Sunday, March 28, 2010

Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth

I'm just getting over being sick for a full month, and when I'm sick I crave Japanese food. I wish I had found this recipe when I was just coming down with the plague. It's cheap, comforting, easy, and incredibly satisfying. It's also arguably the healthiest thing I've ever made in the kitchen.

This recipe comes from the venerable Veganomicon and features red miso, which magically enhances any broth-y entree.

Since I live alone, I bought all the ingredients, prepped the onions and mushrooms, set half of them aside, and cooked a half recipe two days in a row. Fresh udon noodles should be available at any halfway-fancy grocery store - in fact, I've never seen dried udon noodles, so fresh noodles may be easier to find. I also at least doubled the amount of fresh ginger in this recipe, but your ginger threshold may not be as high as mine.

  • 1/2 lb fresh or dried udon noodles
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into thin half-moons
  • 4 oz shiitake mushrooms, rinsed, stems trimmed, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 Tbsp mirin (optional)
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp miso (preferably red, if using light add another Tbsp)
  • 4 c chopped kale
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the udon per the directions. Fresh udon will take about 2 min. Drain, rinse with cool water, and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another minute.
  3. Add the mirin, water, soy sauce, and miso, and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and add the kale. Toss with tongs until kale has wilted, about a minute.
  4. Add the noodles, toss again, and serve.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Narcissus Album

There was an op-ed column on the New York Times website this week that really struck me. I love articles that examine our relationships with each other, ourselves, and our tastes in the context of the internet (one of the reasons why Hipster Runoff is my favorite website), and Roger Cohen's article, entitled "The Narcissus Society," discusses what has happened to our values and self-perception in the past decade.
"Community — a stable job, shared national experience, extended family, labor unions — has vanished or eroded. In its place have come a frenzied individualism, solipsistic screen-gazing, the disembodied pleasures of social networking, [...]. Feelings of anxiety and inadequacy grow in the lonely chamber of self-absorption and projection."
He's on to something isn't he? While research suggests that our on-line personalities are actually more true to life than we may think, our relationships on the internet are essentially about "broadcasting personal content to a multitude of people," as the Wired article puts it. At the end of the day, that's what this and all blogs are about: a one-way dissemination of content designed to imprint a specific image of the author.

When I was in 9th grade, on the suggestion of the NME (which I loved in high school), I sat down at the listening station at Millenium Music in West Ashley and listened to Orbital's second album for the first time. The opening notes of "Lush 3-1" pouring in through those headphones was mindblowing. Orbital and Aphex Twin and Autechre opened up a whole new world for me. I think the defining characteristic of this stuff wasn't necessarily the fact that it was made without guitars but that it was way more abstract than the verse-chorus-verse music I had heard up to that point. There's a lot of emotional content to this music (Aphex Twin's "Fingerbib" is a perfect example), but there's not a lot of narrative. I was really impressed by their ability to make such technically complicated, affecting music without any pretentions of relatability akin to pop music.


The contrast between the first big step in developing my own music tastes -- the less relatable the music, the more I liked it -- and how I listen to music now is something that Roger Cohen's article realized in me. I think as you get older and you start accumulating more good and bad experiences, you can't help but find some comfort or catharsis through music, which enables the listener to relate his own life to the music, even if it's abstract. For instance, for me, Nobukazu Takemura's "Icefall" and Talk Talk's "I Believe in You" are embarassingly affecting. Songs like these fit into a very specific space in my emotional composition. This neo-spiritual space is exactly the kind of content I like to disseminate on my blog. Of course, on some level I'm only doing so to impart a particular image of myself, which is pretty narcissistic (via Roger Cohen).

I've been working on a compilation for a few months, and I figured, what better way to acknowledge the intention and effect of my blog than to make a mix that's purposefully all about me and my musical taste and post it on my blog? Even I would probably get bored with nothing but songs like "Icefall," so instead this brief and highly listenable compilation is just about different aspects of my life here in Boise. I have exactly one friend here, a super cool co-worker who is another California transplant, but besides that, it's just me and my toys and my cookware and Malcolm. Since I see my two or so years here are a preparation for the rest of my life, I don't mind it too much. This set of songs are available here, and I even wrote up a little listening guide. There's some stuff on here that probably only I could love (e.g. Oorutaichi), but that's part of the point, isn't it?

Narcissus Album

  1. Oorutaichi - Jurasy Human (1.47)
    If there were a TV show about me and Malcolm, this would be our theme song.
  2. Space Opera - Country Max (3.23)
    Setting the tone with some help from my favorite mp3 blog, The Rising Storm.
  3. Warren Zevon - The French Inhaler (3.47)
    A story-song about hard work, disappointment, isolation, etc.
  4. Animal Collective - What Would I Want? Sky (6.46)
    Pretty much awe-inspiring.
  5. Cylob - Morning (3.05)
    The cymbal that's just a tiny bit too loud reminds me of my alarm.
  6. Broadcast and the Focus Group - I See, So I See So (2.09)
    A groggy drive to work .
  7. PJ Harvey - Working for the Man (4.49)
    Ad pedem litterae. Big thanks to my sister for reminding me of just how badass To Bring You My Love is.
  8. Boris - Parting (7.33)
    Like 15 seconds of awesome metal stretched to 8 face-melting minutes.
  9. The Beach Boys - I'm So Young (2.33)
    A song for me and Kat.
  10. XTC - Harvest Festival (4.15)
    "that longing look"
  11. Orbital - Belfast (8.07)
    A big deal early in my musical life.
  12. The Clientele - Walking In the Park (1.38)
    My favorite outro.