Category Archives: Seafood

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. ūüôā¬† 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 Рpurchase 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

 

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Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp Skewers

Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp Skewers (pictured with Southwestern Pasta Salad)

Grilled Chili Lime Shrimp Skewers (pictured with Southwestern Pasta Salad)

The other night we enjoyed Southwestern Pasta Salad alongside simple Chili Lime Grilled Shrimp Skewers. Nothing says you have to cook the shrimp on skewers – you could just throw them in a grill pan, but there’s something appealing about the presentation of skewers. This recipe is super easy; I feel like it’s not even really a recipe, but my guests loved the shrimp skewers and told me I had to blog it. Since I wasn’t planning on blogging this dish, I didn’t take photos during the cooking process. One important thing to keep in mind when you are using any type of marinade with seafood is that the acid in the marinade will start to “cook” the seafood. For this reason, it’s important not to marinate the seafood too long. I only marinated the shrimp for about 20 minutes which seemed like the perfect amount. I love the flavor of lime with chili, and since I was pairing the shrimp with the southwestern style pasta salad, I thought the chili lime was the perfect flavor. Having said that, you could easily substitute lemon for lime in this marinade. You could also use your favorite Cajun seasoning rub or even Old Bay seasoning – just keep in mind that both contain a fair amount of salt. Also, if you’re using wooden skewers, remember to soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before using so they don’t catch on fire. One final tip – you can buy cleaned tail-on raw shrimp (frozen work just fine) – this is a huge time saver. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 28-32 Medium Raw Shrimp (cleaned, tail-on) – (use fewer shrimp if using large or jumbo size shrimp)
  • 2 TBS. Canola Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Fresh Lime Juice
  • 1-2 TBS. Mild Chili Powder (substitute your favorite chili powder or “Rub”
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Soak bamboo skewers in water. Heat a grill to high. In the meantime, combine lime juice and chili powder (or rub) in a glass or non-reactive bowl. Add shrimp to marinade and allow to marinate for 10-20 minutes. Skewer shrimp (6-7 per skewer) and lightly season with salt and pepper. Reserve remaining marinade. Place skewers on grill (over direct heat) and cook for about a minute until just starting to brown on one side. Pour a little of the remaining marinade over the skewers – this will cause the flames to leap up and add good grill marks. Flip the skewers and repeat the cooking process until the other side of the shrimp are nicely grilled and cooked through. Optional: garnish with chopped cilantro and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

 

