Friday, January 22, 2010

Japan in January

Moving along further in the alphabet, we traveled to the Asian country of Japan. Several of us have (more or less) recently become enamoured of sushi, so this was a logical visit for us. As well, there are only so many countries starting with the letter 'J.' According to, the only countries starting with 'J' are:

Jamaica (and we already visited the Carribean country of Barbados)

Jan Mayen (would have to consult Google maps to find out exactly where this is)


Jersey (New??? or who knew there was a state that was also a country?)

Jordan (already did Egypt)

Japanese Appetizers...

It was unanimously decided that the tempura vegetables that we had were the freshest and lightest tasting veggies that we'd ever had tempura style...they were fabulous!

Tempura Vegetables

3/4 cup light beer

3/4 cup rice flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 small sweet potato

vegetable or peanut oil, for frying

8 asparagus spears, trimmed

16 sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 small red pepper, cut into 1/4 inch rings

1 pinch sea salt (optional)

soy sauce (for dipping)

1 white radish, peeled grated (daikon)

2 lemons, cut into wedges

Directions 1

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the beer into the flour until just combined (will be a bit lumpy).

2. Stir in salt and cayenne.

3. Peel sweet potato and cut crosswise into 1/4 inch slices.

4. Using a large heavy saucepan, deep fryer or wok, heat 2 inches of oil over medium-high heat to 350°F.

5. In batches of 3 or 4 pieces, dredge veggies in batter to coat completely, letting excess drip off.

6. Fry, turning, until golden coloured (2 to 3 minutes).

7. With a slotted spoon, remove cooked vegetables from pan and transfer to paper towel lined, rimmed baking sheet to drain off excess oil.

8. Season with a pinch of sea salt if desired.

9. Keep warm in oven set to 200F while frying remaining veggies.

10. Each diner should have a little bowl of soy sauce, a tiny dish of grated white radish (daikon) and a few lemon wedges to season his/her food.

11. Serve with hot rice.

We also had other futomaki rolls as our appetizer:

Crab and cream cheese rolls

1 cup white rice

1 teaspoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cucumber

imitation crabmeat, leg style (I used real canned crab)

cream cheese

nori sushi sheets

Directions1. 1

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the ginger and rice. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until rice is cooked.

2. Add the rice vinegar and salt to the rice, mix well.

3. Lay out your seaweed sheets.

4. Moisten your hands with water and divide the rice evenly between the 2 seaweed sheets, flatten the rice. Leave about a half inch of space not covered with rice at the top of the sheets. This will make the sushi roll easier to close.

5. About an inch from the bottom, arrange the crab, cucumber and cream cheese in a straight line, from one side to the other (left to right).

6. Gently but firmly, roll the sushi as tight as possible (from bottom to top), being careful not to rip the seaweed sheets.

7. Wet a very sharp knife and cut the rolls into individual pieces of sushi.

Inside-out avocado rolls with cashews

1 large avocado (or 2 small avocado)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons mayonnaise (preferably Japanese)

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon wasabi paste (optional)

3 ounces cashews (roasted, salted cashews work well)

3-4 chives

2 sheets nori, seaweed cut in half

2 cups cooked rice, seasoned with sushi vinegar seasoning (see #315511 Easy Sushi Rice)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

Directions. 1

1. Peel the avocado and cut into small chunks. Put in a bowl with the lemon juice, mayonnaise, salt and wasabi, if using. Toss and mash slightly, but not until mushy. Divide into 4 portions.

2. Chop the cashews very finely and put in a bowl. Chop the chives very finely and mix with the cashews. Divide into 4 portions.

3. Divide rice into 4 portions.

4. Mix 1 cup water with the rice vinegar in a small bowl and set aside to use as hand vinegar, to rinse your hands and keep the rice from sticking.

5. Put a sheet of plastic wrap on the rolling mat. Put 1/2 sheet of nori on top, rough side up with the long edge towards you. Dip your fingers in the hand vinegar, take 1 portion of the seasoned, vinegared rice and spread it out in a thin layer over the nori, leaving about 3/4" bare on the far edge.

