Traditional Japanese “springtime” recipes range from steamed sakura and rape blossoms to mackerel preserved in miso, to various attempts at making bamboo shoots edible. Personally, I’d rather leave the bamboo shoots for the pandas. So in this month’s issue, we’ll take advantage of a year-round ingredient you may not regularly use: fresh squid! If, like me, you don’t know how to clean your own squid, just buy some pre-cleaned. I strongly recommend fresh over frozen, though.

2 squid, cleaned and sliced (イカ)

1 long leek, sliced at an angle (長ネギ)

1 head broccoli

1 clove garlic, smashed, but not chopped

¼ inch (1cm) piece of peeled ginger

2 Tbsp oil

4 Tbsp soy sauce, plus 2 Tbsp water

dash turmeric powder

salt & sugar to taste

4 people’s worth of soba or udon noodles, cooked, drained, and rinsed with cold water

Peel the stem of the broccoli to remove the hard skin. Cut off the florets, and cut them into large, even-sized pieces. Cut the stems thinner, because they will take longer to cook.

  1. Heat a large fry pan or wok over high heat. Add the oil. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for about 10 seconds, and then remove and discard. This is just to infuse the oil, and trust me, it’s worth it.
  2. Place half the squid into the wok. Let it cook for a minute or so, then stir-fry until opaque. Remove and set aside, then add the other half and do the same thing.
  3. Add a little more oil if you need it, then add the broccoli. Let the broccoli partially cook for a minute or two. Then add the soy sauce, water, and turmeric. Toss to coat the broccoli. Add the leek, and toss to coat. If the sauce is too thick, add some more water to thin it out.
  4. Once the broccoli has started to soften, but is still green and slightly crunchy, add the squid back in, and add the soba. Stir-fry everything for a minute or so, until things get nice and warm. Taste the sauce for salt / sugar, tweaking as desired. Then remove from heat, plate and serve.
  5. Optional: Ignore the soba.

Serves 3-4.

(To halve, use a normal leek, only one squid, and half a head of broccoli.)

And lastly today, a little tip from the housewife downstairs.

If you want tofu that’s firmer for whatever reason – say, to substitute for meat in a stir-fry, or to give it a little more texture – press more moisture out of it in the microwave. Just take that block of bean curd, wrap it in a few layers of paper towel, and put it in a bowl. Then, put another bowl full of water on top of the tofu, and microwave the whole package for a couple minutes. You may need to change the paper towel if it’s still too moist for your liking.

Travis Love is the Hyogo Times Food / Jazz contributor. He lives in Aioi, and would love to hear from you in the comments below or via Facebook. He has never released a country music record.