Lobster Cornbread Pot Pie

Individual pot pieI am posting this recipe in honor of my friend who loves to vacation in Maine. I was actually suppose to accompany her on her trip this week, but, unfortunately, I have too much going on at home. As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous lobster posts, when I lived on the Seascoast of New Hampshire, live lobster was often cheaper than chicken, so I cooked and enjoyed a lot of lobster. One might wonder how a person could tire of just plain steamed lobster with a side of drawn butter – which is, in many ways, perfection. Well, it happens, and I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different ways to use lobster. Having cooked a lot of lobster, I’ve also become pretty proficient at removing all of the precious meat from the lobster. I have to admit, however, that the process can be time consuming, so it is not often that I will take the time to extract the meat from those tiny little lobster legs, but I do make sure to remove the meat from the body – there are always good chunks of meat where the little legs connect to the body. I’ve also learned the value of boiling the lobster bodies (carcasses) to make a lobster stock – this is great for lobster bisque, stew, or a variety of other recipes. The stock freezes well, so if you’re cooking lobster, it’s worth the extra step of making stock for a future use. I submitted this recipe for a cornbread contest; I didn’t win, but the contest served as a great impetus/inspiration to come up with a good recipe using cornbread. This dish freezes and reheats very well. As you can imagine, a recipe for a contest involves several trials, so many of the “trials” made it into the freezer. You can alter the vegetable ingredients to suit your particular tastes, but the veggies that I used seemed to be a great combination and complimented both the lobster and the cornbread flavors. (Serves 8)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6-8 Cups of Lobster meat (requires about 6-8 1.25-1.50 lb. lobsters)- roughly chopped
  • 2 Russet Potatoes -peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 4 cups)
  • 1.5 Cups Corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 6 oz. (about 2 cups) Mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 Cup Green Peas (frozen- thawed)
  • 1 Cup Carrots – 1/4 inch slices or small cubes
  • 1 Sweet Onion – finely chopped
  • 3/4 Cup Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 5 Cups Lobster or Seafood Stock (See recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 Sticks (12 TBS) Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley – finely chopped
  • 2 tsp. Old Bay (or other brand) Seafood Seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. Pepper
  • 2 Packages of Cornbread Mix (plus ingredients required to prepare)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 375 Degrees.  In a medium/large saucepan, heat stock and set to simmer. Add 8-10 cups of water to a large stockpot and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until al dente (firm to the bite) Рabout 4-5 minutes depending on the size of your cubes. Add carrots to pot and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water, until completely cooled, to stop the cooking process. In the stockpot, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium low heat until translucent; add mushrooms (if using) and saute until soft. Add the flour and cook for another 5-6 minutes Рstirring constantly. Add the hot stock to the pot and simmer (stirring frequently) over low for another 1-2 minutes until sauce is thick. Thickened sauce with mushroomsAdd seafood seasoning, pepper and heavy cream. Add cooked lobster meat, Chop lobster meatall vegetables, and parsley. Add peas, corn, lobster, potatoes, mushroomsSpoon mixture into a 10x13x2 baking dish (I used a cast iron skillet for a rustic presentation) Рor use several smaller baking dishes, large ramekins, or small cast iron pans to make individual pot pies- leaving at least 3/4 inch free for the topping. Set the baking dish on a sheet pan or large piece of aluminum foil (to catch any filling that bubbles over) and bake for 15 minutes. In the meantime, prepare the cornbread dough according to the instructions (including allowing to rest for a few minutes). Remove the baking dish(es) from the oven and spoon the prepared cornbread dough mixture over the baking dish(es) in an even layer.Cover with cornbread batter Return the baking dish(es) to the oven and cook until the cornbread is completely baked (use a toothpick to test for doneness) and golden brown Рthis time will vary depending on the brand of cornbread and the thickness of your layer (10-30 minutes). Remove from oven and allow to set for at least 10 minutes.Cooked in an individual cast iron pan

lobster cornbread pot pie 2

For the Lobster Stock:

  • 6-8 Lobster Bodies (meat removed)
  • 2 Carrots (or 10-12 baby carrots)
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • 1/2 Medium Sweet Onion (leave skin on for color)
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (smashed to release flavor)
  • 2 Sprigs Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. Whole Peppercorns
  • 1 TBS. Salt

Remove the grey feathery stuff on the outer side of the lobster bodies and the lobster “face” (portion of head with eyes and mouth). Add lobster bodies and all other ingredients to a large stockpot, cover with water (at least by 2 inches) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 90 minutes. Taste and add more salt or cook longer for additional flavor. Strain the stock (remove large pieces with a slotted spoon). Strain lobster stockTaste again and for flavor and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Roasted Crab Legs

Roasted Crab Legs RusticI love to serve a rustic boiled seafood dinner. My former almost sister-in-law gave me the inspiration… just cover the table with craft paper (I found some cute table paper that has a fancy silverware pattern) and put out a huge bowl of seafood – everyone just stands around, eats, and leaves a mess that gets rolled up and tossed in the trash. Crab legs are often requested for birthday dinners in our house, but I like to buy them when they’re on special because it’s just hard to pass them up. Recently, I decided to try to mimic the spicy crab that I had when visiting Singapore. In looking for recipes on-line, I was distracted (shocking, I know) by a couple of posts about roasted crab legs. Essentially, all of the crab legs that you can buy are pre-cooked, steaming or boiling them is simply a method for heating them. In this preparation, you heat them in the oven, but most importantly, you first smother them in butter and seasoning. Butter and crab legs are almost inseparable. I used Old Bay seasoning, minced garlic (fresh), and a fancy salt mix that I had. You can really use any combination of seasonings that you enjoy. This is a great method if you’re not making a huge batch of crab because an oven preheats much faster than a huge pot of water. This crab feast was only for three of us, so it doesn’t look so impressive, but it sure was tasty! Also, the snow crab legs were on sale (as opposed to the Alaskan King Crab Legs), so they are the ones I featured – they are very sweet, tender, and delicious. (Serves 2-3).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 Lbs. Crab Legs (Snow, King, or Dungeness)- cooked (thawed, if frozen)
  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 4 TBS. Old Bay Seasoning (or other seafood seasoning)
  • 4 Cloves Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 Medium to Large Shallot – finely chopped
  • 3 TBS. Fresh Parsley – chopped
  • 2 TBS. Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • 1 TBS. Red Pepper Chili Flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 500 Degrees. In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil. Add garlic, shallot, and herbs; saute for 2-3 minutes until garlic and shallot are softened and fragrant. Add Old Bay, red pepper flakes (if using) and lemon juice. Simmer over medium heat until lemon juice is reduced by 1/2. Place crab legs in an oven proof roasting dish – pour sauce over crab and toss until crab is well coated. Crab legs in roasting panPlate in oven and roast until heated through (10-15 minutes depending on size of crablegs). Serve immediately. Hint: make extra butter sauce to reserve for dipping if you are feeling particularly indulgent.

