Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hit a Sushi Home Run

This is probably the 3rd or 4th post on sushi that I have done but my dear friend, Ms P just send me some fab photos of a sushi making night we had a couple of months ago. She has a very good camera, unlike my basic point and shoot that is usually on hand in the kitchen, and the pictures are worth of sharing. I think this was the second time in 2 weeks that I had made homemade sushi so my technique was steadily improving. We got all our supplies and Ms P made the rice in advance so it would be cooled and sticky. We started off with my signature sashimi salad, pictured above. Click here for the recipe from previous sushi night. This is so easy and so tasty, I would like to experiment with more presentation styles though.
We then made a selection of inside out rolls, with a layer of seaweed between the rice and filling, nigri and also a regular roll.
Tip # 1 Sushi rice is sticky and is coated with a mixture of rice wine and sugar. For this reason, when you cut the rolls, you need a very sharp knife that is totally clean. You will need to clean it between every slice or the sticky residue will pull on your rolls and mess them up. We managed to avoid too many casualties on this occasion. The one that did not make it took the short cut to sushi heaven (aka, my stomach-they still taste as good!)
From what I recall, we made avocado rolls, salmon and tuna and maybe mango. You can put in whatever you want.
Tip # 2 (learned the hard way). place a layer of cling wrap on top of your roll mat before making your roll. Roll mats are very hard to clean and the rice is determined to get well jammed into the gaps.

We also made some nigri ( in the middle-rice with topping) and the ginger there is my homemade ginger, click here for link to recipe.
Finally, we must have our greens! in sushi world, that means gomae! Gomae is steamed spinach, served cold usually with a tahini (sesame seed paste dressing) but some places use peanuts.
I tend to just go without a recipe for this and eyeball it, taste it as I go along.
Here is a basic summary of something resembling a recipe for Gomae sauce:

2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp agave nectar or honey or sugar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1-3 tbsp water depending on desired consistency

You can adjust the sweetness or saltiness as you go along. Err on the side of caution and start with 1 tsp of everything if you prefer. You can also add some sesame seeds for texture.
Serve over cold steamed spinach. You can see the spinach and sauce in this pic. What a spread. We were very proud of ourselves! Arigatou gozaimasu, Ms P, for a lovely evening!

Cilantro Solution

Just a quickie post, spurred on by me just unpacking my groceries. I buy a bunch of cilantro every week, sometimes too for use primarily in guacamole, salsa, salmon burgers and curries. I find it deteriorates very rapidly when left in the fridge unpackaged, even in the crisper. In fact, I find the crisper drawer makes it worse. I have 4 methods of storage that I have found work best:
1) store bunch in an airtight tupperware container
2) store bunch in a ziplock bag
3)chop cilantro when you buy it and store in tupperware container (this works well when you don't have a spare container large enough to hold the bunch and stems). Also saves time when cooking as it is already chopped!
4) put bunch in a glass of water and store in the fridge. This option comes with a warning! Do not get any of the cilantro water on your hands! After a couple of days, if you have not refreshed the water, it may get slimy and while the leaves at the top are fine, the stem bases are not. The smell is so foul and, of course, does NOT wash off easily. It's as if it permeates all 7 layers of skin immediately. Also when disposing of the water, use your waste disposal unit and lots of lemon and bicarb of soda or your kitchen will smell like your hand (or other body part you managed to splash).

Do you have any tips for storage of food items that spoil easily? Please share!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sizzle, Stir, Serve

I made this quickie stir fry last week with a random assortment of ingredients that were in my fridge and in need of using. Stir frys are a great way to mix the more transient inhabitants of the fridge (fresh meat, veg etc) with the long term residents, who tend to prefer the door of the fridge (condiments and seasonings). The great thing is that usually you can go without a recipe and if it tastes bland, a splash of soy sauce will usually fix it!
A few rules for stir fry that I've picked up:
  • get the wok hot enoughand use an oil with a high smoke point (such as canola) unless you want to be fanning the smoke alarm for the duration.
  • chop all the vegetables a similar size so they cook equally.
  • Have ALL your ingredients prepped and ready to go. From start to end, the cooking process is usually 5-10mins.
Here is the recipe I came up with:

Ginger beef and pepper stirfry
Meat marinade (choose beef, chicken or pork, sliced)
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
marinade 10-60 mins depending on time. I usually put the meat in to marinate and then prep all the veggies.

sliced yellow bell pepper
sliced mushrooms
chopped scallions
hot sauce to taste (optional)
1 tbsp grated ginger
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed

Heat vegetable oil in wok. Drain marinade from meat (set liquid aside). Add meat to pan, it should sizzle. Stir frequently until browned and then remove from pan and set aside.
Add ginger and garlic to pan and stir for 30 seconds, ensuring it doesn't burn.
Add chopped veggies( not scallions) and stir until they soften slightly. Add meat back to wok.
Stir and add reserved marinade.

