Soba bowl

2 servings; easily increased

I make variations of this dish all year, changing the fish and the green vegetable with the seasons. Try Alaskan wild salmon with sugar-snap peas or asparagus tips in late spring, local walleye with Frenched green beans in the summer, and Pacific cod with baby bok choy in winter. Experiment with different mushrooms, too, using whatever is seasonally available

6 to 8 ounces boneless, skinless tilapia, Pacific halibut, or other seasonal fish, cut into even pieces for two portions
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin (sweet Japanese cooking wine), optional
About 6 ounces rainbow chard, very well washed
2.5 to 3 ounces soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne matchsticks
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth, or prepared miso broth
1 thick slice fresh gingerroot
A little flour
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
3 to 4 ounces shiitake mushroom caps, cut into strips
1 or 2 green onions, sliced
Black sesame seeds for garnish, optional

Heat oven to 225°F. Place fish on a plate; sprinkle with soy sauce and mirin, and set aside to marinate while you prepare the other ingredients. Prepare the chard by cutting the thick ribs off near the base of the leaves. Cut the ribs into 1⁄2-inch pieces and push to one side. Cut the leaves in half lengthwise through the center, then cut each piece crosswise into strips, about an inch wide. Set aside, keeping the leaf strips separate from the cut-up rib pieces.

In a medium saucepan, cook soba in boiling water as directed on package, usually 5 to 7 minutes. Drain in wire-mesh strainer and rinse with cold water; let stand in strainer while you begin cooking the vegetables. In same saucepan used to cook soba, heat a generous amount of lightly salted water to boiling. Add julienned carrots; cook until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, divide drained soba between two oven-safe soup plates; set aside. When carrots are tender-crisp, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to now-empty strainer; allow water in saucepan to continue boiling.

Add sliced chard ribs to water used to cook the carrots. Cook for about 21⁄2 minutes; meanwhile, arrange drained carrots in soup plates with soba so they stick up in a pile against the rim, and place soup plates in oven to keep warm. When chard ribs have cooked for about 21⁄2 minutes, add sliced greens. Return to boiling, and cook until greens are just tender, about 1 minute. Drain in now-empty strainer.

Rinse out saucepan; add broth and gingerroot. Heat to boiling over medium heat, then reduce heat and boil very gently while you prepare the fish. To prepare the fish, pat dry; dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat sesame oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is shimmering, add fish, placing the most attractive side down. Scatter mushrooms around the edges of the fish. Cook, pushing the mushrooms around a bit, until fish is nicely browned, then flip and cook until fish is just cooked through and mushrooms are browned; total cooking time will be 10 minutes per inch of thickness, so a 3⁄4-inch fillet will cook in about 7 minutes. While fish is cooking, arrange cooked chard next to the carrots in the soup plates and return to the oven.

When fish is cooked, pour hot broth over soba and vegetables, holding back and discarding gingerroot. Place fish on top of the soba, opposite the vegetables; arrange mushrooms around edges. Sprinkle green onions and black sesame seeds over all. Serve immediately.

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