Sunday, July 17, 2011

Around the World: Japan

They call it The Beautiful Game, and today is was beautiful, exhilarating and ultimately excruciating as the U.S. Women's Team lost to Japan in a World Cup Finals penalty kick shoot out.

Not that any of us really need to relive the rise and fall, but if you missed it, here're the highlights.

I watched the finals as a former soccer player (probably the shortest high school goal keeper ever!). Jason watched it as a former youth soccer league coach and the sport's newest Uber Fan.

In the middle of the game today (before the crushing loss) he declared that soccer is now his favorite sport. This, from a former college wrestler, triathlete, competitive weightlifter and high school cross country runner. This from a guy who can wipe the floor with anyone who challenges him in sports trivia, whether it's basketball, sombo or golf. (BTW, have to throw out some love to Darren Clarke. At 42, he won his first major today - the British Open (as we Americans call it) or the Open Championships (as the Brits - and Jason - call it).

But back to soccer. Jason loves it. And he loves the women's game even more than the men's. Now, I'd be inclined to think that's because he likes looking at Hope Solo

And who wouldn't?!? She's gorgeous! (stick with brunette, Hope.)

But Jason swears his love of women's soccer is because ...

1) it's much more unpredictable than the men's game, where precision passing and Beckham-bending seem a given


2) it flows better than just about any other sport. While baseball, football and basketball can be choppy, soccer is fast and fluid. And the women's game even more so because they don't rely as much on the "art of the flop" to draw a foul. Those men can be so damn dramatic!

But the women. Solo, Wambach (Go Gators!), Rapinoe and crew. They are poetry, even when they don't win.

So, licking our wounds tonight, we made an Around The World Dinner to honor the World Cup Champions...

Olivia was the head chef/team captain. I was her sous/goal keeper. And, as a team, we made Pork and Vegetable Soup and California Roll Sushi.

Pork and Vegetable Soup Ingredients

Notice that big, honking, white thing in the front? (and who wouldn't?!?)

Any clue what it is?

If you answered Parsnip, no dice.

Daikon? You win!

Here's the full ingredient list, from a recipe in this cookbook:

  • 2 oz gobo (optional)
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 black konnyaku
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 7 oz pork belly, cut into thin strips
  • 4 oz daikon, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium potato, thinly sliced
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and thinly sliced
  • 3.5 cups kombu and bonito stock or instant dashi
  • 1 tbsp sake or dry white win
  • 3 tbsp red or white miso paste
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • seven-spice flavouring

I know what you're saying. Gobo? Konnyaku? Kombu Stock? What the hell are those?!?

Me too. And while googling cleared it up (here and here and here) it didn't address my lack of

time to go to the asian market across town


money to buy exotic ingredients I won't use again any time soon

So, we made some Substitutions:

1. Pork loin for pork belly (not sure what cut is the "Belly", but the term just grosses me out!)

2. White mushrooms for the shiitake (I know.... shiitakes taste much different and they're not that exotic. But remember the $$? I had white 'shrooms in the fridge already)

and Subtractions:

Skipped the gobo (it's optional, afterall), konnyaku, kombu and miso paste and replaced them with store-bought Miso Soup.

Directions (modified from original):

1. Heat oil in a deep sauce pot and quickly stir-fry the pork. Add the mushrooms, daikon, carrots, and potato and stir-fry an additional minute. Pour in the stock and the sake or wine.

2. Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

3. Ladle soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of scallions and seven-spice flavouring. (We only had 3 of the 7 spices on hand. Ya work with what ya got!)

California Roll Ingredients (modified from here):

  • 3 tbsp sesame seeds (DANG! We didn't have these either. And we usually do!)
  • 4 crab sticks (The fake stuff. You can find it in the grocery store, near the seafood section)
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1/4 of a ripe avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 toasted nori sheets (that's the seaweed your roll 'em in)
  • 1.5 cups prepared sushi rice
  • soy sauce, wasabi paste, pickled ginger (all optional) for serving with


1. Juice the lemon

2. Ignore the messy counter!

3. Toast the sesame seeds without oil in a small pan on low heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally so they don't burn. Remove from pan and let cool

4. Dry off crab sticks and cut then lengthwise in half.

5. Wash and dry cucumber, then cut (with peel) in 1/4 inch thick slice.

6. Peel the avocado, cut into strips, and immediately sprinkle with lemon juice so it won't turn brown.

7. Cover a sushi rolling mat (or if you're like us and can't find yours, a countertop) with plastic wrap. Place nori sheet smooth side down. Wet your fingers, then spread half of the sushi rice on the nori sheet, leaving a margin on the upper and lower sides of the sheet.

8. Lay a strip of crab, cucumber and avocado on the bottom of the nori sheet, then roll.

9. Repeat with additional nori sheets and ingredients.

10. Once your strips are rolled, cut them into 8 individual pieces, serve with soy sauce, wasabi paste and/or pickled ginger, and enjoy!

We sure did! Miranda stuffed three piece of sushi in her mouth on her way out the door to hang with friends. Olivia loved the sushi, but thought the soup was too spicy (she kinda overdid it on the 7-Spice flavoring. It's very spicy, even with only 3 spices!). Hannah didn't like the sushi (the thought of eating seaweed freaks her out), but loved the soup. And Jason and I agreed, it was a great meal. A beautiful one, if you will.

Speaking of... did you know that the Beautiful Game inspired an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical?

Or music from English smooth jazz group Acoustic Alchemy?

Me neither!


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