 

Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari close-upSometimes I decide that I should really learn how to make something that I typically order in a restaurant. The problem is that these menu items are typically not the healthiest choices. Fried calamari is a prime example. I consider myself a bit of a calamari snob when it comes to the fried delicacy. I’ve had some of the best and some of the worst versions of fried calamari, and plenty in between. My blog followers know that I have a deep fryer and am not afraid to use it. Frying, however, can be intimidating and a bit of a hassle. For the calamari, I decided not to break out the deep fryer and just worked out of a pot of oil on the stove.Of course, maintaining oil temperature is key in frying, so you’ll want to make sure that you have reliable thermometer. As for my recipe, I figured no one has ever complained about my fried chicken or chicken tenders, so I would use the same basic recipe with a few minor adjustments. I did soak the calamari rings in buttermilk, but only for 40-60 minutes rather than overnight as I would for chicken. I also added a healthy bit of Old Bay Seasoning to my breading mixture because it just has that flavor that I associate with seafood. I like well breaded calamari (if I’m going to splurge and have fried food, why not go all out?), so I did not shake off the excess breading mixture before adding to the fryer – this is optional depending on your breading preference. I served the calamari with a traditional arabiata (spicy) red sauce with some added parmesan, but it would be great with cocktail sauce or a simple lemon garlic aioli. It is important to serve the calamari immediately after it comes out of the fryer – it has a tendency to become rubbery if you try to keep it warm in the oven.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lb. Calamari (fresh or frozen thawed) – Rings and Tentacles
  • 2 Cups Buttermilk
  • 2 Eggs – beaten with 1 TBS. water
  • 2 Cups Flour
  • 2 TBS. Corn Starch
  • 2-3 TBS. Old Bay (or other seafood seasoning)
  • Canola or Vegetable Oil (amount varies depending on size of pot – enough to cover bottom 3 inches of pot)
  • Fresh Lemon Wedges
  • Dipping Sauce (either marinara, arabiata, cocktail, or aioli)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Pour buttermilk into a large non-reactive bowl. Add calamari, and allow to soak a minimum of 30 minutes, but up to 4 hours. Calamari rings and tentaclesCombine flour, cornstarch, and seasoning in a medium sized bowl. Place beaten eggs in a small bowl. In the meantime, heat the oil to 350 Degrees. Remove calamari from buttermilk, dunk in egg mixture, and then dredge in flour mixture. Coat with flour mixtureShake off excess flour (unless you like a lot of breading) and set breaded calamari on a wire cooling rack. Repeat process until all of the calamari is breaded. Working in batches (do not overcrowd the pot or you will not be able to maintain a consistent oil temperature), fry the calamari for 3-4 minutes until breading is golden brown. Avoid overcooking the calamari or it will be rubbery. Use a slotted spoon or strainer to remove the calamari from the oil, set on a wire cooling rack covered in paper towel to allow any excess oil to drain off. Repeat frying process for remainder of breaded calamari. Serve with lemon wedges and dipping sauce of your choice.Fried Calamari

