Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sushi and Sushi Rolls

A Variety of Rolls

A Variety of  Sushi Rolls

Ahi Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Gian Clam

Ahi Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Gian Clam

We love sushi and enjoy if often. Believe it or not, our local grocery store has great fresh sushi available, and we have a few good sushi restaurants in the area. Our favorite sushi restaurant is in the back of a tiny Japanese grocery store called Noble Fish. If you go at lunch, the sushi bar is packed. In the grocery area they carry all of the ingredients needed to prepare sushi at home; it is the only place I would purchase fish (sushi grade) to serve raw. Of course if you just want to make vegetable rolls, California rolls, or even Philadelphia rolls, you can get all of those ingredients at a regular grocery store. Most large chain grocery stores now have a specialty.ethnic food section which has most of the necessary ingredients. I used to make my own sushi rice seasoning (it’s not hard, but it can be hard to find the kombu seaweed), but it’s just one more step in the process and you can buy great quality sushi rice seasoning in a bottle. I’m not going to lie, preparing sushi at home is a labor of love – there’s a ton of cutting (somewhat precision) and the rolling takes some practice, but I promise you, that if you love sushi, you will love sushi you have prepared – it just doesn’t get any fresher! I am often asked to bring a sushi platter to gatherings (the ex-boyfriend’s family loved it), and everyone always raves about how good it is! This past weekend I hosted a small group for a sushi making dinner party – nothing like being invited over to make your own dinner. 🙂  If you love sushi, you’ll know what ingredients you’ll need; there are some pretty consistent cast of characters like cucumber, and avocado, but feel free to mix in other vegetables (especially if you want to make veggie rolls). I prepped the rice and the veggies and fish before people arrived and then just set everything out on platters. I basically do the same thing if we’re making it just for ourselves. For the party I provided Ahi tuna, mahi mahi, giant clam, and smoked salmon and, of course, fake crabmeat. I also made some spicy mayo and put out cream cheese (not traditional, but good for Philly rolls). I cut up cucumbers, avocado, scallions, and carrots. Look on-line if you need suggestions; we’ve done all sorts of crazy combinations – that’s the fun of making it yourself. You will also need a bamboo sushi rolling mat and some plastic wrap, as well as a really sharp knife. If you’ve never rolled sushi before, it’s probably best to watch a video or pay close attention to the sushi chef next time you go to a sushi bar (they make it look effortless). Here’s a good video that shows how to make an inside out California roll: http://allrecipes.com/video/297/making-california-rolls/detail.aspx  You can modify to make other rolls. One thing I do differently from the video is that I only use a half a sheet of Nori because I like smaller rolls.  I also use the entire mat to help roll, not just the saran wrap as shown in the video. Maybe one of these days I’ll just make my own video.  For the non-rolled sushi – you essentially just place a piece of cut fish on pad of rice that has a little bit of wasabi paste on it. You can purchase a little plastic box type utensil that helpssushi rice shaper you form the rice pads – I love this little gadget. When it comes to wasabi, I prefer to prepare my fresh, using dried wasabi powder mixed with water. You can, however, purchase wasabi paste; most grocery stores carry that, but you may have to go to a Japanese or Asian market for the powder. I’ve listed ingredients for California Rolls, Philadelphia Rolls, and Spicy Tuna Rolls (can make regular tuna rolls by omitting the spicy mayo). Again, once you get the basic idea of rolls down, you can experiment with whatever ingredients and combinations appeal to you. The rolls listed below are all inside out rolls which means that the rice is on the outside of the roll. This is NOT traditional – it is traditional to have the nori on the outside. If you want to make the traditional style rolls, skip the step of flipping over the nori sheet on the bamboo mat. If you like fish roe, you can make inside out rolls and then roll the finished rolls in fish roe to get a nice layer on the outside. Again, there are a ton of on-line resources, so explore and experiment.

