Friday, January 27, 2012

Sushi Maki (Classic sushi rolls)

Sushi Maki with avocado filling
Sushi is decidedly the most fave in our family. Whenever we have to decide on dining out, Pankaj and the kids unanimously vote for Sushi. Several years ago when we came to North America I was a little hesitant to try sushi. The idea of eating raw seafood did not sit well with me. Since childhood I had been exposed to 'the cooked to the third degree' Indian food. Pankaj tried it first and then after a long time I braved my way into a sushi bar, only when he convinced me I can handle it. Our kids take after their father and the three of them just adore all varieties of sushi.
This is my first attempt at making these at home. I haven't researched a lot on sushi but I decided to try the simplest version first. It turned out quite well I must say. Everyone was delighted and the girls deemed me the best cook in the world :)

Classic sushi rolls
I think I can do better next time. I filled a bit too much rice and too little avocado. Handling sticky rice is an experience on its own, specially if you can handle them only with moist hands over nori which has to be handled with dry hands. So if you attempt making sushi at home make sure you equip yourself with a bowl of water and a hand towel at close range. Also I sliced thinner rolls than what you see in restaurants, to make it easier for my little one to handle.You can use any filling you desire. Some popular ones are cucumber, salmon, tuna, egg, fish eggs. Here is what you will need.

Avocado Sushi Maki
Ingredients: Makes about 60
2 cups Sushi rice
Nori (sheets of dried seaweed)
2 avocados sliced
Sushi rolling mat
Gari (thinly sliced ginger pickled in sugar and vinegar)
Soya sauce
Wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
  • Prepare sushi rice according to package directions. Make sure its cool. 
  • Before you start rolling sushi have rice, sliced avocado, bowl of water, hand towel and a sharp knife at close range on your working area. 

1. Start with the sushi mat.

2. Lay the nori sheet on it with its rough side up.
3. Spread rice leaving an inch on both ends
4. Place your fish slice along with veges on one end.
5. Using the closer end of the mat, start rolling and close on the filling with the nori and rice, making a rectangular shaped tight hill. With a moist knife cut inch thick slices carefully.
6. Serve with wasabi, soya sauce and gari.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fish in ginger-garlic sauce with bokchoy

Tonight's Menu
Fish in ginger-garlic sauce
Sautéed Bok Choy
Steamed Rice or Rice Noodles
Wine Pairing: Plum wine, Sake

If you like Mandarin style Chinese food then this is a fare you will love. The simplicity of the dishes and the combination of flavours just delights the palette. Makes you feel good about consuming so many veggies. My kids just love Bok choy. It has crunchy stalks which have a crisp, subtle peppery flavour. It is a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium besides being low in calories. Doesn't require too much cooking either. Many varieties of bok choy are available in the stores, I usually get the baby bok choy since its easier to handle. Use a firm white fish for this recipe, catfish, snapper or halibut

Fish in ginger-garlic sauce
4 firm white fish fillets
salt to taste
1/4 cup cornstarch
oil for frying
2 tsp peanut or sesame oil
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
chilli garlic sauce to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water
2-3 green onions chopped
celery and carrots (optional)
  1. Season the fish fillets with salt and dredge them with corn starch. Heat oil in a pan and fry the fillets until they are crisp and slightly browned. Oil should be hot enough to cook all the way through but not so hot as to burn the fish. Drain them on paper towel and keep aside.
  2. Take a tsp oil in a wok and sauté the celery and carrots to tender crisp state. Keep aside.
  3. Prepare the ginger-garlic sauce. Take peanut oil in the wok and add ginger-garlic paste. Stir fry for a minute. Add Vinegar, chilli sauce and sugar and mix well. 
  4. Add stock and cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil. Add green onions and stir until sauce thickens.
  5. Put sautéed veges and fried fish on to a serving platter and spoon the ginger garlic sauce over them. Serve hot. 