Lobster Risotto

Lobster Bacon RisottoI recently entered a lobster recipe in a contest (recipe to be revealed later), and so I’ve been on a lobster kick lately. I can usually find live lobsters at my local Asian grocery store and they tend to be about $1.00-$2.00 less per pound than they are at my local grocery store. I remember back to when I lived in New England and lobsters were cheaper per pound than boneless chicken breasts; needless to say, we ate a lot of lobster. Lobster is such a delight that it’s well worth the occasional splurge. This is a risotto dish that I serve as an entree – it’s rich and filling and deserves to be the star of the meal, not a side dish. As with most risotto recipes; it’s very simple, and you can easily alter it to include other seasonal or on-hand ingredients (corn, bacon, green onions, roasted red peppers), but don’t feel that you have to add anything because simple lobster risotto is perfectly luxurious all on its own. I had some thick cut bacon from my local pork grower, so I did stir in the cooked bacon at the end. The most challenging aspect of this dish is removing the lobster meat; many gourmet grocers sell shelled lobster meat, but I still prefer to cook whole live lobsters and prepare my own stock.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup Fresh Lobster Meat (tail and large claw meat)- roughly chopped
  • 4-6 Cups Lobster or Seafood Stock (can substitute chicken stock)
  • 1 1/2 Cups Arborio Rice
  • 4 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1 TBS. Butter
  • 2 Shallots – finely chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese – grated or shredded
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley – finely chopped (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat stock in a medium saucepan and leave simmering. In a medium stockpot, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until tender. Saute ShallotsAdd rice and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes until rice is well coated and heated. Add riceAdd 2 cups of hot stock and stir constantly until most of the stock has been absorbed. Continue to add stock 1 cup at a time until rice is creamy and al dente. Add stockStir in lobster meat, cheese and any other additional ingredients. Add more stock if risotto seems to dry – it should have a creamy, moist consistency. Serve immediately.

 

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is this Sunday, February 10, 2013 and we celebrate it with full force in our house. This upcoming year will be the Year of the Snake. For those of you who follow my blog, you may have read that my children are convinced I am really Asian, but the truth is that my Asian tendencies come from having traveled extensively throughout Asia and teaching primarily Asian students. Chinese New Year celebrations are festive and fun, and you may find that once you embrace the traditions, you will continue to do so years to come. I don’t have pictures for the food that I served last year (I started the blog last February and wasn’t in the habit of photographing my food), but I will outline some of the traditions and provide recipes for the traditional foods that I serve. Although I love homemade dumplings (and it is tradition that the family gather to make the dumplings on New Year’s Eve), I typically buy frozen dumplings – they are great and I can get a variety of types that way. I also usually buy the desert as well.

I will start with some of the traditions that are not food related and try to include the reasoning behind the traditions.

  • Clean your house thoroughly before Chinese New Year – this will help to clean out the Old Year.
  • Open all doors and windows at midnight on the start of Chinese New Year (New Year’s Eve) – this allows the Old Year to escape and the New Year to come in.
  • Pay all bills and debts (when possible) and clear up any grievances you may have with others – if you begin the New Year with outstanding bills, you will have them all year.
  • Wear red and/or gold or bright orange on Chinese New Year; avoid wearing white. Red represents happiness and good luck, gold and orange represent prosperity, while white represents death.
  • Wear a new outfit or piece of clothing on Chinese New Year to insure that you will not be wearing the same old clothes all year long.
  • Avoid the number 4 on Chinese New Year (the pronunciation of the word “Four” in Chinese is similar to the pronunciation of the word “Die” in Chinese.
  • The number 8 is lucky because the word “eight” sounds similar to the word “fortune” in Chinese.
  • Do NOT wash or cut your hair on Chinese New Year – you will wash or cut away all of your good luck.
  • Try not to cry, yell, or curse on Chinese New Year – so as not to be crying, yelling, or cursing throughout the whole New Year.
  • Do NOT clean the house or sweep any dirt out of the house on Chinese New Year – you will be sweeping away all of your good luck and fortune.
  • Try to avoid using knives and scissors on Chinese New Year – something about severing good luck.
  • If you visit the homes of others on Chinese New Year, bring them oranges/tangarines/clementines/mandarin oranges – as these are an offering of good luck and prosperity. If you are not expecting visitors, make sure you have your own supply of oranges in the house.
  • Give children red envelopes with a coin, or money – this will insure them good fortune in the new year (the more, the better – kids love that part).