Sushi Rice:

Prepare sushi rice (small grain sticky rice – purchase specific sushi rice if possible) according to manufacturers directions. Standard is 2 Cups of water combined with 1.5 cups of rice. Combine water and rice in a pot, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook covered for 20 minutes. cook the sushi riceRemove from heat and allow to sit covered for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. If you have a rice cooker: cook according to suggestions on rice cooker. Add 1/4 Cup sushi rice seasoning while rice is hot; mix gently with a fork until well combined. season sushi riceAllow rice to cool completely before using for sushi. For homemade sushi rice seasoning: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Sushi-Rice-351070

INSIDE OUT CALIFORNIA ROLLS: (rice on outside)

  • 4 Cups Sushi Rice- Prepared, Seasoned, Cooled
  • 6-10 Imitation Crab Sticks- sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1/2 English Cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 Avocado – peeled, pit removed and cut into thin slices
  • 3-6 Sheets of Nori (Roasted Seaweed) Sheets – I use 1/2 sheet per roll
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (light or black)- optional
  • Prepared Wasabi
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Soy Sauce for dipping

ingredients 2

INSTRUCTIONS:

Lay a piece of Nori on a bamboo sushi mat covered with plastic wrap. Gently press an even layer of rice over nori until completely covered; you’ll want to keep a bowl of water around to rinse your fingers frequently because they will become to sticky from the rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (if using) and flip the rice coated piece of nori over on the mat. About 2/3 of the way down the piece of nori, lay two pieces of imitation crab next to each other so that they reach the outer edges of the nori. If they extend over, trim them to fit. Lay 2 cucumber slices just above the crab slices (again, make sure they reach the edge without going over). Lay a 2-3 slices of avocado over the crab and cucumber. Using the mat, roll the edge of the nori (the edge closest to you) over the other ingredients, pulling the mat backward, continue rolling until the entire nori sheet has been rolled. (Watch the video referenced above, or another on-line video if you have never done this – it’s easier to understand visually). Use a very sharp knife to cut the sushi roll into 6-8 pieces; you will probably find it best to wipe the knife clean in between cuts. Serve with prepared wasabi, sliced pickled ginger, and soy sauce.

INSIDE OUT PHILADELPHIA ROLLS:

  • 4 Cups Sushi Rice- Prepared, Seasoned, Cooled
  • 6 Slices of Smoked Salmon – cut into pieces about 3/4″ wide.
  • Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1/2 English Cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 8-10 Scallion (green parts only) strips
  • 3-6 Sheets of Nori (Roasted Seaweed) Sheets – I use 1/2 sheet per roll
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (light or black)- optional
  • Prepared Wasabi
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Soy Sauce for dipping

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cover nori with rice and sesame seeds and flip on mat as directed for California rolls. Spread about a 1/2 layer of cream cheese across the nori (about 2/3 of the way down the sheet) Lay slices of smoked salmon on top of spread cream cheese and add strips of cucumber and scallions just above the layered salmon. Roll and slice as directed for California rolls.

INSIDE OUT SPICY TUNA ROLLS*:

  • 4 Cups Sushi Rice- Prepared, Seasoned, Cooled
  • 6-10 1/4 inch wide strips of raw Sushi Grade Tuna
  • 1/2 English Cucumber- peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4″ strips
  • 1 Avocado – peeled, pit removed and cut into thin slices
  • 6 TBS. Spicy Mayonnaise* (to make homemade: combine mayonnaise with desired amount of Siracha hot sauce)
  • 3-6 Sheets of Nori (Roasted Seaweed) Sheets – I use 1/2 sheet per roll
  • Roasted Sesame Seeds (light or black)- optional
  • Prepared Wasabi
  • Pickled Ginger
  • Soy Sauce for dipping

* For regular Tuna Rolls – eliminate the spicy mayonnaise.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Cover nori with rice and sesame seeds and flip on mat as directed for California rolls. Spread a thin layer about 1/4 inch wide of spicy mayonnaise across the nori (about 2/3 of the way down the sheet. lay two pieces of tuna strips next to each other so that they reach the outer edges of the nori. If they extend over, trim them to fit. Lay 2 cucumber slices just above the tuna slices (again, make sure they reach the edge without going over). Lay a 2-3 slices of avocado over the tuna and cucumber. Roll and slice as directed for California rolls. Drizzle sliced sushi pieces with additional spicy mayonnaise if desired.

