Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yaki Onigiri - Grilled Rice Cake -

Use 1 cup of hot (or warm) cooked Japanese short grain rice per serving. Add the rice to a small bowl (like a cereal bowl) just big enough to hold it. Jiggle the bowl, moving it in a flat, circular motion, like the motion of a hula hoop, until the rice forms into a ball on its own—a neat kitchen trick Tadashi's mom taught him. This motion packs the rice so it holds together when it grills.

Wet your hands and place the ball of rice between your cupped palms. Now squeeze, flip, and turn the rice ball several times to form it into a triangular shape. This motion takes a little practice, but after a few yaki onigiri, you'll get the hang of it. Make sure not to compact the rice too tight; you want it to just stick together.

Grill yaki onigiri over medium heat. If the fire's too hot, the rice will burn. We like to place the yaki onigiri along the cooler edges of a grill while other foods cook in the hotter center. Watch the rice carefully while it grills; perfect yaki onigiri need constant attention.

Reprinted from The Japanese Grill: From Classic Yakitori to Steak, Seafood, and Vegetables by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat from the Splendid Table site:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Rain Storm

It is humid and it is hot. No. It is really humid and it is really hot. The lightening is high up in the sky. It is the time of day – that twilight time – that makes it hard to tell if it is a darkening stormy sky or just night falling. But then the breeze comes – a hot breeze that smells like rain. It does. It smells like rain. Smell can tell you lots – is the ocean nearby? Is there something dead in the refrigerator that should have been thrown away two days ago? This the heavy smell of rain.

The dash board reads 93 degrees at 8:30 pm. That just isn’t right for July. Maybe August dog days but this is over the top for July.

I get out of the car and it is wall of thick air. Immediately sweat forms but it is hard to tell since the air is so humid there is no difference between my skin and the air. The breeze is changing. It is more gusts and a faint… what is that?... a coolness?

Unloading the groceries, just a few bag and still the sweat is dripping into my eyes and a drop even falls off my nose. I step into the air-conditioned house and immediately sweat even more. The cold air seems to tell my skin that it is okay to let it pour – it will absorb it into the drier cool air. But I just feel wet and sticky.

The high flashes in the sky are becoming brighter and the wind is picking up a steady whoosh with gusts that are much stronger. And big drops begin to pelt the car windshield. Big black dots drop on the back yard slate. The leaves blow and drop as the wind and rain bounce them here and there.

Quickly fixing a super: rinsed Boston lettuce leaves, chop off some dark meat of the freshly purchased rotisserie chicken, some thinly sliced Vidalia onion, a quarter of an avocado. Salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice. And to the porch I go.

The rain is pouring but not down. It is blowing hard against the side of the house. Rain sprays with wind gusts into my face. I rethink the position my chair so my salad isn’t moistened by the spray and I can stay relatively dry yet see the sky.

The tops of the trees are dancing now. The sky flashes with strong bright lightning. No clear lightning bolts and I can easily count to 10 before hearing a rumble of thunder. Gusts make the weather station on top of the garage spin madly then settle down to a twirl - then a blur then a twirl. The lower branches of the trees sway and the tops dip and dive. The rolling thunder comes between 4 and 7 in my counting and the rain is coming whipping this way and that. The rushing sounds fill everywhere. You hear nothing else but the leaves rustling and shuttering and the branches reaching and dancing and the rain pelting the roof of the porch, the car, the windows. The smell is wet and heavy. The cat has fled to the basement.

Flash and boom are only a count of 1 away as the far trees show their flexibility to an extreme. The tops whipping about. The leaves look almost turned inside out if that were possible. Echo sounds of thunder make it harder to tell where it originated. That way? Or This way? Flash of light and I count. But then another flash then a rumble then rumble and the echo. Was that the rumble from the first lightening? Where is the thunder from that second flash?

I’m not driving. I’m not peering intently through a windshield that is being beaten by the windshield wipers set to the highest speed still doing no good. I’m not seeking an underpass to hide with other cars caught on the interstate. I’m not worried about the motorcyclist that I’ve seen so many times enjoying the summer.

I’m not carrying groceries in from the car dodging rain drops trying not to step in puddles or have the bag give way under the weight and wetness. I’m not walking to the metro under a mini umbrella that is easy to carry but useless in a rain storm. Or even a larger umbrella that can be walking stick on clear days and just turns inside out against gust of winds half the strength of this rain.

I’m not waiting on an airplane pulled off the side of the tarmac waiting for the signal that all is clear. Listening to the rain against the little plastic windows, squeezed in the middle seat, thumbing through the skyways mall magazine that has been thumbed by too many people that the pages seem to have thinned and gotten a bit oily.

I’m on my porch. The cat is in the basement waiting for the sounds to stop; for the intense rain smell to past. My salad is gone and the wind is dying down. The weather station is slowing to a constant spin. The tops of the trees sway, almost gently with a gusty breezy sounds. The rain has slowed. All the sounds have mellowed to where I can now hear the rain running down the gutters.

Rain splashes some but eases up. The cat has come to check to see if all is better. The lower branches of the far trees no longer move. The tops just dance. The leaves wave goodbye. A gust of wind travels from the neighbors to me to beyond. Dripping of the gutters is steady but is not longer running water down to the drive and out to the street.

It becomes silent except for the dripping.