Traditional Chinese New Year Foods (recipes follow):

  • A cooked whole fish – cooking the whole fish ensures that your family will have plenty of food and prosperity in the New Year.
  • Long Noodles (the longer, the better) – noodles represent longevity (long life); remember when eating noodles not to cut or break them (with either a knife or your teeth) or you will be cutting short your life. This is why many Asians “slurp” their noodles.
  • Dumplings- the crescent shape resembles Chinese money, so they represent wealth and prosperity.
  • Spring/Summer/Egg Rolls symbolize wealth because they resemble gold or silver bullions (bulk gold or silver).
  • Vegetables represent purification.
  • Duck (Peking is traditional) represents fidelity.
  • Pork represents strength.
  • Pumpkin represents prosperity, abundance, illustrious children, and it draws earth’s energy to manifest gold.
  • Whole chicken (served with head facing diners) represents wholeness, prosperity and abundance.
  • Prawns (shrimp) represent liveliness and happiness.
  • Rice represents fertility, wealth, and the link between heaven and earth.
  • Eggs (tea eggs are traditional) represent fertility (avoid them if you don’t want more children).
  • Layered cakes – the sweetness represents a rich, sweet life and the layers represent rising abundance for the upcoming year.

Fruit Cakes or Sticky Rice Cakes- these are traditionally fed to the Kitchen God so that he will report good things about your family when he returns to heaven before the New Year. Another tradition suggests wiping his mouth with a bit of the sticky cake to “seal his lips” so that he may not report any negative things about your family.

More information about Chinese New Year Symbolic Foods .

Chinese New Year Menu and Recipes:

  • Assorted Steamed Dumplings (Dim Sum)
  • Egg Drop Soup
  • Asian Style Steamed Clams or Mussells
  • Spring Rolls
  • Steamed Whole Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves
  • Beef with Broccoli
  • Pork Fried Rice
  • Shrimp Lo Mein
  • Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Shitake Mushrooms

Dumplings (Potstickers):

Pork Filling
1 lb. Ground Pork
4 Large Napa Cabbage Leaves – minced
3 Stalks Green Onions – minced
7 Shitake Mushrooms – minced (if dried ‚Äď rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 Cup Bamboo Shoots – minced
1/4 Cup Ginger Root – minced
3 TBS. Soy Sauce
2 TBS. Sesame Oil
2 TBS. Corn starch

OR

Shrimp Filling
1/2 lb. Raw Shrimp – peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb. Ground Pork
3 Stalks Green Onions – minced
1/4 Cup Ginger Root – minced
1 Cup Water Chestnuts -minced
1 tsp. Salt
3 TBS. Sesame Oil
2 TBS. Corn starch

Both

Use gyoza wrappers (circular) or wonton wrappers cut into circles for the wrappers.

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Make dumplings.

To Boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To Steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of Napa cabbage leaves in a bamboo steamer basket and steam for about 6 minutes. You can also use a vegetable steamer pot lined with cabbage leaves, or grease the pot well.

To Pan Fry (potstickers)*: Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve. If using frozen dumplings, allow to thaw before frying.

To Freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in a freezer bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

Dipping Sauce
2 Parts Soy sauce
1 Part Vinegar (red wine or black)
A Few Drops of Sesame Oil
Chili Garlic Paste (optional)
Minced Ginger (optional)
Minced Garlic (optional)
Minced Green Onion (optional)
Sugar (optional)

Egg Drop Soup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 -2 green onions, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • A few drops of sesame oil (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

In a wok or saucepan, bring the 4 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add the white pepper and salt, and the sesame oil if using. Cook for about another minute.
Very slowly pour in the eggs in a steady stream. To make shreds, stir the egg rapidly in a clockwise direction for one minute. To make thin streams or ribbons, gently stir the eggs in a clockwise direction until they form.
Garnish with green onion and serve.

*Egg Drop Soup is frequently thickened with cornstarch in restaurants. To add a cornstarch thickener, mix 2 – 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. Just before adding the beaten egg, stir in the cornstarch/water mixture, remove the soup from the heat, and then add the beaten egg.