6. Sprinkle one portion of the nut and chive mixture on top of the rice and press it in gently with your fingers.

7. Carefully lift the whole thing up and flip it over so the rice is face down on the plastic wrap. To make this easier, you can lay another piece of plastic wrap on top of the rice, flip everything over, and remove the extra piece of plastic wrap next to the nori.

8. Put 1 portion of the avocado in a line along the long edge of the nori closest to you.

9. Using the rolling mat, carefully roll it up, then cut in half, then cut each half into 3 pieces, giving 6 pieces.

10. Repeat to make 4 rolls, for a total of 24 pieces.

The dipping sauces were AMAZING!

Dipping Sauces:

Wasabi Cream a la Kris

¼ scant cup of sour cream

¼ scant cup of buttermilk

2 (or more to taste) teaspoons wasabi paste

½ of a large avocado

Sea salt to taste

Thoroughly mix sour cream, buttermilk and wasabi paste.

Mash in avocado (more or less to desired consistency)

Salt to taste

Ginger Mint Dip a la Kris

6-8 fresh mint leaves

2T. chopped ginger

½ cup of mayonnaise

⅛ cup of sour cream

½ teaspoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon lime juice

salt to taste

Put all ingredients into a mini-chopper and thoroughly chop

Adjust seasonings as needed


We tried to duplicate the spicy tuna rolls that we like at Akira, a local restaurant. However, apparently sushi grade tuna is hard to find, and has also jumped in price to about $25 a pound. So, we settled salmon, which was substituted into this recipe. Below are the spicy salmon rolls (with some of the spicy sauce) and also some avocado rolls with and/or without shrimp (on the right hand side. We also served a generous helping of pickled ginger. Recipes are below:

Spicy Salmon Roll with Special Sauce


· 1/3 cup mayonnaise

· 2 tablespoons hot chile paste

· 1 teaspoon hot chile oil

· 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

· 4 sheets toasted seaweed (yakinori)

· Prepared sushi rice (at least 3 cups cooked rice), recipe follows

· 1/2 pound sushi-quality fresh tuna, cut into 1/2-inch wide strips

· Wasabi paste

· 2 tablespoons finely sliced scallions

· 3 tablespoons toasted black sesame seeds


In a small bowl combine mayonnaise, chile paste, hot chile oil, and sesame oil and stir to combine.

Place 1 piece of toasted seaweed on top of a sushi roller (makisushi), with the short end closest to you. Using lightly wet fingers, press enough rice onto the seaweed to completely cover the seaweed, and press firmly so that rice adheres to seaweed. Turn seaweed over so that rice side now faces down. Arrange strips of tuna on top of seaweed, with the tuna strips running vertically in line with the short side of the seaweed, about 1/3 of the way into the seaweed sheet.

Spread a small amount of wasabi on the tuna, then sprinkle with sliced scallions. Using the sushi roller as a guide, carefully begin rolling the seaweed up, pressing as tightly as possible so that the roll is firm and compact. Once the roll is completely rolled, reposition roll on sushi roller and press again. Sprinkle sesame seeds on a flat surface and lightly roll in seeds to coat. Allow roll to sit for a few seconds before slicing with a sharp, damp knife.

Cut roll into 6 or 8 pieces and serve with dollops of sauce spooned on top, or alongside for dipping. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Mitsuko's Perfect Sushi Rice:

· 3 3/4 cups Japanese rice, such as Nishiki (or 5 rice maker cups)

· 3 3/4 cups water (or 5 rice maker cups)

· 1/2 cup rice vinegar

· 4 tablespoons sugar

· 1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, add rice and cover with lots of water. Stir rice in water with your hands, then pour off most of the water, and agitate 10 to 15 times by quickly moving your hand back and forth, swishing rice against side of bowl. Rinse the rice several more times, until the water that drains off of the rice is almost clear. Transfer the rice to a colander and let drain for 1 hour, undisturbed. Transfer the rice to a rice cooker, add the water, cover and cook as directed by manufacturer's directions.

While the rice is cooking, bring rice vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan, and then remove from the heat. Add sugar and salt and stir until dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature.

