Sunday, August 28, 2011

The joys of a Tokyo summer -- and a pasta recipe for peaches



Today in Tokyo I was reminded of the joys of a Japanese summer (July and August). Basically it's about good fruit, lots of tomatoes, walking around town in cotton yukata and wooden clogs, cold somen noodles, fireworks by the rivers, and hunting for fireflies in the fields.

Over the weekend, someone gave me a box of grapes from the west of Japan, and if you've ever tasted plump and ripe Japanese grapes, you'll know these are as good as heaven. Nothing tastes as good as Japanese grapes, especially the variety called kyoho, and the best ones are from Yamanashi Prefecture, Nagano Prefecture and from Tokai City in Aichi Prefecture.


Another pleasure of summer is the beautiful and infinitely delectable Japanese peaches (momo) that make their appearance only in July and August. Next to Japanese grapes and passionfruit, which I enjoy in copious quantities when in Thailand, Japanese peaches are just about my favorite fruits in the world. Again, nothing beats Japanese peaches as far as I'm concerned; no other peach comes close.

IDEAS FROM HOKKAIDO

Of course, Japanese peaches are great when chilled and peeled. But what I really like doing with them is making a very fresh-tasting summer pasta. I first saw this on Japanese television many years ago, when a chef in a luxury bed-and-breakfast in Hokkaido was interviewed on TV and this was one of his specialties; and that very evening, I tried it for dinner, winging it based solely on that very quick TV interview. It turned out fantastically and I've made it every summer ever since. When I have guests over on my rooftop in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo or better yet in my weekend home in Mount Fuji, where peaches are cheap and plentiful in August, I always make this dish to rave reviews.

So I thought I'd share my secret Japanese peaches pasta recipe on this blog, as it's incredibly simple to make and very impressive to serve. Scroll down and see the recipe below.

Travelife's Peaches and Parma Ham Pasta

6 very ripe Japanese peaches
250 grams of the finest parma ham you can find
Boutique extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly-ground French rock salt (Guerande sea salt)
Freshly ground pepper
1 pack Capellini pasta

Peel the peaches and cut up into bite-size slices. Place it in a bowl and drizzle liberally with extra-virgin olive oil. Use the best quality you can find as the taste will really matter since this is not a cooked pasta sauce. Season with freshly-ground salt and pepper, cover and leave in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.

Slice the Parma ham thinly. Cook the pasta.

Once pasta is cooked, mix in the mixture of Japanese peaches and top this with Parma ham. Serve as soon as possible, accompanied by very cold and dry white wine. Enjoy!

MEANING OF HOME


PS: On Friday at the airport in Manila I picked up a copy of Forbes Asia to read on the plane. The back page is always a collection of sayings, and this month's issue had sayings related to the concept of Home. One of them was especially applicable for frequent travelers like me, who consider hotels and airports almost like home. It's by someone named Christian Morgenstern: "Home is not where you live, but where they understand you."

Best wishes from all of us at Travelife Magazine, the Philippines' leading travel & lifestyle publication. Hope you're enjoying the last of the long weekend -- wherever in the world you happen to be.

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