Enjoying some Miso Soup while we Roll

Enjoying some Miso Soup while we Roll

 

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting and Caramel Drizzle

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting and Caramel Drizzle

Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream Frosting and Caramel Drizzle

I recently hosted a Thanksgiving in March dinner. I was given a frozen farm raised turkey from my lamb farmers who had me do a cooking demo at their farm during their open farm day last fall (see pictures below). The turkey was 22 lbs. and occupying precious freezer space, so it had to go…and it went! I had 12 people for dinner and there were not a lot of leftovers. I served the usual suspects which can be viewed on my Thanksgiving post. The only new addition was the pumpkin cake. This will be a new tradition for sure – it was so good!!! I combined a couple of different recipes I found on-line and this is the final result. I wish I had taken a good picture of a slice, but hopefully the two photos of the finished product will convince you to try this cake – I promise you won’t regret it. You will need three 8″ round cake pans, but if you want to do just a double layer cake, you could use two 9″ rounds, but I really like the three layers because it means more layers of frosting! The caramel drizzle is optional, but, in my opinion, a delightful addition.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 Cups Unsalted Butter –softened
  • 1 Cup Dark Brown Sugar- firmly packed
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 Can  Pumpkin Purée
  • 1/2 Cup Buttermilk
  • 1 tsp.  Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp.  Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

FOR THE FROSTING:

  •  1 Pkg.  (8 oz.) Cream Cheese – softened
  • 1 1/4 Cup  Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Tub  (8 oz.) Whipped Topping- thawed
  • Caramel Sauce (store bought or homemade)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease three 8-inch cake pans with softened butter or cooking spray. Cut three 8-inch circles out of parchment paper and fit them into the bottom of the cake pans. Lightly coat the paper circles with butter or cooking spray and set aside. Cream butter until smooth in a large bowl with an electric mixer set on medium speed. Add the sugars and mix until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and light. Set aside. Combine 1 Cup of the pumpkin purée, buttermilk, and vanilla in a medium bowl and set aside. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside. In thirds, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to the butter mixture, blending well after each addition until smooth. Pour batter into the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of each cake comes out clean — 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan on wire racks for 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and return to the wire racks until completely cool. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting: Beat cream cheese in medium bowl with mixer until creamy. Add sugar and remaining pumpkin; mix well. Gently stir in whipped topping. Assemble the cake by placing one layer on a cake plate and top with one-third recipe of Pumpkin Cream-Cheese Frosting. Repeat with the second and third layers. Drizzle caramel sauce over the top of the cake. Serve or store refrigerated for up to four days.

pumpkin cake 2 The Thanksgiving in March table:Thanksgiving in March

Here’s a picture of the cooked turkey:lamb farm pictures 1Here’s a picture of next year’s turkey:lamb photos 2The Big Daddy Ram:lamb photos 3 JPGThe little ewes:lamb photo 4

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Chocolate Mint Brownies

I served these festive Chocolate Mint Brownies: at our St. Patrick’s Day dinner this past Sunday. Although the brownies are perfectly decadent enough on their own,  I just figured if you’re going to go, you might as well go all the way…I turned them into “Luck of the Irish Brownie Sundaes.” Yes, I added to the decadence by topping the brownies with a scoop of ice cream ( a choice of vanilla or mint chip – or, in some cases, both), whipped cream, and an extra drizzling of chocolate sauce.

Luck of the Irish Brownie Sundae

Luck of the Irish Brownie Sundae

The brownies were straight out of the box (Fudge Brownies – any reputable brand) and they are topped with a mint buttercream frosting (green to make them festive) and a layer of melted chocolate. Everyone loved the brownies whether eaten plain or jacked up in a sundae. I’ve included a good chocolate fudge brownie recipe, but I love the convenience of box brownies. Don’t skip the top layer of chocolate – it might sound redundant, but it just adds that extra bit of panache on top of the mint buttercream. If you love dark chocolate, you could use melted dark chocolate on top rather than the semi-sweet. I recommend making a double batch of these brownies – they will go quickly!

