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Archive for the ‘Appetizers’ Category

Making sushi at home is easier than you might think.  You will probably have to make a special trip to the store for ingredients, but Asian markets are usually relatively inexpensive.  Your only splurge is going to be  the sushi-grade fish.  You will also need a bamboo rolling mat if you’re making rolls, which is what we did for this particular dinner.  There is no shortage of how-to videos on YouTube or links to websites with pictures and recipes when you do a search on the Internet.  I have included a few basic tips we’ve learned by making sushi at home, as well as some recipes. *Note:  recipes below were adapted from Sushi, by Lulu Grimes.

* Wrap your bamboo rolling mat in plastic wrap.  This will make it easier to roll, the mat won’t stick to the rice, and you won’t have to spend time picking particles of rice out of your mat either.

* Invest in a mandolin if you don’t already have one.  They are the best when it comes to slicing and shredding with some consistency.  I love how everything comes out so perfect!  You don’t need to spend a fortune on one either.  They can be found at an Asian market or  a Chinatown shop for a fraction of the cost of any mainstream retailer.

* Imitation crab sticks work fine for California rolls.  They’re actually much easier to work with too, for this purpose!  They also freeze well if you don’t use the whole package for your sushi rolls.

* Sriracha is awesome!  We mix it with mayo and a little chili oil for spicy tuna rolls, but you can add it to virtually anything to spice it up.  It’s even good on pizza!

* Only buy from a grocer that sells sushi or sashimi grade fish.  If you’re eating raw fish, you’re always running a risk of getting sick.  However, “sushi or sashimi grade” fish is supposed to have been treated a certain way (i.e. freezing, storage temps, etc.) to destroy parasites.  The fish should be clearly labeled, and often is pre-packaged in smaller quantities.  This is perfect for sushi making, since a little goes a long way.

* 2 cups of uncooked sushi or botan rice yields 4 cups of cooked rice.  This is enough for about 8-10 rolls.

* We haven’t typically followed many recipes verbatim when making sushi.  A lot of the time I’ll just purchase a handful of different vegetables and fish and we’ll just sort of make it up as we go along.  However, I have listed a few basic recipes that are easy for beginners.

California Roll

Sushi rice

Nori sheets

Avocado, cut into thin sticks (ripe)

Crab sticks

Cucumber, cut into thin sticks (I like to use English or seedless cucumbers)

Wasabi paste and pickled ginger for garnish (optional)

Spread a portion of the rice in an even layer on the nori, leaving about ¾ of an inch of nori visible on the ends.  Layer the crab sticks, avocado and cucumber on top of each other, keeping them parallel to the edge of the nori nearest you.

To roll the sushi, fold the mat over, starting at the end where the ingredients are, and tucking in the end of nori to start the roll.  Keep rolling, lifting up the mat as you go and keeping the pressure even but gentle until you have finished the roll.  Moisten the top of edge of the nori with water to seal the sushi roll closed.  Don’t worry if anything falls out the sides, just push it back in.  The edges might look a little ragged, but you can just sample those yourself!  Make sure you slice the roll with a  very sharp knife into even pieces.   Wetting the knife will help too.

Salmon, Asparagus, and Mayonnaise Rolls

Sushi rice

Nori sheets

Asparagus spears, blanched and cut into thin strips

Salmon filet, sushi grade, cut into thin sticks

Japanese mayonnaise

Wasabi paste and pickled ginger for garnish (optional)

Spread a portion of the rice in an even layer on the nori, leaving about ¾ of an inch of nori visible on the ends.  Layer the salmon and asparagus on top of each other, keeping them parallel to the edge of the nori nearest you.  Spread some of the mayonnaise on top of the salmon and asparagus.

To roll the sushi, fold the mat over, starting at the end where the ingredients are, and tucking in the end of nori to start the roll.  Keep rolling, lifting up the mat as you go and keeping the pressure even but gentle until you have finished the roll.  Moisten the top of edge of the nori with water to seal the sushi roll closed.  Don’t worry if anything falls out the sides, just push it back in.  The edges might look a little ragged, but you can just sample those yourself!  Make sure you slice the roll with a  very sharp knife into even pieces.   Wetting the knife will help too.

