Today my home cooking is much simpler than that of the past years. I can prepare delicious dishes, say, with seasonally changing, locally available vegetables, with only four basic ingredients. They are dashi, shoyu, sea salt and butter.
Dashi: I make quality dashi from scratch with Rishiri Kombu and katsuobushi. When I am pressed with time I take a short cut and use Kayanoya dashi powder, which produces quality dashi in 3 minutes’ emersion in simmering water.
Shoyu: After moving from Japan to New York Kishibori shoyu made on the small island of Shodoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, Japan, became my shoyu. I love the depth and rich flavor, including umami, of this shoyu, which is the product of one year fermentation.
Sea Salt: Since sea salt – one pinch or two – goes into any of my dishes, so the quality matters a lot. Almost twenty years ago my chef friend, Koji Sekiya, introduced me to Noto Suzushio, produced on the Noto Peninsula, reaching far out into the Japan Sea, Ishikawa Prefecture. This is where the warm current and cold current of the sea collide, bringing saltier water to the region. Suzushio salt is rich in minerals. Complex flavor of this sea salt makes it one of the best sea salt in the world.
Butter: Butter does not play a big role in my kitchen. But, I love the flavor combined with shoyu. When I use butter it is used sparingly, so the quality matters in my dishes. I tasted and fell in love to Isigny butter in Normandy. Luckily my nearby supermarket carries this grassy, creamy, sweet rich tasting butter.
Meaty fava beans and sugar snap peas cooked with the above four ingredients. The flavor produced in the skillet was fun. When the browned butter met with reduced dashi, it created a bit bacon like flavor. The sauce did not mask the flavor of the vegetables but elevated their sweetness. No black peppers necessary. No herbs, neither spices necessary. We must enjoy the true flavor of the vegetables.