Tips for making Egg Drop Soup:

  • Lightly beat the egg so that no bubbles form
  • Turn off the heat the minute you begin pouring in the egg (this produces silkier threads)
  • Pour the egg in a very slow stream (pouring it through the tines of a fork from several inches above the pot is a good way to keep the stream slow and steady)
  • Begin stirring as soon as you start pouring in the egg
  • To make shreds or threads, stir rapidly for at least 1 minute
  • Stir the beaten egg in one direction only

Asian Style Steamed Mussels or Clams

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 cup Dry White Wine (or Rice Wine)
  • 1 TBS. Fish Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Lime Zest
  • 2-3 lbs. Mussels or Clams
  • 1 TBS. Peanut Oil
  • 1 TBS. Fresh Ginger -grated
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – crushe
  • 3 Fresh Red Thai Chilis- seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 Cups Cilantro- loosely packed
  • 2 Stalks Lemon Grass – bruised with a mallet (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat wine in a small saucepan until hot. Add sauce and rind, remove from heat and stand, covered, about 20 minutes. Meanwhile scrub mussels and pull away the beards- and check to make sure clams or mussels are alive (discard any with broken shells or any opened – for mussels tap opened ones to make sure they move or try to close). Heat oil in large saucepan, add ginger, garlic, chilli and lemon grass. Cook, stirring until fragrant. Add wine mixture, 1 cup of cilantro, and mussels and simmer, covered for about 5 minutes or until mussels open (discard any that do not open). Add remaining cilantro. Spoon mussels and broth into large serving bowls or onto a large serving platter.

Whole Fish Steamed in Banana Leaf 

Ingredients:

  • 4 Medium Whole Fish – fully cleaned and prepped (allow about 1/3 fish per person) Suggested fish: red snapper, black sea bass or pomfret (they are smaller, so you’ll need about 1/2 fish per person)
  • 2 banana leaves (OR 2 sheets tin foil if steaming the fish) – for more on banana leaf, see below
  • 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  • 1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon or Lime Juice
  • SAUCE FOR FISH:
  • 2 Green (spring) Onions- sliced (including the green stem)
  • 1/2 to 1 Fresh Red Chili-seeds and membrane removed – finely chopped
  • 3 Kaffir Lime Leaves (cut out the hard central stem and only include the soft leaf)- can substitute Lemon Grass – be sure to bruise it with a mallet to release flavor.
  • 3-4 Cloves Garlic -minced
  • 1 TBS. Lemon or Lime Juice
  • 2 TBS. Fish Sauce
  • 1/2¬† Cup Fresh Basil Leaves (Thai basil if available)-loosely-packed
  • 4 TBS. Coconut Oil – OR walnut, almond, olive, or other healthy, good-tasting oil
  • optional: 1 tsp. Butter (this makes the sauce richer-tasting)
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • TO GARNISH:
  • Lemon/Lime Slices
  • Sprinkling of Fresh Basil (other toppings: spring onions cut thinly lengthwise, and fresh-cut chili)

INSTRUCTIONS:

For more on how to buy and cook with banana leaf, see: Cooking with Banana Leaf – Tips and Practical Advice.

Combine all ingredients for the sauce in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Rinse the fish under cold water and inspect for any remaining scales or entails – remove any you find. Place fish in a shallow baking dish and cover with sauce (including on the inside of the fish) – place in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for 20-60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove fish from refrigerator and pour remaining sauce into a bowl. Lay one banana leaf on a clean work surface – top with a fish and spoon some sauce marinade over the surface. Fold one long side of the banana leaf over the fish and then fold the two sides over (trim the sides if too long). Holding the folded sides in place “roll” the fish onto the remaining long side of banana leaf – this should sufficiently cover the fish. If you like, you can use kitchen twine to tie up the “packet,” but I don’t usually find that necessary. Place the banana leaf “packet” seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat process until all fish have been wrapped. Add a little extra sauce and some water to the bottom of the baking dish (about 1/2 inch). Place in the oven and cook for 20-35 minutes depending on size and thickness of fish. Remove from oven and check for doneness – the flesh of the fish should be opaque and flaky and should easily pull away from the bones, but still be very moist. Transfer fish to a serving platter and garnish.