INGREDIENTS : (For the Brownies)

  • 10 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 1 1/2 Cups  Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup plus 2 TBS.  Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • Cooking Spray or Parchment Paper

For the Mint Buttercream:

  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter – softened
  • 4 Cups Confectioners Sugar
  • 2-3 TBS. Milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Peppermint Extract
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 4-6 Drops Green Food Coloring (optional)

For the Chocolate Spread:

  • 1 1/2 Cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 7 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

INSTRUCTIONS: (If using box mix brownies, skip instructions for brownies and prepare brownies as directed and allow to cool).

Preheat oven to 325 Degrees. Spray a 9×13 Baking Dish with cooking spray or line with parchment paper – leaving an overhang to lift the baked brownies out of the pan. In the top of a double boiler (you can improvise and make your own by placing a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water – water level should be just below the bottom of the bowl), combine butter, sugar, salt and cocoa powder. Heat (stirring continuously) until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved (it will still be a little grainy). Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit (about 5 minutes) until the mixture is warm, but not hot. Stir in the vanilla, and then the eggs, one at a time. When mixture is well combined, add flour and mix further – about 60 more strokes. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes. cooked brownies Allow to cool.

While brownies are cooling, prepare the frosting. Using an electric mixer, combine butter, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and peppermint. Add milk, 1 TBS. at a time until desired consistency is reached. Add food coloring, if using, a few drops at a time, until desired color is achieved.mint buttercream

When the brownies are fully cooled, spread the frosting evenly over the brownies (uncut, still in pan). Place in the refrigerator and allow to set for about 30 minutes.Frost with mint buttercream Just before removing the brownies from the fridge, prepare the chocolate mixture, Add chocolate chips, butter and vanilla to a microwave safe bowl and heat in the microwave (use melt chocolate setting if available on your microwave)- being sure to stir frequently. Spread chocolate mixture evenly over the frosted brownies. spread chocolatefinished brownies in panAllow chocolate layer to set, then cut brownies and remove from the pan (if using parchment paper – you can remove the whole sheet at once and then cut).

 

 

 

Corned Beef, Cabbage, and Root Vegetables

Traditional Corned Beef Cabbage and Vegetables

Traditional Corned Beef Cabbage and Vegetables

I love St. Patrick’s Day because I love corned beef! I moved to Michigan on St. Patrick’s Day of 2000 – I moved from the Seacoast Region of New Hampshire, so I carried with me live lobsters. That was the only year I can remember not having the traditional corned beef and cabbage boiled dinner on St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve heard conflicting stories about how traditional this meal actually is – I’ve also heard conflicting stories about how Irish I am; so the way I figure, my alleged Irish heritage is as empirical as this dish. I’ve learned over the years that this dish is one of those “love it or leave it” dishes. On several occasions I’ve served this meal expecting elation from my guests, only to instead hear “I’ve never really liked corned beef.” And let’s be honest, the corned beef is the star of the show here – the cabbage, potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc., well, they’re really just boiled vegetables. In such situations, one must be sure to have great bread, and great dessert (see other posts). I know people who prepare this meal in the slow cooker – I’m sure it’s equally good, but I have always cooked it the way mother did (she never had a slow-cooker), boiled on the stove. I serve this with a variety of good mustards and horseradish cream sauce (see below). Use leftover corned beef and potatoes to make corned beef patties and serve as benedict for  breakfast.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5-6 Lb. Corned Beef Brisket (with seasoning packet*)
  • 2 Large Sweet or White Onions – peeled, cut in half
  • 6 Large or -12 small Potatoes – peeled or skin-on(use favorite potatoes – redskins, baby redskins, Yukons, small white, fingerlings) (cut potatoes in 1/2 if using large)
  • 8-10 Large Carrots/Parsnips – or combination (peeled and cut into 1.5″ pieces) (can substitute baby carrots- about 2 cups)
  • 1-2 Heads of Cabbage – core removed and cut into wedges (use toothpicks to secure wedges if desired – I never bother)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Place Corned Beef Brisket, seasonings, and onions in a large stockpot and cover with water (water should cover meat by about 6″). Bring to a boil over medium/high heat. Reduce heat so that water is at a high simmer or gentle boil (you don’t want it to boil over – it’s messy) and cook for 3.5-4 hours. Add remaining vegetables to pot and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes until potatoes and vegetables are tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetable and transfer to a large serving bowl or high rimmed platter. Remove brisket and slice – add to platter and serve immediately.

