Monthly Archives: June 2013

Perfect Picnic Potato-Vegetable Salad

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Fresh, crunch veggies blanched to perfection.  Summer in a bowl.

Fresh, crunch veggies blanched to perfection. Summer in a bowl.

Here is one that is perfect for 4th of July parties.  It is a change on a recipe I got from The Splendid Table.  Lynne Rosetto Kasper, the host of the show, emails out recipes once a week for weekday cooking.  If you don’t subscribe, I highly recommend it.  In last week’s email was the following recipe for “Farmers’ Market Salad with Buttermilk Chive Dressing”.   It was fantastic, but I made a few changes to the salad part of it.  If you omit the eggs, you can bring this to a picnic or BBQ and only have to keep the dressing chilled/out of the sun/omitted to make it a safe salad.  The dressing is perfect as is, so I recommend clicking on the link above and making it. (And it is non-fat!)

Since this version doesn’t have lettuce in it, and you don’t dress the salad until it hits your plate, it is a good one for making after a trip to the farmers’ market or grocery store, you can prep it all and then keep it in the fridge for veggies all week.   It is super healthy and fresh tasting and you’ll be anxious to try up new veggies in it as the season progresses.

You will notice the amounts are not too precise.  It is a salad after all, so adjust things to fit your tastes and what looks good at the market.  I’m thinking as the season progresses, you can just keep adding more veggies to the mix.

1 bunch carrots, washed and cut into 1.5” pieces (I don’t peel little carrots, just wash them well, but do what you prefer)
1 lb sugar snap peas, shucked
1 bunch green beans, trimmed and snapped in half or thirds
½ – 1 pound potatoes, cut into smaller chuck rough the same size as the other veggies
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and cut into small chunks
1 red pepper, cut into smaller pieces
1 pt cherry tomatoes (leave whole)
4 large hard-boiled eggs*

Use scoopy things like this, or thongs, a sieve or anything else that will accomplish the same goal of veggies out of hot water.

Use scoopy things like this, or thongs, a sieve or anything else that will accomplish the same goal of veggies out of hot water.

*To boil eggs, put them in a small pan, cover with 1” cold water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and set aside for 15-17 min.  Remove the eggs from the pan and put into a bowl of ice water to cool them down so they are easier to peel.

Fill a large saucepan with water and a little salt.  Bring to a boil.  Make an ice bath – a bowl mostly full of ice and some water.  Put a clean kitchen towel down next to it.

Boil carrots for 3 min.  Scoop out the carrots with anything heat-safe that will drain the water out.  I have a couple of scoopy things that do this job well.  See picture.  Put the carrots into the ice bath, which stops the carrots from cooking any further so they’ll have a nice crunch still.  When the carrots are cool, take them out of the ice bath and put on the towel to dry.

Meanwhile, bring the water back to a boil.  Repeat this process with the peas (about 1-2 min) and green beans (2-3 min).  Keep adding more ice and cold water as needed and as the veggies are dried out a little, add them to a big salad bowl.

The potatoes should go into boiling water, but then turn down to a vigorous simmer (not a boil, not really a simmer) for 10-15 min, until they are cooked.  Drain them and then put in the ice bath.  I use a colander for the potatoes and then let them dry out a little bit in the colander.

Add in the radishes, peppers and tomatoes into the salad bowl.  Mix carefully.  Add in the potatoes and mix carefully.  Shell the eggs and slice length-wise and decorate the top of the salad.  Serve with Buttermilk-Chive Dressing.

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Bengali Egg Rolls

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Egg roll before it is rolled - parathas, egg, keema and sauce, yum!

Egg roll before it is rolled – parathas, egg, keema and sauce, yum!

This is part 3 in a 3 part series of recipes that go together – parathas, keema and Bengali egg rolls.  They are called egg rolls because they actually have eggs in them, so forget Chinese egg rolls and give these a try. This is one of Arvind’s all-time favorite dishes.  You can tell, he stopped taking picture once they were almost assembled.  It is a snack, but if you make enough of them, they can become a meal.

