Friday, July 13, 2007

Jonesing for soba

Today was a perfect day for cold soba noodles for dinner. It was hot. Nothing else sounded good, and I wanted something quick and easy to make for dinner. The only ingredient I was missing was nori, but I thinly sliced a green onion and scattered that over my noodles instead.

Strange as it might sound, I've only made soba noodles one other time, and that was before I moved to Tokyo. They turned out awful because I didn't know I was supposed to pour a little cold water into the boiling pot to cool down the outside of the noodles, allowing the inside to cook better. I also didn't know I was supposed to rinse them like crazy after cooking to get rid of the starchiness and smell. The first time they turned out doughy and overcooked, and I wondered what all the hoopla was about soba. But once I got to Tokyo and ate them (or udon) fairly often, I became quite addicted. In the summer there are all sorts of cold noodle dishes you can buy already made at the grocery stores or convenience stores, so I never had to heat up my kitchen to boil water.

So, tonight I found myself alone for dinner and decided to give it a try. I had already bought nice soba noodles at Trader Joe's a couple of weeks ago in anticipation of my craving. I also had some hontsuyu soup base that I needed for the dipping sauce and some powdered wasabi that I mixed up and added to the sauce. It turned out quite tasty, if I do say so myself! Along with the soba, I made a cucumber salad with mirin vinegar. Everything was very simple and tasted cool and refreshing.

However, I really do miss the convenience of buying prepared meals. I rarely cooked while living in Tokyo--because I didn't need to! Prepared meals were delicious and inexpensive, and usually ended up costing me less in the long run because I didn't need to buy larger quantities that got jammed into my tiny fridge and forgotten as they got shoved to the back.

I still haven't tried sushi or sashimi since leaving Japan. Somehow, I think whatever I try here will be a big disappointment. We keep getting menus in the mail and one of them was for a new sushi restaurant. When I looked at the pictures and descriptions, they sounded too much like California-style sushi. Too exotic or manipulated. Japanese sushi is very simple--fish caught the same day draped over perfectly cooked and seasoned rice. There's very little else done to sushi. Wish I had some right now.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Triple digits and holding

I promise not to make this a weather channel blog, but couldn't help myself this morning. Here are some screenshots I took of the forecast this morning, posted in both Fahrenheit and Celsius for your viewing pleasure.

Even though we all say, "well, it's the desert you know, and it's a dry heat," this is definitely hot!

On July 3rd we went to a community fireworks show, even though we didn't find out about it until almost starting time. There were thousands of people at the park, but we managed to find a nice, grassy area to pitch our blanket just in time to catch a little of the live bands playing. The fireworks were great and it wasn't too hot to enjoy the evening, only around 98F or so, I think. But last night was a different story as we sat on the patio. It was still blazing hot at around 107F. As the night wore on, and more and more neighborhood fireworks took to the skies, we decided to walk around to view the fireworks madness that is Las Vegas. (Note: We don't actually live that close to the more familiar Las Vegas Strip. We're at least 15 miles away in the suburbs.)

Even though aerial fireworks are banned, you wouldn't have known it from our viewpoint. Too bad I don't have photos, but it's really hard to take good nighttime photos of fireworks. After about an hour of walking around, we decided to go back to the house and watch more pyrotechnics from the patio. We were all a little worried about the extreme danger of fires, considering the intense heat and dryness in this desert valley. Those bans are in effect for a reason, but as I said, everyone pretty much ignores them. Haven't watched any news yet today, but wouldn't be surprised if it included footage of burning homes or buildings!

So, this morning I broke out the iced coffee for breakfast. Couldn't bear the thought of drinking hot coffee. We're keeping the house thermostat set on 87F now to try to keep our bodies more acclimated to the intense outside heat, and to keep the electricitiy bills down a little. Even so, the A/C keeps kicking on as the house heats up quickly. I have a window A/C unit in my bedroom (or as T calls it, the meat locker), which I only run at night, but if I keep my door closed, the room stays pretty comfortable until evening.

Hope you're all managing to stay cool!