Spicy Tuna Rolls

Sushi rice

Nori sheets

Tuna, sushi grade, diced

Japanese spicy mayonnaise (recipe below)

Wasabi paste and pickled ginger for garnish (optional)

For the spicy mayo, mix together some Japanese mayonnaise, Sriracha, a dash of rice vinegar, and a dash of chili oil.  You will want to adjust the quantities until have the desired level of heat in your sauce.  Mix the diced tuna with the spicy mayo.

Spread a portion of the rice in an even layer on the nori, leaving about ¾ of an inch of nori visible on the ends.  Spread the tuna mixture in a line, keeping them parallel to the edge of the nori nearest you.  Spread some of the mayonnaise on top of the salmon and asparagus.

To roll the sushi, fold the mat over, starting at the end where the ingredients are, and tucking in the end of nori to start the roll.  Keep rolling, lifting up the mat as you go and keeping the pressure even but gentle until you have finished the roll.  Moisten the top of edge of the nori with water to seal the sushi roll closed.  Don’t worry if anything falls out the sides, just push it back in.  The edges might look a little ragged, but you can just sample those yourself!  Make sure you slice the roll with a  very sharp knife into even pieces.   Wetting the knife will help too.

We served the sushi rolls with some steamed edamame and homemade egg rolls.  But even just the sushi can be a meal in itself!

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This salad is pretty enough to serve for a special occasion, but easy enough to make on a weeknight.  I adapted this salad from Thomas Keller’s “Little Gem Lettuce Salad” from Ad Hoc at Home.  I brought this over to my parents’ house on Christmas Day since I was in charge of the salad.  It seemed to get a good response, and I think it’s delicious!  It is definitely a nice way to incorporate citrus fruits now while they’re in season.

Winter Citrus Salad, serves 6

1 10 ounce container of mixed greens

Seeds from ½ of a pomegranate*

1 ruby-red grapefruit (Texas are the best!)

2 blood oranges

2 clementines

¾ cup walnuts, toasted

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Flat-leaf parsley leaves

Honey Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

Cut off the tops and bottoms from the grapefruit, oranges and clementines.  Stand each one up and use a very sharp knife to cut away the peel and pith in wide strips, working from top to bottom of the fruit.  Separate fruit segments.

Spread the walnuts out on the baking sheet and toast in the oven, turning the pan around after 5 minutes, for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted.  Remove from the oven, transfer the nuts to a plate, sprinkle with salt, and let cool.

Put the lettuce on a large platter and top with fruit segments, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts.  Drizzle with honey vinaigrette.

*Note:  To remove the seeds from a pomegranate, cut the pomegranate in half through the equator.  Hold one half over a bowl and hit the back of the pomegranate to release the seeds.  Add the cold water.  The membranes will float to the top.  Remove any membranes from the water and drain the seeds.

Honey Vinaigrette

½ cup canola oil

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup champagne vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

Combine the canola and olive oil in a measuring cup.  Put the vinegar and honey in a blender or food processor to combine.  With the machine running on low-speed, stream in the oil.  Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 1 month.

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I always feel that New Year’s Day calls for something special to eat, something that you wouldn’t normally indulge in on a normal day.  Growing up, we ALWAYS had shrimp cocktail.  I still love shrimp cocktail, but was feeling like I should try something new.  I was browsing through the seafood section at Whole Foods the other day, looking for inspiration, and came across some fresh crab meat.  Crab cakes!  Done.  Something I’ve never made before, and the perfect occasion.  These actually turned out really nice.  My husband is still raving about them this morning – good thing we have some leftovers to enjoy!

Crab Cakes, makes 12 3-ounce cakes

(adapted from the Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with my food processor)

1 lb lump crab meat

1 garlic clove

1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ cup parsley

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

¼ tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup bread crumbs

½ cup mayonnaise

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ tsp Old Bay seasoning

2 tsp Dijon mustard

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, or a silicon mat.

Drop the garlic into the bowl of a food processor, while running, to chop.  Add the peppers, green onion and parsley and pulse to coarsely chop, about 10 to 12 pulses.

Put the oil into a large skillet placed over medium heat.  Cook chopped vegetables with salt and pepper until soft, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Remove and reserve in a large mixing bowl.

