summer breeze, summer foods

my recollections of foreign cuisine experiences i had overseas are brought back whenever a summer breeze blows through my window. it doesn’t have to be so exotic, though. even if it can be a little exotic for my fellow japanese, it’s become the norm in my kitchen. for example, when i find my mints overgrowing the pot, i cook something, some moroccan dish with mint leaves. basil? likewise, but some italian dish. i mastered most of my multi-culturalist home cooking repertoire during my london years. london itself is a city of multi-ethnicity. besides, it’s a hub for jet-travellers. even morocco i was smitten with is not far away from london.


when i was a northwest-londoner, i enjoyed a walk around portbello road especially in summer. i loved the street markets regardless of overcrowding i'd usually avoid. strolling up and down the rows of food stalls at the open-air markets was such fun. there were also several haunts of mine on and off the street: the test kitchen of books for cooks, which was among my most favourite london eateries; the spice shop and a “non-boho” moroccan tea room where local people of north african origin would gather and sip mint tea. italian, spanish, portuguese, to name but a few, global food shops were there. no doubt, portbello road was my source of foodie inspirations.

it is funny that i stick to foreign cuisine even back in japan, while japanese food is becoming more and more global than ever. of course i like japanese food. yesterday, i had a family gathering having sushi prior to my brother’s hospitalization. we japanese are the first people who discovered “うまみ umami” as a taste that has been unfamiliar to non-japanese. what’s more, we have the ultimate term “食い倒れ kuidaore” for foodies in gastronomic osaka and i am proud of it. but my palate still tends to go beyond the oceans. in fact, i was in heaven the evening before last, eating lemon garlic pasta and sweet couscous with some home-grown herbs. so, i beg you, tiny little caterpillars, get your hand off my baby herbies!
(by the way, i have no exact recipes. because i always improvise things depending on what i have. rather, i enjoy finding new combinations of ingredients and, to me, this is what cooking is all about.)

pic 1
moroccan salad: i love the combination of orange, red onion and mint. adding olive oil, lemon juice and cinnamon powder to dress with them. it must be served really chilled!
pic 2
pan con tomate y tomillo: chopped fresh tomatoes on garlic toast with olive oil. i saw andalusians having this for breakfast, while i like having this for lunch. and with fresh thyme.
pic 3
penne pomadoro e basilica (all’arrabiata): if i had fresh and ripe tomatoes and garlic cloves, i’d cook this without question. usually i’d sprinkle chili flakes on it to spice up.
pic 4, 5
tortilla de potatas con orégano: i ate a lot of this when i lived in buenos aires. i also quite liked a spinach version that was sold at a bakery there. i made tortilla adding dried and fresh oregano this time. as a result, it enhanced the flavour. the eggy colour turned less brilliant, though.
pic 6
soupe à la citrouille à la crème et aux herbes: this is my all-time favourite soup, which i cooked a lot when my kids were little. i prefer not to use a strainer because i like chunky bits of pumpkin. ingredients are pumpkin, chopped onion, flour, butter, chicken soup stock, cream (for the calorie-conscious, milk can be a substitute for cream) and a couple of dried bay leaves. plus, some fresh oregano leaves to garnish.
pic 7
fuss-free minestrone: whenever i need to clean out my fridge, i go for minestrone. i can make the most of vegetables in the fridge, even a broccoli stalk and a leftover cucumber, namely anything. actually, i make soup quite often in summer. i serve it hot, and chilled the next day. it’s always hearty, anyway.
pic 8
sweet couscous: whole grain couscous, amanatsu, lemon juice, rum soaked raisins, honey, cinnamon powder and mint leaves. i made this oil-free to lower its calorie. as a main ingredient for sweet couscous. this time, i used 甘夏 amanatsu, a typical summer citrus in japan. amanatsu used to be popular and cheap, but not anymore these days. it’s easy to peel and get segments; tangier, more refreshing and less juicy than orange. lemon supplements juice.

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