Do you remember that list of 50 best cookbooks of all time from The Observer last August? (The top 10 are listed here.) That list was the reason I had to add Nigella’s How to Eat to my collection. I had failed to collect any of her books for the longest time, and I have no idea why that was because I always enjoy her show when I catch it on the Food Network. I did buy Nigella Christmas last year when it was marked down some ridiculous amount right after the holidays, but I didn’t have any of her earlier classics. How to Eat is what I would call a conversational cookbook. It’s written exactly as Nigella speaks, and she conveys her ideas about eating, entertaining, and planning and executing all sorts of meals. The text moves from one topic to another, and sometimes the recipes are really just written descriptions of how she puts a dish together. Mostly though, the recipes appear throughout the text in the conventional way with ingredients listed followed by instructions. It was interesting to read what types of dishes she chose for weekend Sunday lunch parties as opposed dinner parties. The lunches were chicken, pasta, cold meats, or stews, and the dinners were always three courses with seasonally appropriate roasted meats, vegetables, and dessert that usually involved fruit. There were many potato dishes, and many dishes with peas, and most of the desserts were creamy, pillowy creations. Most of the menus seemed a little heavy. Maybe it was because I had read through the book over the course of a few days rather than dipping in and out at different times, but when I arrived at the low fat chapter, it was refreshing to see some lighter fare. Or, I was just in the mood for that. As soon as I read about the noodle salad with sea vegetables and simple teriyaki sauce for fish, I had a dinner plan.
The noodle salad included both dried arame and wakame seaweed. If you’re not sure if you’ll like these, I recommend starting with arame and letting that be your gateway seaweed. It’s very mild in flavor and looks like skinny black pasta once rehydrated. Wakame is only slightly less mild, but it does taste a little more of the sea. Rehydrated, it looks like thawed, frozen, chopped spinach. Both were rehydrated in cool water and then drained. A dressing was made for the noodles with soy sauce, sake, mirin, rice vinegar, sugar, dashi, and sesame oil. I didn’t locate any dashi with no MSG, so I bought some bonito flakes and made a simple broth with a little boiling water. And, speaking of sake, I branched out in an attempt to learn more and tried an unfiltered option. The flavor was lightly floral compared to the last sake I used, and it seemed like a kinder, gentler sort of sake. Next, soba noodles were boiled, drained, rinsed, and drained again. The noodles were tossed with the dressing, the seaweeds, some sliced scallions, and I added some sliced orange bell pepper just because I had it on hand. The noodles can sit at room temperature, or they can be served cold. As they sat, I made the teriyaki sauce for the salmon from soy sauce, sake, mirin, and a pinch of sugar. The sauce was cooked in a pan just to dissolve the sugar while the fish was seared in a skillet. After searing the fish on both sides, the sauce was added and was used to baste the fish. The fish was removed so as not to overcook, and the sauce was left to thicken.
I served the noodles topped by the fish with the thickened teriyaki sauce poured over top. I knew this was going to be a good meal. For me, these flavors never disappoint. I made extra noodles, and the next day I enjoyed them cold from the refrigerator for lunch with chunks of tofu instead of salmon. Next time, I’ll probably add broccoli or greens. It’s great to learn this kind of adaptable dish that you can make a little differently each time you serve it.