When rice is done, allow cooked rice to remain in rice cooker for 10 minutes. Transfer rice to a large shallow mixing bowl (traditionally a wooden tub, called a hangiri), so that rice forms a mound in the center of the bowl. Using a diagonal slicing motion, gently cut into rice with a wooden paddle (called a kijakushi), and pour cooled vinegar mixture over top of rice. "Cut" rice several times to evenly distribute vinegar mixture, then allow to cool. Gently turn rice over from time to time with paddle so that rice cools evenly. You might want to consider using a fan if time is of the essence. When rice has cooled to body temperature, it is ready to use for sushi rolls. Rice can be kept at the proper temperature by placing it in an insulated container such as a small ice chest, covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Yield: enough rice for at least 7 large rolls (futomaki)

And teriyaki chicken - which was particularly nice because it didn't taste too salty, unlike most off-the-shelf teriyaki sauces.
Teriyaki Chicken

½ c soy sauce

2 Tbsp mirin

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp oil

12 chicken drumsticks


1. Place all ingredients except chicken in small pan and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 mins.

2. Heat oil in skillet, add chicken in batches and brown on both sides over high heat.

3. Return all chicken to pan, add sauce, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Serve with (what else?) rice.

We also made these yummy green beans.

Green Beans in Roasted Sesame Seed Sauce

1 lb slender green beans, trimmed

2 Tbsp white sesame seeds

6 cm piece of ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp mirin

3 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp white sesame seeds, extra


1. Cook the beans in large pan of boiling water ( I might steam them instead, next time), plunge in cold water to stop cooking, drain again and set aside.

2. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat, shaking pan until they are golden brown. Pound the seeds in a mortar and pestle until a paste is formed (the mixture will become damp as oil is released from the seeds)

3. Combine the paste with all ingredients but the extra sesame seeds. Pour the sauce over the beans and then scatter on the extra sesame seeds and serve.

NB: the beans can be flavoured in the sauce overnight, if desired.

Below is Rob's big dish - he loves sesame! The steak was fabulous!

Steak in Roasted Sesame Seed Marinade

2 Tbsp white sesame seeds

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 cm piece of ginger

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sake

1 tsp caster sugar

1 lb sirloin

3 scallions, to garnish

1 Tbsp oil

Dipping Sauce

4 cm ginger

½ tsp togarashi

½ c soy sauce

2 tsp dashi granules (we subbed fish sauce)

2 Tbsp water


1. Roast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan over low heat for 2 mins, shaking, until seeds begin to pop. Crush the roasted seeds with mortar and pestle.

2. Place the sesame seeds, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sake and sugar in bowl and dissolve sugar. Please steak(s) in shallow dish and pour marinade over top. Marinate for 30 mins or longer.

3. To make dipping sauce, cut ginger lengthways into very fine strips and combine with rest of ingredients. Whisk until well combined.

4. Cut spring onions lengthways into very fine strips (about 4cm length) and place in a bowl of iced water. Leave until they are crisp and curled; drain.

Lightly brush the oil over steaks and grill (preferable – yum!) or fry them for 3-4 mins per side. Let rest for 5 mins before slicing on the diagonal. Garnish with spring onion and serve with steamed rice and dipping sauce.

Recipes and photos will follow with the Japanese desserts!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Italy Photos

Well, I guess the photos are better late than never... Here are quite a few from our excursion to Italy, hosted by Bill and Alicia from Littlestone but held at complicated!

A closeup shot of Alicia's fine pasta making skills.

Bill made Italian welcome placemats for everyone. They had a translation on the back and were appropo for each diner.

To the left are the frying rice balls - they didn't really need a whole lot of frying oil to cook which was nice! I think I did manage to set off the smoke alarm, though. I seem to be getting good at that :(.

Just a few of our wine options....

Above: Alicia making fresh pasta with her handy-dandy pasta maker with me looking on in the background. Not sure what I'm so excited about - perhaps the other bottles of wine in the background.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Italy - Tiramisu

And, to finish the meal (where we hadn't eaten quite enough calories, anyway):

Authentic Italian Tiramisu


6 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 (12 ounce) packages ladyfingers
1/3 cup coffee flavored liqueur
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate

Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl. Brush with coffee liqueur. Spoon half of the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, coffee liqueur and filling layers. Garnish with cocoa and chocolate curls. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
To make the chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler and run it down the edge of the chocolate bar.

