This picture highlights two things I want to share in this post. First is the meat (perhaps the most obvious). I bought it at the store, already rolled and seasoned. All I had to do was grill it (which I did with my marvelous steam oven.) This is Aussie Beef, and probably a bit old, because although it smelled lovely while cooking, it had a tiny bit of a old taste to it. It was still pretty good, though, and didn't take long to prepare.
The real point of this post, though, is the pasta salad. Doesn't it look great? The recipe is one my mom got from an old college roommate, pretty much easy to make any time of year back home, but nearly impossible to make in Japan. Why impossible? Because of the red radishes. If you look closely, you probably won't see any, but I assure you, they are there (I slice them thinly). I have had a lot of difficulty finding red radishes here in Japan. In recent years I have found them in department store's grocery sections (such as YouMe Town and Aeon) but--here's the kicker--they are usually sold in small packages, five to a package, for about $2. Shockingly expensive! Once or twice I have bought them (for a reasonable price and in a larger quantity) at the neighborhood veggie shops, but I never know when they might have them. I actually tried to grow some this year, but little green caterpillars ate them! So much for that idea.
SO! On the day that I found the steaks, I actually found red radishes. In the discount bin! This is important: IN THE DISCOUNT BIN!! Almost every supermarket here has one of these. Sometimes more than one (perhaps one in each department). It is often worth your time to check out the discount bin in the veggie section. Keep in mind that you should probably use that food that same day, or perhaps for the next morning, but you can often find good food at a fraction of the price. For example, the radishes that day: ten for fifty yen. That's less than fifty cents! A bargain for Japan! In another favorite store, they have a discount bin for refigerated items. I often get discounted milk (non-fat milk!!) and juice (we drink a lot of juice these days!) Some things you may pass on because they will expire in a day or two, but you never know when you might find some yaki-soba noodles and voila! there's your dinner for that night.
I will point out here, too, that sushi and bentos are often discounted a few hours before the store will close. These are items that must be disposed of by a certain time (and so, cannot be sold the next day) and if you're too busy/tired to make something for dinner, this can be a good way to get a discounted meal! I think many people already know about this, but if not, check it out!
So, the recipe for the pasta salad:
mini shell pasta, about one cup, cooked (or use other shaped pasta--sometimes small shells are hard to find in japan)
1 cucumber, cut into bite-sized pieces
green onion, chopped (the ammount depends on you. we often have a container of chopped onion for miso soup, I just throw in a handful or two for this salad)
7 to 10 red radishes, thinly sliced
1 tomato, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt & pepper
In a large bowl, mix together pasta, cucumber, green onion, and radish. In a small bowl, mix about 2 Tbs. mayonnaise with 1 Tbs. ketchup. This should turn into a beautiful salmon color. Adjust by adding more mayonnaise or ketchup as needed, but be careful not to make too much dressing. Add to salad. Add tomato just before serving the salad as it tends to soften up (not quite as pleasant to eat) after cutting. Salt and pepper to taste.