Horseradish Cream Sauce:

  • 1 Cup Sour Cream or Creme Fraiche
  • 2 TBS. Prepared Horseradish (more if desired)
  • 2 TBS. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp. Lemon Juice
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper – to taste

Mix all ingredients until well combined. It’s best to allow the sauce to sit in refrigerator for at least 2 hours to really develop the flavors. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving so that sauce is close to room temperature.

St. Patrick's Day Table 2013

St. Patrick’s Day Table 2013

 

 

Classic Apple Pie

Classic Apple Pie

Classic Apple Pie

I first made this pie not long after I graduated from college, and I’ve been making it ever since. I really don’t even measure ingredients because the measurements vary based on the apples that I use and the size of the pie dish. For purposes of sharing the recipe, I kept track of my measurements and included them below. Having said that, however, I encourage you to experiment and make it your own. It seems that everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the type of apple pie that they like. Some people like a tart pie, others like a sweet or strong  cinnamon flavored pie. You also have to consider whether you want thicker, firm, more distinguishable slices of apple, or whether you want smaller, softer apple bits. I will say that my favorite apple pie is made with Macintosh apples which, in my opinion, are the perfect combination of sweet and tart, but they are not particularly firm and don’t hold up well in the baking process – to compensate, I increase the amount of flour or use corn starch. As much as I pack in the apples, the Macs cook down so much that the pie always looks a little sunken. This recipe makes a pie that has the more traditional look to it – larger slices of firm apples which remain mounded throughout the baking process. As is typical of when I makes pies – I enlisted Pillsbury for the pie crust. I have included my pie crust recipe for those of you are up for the full experience. for more information about how particular varieties of apples bake in a pie, check out: The Food Lab’s Apple Pie, Part 1: What Are the Best Apples for Pie?

INGREDIENTS:

  • Pie Crust (for top and bottom)- see recipe below
  • 5-6 Cups of Apples- peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-1/2″ slices -( I used a combination of Northern Spy and Granny Smith)
  • 1 TBS. Lemon Juice
  • 2/3 Cup of Sugar (reduce to 1/2 cup if you are using sweeter apples or if you like a tarter pie) plus extra for sprinkling on top
  • 1/8 tsp. Salt
  • 1 1/2 TBS. Cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 1/2 TBS. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 TBS. Milk

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 450 Degrees.  Line a deep dish pie plate with one of the crusts. Add apples to a large bowl – add lemon juice and toss apples (this prevents then from turning brown).  apple pie 3JPGAdd all of the remaining ingredients except the butter and top crust. Mix until apples are evenly coated. Pour the apple mixture into the prepared pie plate. Cut the butter into small pieces and scatter around the top of the apples.apple pie 5 Lay the top crust over the apples in the pie dish. Trim any excess overhanging crust. Go around the edge of the crust and crimp the edges together. Cut at least four vent slits into the top of the crust. Brush the top crust with milk, but do not brush the outer crimped crust (it will darken too much). apple pie2Sprinkle sugar over the top (optional). Place the pie on a baking sheet or piece of aluminum foil (in case of bubble over) and bake at 450 for ten minutes. After ten minutes, reduce heat to 350 Degrees and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or several thick slices of sharp cheddar cheese (my favorite).

Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 Cups All Purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 Sticks ( 1 Cup) Unsalted Butter – well chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 – 1/2 Cup Ice Water

The key to a good flaky crust is to use very cold ingredients and don’t overwork the dough. Add flour, salt and sugar to a food processor and mix until combined. Add butter and pulse for 7-10 seconds until flour mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add water in a steady stream through processor tube, pulsing while adding. Continue pulsing and adding water just until dough holds together. Dough should not be wet or mushy, but must hold together enough to roll out – if it doesn’t hold together to form a ball, slowly add a little more water until it does. Divide dough into two equal parts and form into balls, slightly flatten balls (they will chill faster and be easier to roll out). Cover in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour. Remove 1 dough disc from refrigerator and place on a floured work surface. Flour a rolling pin, and roll dough out to desired thickness or size necessary to fit in pie plate. Repeat process for top crust after filling bottom crust.