Italy...pasta threesomes and veal trois

Ahh, the creator of the most excellent entrees has finally typed them all up. I can't wait to try out the pasta recipes myself. I'm salivating...

And without further ado:

Ravioli Dough

2 cups of unbleached or all purpose flour

1 tsp salt

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp olive oil

Mound flour and salt on floured surface. Make a well in the center, gradually add eggs and olive oil, and with a fork beat lightly. Gradually pull the flour until it is absorbed. If dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour, if too hard and doesn’t mix easily, add a few drops of water. Mix dough well and form into ball.

Using pasta machine: Pasta machines have two parts; one for rolling and one for cutting. For ravioli, you use the rolling part. Set machine at its widest setting, break off dough the size of a golf ball, and pass it through the machine 8 times to knead, folding the dough in half lowering the setting 1 notch each time until you reach the next-to-last notch. Put on floured surface or bed sheet and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Beet Casunziei with poppy seeds

1 ¼ pounds of beets, boiled, drained and peeled

6 tbs butter, divided

5 ounces ricotta

1 egg yolk

salt and pepper

¼ cup fresh bread crumbs

3 tbs poppy seeds

½ freshly grated pecorino

  1. Prepare filling: Purée the beets in a food processor. In a skillet over medium heat, warm 2tb of butter. Add the puréed beets, and cook until the mixture starts to thicken, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in the ricotta and the egg yolk, and season with salt and pepper. If mixture is too liquidy, add the bread crumbs.
  2. Roll out pasta dough and cut each sheet unto 4inch wide strips. Using ravioli or pairing knife cut out circles that are 3iches in diameter. Place one teaspoon of filling in the center of the circle. Moisten edges of the dough with water and fold into a half moon shape, pressing to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Set aside and, cover with clean cloth and let rest for 1 hour.
  3. Bring large pot of water to low boil. Add salt and casunziei and cook until they raise to the surface, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile prepare sauce: in small saucepan over medium heat melt remaining butter. Add the poppy seed and pecorino. Toss casunziei with sauce.

Potato Culingiones

1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed

3 tbs olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

1 clove of garlic minced

1 tb finely chopped mint

4 cups of grated pecorino divided


4 cups fresh or pre-made tomato sauce

  1. In a pot combine the potato cubes with enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil, and cook until fork tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat , warm the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic and mint and sauté for about 5 minutes. Darin the potatoes, and pass them trough a ricer until a bowl. Add the onion mixture and 3 cups of pecorino, season with salt and mix well. Cover with plastic and set aside in the refrigerator.
  2. Pasta: roll out pasta dough and cut each sheet unto 4inch wide strips. Using ravioli or pairing knife cut out circles that are 3iches in diameter. Place 1tsp of filling in the center of each circle. Moisten the edges of the dough with water, and close the culingiones by overlapping the edges to form a braid like pattern. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Set aside, cover with a clean clothes, and let rest for 1 hour.
  3. Bring large pot of water to low boil. Add salt and culingiones and cook until they raise to the surface, about 6 minutes. Meanwhile in saucepan prepare sauce warm the tomato sauce. Remove the culingiones, add to the sauce, and toss. Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino.

Tortellini with Creamed Mushroom Sauce

1 large egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small cooked chicken breast, minced

2oz fresh spinach, cooked, squeezed dry, and minced

2 oz prosciutto, minced

½ cup grated parmesan

2 cups whipping crème

pinch of pepper

½ pound fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons butter

Boiling salted water

3 tablespoons parsley, chopped

  1. Combine chicken, spinach, procuitto and egg, mix well. Add 2 tablespoons of parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of crème, and the pepper, mix well.
  2. Knead pasta dough briefly and divide dough in thirds. Roll out, cut, and fill a third of dough at a time. Cut out dough circles with a 5cm round cutter, place filling in center, brush edges with water and fold in half to enclose filling. Pinch outside edges together to firmly seal. Let tortellini dry on towel for 30 minutes before cooking.
  3. Saute mushrooms in butter over medium heat for 3 minutes. Stir in remaining crème. Heat to boiling then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 3 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese, cook, and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat
  4. Cook torellini a third at a time in a large pot of boiling salted water until dente. (2 to 3 minutes) Drain well and add to sauce. When all tortellini have been cooked heat in sauce over medium heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley and remaining cheese.

