It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity

Summer in Japan is, to put it bluntly, brutal. This is particularly true where I live, in Saitama prefecture, just outside Tokyo. Thanks to Saitama’s geography – it’s essentially a giant, flat plain – the residual heat and smog of the city get trapped in its valleys and lowlands, with no promise of relief from the cooling ocean breezes that reach Chiba prefecture to the east.

This year, with everyone doing their best to conserve electricity after the accident at Fukushima, the need to stay cool is more pressing than ever.

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Today’s Bento

Edamame bento box

New potato, fresh edamame, and scallion salad with lemon and olive oil. Plus sweet summer tomatoes, spicy pickled eggplant, and a soy sauce egg.

As Harris Salat noted recently on The Japanese Food Report, it’s the season for edamame.  Every produce shop and grocery store here is selling large bunches of the beans, which are often still attached to their roots and stems. When fresh, their flavor is superb – very “beany,” for lack of a better word.  You can almost taste the minerals in them.

Simply boiled in salted water, they make a great summer snack with a tall glass of cold beer.  In fact, I happen to have a can of Yebisu (owned by the venerable Sapporo brewery) sitting in my tiny fridge, so dinner tonight may be just that, plus whatever odds and ends are lying about.

However, I also love edamame in salads, especially when paired with other legumes, fresh herbs, and alliums. Last night I decided to make an edamame-centric salad for my bento box lunch.  Some basil and purple shiso would’ve been nice additions, but those plants are three hours away in Matsumoto. Instead, I made do with some lemon zest and plenty of black pepper.  That was fine, because it allowed the flavor of the fresh beans to stand out.  The salad is so simple and adaptable that you don’t really need a recipe, but I’ve written up my version anyway. See below for more!

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