The filling is extremely flexible and is nearly begging for you to add your own fusion style here.  For this recipe, I’m going with keema (see recipe in meat section), but you can put any leftovers you have in there that is not too liquidy.  The recipe is for 4 egg rolls, but you can see how to easily move it up or down to fit any quantity you want.  Also, prepare to be hooked on parathas, the most wonderful Indian bread ever.  The directions are in excruciating detail, so don’t worry, it sounds like more work than it is.  They are actually super quick once you get everything assembled.

Get all your ingredients laid out ahead of time - it goes quickly

Get all your ingredients laid out ahead of time – it goes quickly

Ingredients
4 eggs
½ of an onion, finely chopped (if you have onions in your meat, you can skip this)
1 c keema, (but see notes below)*
Maggie Hot and Sweet Sauce**
Cilantro for garnish
4 parathas, still frozen***
toothpicks

Notes
*  You just want finely chopped meat (or nice veggie) here for contrasting flavors.  I like keema (here’s a link to the recipe), but you could used chopped up cooked chicken (like leftover from rotisserie chicken), cooked hamburger, leftover Indian dishes that aren’t too saucy, etc.  Or go fusion and come up with something entirely different!

Heat up parathas and then start the first egg when they are almost done

Heat up parathas and then start the first egg when they are almost done

**Maggie Hot and Sweet sauce is sort of an Indian ketchup. Their tagline is “It’s Different!” and it is.  It is also great on scrambled eggs, potatoes, etc.   It has a little heat and is a little sweet
*** For paratha directions, see the blog on how to make parathas (click here).

Directions
Crack eggs into a bowl with a lip (like a measuring cup).  Scramble them.  Set aside.  If you like raw onions, set those aside.  If you don’t, brown the onions and set aside.  Heat up the meat.  Have the Hot and Sweet sauce and cilantro ready to go. (You may want to taste the sauce to make sure you like it before adding it to the food.  Arvind does not like it, I love it.)  Get your toothpicks handy.

Put the cooked paratha on the egg as it cooks

Put the cooked paratha on the egg as it cooks

 

Heat up a paratha according to my previous post.

Meanwhile heat up a second non-stick pan over medium heat.  When the paratha is almost done, put some oil in the second pan and pour in about 1 egg’s worth into the center of the pan and do not touch it.  You’ll see the egg start to set. When that happens, put the cooked paratha on top of it.  Use a spatula to push the paratha down into the egg.  Then use the spatula to get under the egg and paratha in one go and flip it over (they’ll go together).  Then transfer the paratha, egg-up onto a work area.

Take the paratha/egg off the heat and add the filling.  (There is a litte too much egg on this one)

Take the paratha/egg off the heat and add the filling. (There is a litte too much egg on this one)

Top the paratha with meat, onions, sauce and cilantro.  Roll it up and secure it with some toothpicks.   Set that one aside and continue on making the rest of them the same way.  Arvind and I create an assembly line – he makes the parathas.  I do the egg and fill them.  It goes really fast, so that is why you want have everything all ready to go before you start.

The basic thing is paratha and egg with a little something else mixed in.  Have fun experimenting with flavors you like or leftovers you don’t know what to do with.  Think of it like I’m giving you the recipe for burritos.  Sure, this combo is good, but really, you can mix and match up stuff you like.

Post combinations below that you like so other people can enjoy your combinations.

Sushi

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Making sushi at home can seem intimidating, but it is a ton of fun!  It is far, far cheaper than eating it out, but generally is less pretty at home too.  Arvind is not a huge fan and he is traveling, so my friend and co-sushi-chef Nikki came over to make a ton of sushi before watching Game of Thrones.  Sushi is one of those dishes that is more prep than cooking, so make sure you do all your prep work before you start rolling.  Also, I tried to cover a ton of different kinds of sushi in one go, so this is a looooooooong post. Apologies in advance!  You can focus on the ingredients and types you like.  That is the beauty of making sushi at home – you control what you make, so every roll has stuff you love in it.

Sushi for 4: tuna, spicy tuna, eel, salmon, cream cheese and veggies all in various rolls, tuna and eel on the side, served with wasabi, eel sauce and roasted asparagus

Sushi for 4: tuna, spicy tuna, eel, salmon, cream cheese and veggies all in various rolls, tuna and eel on the side, served with wasabi, eel sauce and roasted asparagus

I have covered: making sushi rice, tezu (which is necessary when using sushi rice), prepping ingredients, making spicy tuna and eel sauce, rolling up rolls and making sashimi.   In addition to the ingredients, you will need a sushi mat.  It is a bamboo mat that helps you roll the sushi up.  You can get them from most Asian grocery stores.

