In my family’s tradition, I celebrated this New Year (this time with friends in my apartment) cooking up a storm all day long and preparing a four-course meal. We started off with Udon Noodle Soup, the recipe for which I got from one of the many new cookbooks I got for Christmas (this one was “Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking” from my sister Hanna). It was the perfect dish to prepare with friends, as it involved us having to stomp on the dough to give it the chewy texture! In China, according to a Chinese family friend, noodles are made when friends who have been visiting for a while leave. The noodles symbolize the bonds of friendship. This was fitting not only for this several-night-stay at my apartment from my Hamburg friends, but also because Emilia has just finished up her 3-month internship here in Dresden and is continuing on to another internship and other adventures that lie ahead.
For our main dish, Emilia and Julian made stuffed zucchini and red peppers with a hint of curry. We also all pitched in to make an amazing salad with passion fruit, pomegranate, tomatoes, cucumbers, really good olives directly from a Tuscan farm (grâce à Emilia), capers, and green-leaf lettuce. Each bite was an explosion of flavors, none too overpowering and all complementing each other nicely. We ate so much that we didn’t make it to the dessert until the next morning at breakfast. It was a mélange of plain yoghurt and quark, with the remains of the passion fruit and pomegranate, as well as chopped pears, apples, and bananas and sweetened with a bit of vanilla sugar and honey.
When I woke up late in the morning on the first, I was struck with a slight tinge of sadness and apprehension. I’m known to have difficulties letting things go (especially good things), and as 2006 has come and gone, I realize it was a very happy, successful year. I thought I’d list some highlights here, as my blog’s birth (in this form) is indebted to last year:
Highlights of the Fantabulous Year 2006: [in somewhat chronological order]
- Dancing with my 91-year-old Grandfather to a Strauss walz just after midnight on January 1st, 2006.
- Opening my mailbox at the Campus Center and getting my acceptance to the Fulbright (involving, yes, jumping up and screaming and causing a scene) How happy I was to know what I would be doing in five months!
- Visiting Washington D.C. over spring break for the first time and seeing the monuments and museums. Highlight of that trip: seeing Julia Child’s kitchen at the Smithsonian.
- Successfully performing the Brahms e minor Cello Sonata with my good friend Kait at her senior recital (which, because the piano part is equally important and arguably more difficult, we affectionately called the “Pello Sonata”).
- Organizing multiple fundraisers to send me and my dorm (La Maison Française) on an almost-all-expenses-paid trip to Montreal.
- Graduating from Smith College with (unexpected) honors and completing what were an amazing, if tumultuous, four years.
- Spending a wonderful summer in Oregon, including being a teacher at the International Language Camps and seeing David on a daily basis!
- Launching Beyond Burgers and Bratwurst in its current form and discovering a wonderful world of food blogs, and the field in which I’d like to continue my studies!
- Successfully beginning my Fulbright in Radeberg, seeing my Hamburg friends regularly, making new friends, and moving into my first, very own apartment.
Can 2007 top that? We’ll only have to wait and see. I plan on it being just as good, if not better. In the meantime, try making some udon noodles yourself – although not quite German or American, they’re tasty and fun!
Harumi’s Udon Noodles
350g Strong Flour
150g All-Purpose Flour
extra Flour for dusting
In a bowl, dissolve the salt in a bit of the water, then mix the rest of the water in. Add both flours into the bowl and knead together. Place on a floured surface and knead 5-10 minutes with your hands (go ahead an push down hard!).
Then place the dough in a plastic bag, wrap in a towel, and walk on it. I believe this releases the gluten thoroughly, thus making the dough pliable, but you’d have to ask a baking expert not me! After a couple of minutes, take the dough out, roll it out, then fold it and place it back in the bag for another walk. Repeat a few times (it will get really smooth), and then (still in the bag) leave it in a warm place for about three hours.
Take the dough out of the bag, form a ball, and then repeat the bag/towel/walk process. This time you’re trying to flatten it out, and Harumi recommends twirling on your heal. I found that holding the dough firmly with one foot while pushing out with the other worked, or just spreading your toes/feet out did the job as well.
When you’re satisfied, or exhausted, take the dough out, place it on a flowered surface, and roll out to about 3-4mm thick in as close to a square as you can get (we ended up with a rectangle, which was fine). Then fold the dough in three ways (like a business letter), and thinly (3-4mm) slice off noodles. The dough might get really sticky, so be sure to keep flour handy to dust the knife and dough. We found that if we held the cut noodles on each end and lightly twirled them, they got even thinner, which is good as they get quite thick in the water! Just be careful not to twirl them too thinly, as they’ll break.
Cook the udon for several minutes in softly boling water until really slippery (for Italian terms until way overcooked!). Drain in a colander, then turn on cold water and hold the noodles under the faucet to cool off. Lightly, with your hands, fluff the noodles to rinse off all the starch. Now you can serve them with a tasty stock made with dashi (fish broth), a bit of soy and mirin and some finely chopped spring onions. You can let your creativity go wild with what other ingredients you’d like – we added julienned zucchini and squares of fresh tofu, though I’ve also had it with pulled chicken (as well as turkey). Some wakame seaweed also adds a nice touch!
Recipe adapted from “Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking” by Harumi Kurihara, published 2006 by Conran Octopus.