Spicy Orange Beef with Broccoli

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2¬† tsp.¬† Salt
  • 1¬† Clove Garlic -minced
  • 1/2¬† tsp.¬† Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1¬† lb.¬† Boneless Sirloin Steak -cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2¬† tsp.¬† Grated Orange Rind
  • 1/4¬† Cup¬† Orange Juice
  • 1¬† TBS.¬† Cornstarch
  • 2¬† TBS.¬† Low-sodium Soy Sauce
  • 1¬† tsp.¬† Sesame Oil
  • 3/4¬† Cup Green Onions – 1 inch slices

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine garlic, pepper, and beef, tossing well. Combine rind, juice, cornstarch, and soy sauce, stirring with a whisk. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture and onions; sauté 2 minutes. Add juice mixture; cook 2 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Add broccoli and continue cooking until broccoli is just tender. Serve beef mixture over rice.

Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy and Shitake Mushrooms

See the recipe for Stir Fried Baby Bok Choy with Sesame Sprouts and eliminate sesame sprouts and add shitake mushrooms (cut in half) for last 3-4 minutes of stir frying.

Pork Fried Rice

The following looks to be a good recipe for pork fried rice – I have made fried rice so many times that I just kind of “wing it” and have never bothered to write down the recipe, but this one looks similar to how I would make it. The trick is to use leftover cold/dry rice. If you are going to be making rice especially for this dish, spread your cooked rice in a single layer on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and place in the refrigerator. This will allow your rice to dry out and chill which is what makes for good frying – rice with too much moisture will be sticky and clumpy when fried. http://www.dinneralovestory.com/quick-and-easy-pork-fried-rice/

Shrimp Lo Mein

Similar to fried rice, lo mein is just something I usually throw together. I might add a dash of oyster sauce or some garlic chili sauce if I want a touch of spice. You can use a variety of vegetables, including red pepper, peapods, broccoli, and baby bok choy. My staples are shredded cabbage (not very much – use the extra from your steamed dumplings), carrots, peapods, and green onions. As noted in the blogged recipe below – try to find lo mein noodles. They will be in the refrigerated section of your Asian market. If you can’t find fresh lo mein noodles, use a thinner pasta like Angel Hair or Thin Spaghetti. Many recipes call for linguine – I think that is just too thick for lo mein. http://smells-like-home.com/2012/06/take-out-fake-out-shrimp-lo-mein/

I hope you enjoy Chinese New Year and that it brings you good luck, prosperity, longevity, and good fortune all around. Gong She Fa Chai!

More of my Asian Recipes:

Chicken Ramen Noodle Soup Asian Style Barbequed Chicken Wings
Braised Chicken Thighs in Teriyaki Sauce
Asian Style Chicken Skewers
Chicken Stir Fry
Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Sushi, Sashimi, Miso Soup and Edamame

Sushi, Sashimi, Edamame, and Miso Soup

Sushi, Sashimi, Miso Soup, and Edamame

Everyone in my family loves sushi, mostly California rolls, but I’m getting them to branch out. I love fresh sashimi, and my waisteline can spare the extra rice. Everyone also loves miso soup, which literally takes 5 minutes to make, and I always keep all of the ingredients on hand (all but the miso paste and tofu are kept in the cupboard). So, on a week night when I don’t have time to cook, and don’t want to order out, this is a great fast meal. While I love to make homemade sushi and rolls, they are very time consuming. I have an amazing Japanese grocery store/Sushi Bar nearby, but I’m also lucky to have a local grocery store that carries an excellent selection of sushi, rolls, and sashimi. I always keep edamame in the freezer (it’s a great healthy snack alternative), so I can literally throw this dinner together in a matter of minutes. I usually start by soaking the wakame for the miso soup and cutting the tofu. I also start boiling two pots of water – one for the edamame and one for the miso soup. Whie I’m waiting for the water, I plate the sushi and/or sashimi (depending on whose plate it is). When the pots of water are boiling, I prepare the edamame (according to the directions on the package – but you really just boil it for a few minutes until it’s hot all the way through), and the miso soup. Drain the edamame and season generously with Kosher salt, and add to the plate with the sushi. Pour miso soup into bowls (I like to put the bowls on the sushi plate), and you’re done.

