and not as attractive as modern pastries. This phenomenon is an illustration how much we treasure our childhood food memories. They stay with us forever.
I say those are lucky who have never tasted certain delicacies because they don’t know what they are missing. If you didn’t enjoy eating fresh creamy and dreamy melt-in-your-mouth soy milk skins in Kyoto — kumiyage yuba — you obviously don’t miss it. With a tiny drop of freshly grated wasabi and diluted with dashi soy sauce for dipping, it is something to crave for. Fortunately, it is easy to make at home.