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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sushi-Chef

I admit it...I love sushi...and not just regular, non-fish related sushi. I love sashimi as well...they of the raw fish, Tobiko (flying fish roe), Uni (sea urchin), et al. I love it all. There is something clean and satisfying when eating this way, and the taste factor is wonderful as well. So...as you know, about once a week, I like to treat myself to a lunch that is a little bit of a treat. Something out of the ordinary, something that keeps my skills intact. On this day, I decided to make a California Roll.  So, if you'd like to follow along on this particular tune, gather the following ingredients...


Clockwise from left to right; medium-grain rice (don't worry, you do not have to have "sushi rice"), Nori sheets of seaweed, mayonnaise, pickled ginger, horseradish (I was out of wasabi!), a piece of cucumber, avocado, canned crab meat (of course, you may use fresh). Just don't use that Krab-type stuff...off with their heads! Vegans and Vegetarians can modify by leaving out the crab, and using a veggie-friendly mayonnaise substitute.

Cook one cup rice in two cups water and begin to let it cool down...


Then, spread out into a large container, and find ye some rice vinegar...mine is this brand..


Spread the rice out (I used a large round baking dish), and sprinkle on 1/4 tsp of sugar, and a little of the rice vinegar...then, fan the rice a little bit with a sushi paddle, or whatever you have handy to fan air onto the rice, and get it ready to be in the sushi roll. Here is mine, at the beginning of fanning & sprinkling with the vinegar..




I continued, this fanning and sprinkling just a bit of the vinegar until the rice was the perfect texture to wrap...sticky but not clumping, and with the grains dried and cooled. Now comes the fun part...starting your California Roll! First, take a sheet of Nori seaweed from the packet. It will look black and shiny..like this..



Then, using tongs and being careful not to burn yourself, hold it over a gas flame set on low, or an electric burner set on high....to toast it. Here's mine in progress..


You will know that it is done, when it turns a dark, emerald green. Don't worry if a corner or two catches on fire, (not that I would know, um...really!), just blow it out like you would a campfire marshmallow. Here's my sheet of Nori all toasted and emerald green...


Then, take a half of a can of crab meat (use the other half for a crab cake for tomorrow's lunch!), and strain it to remove all the liquid.


Then, mix it with a little mayonnaise...just until creamy enough to spread...


Now we're ready to begin assembling the California Roll. Place a sheet of plastic over your sushi mat, which will keep it clean, and help you to roll the Roll...not to be redundant or anything :)


Alright...now..take your sheet of Nori, and place it onto the plastic, then, place your rice onto the Nori..about 1/4 inch thick, and out to 1/4 inch away from the edges...like so...



Then, I like to sprinkle mine with white and black sesame seeds..



Now, take your creamy crab mixture and place it in a nice line down the center, like this...



Then, take your piece of cucumber, and seed it, by running a teaspoon down the center. Put that mush down the disposal, or better yet, into your compost!


Cut a few thin strips to place in the center of our Roll, and crunch on the rest with some salt on top...you are hungry by now, I'm certain. Place the cucumber in the Roll, like so...


Cut your avocado in half, and sprinkle with some fresh lemon juice right away, to prevent oxidizing and browning of the avocado. Cut some strips, and lie them in the roll as well...


As you can see, I placed mine right on top of the crab mixture...remember, that is the center of the roll you are building. I want all my fillings to be bound tightly together in the center. Now...take a deep breath...and beginning from one of the short sides, roll the sushi...pulling back the plastic as you go, and keeping firm but gentle pressure on it. Here's mine mid-roll...



Now, when you get to the seam of the roll, press gently to encourage sealing...wrap the plastic back around the whole thing, and twist the ends, tootsie-roll style, and place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to firm everything up, and make sure your crab mixture is still safe to eat (there's mayo in there!). Here's mine on the way to the big white chill-chest...


I let it stay in there approximately fifteen to twenty minutes, while I cleaned up a bit. Then, I dipped my sharpest knife it very hot water, and (holding my breath) began to cut the roll...


Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have achieved SUSHI!  I was surprised by how good the regular horseradish (vs. wasabi) was with this! A nice little plating with some pickled ginger and the horseradish, and here you have it!


Another shot? Why sure, don't mind if I do!


The creamy crab and avocado filling, the crunch of the cucumber and the refreshingly chewy nori were outstanding! The ginger and horseradish were perfect companions! My only gripe was that there was so much of it, I could not eat it all! In fact, paired with some edamame (soy beans), this was my afternoon snack!




