I cook, and when I do, I like to cook for a crowd. It’s safe to say that my enjoyment of cooking comes from being able to share stuff with other people. I have a nightly staff of one, and reservations list of a young couple out for dinner and a movie, and that’s how I like it. Unfortunately, my restaurant is suffering a setback.

Here’s the thing: The lady is out of town. What am I going to do? Before she left, I wanted to have a few nice dinners, so the other night, on the recommendation from my friend over at the Smart Cabbage, I made roasted Kale and Cincinnati Radishes with baby heirloom tomatoes and a White King Salmon.

White King with Roasted Vegetables of a Curious Nature!

The next night, I got super excited because they had some fresh figs, so I wagered an arm and a leg, and got some of those. Made one of the simplest, easiest, snacks known to our tiny household of two. Figs. Slice them in half. Get some goat cheese. The good stuff. The Chevre. (For cheese boners out there, it’s the Purple Haze with Lavender), then drizzle it with honey, give a quick grind of pepper, and a crinkle of fresh thyme. I say crinkle here, because I always get the fresh thyme from the market, but rarely do I use it before it starts to dry out. The drying stuff is still very fragrant, but I usually just crush the bunch between my hands and hope that some tiny bits fall out. Usually, it does, and if there’s an errant stem in there, I have fingers and I can use those fingers to pick it out. That’s just one shortcut that you can take for seasoning your dinner if you’ve been on your feet all day and can’t face the stove without a beer.

Oh, hey. What a hip, hippie snack. Hip, Hipp, Hooray!

In addition to the figs, I decided to make risotto. I had some fish stock in the freezer, and I got some tomatoes, morels, scallops, and garlic spears. All of the lady’s favorite things in one easy to serve, one pot to one bowl meal. I made the risotto, and I cooked the scallops in a separate pan, braising them in butter. They didn’t brown as much as I thought they would, but oh did I mention they were cooked in butter? After I incorporated them into the risotto to set, I strained the braising liquid, now a combination of scallop liquor and butter, and chilled it. Along with the duck fat, that is going to be some serious flavor addition to a meal that I will have soon. The finished product looked great, if still a little soupy, and we also had some more fresh Washington Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. As baking is not my thing, in the kitchen, Bisquick is my best friend. I don’t care if you judge me. I can’t bake my way out of a paper bag.

An artful, unfinished risotto

The dinner was delicious, but now she’s gone, and I have nobody to cook for. There’s some food in the fridge, but when it comes down to it, our single serving culture does not apply to fresh meals. I go to the store and see the single bags of chips (although they are technically smaller than the other bags, check the back. Those Kettle Chips are not single serve), the “Pasta for one”, the individual microwave pizzas. I feel depressed for living the life of someone who is cooking for just one person. Granted, it’s only for a week, and after that week, we will be reunited and it will be glorious, but for now, I don’t know what to do with myself in the kitchen.

It’s not like there’s nothing to cook. It’s that there really isn’t anything to cook that I can do on a small scale. I have some standby items that I can do on the fly, (there’s that leftover risotto in the fridge), but I want something simple, somewhat nutritious, quick, easy, and many other adjectives that imply that I won’t have to work hard to achieve a decent amount of sustenance. Still, I am at a loss, as the weather outside is gray and uncompromising. It is 58 degrees and looks like it will rain any minute, and I have no desire to go out.

Rummage time. Hmmm… Let’s see what’s in the cupboards. Triscuits? Nah. Those don’t make a meal. There’s a mix for caramel turtle brownies that I could make, but eating brownies by myself? No. That’d just make me want to curl up, light a couple candles, and watch the Sex and the City Movies while blowing my nose into Cathy Comics.

ACK! What will I eat!?

Wait a minute. What’s that in the back? It has mysterious script on it, and is covered with green leafy things. It’s instant miso soup! Oh, yes. And next to it? A bag of brown rice, some Nori. There’s Takoyaki in the freezer. How could I have forgotten that the single serve empire of foods was virtually created and perfected by Japan?

You’ve got all of these wonderful things that are finger foods, and all of these things that are grab and go, eat and slurp, etc.

Many of these I can make, and have made, at home. Sometimes I forget that thinking outside of the box just means going beyond what you are used to at the grocery store. This can mean looking at new ingredients, or simply going to a new store. In this case, the store is Uwajimaya.

