Friday, August 3, 2012

A Lesson in Sushi

Sushi is one of the culinary worlds most exciting items. It is beautiful in artistry as well as craftmanship, exciting with flavors that delight all the senses. Sushi is healthy for both the mind and body, all of this is combined with a history that spans centuries.
Modern day Sushi is an exercise in patience for the consumer. It can be served with meat, seafood or vegetables in hundreds of combinations. All of the ingredients can be cooked or can be served raw. The list below will give you some idea of the more common Sushi terms...

Sushi gives us some of the most beautiful presentations!
Sushi, is a term which describes a cooked rice that has been flavored with vinegar and served cold

Maki, a long roll covered in seaweed, filled with rice and other ingredients. Made by using a bamboo mat and then sliced into thin or thick pieces.

Futomaki, thick slices of Maki Sushi

Hosomaki, thin slices of Maki Sushi

Nigiri, hand formed sushi which is typically served with fish or other seafood on top of a finger shaped bed of rice

Temaki, hand rolled Sushi inside of a cone shaped piece of Nori

Donbiri, seafood or meat along with vegetables served over rice inside of a bowl

Sashimi Platter with soy dipping sauce and
Sashimi, a term meaning 'raw' and used to describe the fish or seafood that is served on plates or platters with various dipping sauces

California Roll, a non-traditional Maki where it's made in an inside-out style with the rice on the outside. The Nori is combined with avocado, cucumber and crabmeat in the middle

Nori, the word for the seaweed wrap used in making Maki Sushi

With the list of possible ingredients for Sushi being so vast, the health benefits are also just as long. Fish and seafood is highly nutritious and low in calories. Vitamin B12 is essential for building and maintaining healthy cells and iodine helps support the thyroid gland. All of this amounts to a big boost in health for your body. When you look at two of the biggest components of Sushi, Tuna and Salmon, you gain the benefit of adding a pair of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are helpful in the prevention of heart disease and stroke. Rice, one of the main foods for more than half the world is a good source of protein and carbohydrates. Digested slowly it will release energy on a gradual basis and it has the added benefit of being gluten free, so it can be eaten by people who can't eat wheat based products. Ginger and Wasabi are a pair of seasonings rich in antibacterial properties, rich in Vitamin C while aiding the body's defense against the common cold and flu. People who need gluten free products should ask about gluten free Soy Sauce when ordering Sushi, many restaurants now carry a gluten free product to better take care of guests. For use at home, most supermarkets carry Tamari which is a gluten free Soy Sauce.

Ingredients and flavors are what make Sushi so popular. Take a look at this small group of common items on a Sushi menu...

Wasabi shaped into a leaf along with Gari and a
Parsley garnish
Shake, the term used for Salmon

Maguro, the term used for White Tuna

Hamaci, the term for Yellowfin Tuna

Tai, the word used for snapper

Saba, the term used for Mackerel

Hotate, the word used for Scallop

Ebi, the term for Shrimp

Wasabi, spicy and aromatic Japanese plant which is served as a paste alongside of the sushi to be used in small amounts. Sometimes called Japanese Mustard or Horseradish

Gari, pickled ginger slices with a delicate pink color. While not used in the Sushi itself, the Gari is served as a palate cleanser between bites or plates

The rice used in making sushi is different then normal household varieties people are used to. Always choose a short or medium grain rice. Some people will have automatic rice cookers at home and if so then always use the device, simply put it will cook the rice correctly everytime. If you are making rice on the stove follow this simple recipe and instructions.

