Happiness through Small Indulgences

Sesame Soba 2There are days when I have the time and energy to make a meal that’s so gosh darn pretty it could be a model for Bon Appetìt. Last week was an especially long one, so I was pining for an extra-special treat (translation: “gourmet meal”) to take off the edge. Yet it was also a very cold week, so the prospect of venturing beyond the confines of my warm apartment was out of the question. Looking through my fridge, I saw a crate of organic eggs and a bunch of curly kale. Pinterest was once again there to save the day, as it led me straight to a recipe for Sesame Soba Noodles with Fried Egg & Kale.
Sesame Soba 5Sesame is one of those ingredients that’s consistently awesome. While many associate it as being an oil, sesame comes in a variety of contexts: whole seeds, sesame paste (better known as Tahini), sesame flours, etc. The seeds come from a flowering plant that thrives in tropical climates across the globe. It’s been a cultivated food source for over 3,000 years, and for good reason: its oil is loaded with antioxidants, Omega 6 fatty acids, and protein. It’s a staple in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. This recipe uses the oil AND seeds, so it a packs an extra-healthy punch. Sesame Soba 4Soba is the other quintessential ingredient in this dish – a thin noodle made from buckwheat, it’s is a staple of Japanese cooking. The noodles are traditionally served cold with sides and toppings, or hot in a noodle soup with some variety of protein. It’s quite hearty, and can be prepared a day or two in advance (to save on cooking time). This particular recipe is an atypical setting for soba – its closest affiliation is perhaps to the dish Tsukimi soba (“moon-viewing soba”): a noodle soup topped with a raw egg, which cooks in broth upon serving.
Sesame Soba 1The variety of textures give this dish remarkable character: hearty soba noodles, crunchy sesame seeds, curly kale leaves, all topped with a creamy yolk. You can double or triple this recipe if you’re hosting for friends, but it’s a perfect meal for two (or even one). I made this meal two nights in a row. It’s perfect for a winter night with a glass of chardonnay. For those of you who are anxious about runny yolks, feel free to cook the egg all the way through – the dish will still be great. Click HERE to see the recipe for this quick weeknight meal!
Sesame Soba 3For those of us with busy lifestyles, every moment counts – so there is a lot to be said for the small indulgences we take. While I’d love to see myself in Ina Garten’s shoes (the woman’s kitchen is so big that it has its own house), my practical side understands the limits imposed by my current lifestyle. This recipe was perfect, as it allowed me to prep a killer meal in under 30 minutes! It is the simple pleasures that fuel happiness, from cultural previews to culinary tastes. Listening to a piece of music can set the mood for your entire day, and a piece that has been consistently rewarding for me is Leonard Bernstein’s Candide Overture. Written in 1956, the work is part of the operetta Candide. While the operetta had a modest run (closing after only 73 performances), the overture itself was an instant success. The 5-minute opening is filled with an excitement and passion that can bring any audience to its feet in applause. Typical of Bernstein’s music, the  orchestration is phenomenal and the the themes are unforgettable. Given it’s short duration, it’s one of those pieces you can listen to just about any time of day – in fact, I think I’ll hit repeat once I’m done typing this blog. The below recording is with Bernstein himself and the London Symphony Orchestra – enjoy!

Sources Cited:
“Sesame,” Wikipedia.com
“Soba”, Wikipedia.com
“Program Notes – Overture to Candide: Leonard Bernstein,” Baltimore Symphony

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