Sautéed Bok Choy
2 lbs baby Bok Choy
1 tsp grated garlic 
2 tsp sesame oil
salt to taste
  1. Wash the bok choy well and pat dry. You can separate the leaves and use them whole for this dish or roughly cut them into long strips (specially important if using regular bok choy).
  2. Take a large wok and heat sesame oil. Add garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Add the greens and salt and mix well. 
  3. Continue cooking on high as the greens will release water. Stir fry on high for about 2 minutes and serve immediately over steamed rice or rice noodles.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Vietnamese rice paper rolls

Rice paper rolls with dipping sauce
Vietnamese rice paper rolls are almost as well known as pho among the Vietnamese cuisine faves. It is a spring roll made of rice paper and filled with salad, shrimp and noodles. It is super bland and super healthy. The dipping sauce or Nước chấm served alongside has all the flavor. It is a blend of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and garlic with Thai red chillies. These are great starters and can be made ahead of time and kept covered with damp cloth till serving.
If you have never used rice paper before you might find it a bit tricky at first. They are stiff round sheets which are softened by hydrating in warm water. The key is to not overfill the roll and leave enough space for folding and to work quick once paper is wet.

The internals of the rolls

Ingredients for rolls:
Rice paper
Warm water in a wide mouthed bowl
Julienned carrots and cucumber
Bean sprouts
Fresh coriander
Fresh basil
Cooked Shrimp
Cooked rice noodles (Optional, I didn't use any)
  1. Prepare all the internals and keep them ready before rolling. 
  2. Dip the rice paper in water and take it out at once. If it remains in the water for too long it will go limp and collapse and stick with it self. 
  3. Take out the damp rice paper and lay it on a flat surface. It will take a few minute for it to become pliable enough to roll. 
  4. Horizontally place the filling on the bottom half of the paper. Fold the bottom half and go fully over the filling to secure it. Now fold the two sides in and finally close the roll. This is the classic folding just like a burrito. 
  5. You can also fold it open ended style. Place the ingredients vertically in the center and fold the bottom flap first. Now roll it from left to right and here you have it. 
  6. As you make the rolls place them in between damp cloth to keep them fresh and moist and prevent them from sticking. 
  7. Don't get discouraged if you mess up a few. You will get a hang of it soon and all the mess ups are yours to eat.

Nước chấm
Ingredients: (Makes ¾ cup)
3-4 tablespoons lime/lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup water
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1 or 2 red Thai chilli, finely minced
  1. Combine all the ingredients together. 
  2. There should be a good balance of tartness and sweetness. So taste and adjust the flavor. 
  3. Let the sauce sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Italian Wedding soup


Italian Wedding Soup with spinach and barley
Winter is definitely soup season and here is one of the heartiest. My kids call it the meatball soup. A complete meal on its own, this dish consists of chicken broth with some greens (spinach, endive, kale, etc.), meatballs and some form of grain (mostly in restaurants you will see orzo pasta or pastina). Very quick to make and gives tonnes of satisfaction. I used lean minced chicken for the meatballs, spinach as my greens and barley instead of pasta. If you have never tried barley, you are in for a treat. It is slightly nutty with a lot of body and chewy pasta-like consistency. Extremely high in dietary fiber and selenium, it is one of those wonder foods which is not very widely used yet is very good for you. I highly recommend this recipe for this season. Try it out once and you will be hooked.
Ingredients: (serves 6)
For the chicken meatballs

1 lb lean ground chicken
2 tbsp bread crumbs
1 tsp minced garlic
1 egg lightly beaten
handful fresh coriander chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese(optional)

For the soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1 large carrot diced
2 celery stalks chopped
8-10 cups chicken stock
3/4 cup pearl barley
10 ounces fresh spinach washed and roughly chopped
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs and drop one inch meatballs onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 20-30 minutes till cooked thru and slightly browned.
  4. While the meatballs are cooking heat oil in a large stock pot and saute onion, garlic, carrots and celery for 5 minutes till soft.
  5. Add the stock and bring to boil. Add barley and simmer for 15-20 minutes. The barley is just about done at this point. If you are using pasta, cook according to package directions. You might need less stock with pasta as cooking time will be almost half.
  6. Add spinach and meatballs and cook on high for 5-6 minutes till spinach wilts and meatballs take on the flavor.
  7. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve with fresh rolls.

Italian Wedding Soup serve with fresh rolls