For the Miso Soup:

  • 4 Cups Water
  • 1.5 tsp. Instant Dashi (Handashi) – available at Japanese/Asian markets
  • 1/2 Cup Miso Paste (light)
  • 1-2 TBS. Dried Seaweed (Wakame is traditional)
  • 1/2 Cup Cubed Tofu (I prefer firm)
  • 2 TBS. Green Onions – chopped

Place dried seaweed in a bowl and cover with warm water to rehydrate. In a medium stockpot, bring water to a boil.  Add instant dashi and stir until all of the granules are dissolved. Add miso paste and stir until paste is dissolved and incorporated. Add remaining ingredients and serve.

 

 

Crawfish Cakes with Spicy Remoulade

I apologize that I don’t have any pictures of the finished product; as is always the case when I host, I hate to take time away to take pictures (particularly when it’s important that the food be served hot).This recipe is basically a remix of my crabcake recipe. It’s a tradition in our household to eat soul food on New Year’s Day for good luck in the new year, so I figured crawfish cakes were more soul foodish than regular crab cakes. They were definitely well received by all of the guests.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb. Crawfish Tails – chopped and patted dry*
  • 2 TBS. Red Pepper – finely chopped
  • 1 TBS. Red Onion – finely chopped
  • 2¬†TBS. Celery – finely chopped
  • 1 Clove Garlic – finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 Cups Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 1 Bay leaf – crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Allspice
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Onion Powder
  • 1/8 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper

My local gourmet grocery store carries shelled, crawfish tail meat¬†– I paid $11.99 for a 1 lb. bag, but the time/effort savings is worth the cost. If your local grocer doesn’t carry crawfish tail meat, find a seafood/fish monger.

FOR THE REMOULADE:

Combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1 TBS. finely chopped red pepper, 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1/8 tsp. garlic powder, 1/8 tsp. onion powder, 1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes, 1/8 tsp. Kosher salt, and 1/8 tsp. fresh ground pepper.  As an alternative: combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise with your favorite Cajun spice mix.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine crawfish meat, peppers, onions, celery, garlic, egg, mayonnaise, spices and 1/2 of the panko bread crumbs.Through Janusar 038

Through Janusar 042 Mix until all ingredients are incorporated. Mixture should be moist, but dry enough to form into cakes – add more panko bread crumbs if mixture is too moist. Form mixture into golf ball sized balls (10-12) and flatten into disks about 3/4 inches high. In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Pour remaining panko bread crumbs into a medium bowl and coat both sides of crawfish cakes with additional panko. Add crawfish cakes to pan and cook until browned (about 4-5 minutes), flip and cook on the other side until browned. Transfer cakes to a plate lined with paper towel and allow to drain. Serve warm* with roumalade.

Can easily be made in advance and re-heated in the oven.

Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp

Pan Seared Scallops and Shrimp with Blood Orange Risotto

This is one of the easiest, simplest dishes to prepare – it literally takes minutes. I always keep frozen scallops and shrimp (Trader Joe’s has excellent frozen seafood) on hand, but if you have fresh available, even better. The trick to pan searing is to not use too much liquid and to start with a hot pan. It’s also important to dry the seafood before searing – I just use a paper towel. If you want a little spice, you can add red pepper flakes when you begin sauteeing the garlic. You can also add some freshly grated ginger, or substitute lime juice for the orange. I served this with blood orange risotto – which wasn’t my favorite, so I won’t be including that recipe. It’s great with any type of rice or risotto, or over a bed of field greens. You can adjust your shrimp and scallop quantity based on the size of your seafood and how many people you are serving; I usually plan for 4-5 scallops and shrimp per person.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Lb. Medium (16-20 shrimp per pound) Peeled and Deveined (uncooked)
  • 16-18 Large Sea Scallops
  • 1-2 TBS. Olive Oil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic – minced
  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice
  • Salt and Pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Thoroughly dry the shrimp and scallops and season generously, on both sides, with salt and pepper. Add enough olive oil to just coat the bottom of a saute pan, add garlic and saute over medium heat until garlic just starts to brown. Turn heat to high. When pan is hot, add scallops and cook until well browned on one side. Add the shrimp to the pan, and flip the scallops. Flip the shrimp when browned on one side (only about a minute or so). Flip the scallops when browned on the other side. At this point you should have some good browned bits in the pan. Add about 1/2 of the orange juice and mix it around to deglaze the pan. Allow it to bubble and reduce – add more orange juice and allow to reduce if you want more of a sauce.