Once vegetables have cooled slightly, add the crab, eggs, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise, Worcestershire, Old Bay, and Dijon.  Mix thoroughly but carefully, so not to break up the crab too much.  Form mixture into 2-inch round cakes.

Place on prepared baking sheet and bake until crabcakes are evenly golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with hot sauce and lemon wedges.

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Last week my husband and I took a Anniversary/Christmas trip to Jackson Hole, WY for three days of skiing.  Each day we tried somewhere different for our apres ski drinks and snacks…but one theme remained consistent at each location – Buffalo nachos.  Buffalo nachos were on every Apres menu we saw, and I am pretty sure that they were on every restaurant’s menu we dined at as well.  So here is my take on what I think was in these nachos.  We enjoyed them – as you will see!

Buffalo (or any type of meat) Nachos

1 lb chopped buffalo meat, ground beef, diced or shredded chicken

1 bag tortilla chips (I prefer El Milagro for nachos)

2 cups shredded cheese, like a Mexican style mix or cheddar-jack mix

1 medium tomato, diced

1/4 cup sliced black olives

1/4 cup sliced jalapeno peppers

1 cup chili, heated

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup guacamole

1/4 cup salsa or pico de gallo

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, brown your choice of meat with salt & pepper.  Break the meat into small pieces while cooking.  Drain off the grease, and set aside. 

Place the chili in a saucepan over medium heat, stir until heated through.

Layer tortilla chips and cheese on a large oven safe platter.   Arrange the meat on top, and cover with more cheese.  Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes, until all the cheese has melted.  Then top with remaining ingredients and enjoy!

These nachos were devoured at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village.  I can’t believe we left one stinking chip on the plate after all that….  These are great for Apres Ski, as an appetizer or even a late night snack!  I really want some nachos now after writing this blog post.  REALLY want some nachos.  Seriously.

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I love Chex Mix.  But I like making it myself better than buying a bag at the store.  Controlling the spice and the ingredients is the best part.  I often toy with the ratios of spices and ingredients.  You can vary the original recipe any way you’d like really!  Add things like sesame sticks, almonds or other nuts, Cherrios, cheese crackers, raisins, dried cranberries, just to name a few.  Plus it smells so good baking in the oven!

Chex Mix

(recipe adapted from the chex.com website)

3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
8 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Heat oven to 250°F. In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside.  Melt butter in microwave safe bowl.  Stir in seasonings. Gradually stir in cereal mixture until evenly coated. Spread on large jelly roll pan or in a large roasting pan. 

Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Spread on paper towels to cool, about 15 minutes. Store in airtight container. Enjoy!

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I love anything with prosciutto.  I happened to have some on hand, andhad this recipe saved in my Epicurious recipe box.  The flavor was a bit salty, but I think I would try it again with a few adjustments.  As some of the reviewers suggest, chopping up the ingredients so it is more of a dip sounds like a good idea.

  • 2 14-ounce cans artichoke hearts, drained, quartered
  • 6 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts (about 2 ounces), toasted
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • Pat quartered artichoke hearts dry with paper towels. Cut each prosciutto slice crosswise in half. Wrap each artichoke heart quarter in halved prosciutto slice. Place wrapped artichoke hearts in single layer in 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Pour cream over. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola, pine nuts, Parmesan, and sage. Bake until gratin is bubbling and sauce thickens, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

    We ate this on it’s own as a side dish with some steaks.  It would actually made a great topping for the steak too!

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    The love affair with bacon continues.  I saw some beautiful fresh figs at the market on Saturday and just bought them figuring that I would find something to do with them.  This recipe is adapted from the book Everything Tastes Better with Bacon by Sara Perry.

    Makes 24

    4 to 6 regular smoked bacon slices

    12 small fresh ripe green or black figs

    About 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

    1/3 cup crumbled mild herbed goat cheese

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a microwave safe plate, place bacon in a single layer between paper towels.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until desired crispness is reached.  Cut each bacon slice into 4 or 6 pieces.  Arrange the figs on a baking sheet, cut sides up.  Brush the cut surfaces with balsamic vinegar.  Place a piece of bacon on each cut side.  Top with a small crumble of cheese.  Bake until the figs are warm, about 8 minutes.  The cheese will not melt but may toast a bit.  Serve immediately.

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