Mr. B’s Blue Cheese and Olive Dip

The other day Mr. B and I were hanging out in the kitchen and he casually asked, “Have I ever made my signature dip for you?” I stopped what I was doing and looked at him, mystified. “You have a signature dip?” He nodded and said, “Yep, a blue cheese olive dip.” I shook my head in wonder. Five years of marriage and he’s still surprising me! Of course, I couldn’t let the proclamation of a signature dip pass by unnoticed. Upcoming Super Bowl parties provided me with the perfect excuse for asking Mr. B whip to up a batch of his dip. (more…)

Chorizo Tequila Stuffed Mushrooms

This is the season for reflections, musings, and generally looking back over the past 12 months as the calendar turns to a new year. While 2010 was an action packed, wonderful year, I must confess that I do not find myself spending much thought on the past right now. Instead all thoughts, excitement, (and a wee bit of trepidation), are focused on the year ahead. 2011 is going to be a big one for Mr. B and I as we bring a new life into the world and begin the long journey of parenthood. We both have decade-changing birthdays in 2011 and sense that this next year will be unlike any other. (more…)

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Manchengo Cheese and Sage

Little black dresses, cold martinis, swanky hors d’oeuvres- there is nothing quite like a Holiday party. This year my black dress is not so little, and my martinis really will taste like water, but at least I can still do the swanky hors d’oeuvres! It is easy to feel stumped when asked to bring an appetizer to a party. You want to avoid the ever present deviled eggs or shrimp cocktails but at the same time if you go too far afield, less adventurous eaters will avoid your platter like it was grandma’s fruitcake. (more…)

Healthy Caesar Salad Dressing and Dip

When I stepped outside this morning the wind whipped past with a cold bite for the first time in months. Instead of a warm damp humidity the air has dried out along with the cottonwood leaves. Despite sunshine and 70 degree temperatures I dare say that summer is starting to slip a bit. September is always an interesting month when it comes to produce. The cooler temperatures make you think of apple cakes and warm bean soups but for gardeners and those who frequent the farmer’s market early September means a bounty of tomatoes, fall lettuce, carrots, and more. (more…)

A Mezze Feast

Mezze

The official line: The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.
When the challenge was thrown down to create a mezze (an assortment of small plates), my mind raced off in a million directions, thrilled with the possibilities. Homemade pita bread and hummus from dried garbanzo beans were at the top of the list. Fresh pita is impossible to find in town and with my recent foray into bread baking for once the thought of working with dough didn’t scare me silly. A bag of dried garbanzo beans had been sitting slouched down in my pantry for over a year and begged to be used. Also, Mr. B and I managed to squeeze in a big-city run just before the mezze, where I stocked up on peppadew peppers, artichoke hearts, balsamic marinated cippolini onions, and the makings for dolmas and muhammara. The ingredients were pulled together, a sleepy snowy Saturday in February was selected, and we set out to create a mezze feast.

Making Pita Bread

The pita bread came together beautifully. A simple dough, of water, olive oil, and flour, it happily bubbled and rose into a large bowl of dough. Once rolled out and tossed into the hot oven the pita rounds puffed up like blowfish. It took several rounds of cooking to work through all of the dough but the reward of warm fresh pita was well worth the effort. I can’t wait to make this recipe again.

Pita and Hummus

Once soaked and cooked the garbanzo beans were whizzed in a food processor along with tahini, garlic, and lemon, creating a nutty thick dip. I had always wondered at the difference between hummus made with canned chickpeas versus dried chickpeas, hearing from many online that there was no discernible difference. When I tasted a spoonful of the hummus made with dried chickpeas, however, the improved texture of the hummus blew me away. It had the fluffy but smooth texture of the hummus from our favorite Lebanese restaurant- something I had never been able to recreate at home.

