Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Akemashite omedeto gozimasu

That's Happy New Year in Japanese. I was inspired by an article in the Times (which seems to have disappeared) to make a special Japanese New Year's Eve dinner. I dragged Jasper with me to Sunrise Mart in SoHo and picked out a few promising-looking treats for our osechi ryori, small portions of various sweet and salty side dishes arranged beautifully in laquered bowls and trays. If we're here next year for New Year's I'll plan ahead and actually get the laquerware.

I was the opposite of the serene, accomplished Japanese housewife, scurrying around the messy kitchen while my son distributed cucumber slices around the apartment. Meanwhile, Lane worked a little late, missed the bus, and took a leisurely walk home with a dead-battery cell phone. I huffed and puffed over the first half of our dinner, an inauspicious way to begin. Lane poured me a glass of champagne and poured on the compliments. Damm him, he always finds a way to win me over.

I think my osechi ryori (above) leaned more towards the appetizer -- I didn't really cook very much of it. We had little pickles (which I love, wish I could have find the purple turnip ones as well), sweet black beans, prawns, a bit of grilled tuna, and cucumber sticks.

I also made ozoni, a soup made with sweet rice cakes and vegetables. It was actually a rather bland soup, the way I made it at least. Lane loaded it with soy sauce, which improved it. The broth is a simple dashi (made with kombu seaweed and bonito fish flakes). Our soup had poached chicken, carrot slices, hexagonal daikon radish slices (shaped like a turtle shell for good luck), and spinach. The rice cakes were interesting. They come dried and you grill them on either side until they puff up. In the soup they become quite gummy.

I also made maki rolls with tuna, shiso leaf, umeshi plum paste, cucumber, and scallion. This is my favorite combination. Why don't I ever see this on a menu? Unfortunately the brown rice was a little undercooked. But the wasabi was fresh -- a rare treat.

After dinner Lane and Jasper cleaned up while I retreated with headphones to listen to my new winter anthem, Raspigni's Pines of Rome (my friends are getting tired of hearing about it). The catacombs are winter, and then you emerge to nightingales sweetly singing. This is what will get me through the dark, cold months.

Then we called friends, danced to Sharon Jones(who is also going to help me get through winter), and walked over to Prospect Park for fireworks at midnight. Jasper, in coat and pajamas, said "fireworks are kind of scary!" "I know," I told him, "that's what makes them exciting. That's how life works, too. It's kind of scary, but that's what makes it exciting." I think I kind of lost him on that second part. I said it more for myself. Jasper watched the fireworks a few minutes and then covered his ears, buried his face in my shoulder, and fell asleep.

Happy New Year to you all.


Luisa Perkins said...

Happy New Year! Your maki rolls sound exquisite. I heart Respighi! Do you know his "Ancient Airs and Dances?" Lovely.

Swizzies said...

Your rolls are beautiful! I'm very impressed. Love wasabi way too much.

"If we're here next year" -- ??

Luisa Giugliano said...

My favorite post ever. Love the Japanese New Years Festival. Oh yeah, that local takeout place has a lot of nerve to withdraw their only really good food offering from the community. Yesterdays corn pudding does not a yummy take out place make. Oh, I was fat when I had them so close, but I loved those salty sweet little guys and I was happy. I also loved the Spanish biscuits they sold and once hosted a party at the shop with nothing but the biscuits and Fallangina. Happy new year. Love to the family.