May 05, 2012: “As Good as it Gets”

May 5, 2012

Ever once in a while I have a dish made by someone else that is truly inspiring. The most inspiring chef I know is Yoshio and has been for quite some time, now. He made me a mushroom omelette once, that I made each and every single day until I had it right (the way he made it!) A while back he made me a delicious summer salad, and this is my attempt to reproduce it. This one is bit involved, but worth it. It is  cold salad, so you want to keep veggies chilled and cook the noodles a little before serving time to bring them to a cool temp.

“As Good as it Gets” Noodle Salad:


  • 1 Bundle (136g.) Udon Noodle          1/2 Sheet Nori
  • 4 Baby Zucchini                                    1 Tblsp. Grated Ginger
  • 4 Baby Bella Mushrooms                     1 Egg
  • 1/4C. Shredded Daikon                      4 Grape (or gourmet) Tomatoes

Boil noodles in H2O with a little sal de mer and a few drops of oil for no more than 5 minutes. Immediately rinse with cool H2O. Drain well. Dribble a little oil over noodles and mix. Cool in fridge.

On a dry cutting board, with a very sharp knife, slice the nori in 3″ X  1/4″ strips and out aside. Scramble egg and add a dribble of mirin. Over low-medium heat on a 6″ non-stick pan add a dribble or corn oil, and fry egg for about a minute, flip and cook for a few seconds and remove to plate. This egg mixture is called tamago. Cut ends off zucchini and quarter. Slice baby bella mushroom thin. Put aside. Grate ginger and daikon separately (the ginger will color daikon, best to grate daikon first.) I put a little rice vinegar in each daikon and ginger to keep fresh.

Make dressing: 1/2 Tsp. Olive oil + 1 Tsp. Mirin + 1  Tblsp. each Rice Vinegar and Shoyu

You may now assemble the salad. Section tomatoes, if not bite size. Slice tamago thinly. Place noodles in each bowl, cover with veggies and tamago strips. Top with dressing and then nori and toasted sesame seeds.

Loving, as I do, cooking and films, this recipe gets yet another inspiration and that is from the 1997 movie “As Good as it Gets.” In this Jack Nicholson plays the terrible curmudgeon Melvin Udall. Melvin is so out of touch with his fellow-man that he manages to out-Scrooge Scrooge! He is relentlessly vicious to his gay neighbor, Simon Bishop, played by Gregg Kinnear. Melvin’s long-suffering waitress-turned-love interest is Carol Connelly played by Helen Hunt.

Melvin’s journey from terrible human to passable (and dare I say, thoughtful) person is a long one, managing to irritate just about everyone he meets, as he goes through his arch. The audience quickly recognizes the glass house that Melvin is living in: his obsessive-compulsive behavior coupled with his mean-spirit and tantrums of a child, and one cannot help but wish Melvin just STOP throwing his stones, but he continues with painful regularity. It’s funny that Melvin makes his living writing crappy romances as he is about as far from romantic as possible, and sings “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” when he is as out of touch with both brightness and life as one can be.

Melvin’s first chink in his substantial armor: a sweet puppy belonging to his much-beleagered neighbor, Simon. Melvin is forced to take on the puppy when Simon is beaten up.

The movie has a lot of gem moments, including but not limited to: Gregg Kinnear’s brave and funny imitation of Jack Nicholson and two of my favorite directors (Lawrence Kasdan and Harold Ramis) as actors in bit parts. There are a number of very funny and acidic one-liners, as well as a few very sweet and poignant ones, from the film, but this is the dialog that inspired today’s recipe: [The scene is in a car that the three leads have taken on a road trip. Simon has just opened up to Carol. Melvin is jealous because he is not even close to that kind of openness.]

Carol (to Simon): “Hey, we all have these terrible stories to get over, and you…”

Melvin: “That’s not true. Some of us have great stories, pretty stories…that take place at lakes, with boats and friends and noodle salad. Just no one in this car…but a lot of people, that’s their story: good times…noodle salad!”

So, there you have it…inspiration from a really fantastic chef and a wonderful movie. This recipe is truly “as good as it gets!”


One comment

  1. Loved this

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