Greek Salad

Greek Dolmas

You have already heard about the dolmas, and the Greek salad, which added the necessary protein and vegetables to make this into a somewhat balanced meal. The delicious and addictive muhammara recipe is from Lebanese food blogger extraordinaire Olive Fig Grape. Together with the pita and hummus it all created a veritable feast.

Kozlovic Wine

Mr. B got into the spirit of the meal, lighting a fire in the fireplace, and pulling out a bottle of Kozlovic Malvazija wine. Our first encounter with a Croatian wine and the malvazijian grape, the Kozlovic had a beautiful golden honey color and a bright acidic aroma. If you are used to a fruit spectrum of flavor in white wines, the absence of fruit in this wine may surprise you. The Kozlovic paired quite well with the savory mezze dishes, providing a smooth and slightly bitter counterpoint to the richly flavored food.
Sitting by a fire, drinking wine and nibbling on a mezze feast is a wonderful way to spend a cold Saturday in February.
Pita Bread (Printable Recipe)
Adapted from Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Makes Approximately 16 pitas
Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook
Ingredients:
2 teaspoons regular dry yeast
2.5 cups lukewarm water
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon table salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Directions:
1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.
2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick (do not roll much thinner than 1/4 inch or the pita will become hard). Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn’t puff up, don’t worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.
Adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Makes Approximately 3 cups
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.
1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
Paprika
Olive Oil
Directions:
1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the lemon juice, garlic, salt, and tahini, mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
4. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle paprika on top, and drizzle olive oil around the edge of the bowl.

Mr. B’s Guacamole

Mr. B's Guacamole

Is it just me or does it seem like most men have a signature recipe? By ‘most men’ I actually mean ‘men who don’t cook frequently’. The non-cooking men in my life have a wild variety of signature dishes each one unique and worthy of a blog post. My grandfather is known for his grilled lamb chops, my father for his porcupine meatballs (which, thankfully, do not involve real porcupine), my brother for his Christmas fudge, and Mr. B for his guacamole. The fact that my husband’s specialty requires corn chips is not lost on me. Between his love for guacamole and my love for salsa we should have named the dog Tostito.
Like any good manly recipe, Mr. B’s guacamole has no set measurements. Relying on a handful of this and a pinch of that, the dip comes together through a blur of chopping, squeezing, and smashing (grunts are optional). Mr. B likes his guacamole so much that it rather pains him to have to share it with anyone else. This explains why when preparing the dip for guests it is necessary to start with at least five avocados and scale it up. The cook needs his fair share!

Mr. B's Guacamole

I have tasted an abundance of guacamoles and am happy to say that Mr. B makes a mean dip. He manages to achieve a spicy, tart, and addictively rich combination of ingredients that leaves us fighting for the last chip. The secret ingredient to Mr. B’s success? Olive oil. Now this is by no means authentic but a small drizzle of olive oil provides the liquid fat necessary to carry salt and spices seamlessly through the dish. Just a touch will give you a smooth and creamy background texture without annihilating all chunky bits of avocado. Since the Superbowl is the only football game he watches (yes, I thank my lucky stars) you can bet Mr. B will be counting out his avocados come Sunday!
Do you or the men in your life have a signature recipe? I’d love to hear about it!
Mr. B’s Guacamole (Printable Recipe)
Serves 4-6
As noted, adjust the quantities as you see fit. Guacamole should always be tweaked to match your individual tastes!
Ingredients:
4 avocados, sliced in half and pitted
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced (use a jalapeño pepper if you don’t like spicy)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
2 small limes, juiced (or 1 large lime)
1/4 teaspoon epazote
1/4 teaspoon toasted onion powder (optional)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked pepper
Directions:
Scoop the flesh of the avocados into a medium bowl. Add the onion, serrano pepper, garlic, and cilantro. Use a fork and gently mash the ingredients until they are just combined, but still very chunky. Add the lime juice and olive oil and stir until walnut-sized chunks remain. Add salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.
Note: If you are making this ahead of time, squeeze an extra bit of lime juice on the surface and press plastic wrap into the top of the dip. This will help prevent the avocados from oxidizing and turning an unappetizing shade of brown.