Add hot sauce at this point if desired.
Remove wok from heat. Serve over rice or noodles and sprinkle on scallions and sesame seeds to serve.

I am a very fast eater so I always use chopsticks for stir frys to slow me down. I should probably try to use them for other meals too...or I could just...slow...down.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My favourite kitchen staples

I frequently mention certain foods/ingredients in my blog and there is nothing more frustrating than reading a recipe and getting excited and then realising you have to trawl the city to find one key ingredient. I try at all times to choose recipes and foods that are simple, whole and easy to get hold of but there are a few things I can assist in pointing you in the right direction for. I will be adding to this posting regularly and getting it more organised.

Where do I find (BLANK) in Halifax
, Nova Scotia?

Silver Hills sprouted grains bread; Sobeys (in the freezer part of the natural foods section), Planet Organic

Nutritional Yeast (nooch): Sobeys, Planet Organic, Superstore, Healthy Selection Shoppe

Hold Crap/Skinny B/Wild Chia cereals: Planet Organic. some Sobeys

Coconut cream (not milk): Healthy Selection Shoppe/ Buy 3, get 10% off

Emergen-C (vitamin and mineral supplement): all of the above mentioned stock these but the best price is at Superstore where it's usually $17-$18 per box. Everywhere else is $20+. I also recently saw these at HomeSense!

Yogi teas: Healthy Selection Shoppe (my fave flavour is Kombucha)

Mary's Crackers : Sobeys, Planet Organic, Superstore (best price is here)

Kitchens of India boxed curry-Sobey's. These are great to have on hand for a quick healthy meal in a rush, or you can use them as a base for a curry that you add veggies and protein too. they have no additives but are a little high in salt so watch out for that. I like the eggplant one and the chickpea one. Neither have dairy in them but some of the other flavours do.

Where are these places?
Sobeys is omnipresent in Halifax. Drive in any direction for 10 mins and you'll find one

Planet Organic Click here for website. Located on Quinpool Road

Healthy Selection Shoppe 1129 Bedford Highway, Halifax

Where do I find (BLANK) in Vancouver, BC?

All of the above mentioned items can be bought at most grocery stores in Vancouver. I will therefore just list the places I used to frequent for my weekly shopping with some tips thrown in for good deals

Save on foods-great selection in their health/natural foods section but usually a little pricier than other stores.

Superstore-has an expanding natural foods section and the prices are great. They have the best deal on the Emergen-c as mentioned above. They also have the best deal on Yogi teas. You can find cartons of coconut cream in the ethnic food aisle and raw virgin coconut in the freezer section. I just find the store layout uber annoying and illogical. But I can get over it.

Whole Foods Yep, I know it's expensive and you end up coming out with 2 grocery bags and a short receipt with triple digits at the bottom. HOWEVER, if you check for the specials, you can get great deals. Usually the Marys Crackers are $5-7 a box in most stores but Whole Foods usually puts them on sale....for HALF price..a few times a year. Worth stocking up. The most I ever see them discounted elsewhere is $1

Apple Farm Market on Lonsdale (across from London Drugs)-small store with a lot packed in. Prices vary, some things are priced well, others not so much. If you want to make guacamole that day, they usually have very ripe avocados for very low prices.

Parkgate Farm Market- This place has been open maybe a year and has got my vote. THe owner has some hardcore connections to produce suppliers and gets THE best prices. Trust me. Go there. They are slowly expanding their range of other foods such as nuts, cereals, breads, snakc foods, honey and chocolate. I always leave smiling and the staff are very friendly.

Queensdale Market (Queens and Lonsdale in North Van-see what they did there?). Suprisingly large store that has lots of nooks and crannies packed with stuff you didn't know you needed. LOTS of selection but a little overwhelming and not the best organised. For those of you with Northvanrec playcards, you get 10% off orders over $50 with your playcard.

Artisan Bake Shoppe, North Van. This is prob by favourite bakery. They offer a range of breads which are wheat free and made fresh daily. They also offer some other yummy treats and make sandwiches to order. Their breads are sold at numerous other stores such as whole foods, Queensdale Market and Parkgate Farm Market. I'm addicted to the spelt bread-get the one with the sesame seeds on top. It's delicious, crunchy and nutty when toasted and makes exceptional croutons.

Thrifty foods (which is part of the Sobey's group)-great selection of foods and a lovely store to browse around. Prices usually a little higher but very good quality produce and deli. They are the cheapest place I have found for Amy's cheese free pizza at $8.99 vs $10.99 or more elsewhere.