Before getting started, let me state – sushi is raw fish so please be careful and follow strict food safety rules.  You don’t want to get sick from your sushi.  Part of being safe is to make sure that the fish you buy is sushi-grade.  Confirm that when you buy your fish.  Oh, and since this is just the internet and I can’t watch you – I take no responsibility for your cooking!

Sushi Rice

This is the backbone to everything you’re going to make.  While you’re at the store picking up your mat, pick up sushi rice.  Other rices won’t cut it because they aren’t sticky enough.  This recipe made exactly the amount of rice you see in the picture above.

While your rice cooks, get all of your other ingredients prepped and put together for easy rolling.  Here we have a bowl of spicy tuna, cream cheese, tuna, avocados, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and smoked salmon.

While your rice cooks, get all of your other ingredients prepped and put together for easy rolling. Here we have a bowl of spicy tuna, cream cheese, tuna, avocados, cucumbers, green onions, carrots and smoked salmon.

Sushi rice
2c sushi rice (some brands are Kokuho, Nishiki or Calrose brand)
2c +2T water

Sushi Seasoning
1/4c rice vinegar
2-1/2 T  sugar
1/2 t salt
(Or 1/3 c premade sushi seasoning)

Wash rice until water is clear.  Drain in colander.  Add water and rice to heavy pot or rice cooker.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and continue steaming for 15 minutes more with the cover on at all times.  Remove from heat.  Spread a clean cloth (a dishtowel works great) over the pot and recover.  Let it sit 15 minutes more.

Mix rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-aluminum pan.  Heat and stir to dissolve sugar.  Cool.  Quickly add seasoned vinegar to the rice.  Mix it using a cutting motion.  Do not smash the kernels.  Keep it at room temperature (don’t refrigerate it).  Cover with the cloth and lid and use within an hour if possible.  The trick is it has to be cool enough to handle, but not too cold or it hardens.

Tezu

This is a very necessary liquid you will need as you make the sushi.  The rice is so sticky that it will stick to your hands.  I usually take out a bowl big enough to comfortably hold both of my hands.  I only fill it up about half way.  There is no exact science to the ratio, but the vinegar is the cutting-the-sticky agent.

½ bowl of water
2 T or so of rice vinegar
Mix together.

Sushi Ingredients

Frozen eel comes pre-cooked and ready to be cut up and microwaved

Frozen eel comes pre-cooked and ready to be cut up and microwaved

Items with at * are available at Asian grocery stores.  The most important thing to keep in mind when buying sushi ingredients is to buy sushi-grade.  No one wants to get sick.  Follow strict food safety rules.

Nori* – seaweed sheets used to make sushi.  You can toast them before using them.  Or not.
Eel*– available already cooked and in their delicious sauce in the freezer section of Asian grocery stores,  thaw in the fridge before using
Block of frozen sushi-grade tuna* –Make sure it is sushi grade!  Thaw in the fridge before using.  Sometimes it comes pre-sliced.

Blocks of frozen tuna come in different sizes and sometimes pre-sliced.  Make sure it is sushi-grade!

Blocks of frozen tuna come in different sizes and sometimes pre-sliced. Make sure it is sushi-grade!

Sushi-grade salmon – I cannot stress the importance of getting this one right.  You’ll have to buy it fresh, so get it from a place you really trust.  I will only go to Coastal Seafood and tell them it is for sushi.  Don’t let them take the skin off – you can fry that up for yumminess.
Various cut up veggies – you want to practice your julienne skills or pull out that julienne do-hicky in your drawer.  Carrots, cucumber, green onions and avocado (slices) are all my favorites
Cream cheese – if you’re into that.
Pickled ginger* – no need to do any prep to this, it comes pre-sliced
Wasabi powder* – just add water, you’ll be surprised at how much stronger it is when you “make” it yourself.
Mirin* – It is a sweet cooking wine critical for making eel sauce

Sushi Recipes

Before you start rolling up your rolls, you might want to whip up these recipes

You can mix and match ingredients to come up with interesting rolls.  Notice the tezu bowl above the rolls is handy for sticky hands.