Greek Dolmas

Greek Dolmas

The memory of tasting dolmas for the first time is vividly etched in my mind. Only seven years old, I found myself outside of Los Angeles at the famous Greek restaurant Papadakis Taverna. My parents and I were visiting my grandparents and for a special occasion they decided to take us out on the town. I was wearing a new dress with ruffles and shiny shoes, and felt thrilled to eat in a fancy restaurant. My grandfather told me that the owner was a famous football player, which only further increased my excitement. (I couldn’t have told you a thing about football, but seeing a celebrity of any sorts was fascinating.) When we walked in the door of the restaurant we were greeted with great fanfare and seated at a table covered with a long white tablecloth.

After a few minutes, a waiter placed a bucket on legs next to the table, which puzzled me to no end, until my Mom explained that it was to keep the wine cold. Noticing my interest, the waiter brought out a second bucket and put a bottle of sparkling cider in it for me, which I thought was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. When a plate of green cigar shaped food was placed on the table I was puzzled yet again. My mom told me that the green shapes were dolmas. She cut one in half so I could see that it had rice and lamb inside. I asked about the green outside and she explained that it was a grape leaf. Now that blew my seven-year-old mind. A grape leaf? Like the ones growing wild in our yard at home? I took a dolma and completely unrolled it, confirming that it was indeed a grape leaf. Wow. Luckily I was born an adventurous eater, so I tentatively took a bite and found that a dolma didn’t taste weird at all, but was actually quite delicious.

Once dinner was in full swing, the entertainment began. All of the wait staff linked arms and began a raucous and exuberant Greek dance in the middle of the restaurant. As I watched with wide eyes, a tall dark and handsome man came up to our table. He leaned down and asked me if I would like to dance. With a little of encouragement from the adults (It didn’t take much- I was quite the little ham) I jumped from my seat and joined in the fun. I linked arms with the staff and we danced in a wide circle while the music played loudly and diners clapped along. When the circle broke, the handsome man brought me to the middle of the circle and handed me a champagne glass. Shocked, I said “But I can’t drink. I’m only seven!” He laughed and said just follow my lead. I watched as he pretended to drink the champagne and then threw the glass into a burning fireplace where it shattered in a flash of flames. With a big grin on my face I followed suit, pretending to drink the champagne and throwing the glass into the fire with all my might. Hearing the crash of broken glass and watching the flames was thrilling. I couldn’t believe I had just been allowed to break a glass on purpose! He kissed me on the cheek and we danced in the circle one more time before I was escorted back to our table. When I sat in my chair, my grandfather informed me that the handsome man was the star football player. I could hardly breathe from the excitement. When the evening was finally over I left completely smitten by Greek food and culture.

Making Dolmas

Rolling Dolmas

Ever since that memorable night, dolmas have always brought a big smile to my face. However the jarred versions never contain meat, and while still delicious, they pale in comparison to the warm savory flavor of a meat filled dolma. This recipe combines a cinnamon scented lamb mixture, rice, pungent sumac, and smooth olive oil with fantastic results. A perfect finger food, if you are looking to branch out from typical Superbowl fare, these bite size treats would be welcome at any party. And with enough dolmas you might even find yourself dancing around the room with a smile.

Greek Dolmas (Printable Recipe)
Makes Several Dozen
Adapted from The Kitchn

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground lamb or beef
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
3 tablespoons pine nuts
4 tablespoons chopped preserved lemon (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons fresh chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon dried dill weed
1 teaspoon ground mace
1 tablespoon ground sumac
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 8-oz jar grape leaves

Directions:

Place a large skillet with lid over medium heat. Add the oil and meat, and cook until the meat is crumbled and mostly brown. Transfer the meat to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Add onions and garlic to the pan and cook, until they are tender. Next add the mushrooms and saute the mixture until it is beginning to brown. Stir in the rice and add enough hot water to the skillet to just cover the rice. Cover the skillet with the lid and simmer gently over low heat until the rice is half cooked, about 15 minutes.

