Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sushi 101 - Dragon Rolls

So I went to my first ever sushi class yesterday.  What's a girl from New Mexico doing in a sushi class anyway?  Moving to Alaska nine years ago today I had no clue about what I was in for.  1) heating with oil instead of gas or propane? 2) hauling water?....isn't that for heathens?  3) plugging in your car in the winter...why would anyone do that?  4) seeing sushi at the deli counter in all the grocery stores....what is that stuff?  And....what is wasabi anyway?  I think I have to thank my friends Heather Chorley and Bobb Lockwood for introducing me to the world of Japanese food and sushi.  You don't get a lot in the way of sushi in Aztec, New Mexico...so I was completely ignorant as to what it was about but I quickly fell in love with the taste and texture of it.  This year, the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival  offered a class in sushi and I quickly signed up.  Good thing I did...the class was completely full and I was the last person able to register.  Calvin Lin from the Asian Bistro on Airport Drive was our teacher.  He showed us how to make California Rolls, Sashimi and Nigiri rolls, hand rolls and Dragon Rolls.  The hardest part about making sushi is getting the rice just right.  Calvin's recipe was perfect!

Here is what you need:
Bamboo sushi roll mat covered in plastic wrap...this was a trick he taught me that really worked....it keeps the mat clean and rolls the rice beautifully!
Cutting board
Sharp knife
Nori seaweed sheets
Rice Cooker or big heavy saucepan
Wood spoon or rice paddle
Plastic wrap (lots of it)

Rice Ingredients:
6 TBSP rice vinegar
2 TBSP sugar
2 tsp. salt
3 Cups uncooked Japanese medium-gran sushi rice (I used Calrose)
4 cups water
OR....Use 6 TBSP of Seasoned Rice Vinegar instead

Sushi Ingredients:
5 sheets of sushi nori (big squares or more if using the smaller ones)
Fully cooked Eel (Dragon Rolls)
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced thin...remove the seeds
2-3 avocados, sliced
Cooked crab or imitation crab sticks
Soy Sauce
Pickled Ginger

Making sushi rice:
Either use 6 TBSP of seasoned rice vinegar OR make your own.  Here is the recipe to make your own.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.  Heat until the sugar dissolves and don't let it boil.  Remove from heat and let it cool.

Wash rice, stirring with your hand, until the water runs clear.  Keep going....this is not clear....

Put in a bowl with water and let it soak for 30 minutes.  Drain in a colander and leave in a bowl inside the fridge for 30 more minutes.  Put rice in a big pot, add 4 cups water,
bring to just a boil, turn down the heat to low/simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to sit for 15 more minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl, loosen the rice grains with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon by folding and chopping...do NOT stir.  Sprinkle seasoned rice vinegar over rice and fold in.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth while you work. 

Place a piece of Nori on the bamboo mat shiny side down...dull side up.  Using your hands, form a snowball shaped ball of rice...It's more than I ever thought they would have used.
  Place on nori sheet and spread to the sides. 
Turn the rice covered nori over and put 1 piece of Krab in the middle, add 2 thin slices of cucumber and slices of avocado. 
Using the bamboo mat, roll up to cover the krab and other ingredients.  You are putting more pressure on the outsides of the bamboo mat and not so much on the top.  Be firm with it.  My problem is I was always too gentle....Nope, make the rice do what you want it to do.  Don't push too much from the top.

Now, alternate with avocado, unagi, avocado, unagi...etc on top of your sealed roll.  Place plastic wrap on top of that and use your bamboo mat to press this in gently.

Remove the roll from the bamboo mat before you cut....I was stupid and didn't do this in the picture!!!!  Using a very sharp knife, cut through the plastic wrap and unagi  roll sections to create bite sized pieces....I could have done better here. 

Dress with unagi sauce. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Poor Mans Lobster (Halibut)

"What?  Boiled halibut?  You've got to be kidding me!"  I exclaim.  "No, it's really good and it tastes just like lobster if you do it right." say's someone in the teacher's lounge last year.  When it comes to cooking, I'm game for anything.  Since I have an abundant supply of halibut, I felt it would be okay to sacrifice one of my 1 lb. packages to test this recipe out.  She was right!  Jim and I both loved it.  Now when I cook halibut I take out an extra package to prepare this "Poor Man's Lobster."  Not a poor man at all if you know what halibut costs even in Alaska.

This recipe is so incredibly simple that even the most amateur of amateur cooks could master this dish with the most minimal ingredients in the kitchen.

What you need:
5 cups Water
1/4 cup Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
3 TBSP Lemon juice (yes, you can use bottled)
2 TBSP Butter
Halibut (1-2-3 lbs....you decide.  How many are you feeding and how are you serving it?)
Optional:  Melted butter with chopped rosemary OR garlic salt to taste---or both

Wow....how easy is that?


1.  Skin halibut and cut into desired chunks....maybe 2" squares and set aside.

2.  Measure water salt, sugar, lemon juice and butter into a sauce pot and bring to a boil.

3.  Add halibut chunks to boiling water.  As they begin to float to the surface they are DONE.  Do NOT overcook.

4.  Remove the almost "floaters" to a paper towel to drain.

5.  Optional:  Toss drained "lobster" in rosemary/garlic salt butter

6.  Serve this with a salad (even prepackaged) and you are an instant hit.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Aunt Tony's Macaroni Salad

Nothing screams 4th of July more than fireworks and macaroni salad!  Growing up with a large extended family, it was common to expect certain things when coming together as one huge family.  On our table one would find:  1) fresh veggies like granddad's peas or beans, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers 2) a big bowl of home canned peaches or pears or apricots and 3) an obscenely huge bowl of Grandma Sadie's or now I know it as Aunt Tony's Macaroni Salad.
Aunt Tony with Cousin Judy and Ron

My Grandma Sadie and Aunt Tony have both passed on and I wish I had paid more attention in the kitchen.  Let me interject here that there are only a few foods that I don't care for, raw cabbage and macaroni salad.  I DO however, take exception to this fantastically creamy and easy to make salad.  Cousin Judy gave me the recipe a few days ago and I made it for the first time for our 4th of July dinner.  It was heavenly and brought back loads of beautiful memories spending time with cousins, aunts, uncles and my grandparents.  The celery seed is really the key ingredient that pushes this recipe over the top!

I found that it was just as good for breakfast the next day and only got better sitting overnight in the fridge.  The ingredients are so simple and are common in most pantries.

Here's what you need:  That's it!  So simple.

Because it's just Jim and I, I only used 1/2 a box of macaroni which still made enough to feed 6-8.  Imagine using the entire 1 lb. box!  That feeds 16-20 people.

8 oz. macaroni
1 to 1 1/2 cups REAL mayo (don't use salad dressing)
4 boiled eggs, chopped
1 4 oz. jar diced pimentos
1 TBSP celery seed
salt and pepper to taste
cream or half & half (maybe....if it is not moist enough---I didn't have to use it)
Paprika (optional) to lightly dust the top

Boil macaroni in salted water for 8-10 minutes.  

Boil in salted water 8-10 min.
Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water.  Allow the macaroni to cool.  I don't know why but Judy said this makes a big difference so I did it.  

Add chopped eggs, pimentos, celery seed and mayo.  Mix together.  It should be creamy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  If needed, add a teaspoon or so of cream to make moist.  Pour into a pretty dish and top with a light shake of paprika to give color.

Yes, this an old fashioned vintage Pyrex dish!