You can mix and match ingredients to come up with interesting rolls. Notice the tezu bowl above the rolls is handy for sticky hands.

Spicy Tuna
This makes a TON of spicy tuna.  You can use it in rolls and you can add it to a salad the next day for lunch.  If you want to make a smaller amount, just adjust the quantities down, which is super easy since you have to adjust the flavors in this one as you go anyway.

1-1/2 – 2 c yellowfin tuna
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1-2T Sriracha, (to taste)
1-2T toasted sesame seed oil
1-2 cloves garlic minced
1 T soy sauce
Lots roe, optional

Start by cutting up about half of your your tuna. Make it as finely chopped as you can.  If you choose to go with a smaller amount of tuna, do even less than half of what is listed, just be sure to reduce everything else.  Add in about 3 of the green onions, a little of the chili sauce, a splash of the sesame seed oil, some garlic and roe.  Mix it all up well.  If it is bland, add in the rest of the green onion, garlic and more chili sauce to what you like.  The sesame oil can undo a little too much spiciness, but the best defense against that is more tuna.  Just keep tinkering with it until you love it.

Don't forget to cut some eel in strips for rolls

Don’t forget to cut some eel in strips for rolls

Eel
Make sure the eel is thawed before starting.

1 package of eel

Take the eel out of the package.  Cut the eel lengthwise in half, then width-wise about 1-1/2” slices.  Arrange on a microwave plate and microwave for about 2 minutes, until you hear some popping.  Voila, ready to serve.  To use in rolls, slice the pieces even thinner.

Eel Sauce
Yes, that heavenly sauce that has moved from just eel to all sorts of rolls.  Make your own for dunking your rolls in instead of soy sauce.

1 part soy sauce
1 part mirin
Brown sugar, optional

Bring the soy sauce and mirin to a boil, reduce and simmer until it thickens, stirring occasionally.  As it thickens, taste and adjust as necessary.  The mirin makes it sweeter and the soy sauce saltier.  But if it is too far from where you want sweet-wise, add in a pinch of brown sugar.  It should be thick enough to coat a spoon.

Rolling up rolls

And now you’re ready to begin.  The good news is, this is one of those “prep is everything” dishes.  You are all set to get moving.  Hopefully the pictures will help you see what I’m talking about.

Use the mat to roll everything up nice and tightly

Use the mat to roll everything up nice and tightly

Set your bamboo mat so the bamboo runs side-to-side in front of you.  Put a piece of seaweed on it and take a handful of rice.  Spread the rice on as thinly as possible on the seaweed.  You may need to dip your hands in the tezu as you go since it will be sticky.  Make sure it is fairly evenly spread out side to side.  It is ok if it is heavier on the bottom of the sheet than the top.  As you can see, it doesn’t need to be a thick layer, but just try to keep things even side to side.

Now put your roll contents across the bottom of the sheet.  Don’t overfill them!  Then, using your mat, roll the seaweed up, starting at the bottom and rolling to the top.  You may find that you do some, rearrange your mat or adjust the roll and keep going.  Once it is rolled up, slice into bite size pieces and put on a serving platter.  Practice will really help with this.  Expect some not-so-pretty rolls to start with.

If you want the rice on the outside of the roll, put saran wrap around the mat, put the rice down first, then the seaweed on top of that, add in fillings and roll up.  (Personally, I find it too fussy to bother).

Sashimi

Form a rice ball that is almost football (American) shaped.  Set the fish or eel on top of it.  In our picture above, we didn’t bother with that, but did keep the eel and tuna handy for yummy eating on their own.

Drinking note

You can go with the usual sake or beer, but we have found a dirty martini is the perfect pairing with sushi.

In closing

Have fun experimenting with different combinations.  And it is always more fun in a group.  When Nikki and make sushi together, we prep everything together.  She did some time in culinary school, hence nicely sliced veggies.  I took the sushi class, so I make the spicy tuna.  Then form an assembly line.  Nikki comes up with combos, I roll, she cuts and arranges on platters.  Inevitably we make a feast so always good to have a hungry, yet patient group to enjoy the fruits of your labors.