As the rice cooks, bring a large pot of water to boil. Carefully remove the grape leaves from the jar without tearing the leaves. Drain any liquid off of the leaves. Trim off any stems, and place the leaves in the pot of boiling water. Cover the pot with a lid, turn off the heat, and let the leaves steam for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, drain off the hot water, fill the pot with cold water. Let the leaves sit in the cold water while the filling cooks.

Once the rice mixture is half cooked, stir in the meat and all other ingredients. Mix until everything is well combined. Let the mixture cool until it can be easily handled.

Take a grape leaf and place it on a flat surface with the vein side facing you. Place between 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon (depending on the size of the leaf) at the base of the leaf and shape it into a little log. Fold each side of the leaf over the top of the filling and then roll the leaf up from the bottom to the top. You should have a neat little roll with the sides tucked in when you are finished. Place the roll in a large steamer basket. Repeat with the remaining ingredients until the filling or leaves are completely used up. It is okay to stack the dolmas tightly in the basket.

Set the steamer basket in a large pot filled with water that almost reaches the bottom of the basket. Place the pot over medium heat, cover it with a lid, and simmer the dolmas for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the rice and meat is completely cooked.

Transfer the dolmas to a serving platter and drizzle them generously with olive oil. Sprinkle a little sumac or lemon juice on top of the dolmas and enjoy.

Smoked Salmon Sushi

Smoked Salmon Sushi


A month ago, when we made sushi for the first time, I noted that the biggest challenge came from locating sashimi grade fish. Living in the middle of the country, far from major metropolitan areas, means fresh sashimi is almost impossible to source. However, as we fashioned rolls using cooked shrimp and lump crab meat, an idea sprouted that cold smoked salmon (also known as gravlax) could be a very delicious stand in for fresh fish.

Whenever I find myself at a Costco, I purchase a large package of Kirkland Norwegian smoked salmon. Although the package is huge (or as we say, “Costco-size”) we are so nuts about smoked salmon that we usually eat ourselves silly for a week straight- putting it in everything from eggs, to pasta, or even a white sauce pizza. A recent holiday food run brought home another big package of this smoked salmon, leaving Mr. B and I anxious to dive in and try making sushi again.

This time around, all of the steps were familiar, making the cooking process much more relaxing. Sourcing the right ingredients and preparing sushi rice are the most involved steps. Once you have accomplished both of those, all that is left is a bit of chopping, rolling, and eating. Don’t let the length of the recipe scare you. It is simply a step-by-step process, and doesn’t even involve anything dangerous like scalding hot caramel or eye-brow singeing barbecues.

Smoked Salmon Sushi-4

Smoked Salmon Sushi-3


A large package (1-2 lbs) of smoked salmon will make enough rolls for a giant party. If you have a bit of free time on your hands and want to create fantastic appetizers for New Year’s Eve, these rolls would be an excellent choice. Smoked salmon is often more approachable for sushi newbies, and is a good way to start enjoying sushi without dealing with raw fish. A little bit of cream cheese, red bell pepper, and crisp green onion, and you will have your own delicious version of a Philly roll. So if you find yourself with a wicked sushi craving in the middle of corn fields (or blizzards), get out a package of smoked salmon and have fun!


Smoked Salmon Sushi

Smoked Salmon Sushi (Printable Recipe)
Makes Approximately 6 rolls or 50 pieces
Adapted from The Daring Kitchen (Check out this link for other methods and pictures)

A BIG thank you to Audax and Rose for pulling together these clear and simple directions. It was a herculean effort that resulted in beautiful step-by-step instructions that a total novice (me!) could successfully follow at home. You two are amazing!