The moral of the story....lots of choice in Vancouver...check the flyers, shop around and you can make some great savings. If you only have time to go to one place, I'd choose Queensdale Market-support your local businesses! and get 10% off!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sushi Dreams Do Come True

I've now been in Halifax for 2 weeks (with a 3 days trip to Toronto in there) and have settled well in to the kitchen. I've eaten almost 100% of my meals at home but today after making some big decisions with regard to my career, I decided I was very deserving of lunch out...and that meant one thing....sushi!
THere is a sushi place close to home here but it's average in quality, serving size, menu range and it's a little overpriced but then all East coast sushi seems overpriced compared to Vancouver.
I took a little drive in the car and headed for the first sushi place I saw, Sakura Sushi House on Bedford Highway. This was probably about a 7-8km drive. Slight contrast to Vancouver where half the sushi restaurants in the world can be found within in the same distance, and all will be full. I had high hopes as always, but prepared myself for overpriced, standard sushi fare. I chose a house salad with ginger dressing, tuna tataki and 3 pcs of salmon sashimi. The restaurant was nicely busy, always a good sign and the menu was extensive although I have yet to find one of my fave dishes, Gomae (steamed spinach with sesame sauce) anywhere in existence out East. Not quite sure why, hence me ordering the salad in place of my usual green hit. The salad came out first and looked great. Not your average house salad. There was a huge pile of the fresh ginger dressing which was more like grated ginger and orange and fairly thick. No oil or vinegar that I could discern. The dressing was clearly freshly made and tasted as such. I was uber-hungry but I'm trying not to inhale my food as much so I took my time. Don't give me credit for having will power though. Chopsticks.
'nuff said.By the time the salad was finished, my sashimi had arrived. The salmon looked very fresh and they were big thick pieces. Some of my West coast sushi joints served very small portions of sashimi for a moderate price. This portion was definitely worthy of the $6 price tag. I polished off 2 pcs and then my tataki arrive. Tataki is very lightly seared tuna that is 99% raw except for the outer .001 mm. Usually it is served plain with a ponzu dipping sauce. This version had a salsa of tomato, avocado and jalapeno on top and was dotted with teeny tiny black and red masago (fish roe-Zey pop like zee bubblezzz in your mouth). Most places serve the standard orange masago so the presentation here really "popped".
I took a pic on my phone and immediately posted to Facebook, a new tool I have since I finally entered the world of data plans. And then it was gone.
I am so happy to have found a quality sushi restaurant to support my addiction... I mean appreciation of raw fish. My goal now is to recreate the ginger orange salad dressing in the comfort of my own food processor.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Breakfast of Bubbles and Blueberries

1 week in and I'm back in my foodie/cooking/blogging groove. Happiness!
So far since I arrived here last Monday, I've made every morsel that has passed my lips.
Breakfast is my now staple "Holy Crap" cereal plus blueberries and almond milk. What is "Holy Crap!?" I hear you all say? Well, anyone from Vancouver will probably have heard of it or eaten it but for the rest of my global readers, I will enlighten you. It is a breakfast cereal/dietary supplement that is made of chia seeds, hemp seeds and buckwheat. Thus it is extremely high in fibre...hence the name. The amount needed per day is 2 tablespoons so a little goes a long way. It can be sprinkled on yogurt or added to cereal if you prefer. I just let it sit in the milk for a few minutes and then inhale it before I leave the house. A good start to the day! I haven't yet found a supplier here for it but it's easy enough to make myself, and probably more cost effective too.

I supplement my breakfast with a drink (it's more like a shot) made from an Emergen-C sachet. These are basically vitamin and mineral sachets that dissolve in water and become effervescent. I like the taste and am very bad at taking tablet form vitamins so this works for me. I used to just mix with tap water but then PB suggested mixing it with sparkling water (we like Pellegrino and usually have a few bottles in the fridge at any given time). ULTIMATE EFFERVESENCE! Hard to go back to the regular tap water now. Thanks PB for taking my daily vitamin needs to the High Maintenance category.

Lunch has been leftovers from the night before as I have been at work so it's a quick refuel usually. See below for details!

Dinners so far:

  • Thai prawn curry
  • Sesame salmon with steamed zuchinni, broccoli and asparagus with sesame/soy drizzle
  • Mexican chicken and black bean hash
  • Salmon sashimi salad
  • Cheese-free Amy's pizza(store bought) with my addition of parma ham and Nooch(nutritional yeast).

For anyone who is lactose intolerant and can't eat/find/like soy cheese, the nooch is just sprinkled on and will give a cheesy taste to the pizza, sort of like using parmesan cheese. The bonus is that it's low in calories and fat and high in protein. Nooch is available in most supermarkets now, or failing that, health food stores should carry it.

Tonight's meal will be lemon chicken thighs with more of the steamed veggies. Or maybe I will roast them this time. Decisions Decisions!