Sushi Rice

3 Cups Rice, uncooked short grain
3 1/4 Cups Water

Sushi Vinegar

8 Tbs Rice Vinegar
4 Tbs Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt

Stir the sugar and salt into the vinegar until sugar is completely dissolved

Place the rice in bowl and fill the bowl with cold water, mix gently with your hands. Drain and then repeat the process 2 to 3 times or until the water being poured over the rice becomes clear. Leave the rice under cold running water for 2 minutes longer. Allow the rice to drain for 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the rice and measured water into the sauce pan and let it stand for an additional 30 minutes. Bring the rice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat immediately and cover. Allow to simmer until all the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let it stand with the lid on to complete the cooking process, which is an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Spread the rice out in a flat bottomed non-metallic container.Using a spatula or wooden spoon slice through the rice to remove clumps. While slicing into the rice, turning gently, pour in the vingar mix. Turn rice occasionally for about 5 to 8 minutes. Allowing it to cool will add flavor and texture. To avoid drying out the rice while preparing Sushi, cover with a damp cloth.

To make Sushi at home, you need a few things to get started with. Most department stores or specialty home stores will have the needed equipment and all of it is not overly expensive, plus it is easy to use.

Just a few of the many Sushi
making tools available
Bamboo Rolling Mat, also known as a Makisu. This is a simple rolling mat that is used in making Sushi. It is made of thin strips of bamboo that have been woven together. After it is used, wash it well and allow it to dry thoroughly to avoid any build-up of mold or bacterias.

Mixing Bowls, if you can get non-metal bowls with lids, that would be perfect. A few varying sizes would also help with the preparation of sides, sauces and rice production.

Knives, in order to cut the items as thin as possible when making Sushi you will need a very sharp knife. A long non-serrated blade is fantastic for not only cutting the ingredients, but also for cutting the sushi once it is rolled.

Cutting Board, this should be at least double the size of your bamboo mat. It allows a work surface for chopping and slicing as well as a level surface for rolling the Sushi.

Rice-Cooling Tub, also known as a Hangiri. This tub, typically made of cypress wood has low sides and is designed specifically to cool Sushi rice.

So now that we know the terms that are used for Sushi, know a few of the ingredients for making Sushi and finally the tools's time to get our Makisu out and have some fun!! Which is going to have to wait until the next entry of the Sushi series coming out early next week. When I started this article I was unsure of just how big it was going to turn out. Rather than trying to force it all into one reading, I decided to break it down over a pair. Enjoy what I have so far and get ready for next week when we get to rolling!!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Time to Get Your Rub On...and Your Paste as Well

Summer grilling has always been a fun time for me and I am a huge fan of marinating a piece of meat, chicken or seafood. Giving it an extra charge of flavor that just makes my whole mouth water thinking of that finished product, placed on a plate and waiting for me to stick a fork into it. This summer though, I started to explore the world of Dry Marinades, Rubs and Pastes. These blends of spices and herbs have brought out new ideas and flavors that before I have never really given much thought to. I was always a marinade kind of Chef.

So let's take a look at what a Dry Marinade or Rub actually is. A blend of spices and herbs are the key ingredients to a rub. Herbs can be added while dried and spices should be ground fresh. A small coffee grinder is an excellent and cost efficient way of being able to grind spices. You can go out and grab an old fashioned mortar and pestle if you prefer. When using a grinder remember that it is not necessary to grind down to a fine powder. Often times the heat of the motor will cause the oils to come out and ruin the blend, changing the flavor or turning it into a paste. Another rule to live by would be this: 'a little goes a long way'. A quarter of a cup can cover an entire side of ribs. The good part in knowing the strength of your rub, is that you can add as much as you want depending on the flavor. Spicy might be just what you want, if so then load up that pork loin or steak and have a good time!! When you are looking for spices, try to find a market that sells them in bulk. This way you can see, smell and sometimes taste before buying. A stale spice will have a medicinal scent or taste which will alert you to how fresh it really is. Whole Foods Market is an excellent place to shop for spices and will even help grind it for you as well. You also don't have to worry about spending an excessive amount of money...because like I said before, a little goes a long way!