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE
(makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of:

* Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
* Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
* Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
* Finishing the rice: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

* 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
* 2½ cups water
* For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Optional Ingredients

* 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
* 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

* 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
* 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
* 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

DIRECTIONS:

Rinsing and draining the rice

1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don’t crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
2. Heat on low setting. (I placed mine in the microwave at 30 second intervals)
3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

Turning out the rice

1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

Dressing the rice with vinegar

1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don’t stir or mash rice.
3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

Fanning & Tossing the rice

1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don’t flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended. (I used a hairdryer set to low and cool).
2. Stop fanning when there’s no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

Keeping the rice moist

1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tips:

* To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.
* While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.
* Photo series on How to Cook Rice with a Pot
* Photo series on How to Make Sushi Rice with Tools You Already Own

About the Ingredients
Sushi Rice – choose a short or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice. Medium-grained calrose is a suitable rice. Rice expands (about 3 times) when cooked so make sure your pot is large enough. Washing the rice removes the rice flour that coats the rice and gives a fresh flavour and scent to the cooked rice. Look for rice that is labelled ‘sushi’ rice. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed. Cooked sushi rice should be sticky, shiny and the individual grains of rice can been seen.

Dashi konbu – or ( dashi kombu) – dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp.Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice.

Rice Vinegar – this gives prepared sushi rice its unique clean, crisp taste. Do not use bottled “sushi vinegar” as it is too harsh and has a bitter after-taste. Look carefully at the label of the rice vinegar it should have NO SALT and NO SUGAR in the product. Apple cider vinegar is a good substitute if rice vinegar is not available. You can use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar if you cannot find rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. DO NOT USE NORMAL WHITE VINEGAR it is too harsh.

Sake – Japanese rice wine. Do not use cooking sake or Chinese cooking rice wine, look for a reasonably priced drinkable sake. Refrigerate opened sake & use within two months. You can use vodka or a mild tasting gin if sake is not available.

Sugar – you can use mild honey or any other vegan substitute to give the equivalent sweetness.

PART 2 : Smoked Salmon Sushi Roll
Yield: Six Rolls, cut into 8 pieces
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

INGREDIENTS:

* 6 cups prepared sushi rice
* 6 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
* Bowl of vinegar water (1/4 cup water and a dash of rice vinegar)
* Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

The rolls above used:
-Smoked salmon
-Red Bell Pepper
-2 cold 8oz packages of cream cheese, cut into thin strips
-Green onions

DIRECTIONS:
1. Wrap a bamboo rolling mat in plastic wrap, so that the entire mat is covered with plastic.
2. Place a nori sheet shiny side down on the edge of the bamboo rolling mat.
3. Using moist fingers (dipped in vinegar water) place 1 cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4. Using your fingers form three grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5. Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6. Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7. Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8. Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.
9. Repeat this process until you have 6 rolls.

NOTE:
Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly colored. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc….

PART 3 : Nigiri Smoked Salmon Sushi
Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi

Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

INGREDIENTS:

* 1-2 cups prepared sushi rice
* 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
* 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice

Optional

* Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
* Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

DIRECTIONS:

1. When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2. Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3. Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4. Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don’t let sushi touch or they’ll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they’ll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5. Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the smoked salmon piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi.

* Tips:
* A great video on making nigiri sushi

Curry Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Hummus

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My first encounter with cauliflower came at an early age. I recall spotting the brain-like white vegetable at a friend’s house and thinking it was the strangest broccoli I’d ever seen. An adult encouraged me to take a bite, and the bitter chalky flavor of raw cauliflower appalled my seven-year-old taste buds. I immediately decided that cauliflower deserved a spot on my very short “avoid at all costs” food list and never gave it a second chance.

Fast forward about twenty years to a small farmer’s market in the Midwest, where I found myself looking at a mound of freshly picked cauliflower. It resembled a beautiful vegetable bouquet. Attempts to recall the last time I tasted cauliflower drew nothing but a distant memory, so I decided to leave the past behind and see if I could find a redeeming way to eat cauliflower.

