As reported in an earlier post, SJ and family are in New Mexico for Passover/Easter vacation. Exquisite Maiko, HG’s favorite cook, prepared dinner and it was a miracle of Japanese simplicity and light, healthy eating. Appetizer was a giant steamed artichoke served with a mustard-based vinaigrette. This was followed by a platter of Icelandic cod in a soy and white wine sauce. EM sautés (and lightly steams) the fish to bring out natural succulence. The cod was adorned with crisp garlic chips and little tangles of fried seaweed. HG contemplated an unusual phenomenon. HG was enjoying the ultimate seafood in the high desert of landlocked New Mexico. EM magic. Accompanying the fish were haricots vert and lush mushrooms (a tasty variety of oyster mushrooms). Just a sprinkle of soy sauce enhanced the flavors. Simple, simple food made memorable by EM’s Japanese genius.
The following night, EM took to the kitchen once again for a feast of tempura. Now, HG thinks of himself as a gourmand, a person who relishes good food and wine. And, he believes his choices are guided by judgment and experience. Decidedly not a glutton dedicated to the “grand bouffe.” There is an exception to HG’s self regarding analysis. That’s when HG is confronted by a tempura dinner created by Exquisite Maiko. Mad gluttony takes over. Excess rules. No chopsticks for HG. Knife, fork and spoon are wielded with speed. At times, HG wishes for a small shovel in order to engage the largest amount of EM’s tempura with dispatch. So, here’s what EM prepared last night. Each diner got a bowl of soba in soy broth (the fried items were dipped in this and the noodles slurped happily and noisily). Bowls were continuously replenished. The tempura included shrimp, bay scallops, mushrooms and asparagus. There was also a dish of Japanese eggplant — elegantly cross-hatched with knife cuts — nestled in a sweet and rich sauce, dusted with bonito flakes. A dish of Age Dashi Tofu. Condiments for the meal included wasabi, finely chopped ginger and sliced scallions. Only a poet could describe EM’s tempura adequately. Alas, HG is just a pedestrian proseur. HG can only stress that EM’s tempura is crisp, light and greaseless. Miraculously, EM’s swift frying doesn’t obscure the natural flavors of the ingredients, only enhances them. Two nights and two lovely examples of EM’s Japanese kitchen artistry.