Now a Paste is different then a rub. Pastes can be made with spices along with the addition of fresh herbs, onions, garlic, wine, oils and even juices from certain fruits. Pastes contain moisture and have a shorter shelf life then a rub. All the ingredients can be combined in the same manner. Bring them together in a blender and then apply to the item you plan on cooking. Rubs and Pastes can be used on beef, chicken, seafood or vegetables. Be prepared to use what you make without having leftovers. Have fun and don't be scared to try out flavors that normally wouldn't work together...I make a Pan Seared Duck Breast With Cinnamon Sugar that is simply amazing. Although it may not seem like a good combination, it in fact tastes great. Here are a pair of rubs and pastes that will help get you going.

Rosemary Rub

4 Tbs Fresh Rosemary
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tbs Fresh Black Peppercorn
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1 tsp Dry Mustard Powder
1 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder

Combine all of the ingredients into a spice mill or blender. Blend until coarsely chopped and mixed. Use the rub to cover Quartered Chickens, Chicken Legs or even Fresh Swordfish

Cinnamon-Chili Rub

2 Tbs Ground Ancho Chili Powder
2 Tbs Mexican Chili Powder
1 Tbs Ground Cinnamon
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Dried Oregano
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Dried Chipotle Pepper
2 Tbs Ground Dried Orange Peel

Combine all ingredients into a spice mill and grind into a coarse powder. This is another great idea for chicken on the bone. Seared and left to do a slow cook on the outside edges of a grill.

Charmoula or Moroccan Pesto

This particular rub/paste has many different variations. The addition of the Olive Oil and Lemon Juice are what make it such a nice paste. Try it on chicken breast or shrimp.

1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
1/2 Cup Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1 1/2 Tbs Ground Cinnamon
1 Tbs Ground Ginger
1 Tbs Paprika
1 tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Ground Thyme
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp Dried Orange Peel
3 Tbs Olive Oil
4 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice

Combine all of the ingredients into a food processor or blender. Puree until mixture turns into a smooth paste.

Coming up for the end of the week, Sushi along with tips for making some at home!! I will also be showcasing the menu for the first ever Kitchen Time radio appearance, at WMFO 91.5 FM...Join host Danny Martignetti and the crew of The Lounge on August 23rd from 8-10pm. We will be chatting about food while Danny plays some great music. As always, please feel free to contact me with any questions You can also look for Kitchen Time on Facebook.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lets Get Those Grills Heated Up!!

Here in New England, it seems like everyone has a grill and many of us actually grill all year long. In fact, I personally have a great time grilling right after one of those big ol' Noreasters we get here in MA...The idea of having people shoveling snow and raising their heads to smell some marinated steak tips, chicken or even burgers and dogs...makes me chuckle a little on the inside. Grills are more then a heat and eat kind of item though, they are tools that can turn food into complete masterpieces! All it takes is a little planning, some seasoning, a few good bbq utensils, a healthy appetite and a platterful of soon-to-be great food!

Before I even start with recipes and ideas for grilling, let's get something straight right away...I use a gas grill and have for many years. A grilling 'purist' will almost always use a charcoal based grill. Some say it has better heat while others say it has better flavor. Having used both, the convenience and ease of a gas grill wins me over every time. I have learned to grill over the space of many years, trying out a few new ideas here and there along with some new flavors. At times it has not worked out so well, case in point, the day my grill went up in flames...literally, up in flames. The sausages, which were grilling nicely only moments before became lava rocks before my eyes. Flip that around though and you get some amazing stories of food that had everyone on the back deck at home staring and eating without making a noise. Applewood Bacon Scallops or the Garlic Butter Top Loin Steaks always come to mind as success stories. Here are some tips and tools for getting the job done the next time you are in the mood to fire up some good eats!!

If you plan on doing any type of grilling, get some good quality grill tools. I have seen many people try and use everyday kitchen items while cooking over open flames. That plastic spatula that is great at making scrambled eggs isn't going to work real well when trying to flip burgers! Start with the basics and you can do almost anything. A good long handled steel spatula for starters, followed by a pair of tongs and a good wire brush. The tongs should be long handled so you can carefully turn items like vegetables, salmon or steak tips. A wire brush will help keep the grates on any grill surface clean. The grates on the grill can be cleaned at any time, but it is easiest when heated. Grill masters also recommend that you oil the grates after each use and cleaning. This can be done with some regular cooking oil, brushed on with a papertowel.