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Browsing through my trusted list of food bloggers I stumbled across several posts which recommended roasting cauliflower to leave the bitterness behind and allow a nuanced sweetness to shine through. This sounded like a great idea, but just to be safe I decided to throw in a head of broccoli too (you know just in case the cauliflower was inedible). A bowl of freshly made hummus sat on my counter and as I prepped the vegetables inspiration struck. Hmmm…veggies and dip! So I tossed the broccoli and cauliflower with curry powder and placed them in the oven to roast.

Curry Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

Once the vegetables had cooked, I squeezed a lemon over the top to brighten things up a bit, and then tentatively took a bite of a cauliflower floret. Sweet, crunchy, savory, spicy it was shockingly delicious! Mr. B joined in the fun and before we knew it we had made an entire meal out of broccoli, cauliflower, and hummus. I was thrilled to find a satisfying way to enjoy cauliflower and a new recipe for those weeknights when I just want something quick, easy and healthy. Now when I am at the farmer’s market I don’t hesitate to fill my bag with cauliflower. Sometimes it is worth giving vegetables a second chance!

Curry Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Hummus

Curry Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Hummus (Printable Recipe)
Inspired by
Closet Cooking and Savour Fare
Serves 4-6 as a Side Dish

Vegetables

Ingredients:
1 head of Broccoli, washed and separated into florets
1 head of Cauliflower, washed and separated into florets
4-6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper
Garlic Powder
Curry Seasoning

Directions:
Pre-heat an oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle.

Line two large rimmed cookie sheets with foil. Evenly divide the broccoli and cauliflower florets between the two cookie sheets. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the vegetables. Use your hands to toss the vegetables in the oil, making sure all sides are well coated. Generously sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic powder, and curry seasoning over the top of the vegetables. Use your hands to toss again, making sure all sides are coated. Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the florets have a light golden brown color. Remove sheets from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve alongside a big bowl of hummus.

Hummus

Ingredients:
1 14oz can Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4-5 Tablespoons Tahini
5 Tablespoons Water
4 cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper

Olive oil
Smoked paprika (to taste)

Directions:
Place chickpeas, tahini, water, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper into a food processor. Pulse to combine ingredients and then process until smooth and fluffy. Transfer hummus to a bowl, and drizzle olive oil over the top. Dust with smoked paprika to taste (start small this stuff is strong!). Serve with curry roasted cauliflower and broccoli.

Stir Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chile

Stir Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chile

For me, the Superbowl represents an annual test of wills, not on the field mind you, rather between the perennial New Year’s resolve to stick to healthy food and the temptation of joining thousands of people around the country in an afternoon of finger-licking, beer drinking, chip crunching revelry.

I must confess that I don’t follow football. I couldn’t even tell you who’s playing in the upcoming game. However, when there is a reason to make over-the-top snack food and lounge on the couch watching crazy ads – who can resist?

This quick and easy recipe for stir fried edamame manages to satisfy the craving for salty, spicy and crunchy finger food while still scoring on the healthy side. When I introduced this recipe to my family, it quickly became a favorite snack. Even my brother, who grew up claiming to like nothing green but jelly beans, will chow down an entire bowl in nothing flat! So add this to your Superbowl line up and feel slightly less guilty about all those chicken wings.

Stir Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chile
A few simple ingredients

Stir Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chile
A quick stir fry

Stir Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chile
Mmmmm
Stir Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chile
Serves 2-4 (depending on how much you like to share!)
Recipe from Gourmet Magazine

Ingredients:
1 lb. frozen edamame (soybeans in shell)
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic

Directions:
Cook soybeans in a 5-6 quart pot of boiling unsalted water for 5 minutes, then drain in a colander.

Stir together soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and red-pepper flakes in a small bowl.

Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add vegetable oil, swirling it to coat wok. Add ginger and garlic and stir fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds, then add soybeans, and stir fry until pods are lightly charred, 2 to 3 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture and stir-fry until soybeans are well coated and most of liquid is evaporated, about 1 minute.

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