Uwajimaya is the Porno store for all the Asian food lovers out there. Similar to a Mitsuwa, Yaohan, or any other incarnation of a Japanese marketplace planted in major American Metropoles, it has everything. Live Crab, oysters, Geoduck, Amazing weird looking fruits and vegetables, candies, crackers that have angry chickens shaking flaming drumsticks on the packages (boy, they’re mad about something). There’s also the frozen packs of boil noodles, sushi making kits with the rice, tiny tubes of wasabi, small jars of pickled ginger, etc. My point is that within the confines of the store, there are so many forgotten ways to look at food that I get excited when I visit. I can find anything, and I can make something that is new and different simply by upgrading my ingredients. Where to start?

First, the sushi. As a disclaimer, I should state that if I can get fresh enough seafood from work to make it, I will. However, it’s not always that simple using what we have available at our shop. Fortunately, at Uwajimaya, it is. Tiny 3 to 4 ounce cuts of #1 fish, shrinkwrapped, are ready to go. Tuna, Octopus, Bream, Pickled Mackerel. The one thing with sushi is that I’ve never been great at making it. When (the disembodied) they always say it takes years to perfect a great piece of sushi, they’re not lying. Some people just get it. Some don’t. I am of the latter category. That’s why I don’t make the rolls. I’ll hand roll it, but that’s just like being lazy with a tomato sauce and calling it “Rustic”.

At least I know the basics, and my rice balls don’t tend to fall apart. Here’s a picture of some sushi I prepared a couple of months ago. In the sushi world, I suffer from Heinsbergen Syndrome, and in the back of my mind as I’m fabricating these, I just hear Bill Murray as Raleigh St. Clair saying “Make yours… like mine.” I’m particularly pr0ud of the omelet. The rolled one, kinda yellow in the middle? Yeah, I didn’t have an Omelet pan, and I don’t think I had the Dashi stock to thin it out. It was your everyday basic thin sugar omelet, but it was still pretty good.  The other stuff? Up front? That’s tuna. In the rear with the green shine on it? That’s my highest achievement for flavor, the barbecued eel and wasabi tobikko. I’ve always thought eel was delicious, but it turns out that it’s not for everyone. In this instance, it’s okay, because that just means more for me. Along with my high marks for flavor, my assembly (note the ragged edges and weird spillout issues) gets the participation ribbon that you reserve for refrigerator fingerpainting.

Takoyaki. What is Takoyaki? It’s exactly what it sounds like, if you’re Japanese. Yaki(焼き), as in Yakitori(焼き鳥), Teriyaki (照り焼き), and my personal favorite 焼きとうもろこしmeans “to grill”, and Tako means Tako. You know. Tako. As in the Tako Truk over by the Zoo bar in Eastlake? Like the Tako you see in Hawaii all the time?

Any guesses? It’s octopus. Once again, something that other people don’t necessarily enjoy means more for me. They come frozen, looking like little donut holes, and all you have to do is heat them up and serve them with mayonnaise or tonkatsu sauce (Sauces are so good. That’ll be a new post for another time). Sprinkle them with the weird container of salty plum shiso furikake, and it lives up to that old Japanese sailor’s credo- “Donuts in the morning- Tastebuds are boring. Takoyaki at night- Tastebuds delight!”

Then there’s Udon/Soba/Ramen. I could get into that, but that’s a whole different cup of noodles. Let’s just leave it by saying that Noodles, specifically noodles as pretty as any Noodle dish coming out steaming in a big bowl with vegetables, fried tofu, hot peppers (I see you over there, Pho. Don’t think I’ve forgotten about you)? They’re all effing delicious. Anything so delicious as to inspire the following video has got my bet for food of the century. I’m pretty sure that from the start of this post, it was all a sly lead-up to posting this video, but it makes me giggle to see it every time.

Hey, Jamiroquai’s gotta eat, too. Why not make it Cup Noodle?

Read Smart Cabbage’s blogpost about Roasted Radishes, and make some on your own! They’re delicious!:

(http://smartcabbage.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/radishes/)

While you’re at it, get creative and make some delicious bread! Read all about it on the Handmade blog, where you can learn from his mistakes!:

(http://psoutowood.wordpress.com/2010/06/14/bread-and-the-joys-of-jumping/)

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