What good though is having some useful grilling tips if you dont have any new or fresh ideas? That's where I come in...see I love to grill and in fact, would prefer to grill year round and never use the stove!! While that is not really a feasible and logical is lots of fun.

Try this one on for a summer afternoon...

Korean Barbecued Beef with Grilled Baby Leeks and Ginger Dipping Sauce

I came across this recipe during a thunderstorm and it drew me in. Mostly because of the fact that it is different. The short ribs used for the recipe are actually cut crosswise, leaving almost bite-sized chunks of the beef around a 1/4 inch thick. In order to find these ribs though, you will have to ask your butcher or store meat cutter to help on the cut. Most places will have no problem helping out, espicially when you tell them what you are going to be doing. The sauce is easy to make and the baby leeks are available at most supermarkets. If you have trouble finding them, use full sized leeks which are trimmed down to a managable size. Cut the tops down and trim the bottom ends.

3 to 4 pounds, Short Ribs cut crosswise
1/2 Cup Peanut Oil
1/4 Cup Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sesame Seed
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 Green Onions, Chopped
3 Tbs Chopped Garlic
2 tsp Chili Paste
1 1/2 Tbs Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
3 Bunches Leeks, rinsed and trimmed. Cut lengthwise and coat with olive oil for grilling.

Ginger Dipping Sauce

1 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar
2 Tbs Fresh Cilantro, Chopped
2 tsp Fresh Ground Ginger

Place the short ribs into a non-aluminum pan. In a bowl, combine all marinade ingredients and pour over the ribs. Allow it to sit for 2 hours at room temperature or allow them to marinate overnight. Turn the ribs 3 or 4 times if you allow them to sit overnight. Do not leave the ribs out longer then 2 hours at room temperature, place them into the refrigerator. If you use a gas grill, fire it up to a medium/high temperature. Wait until the grates are just turning hot and add the leeks. Allow them to char slightly, about 3 minutes on each side. All grills are different, so please keep an eye on them. Now that the grill is good and hot, place the marinated ribs around the center of the grates. The ribs should be good at 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Transfer the meat and leeks onto a large platter. Combine the sauce ingredients together and serve along with the meat in small bowls or dipping ramekins.

Spice Crusted Pork Tenderloins

Cooking this nice piece of meat on the grill is actually pretty easy. Sear this over a high heat until it is golden brown and then slide it over to the cooler side of the grill, along the edges. Make sure to turn it occasionally for the final 10 to 12 minutes.

3  12 to 14 oz Pork Tenderloins
1  tsp Salt, or to taste
1  tsp Pepper, or to taste
3  Tbs Olive Oil
2  Tbs Chopped Garlic
3  Tbs Fennel Seed
3  Tbs Ground Cumin
1  Tbs Ground Cinnamon
1  Tbs Brown Sugar

Sprinkle the tenderloins with salt and pepper. In a small bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, fennel, cumin, cinnamon and sugar. Mix well and then coat the tenderloins generously. Grill over the center of a hot fire, turning once or twice for about 5 minutes. Follow the directions from above to finish the tenderloins. Check for doneness by cutting itno the thickest part of the tenderloin, it should be just a slight pink in the center. Remove the pork from the grill and allow it to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

It has been a fantastic summer so far and I want to say thanks to everyone who has been following me on this incredible journey called Kitchen Time. I am always trying to learn new things, present those same ideas and make myself a better Chef. After taking a couple of weeks off to concentrate on my duties as a husband and father, it is back to the computer for some overdue writing. Coming up over the next several days...I promise to update everyone on my diet with some more healthy living tips, work some magic as we talk about dry rubs and marinades and the week is going to finish off with an amazing piece on Sushi!!

Thanks again and don't forget to check out the Kitchen Time Facebook page