Sweet and sour onions (cipolline in agrodolce)

4tbs butter

5 tbs sugar

½ cup of white wine vinegar

2 tbs balsamic vinegar

1.5 lb small picking onions, peeled.

Salt and freshly ground pepper

  1. Heat butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. Add the sugar and heat until dissolved stirring constantly.
  2. Add the vinegars to the pan with the onions and combine well. Season with salt and pepper and cover and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, until the onions are a golden color and soft when pierced with a knife. Serve hot.

Fennel braised in parmesan (Finocchio gratinato)

2lb fennel bulbe, washed and cut in two

2oz butter

1.5 oz freshly grated parmesan

  1. Cook fennel bulbs in a large casserole of boiling water until tender but not mushy. Drain. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Cut the fennel bulbs in 4-6 pieces lengthwise et put in a buttered dish.
  3. Sprinkle with butter pieces and parmesan on top of fennel. Cook in oven for 20min or until cheese is golden. Serve immediately.

Potato Gateau with pancetta and smoked provola

4 large russet potatoes

4oz pancetta diced

3tbs freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

3tbs freshly grated pecorino

1 whole egg, plus 1 egg yolk

½ cup parsley

slat and freshly ground pepper

1 cup of milk heated

2 ts butter, melted

1 cup coarse dried bread crumbs

1 slice of picked beet for garnish

Rosemary sprig for garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover, bring to boil. Cook until tender, about 15-20minutes. Drain the potatoes, peel and set aside to cool. Pass the potatoes through a ricer until a bowl and stir in the pancetta, provola, parmigiano and pecorino.
  2. Add the whole egg, yolk and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Mix until soft, gradually pouring in the milk. Transfer the mixture to a round buttered baking dish, brush the top with melted butter, and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake in the oven until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and unmold. Slice and serve garnished with beet and rosemary.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Figs and Gorgonzola

· 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

· 1 medium white onion, diced

· 1 medium carrot, diced

· 2 stalks celery, diced

· 2 bay leaves

· pinch of black peppercorns

· 1 2 lb. pork tenderloin, silver skin removed

· kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

· 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, plus 1 sprig

· 1 tablespoon chopped fennel seeds

· 4 oz. gorgonzola, cold and cut into strips

· 8 dried Turkish figs, flattened

· 1 cup white wine

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. In an ovenproof skillet over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaves and peppercorns; saute for 5 minutes, and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, butterfly the tenderloin so there are 2 flaps of meat hinged at the center. Using a mallet, pound the meat until flat and even. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the rosemary and fennel seeds.

4. Line up the gorgonzola and figs in the center of the meat. Fold one flap over the filling, roll up tightly lengthwise, and tie with butcher’s string as in the photo, tucking a rosemary spring underneath. Rub with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.

5. Return the skillet with the vegetables to medium heat, and add the stuffed tenderloin. Deglaze with the wine, and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

6. Remove from the oven, and set the meat aside to rest for 10 minutes, under tented tin foil. Remove the string from the roll, slice into 1-inch pieces, and arrange on a dish. Pass the vegetables and pan juices through a sieve, and drizzle the strained liquid on top of the meat.

Veal Piccata

For sauce

  • 1 1/4 cupslow-fat chicken stock or low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For veal

  • 2 lb veal cutlets (also called scallopini; 1/4 inch thick)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

Make sauce:
Boil stock and wine in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan until reduced by about half (to about 3/4 cup), about 3 minutes. Whisk together flour and water in a cup, then whisk into stock. Boil, stirring, 1 minute, then remove from heat and stir in butter, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Keep sauce warm.

Prepare veal:
Cut veal into 3-inch pieces, then pat dry with paper towels. Lightly oil grill pan and heat over high heat until just smoking.

While pan is heating, sprinkle veal with salt and pepper. Grill veal in batches, without crowding, until browned, about 30 seconds on each side, transferring with tongs to a platter. Grill lemon slices, in batches if necessary, until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side, transferring to platter with veal.

Stir parsley into warm sauce and pour over veal.