Eat well, my friends and stay tuned for Pixie-Pastry Chef! And no, I have not forgotten that we have one, count 'em ONE chicken breast left from our amazing Rubber Chicken. Hmmmm. how on earth am I going to turn that into dinner for two? Perhaps I'll go and ask Kitchen Angel.  Love and kindness to all,

                                                                          Pixie

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Attack of the Rubber Chicken! ~ Part Three

I know that you sharpie-sharpingtons have been keeping track, and know that I have two chicken thighs, and one breast left from the amazingly flexible birdy, so today.....we are making meal number two. The original challenge, as you recall, was to make stock, a snack and three meals from that mighty bird. Here's the scorecard; Stock, buffalo wings (the snack), and chicken piccata. Today, we make the second complete meal. From two thighs. That's right....TWO thighs. Our remaining thighs will become.....Chinese Chicken Salad.  So...here's the star of our show...


First, take these ingredients...


Clockwise from left to right..pepper, salt, sesame oil, soy sauce, vegetable oil, garlic and ginger. Throw them in the baking dish with the chicken thighs in the following amounts; 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 Tablespoons sesame oil, salt & pepper to taste, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, and the minced up garlic & ginger (approximately a teaspoon of each). Rub all over the chicken thighs, and place skin-side up. They should look like this..


Pop those into a 350 oven for about an hour, until they are cooked through, and the skin has become all crispy-golden delicious. Like this...


Remove the skin, and eat with unbridled enthusiasm do with it what you will, and set the thighs aside to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Then, place in the fridge while you prepare the rest. Take some sliced almonds and toast them in your non-stick skillet....here's the before & after shots...


Just gently toasted, over medium heat, until fragrant and a lovely nutty brown.




Then, assemble the base salads on your serving plates. I used a combination of romaine and iceberg lettuces, and added shredded carrot & cabbage, scallions and celery. Spinach works great in this as well. You could also add water chestnuts, baby corn, etc. Be creative!


Then, add your chicken...diced or shredded, whichever you like..



 
Then, mix the following for a nice dressing. Two Tb. vegetable oil, 2 Tb. sesame seed oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Shake to emulsify, and use immediately, or prepare to shake again at the last moment...it will separate on you. Look at the pretty pink the dressing is, with the red wine vinegar!
 
 
Now, prepare for finishing this light, healthy Springtime supper! Sprinkle the toasted almonds on top, some Mandarin orange segments, and some white and black sesame seeds. Cilantro is great on and in this as well.  Pour the dressing all over it, and prepare to enjoy.....The results?  Have a peek...
 

And.....

 
Yes, it was crunch-tastic! A lovely Spring or Summer meal without spending hours over the hot stove! Hint: this is great with any leftover chicken you are trying to use up as well. Now....since we were such health nuts for supper, I think we deserve a little sweet treat tonight, don't you? Why, yes...I thought you'd say that! How about strawberry pie?  I really miss a nice strawberry pie, as Northern California has spoiled me for those sweet berry treats.  First, let's get our raw ingredients washed and ready to go...just a quick rinse will do..
 
 
Look at those beauties! Then, take a ready-to-use pie crust, and put it into your favorite pie tin...
 
 
Then, using your fingers, crimp the edges into a nice, scalloped edge, like so...
 
 
Now, put some foil down in the center, fill with dried beans or pie weights (I have some lentils that I use for pie weights) and bake at 350 for ten minutes.
 
 
Guess what? You are now done baking. The rest of this pie is all no-bake fun!  Oh, and since I thought a mere one pound of strawberries was not going to cut it, I also thawed out the rest of a bag of beautiful frozen raspberries. Strawberry/Raspberry pie it is!
 
 
Then, you mash a small portion of strawberries and raspberries in a sauce pan. I used my potato masher..
 
 
You then add sugar to this mixture, and bring to a boil...what lovely berry tones this dessert has!

 

Next you mix cornstarch and water, and add to the berry mixture, bring back up to temperature, and simmer until thickened. Here's the cornstarch/water mixture going into the pot..



Now, here comes the fun part! You've baked and cooled that pie crust...removing whatever you used for pie weights, right? I don't know about you, but I have enough trouble when I eat COOKED beans, never mind raw. Then, fill that shell will your lovely sliced strawberries and thawed raspberries....


Oh my.....we've got pie!  Another beauty shot..


Now, you pour over the mixture of the smashed berries, sugar, water and cornstarch, and throw it in the fridge to cool for a few hours. Here's mine on it's way to chillax. Hahahah...I know, just like the kids say...I'm so hopelessly nerdy hip!


After our cool Springtime supper of Chinese Chicken salad, all I had to do was reach into the fridge, grab the pie, and a can of whipped cream. OK, I ADMIT IT! I DID NOT WHIP THE CREAM FROM SCRATCH!! I know, I'm turning into a real slacker, here. But oh my.....look!




It was so very...berry...delicious! And, that's the point of this post. Cool Spring and Summer meals and desserts need not be a ton of work. Goodness, just working, raising children, being a wife, or running a home are work enough! 

What are your favorite warm-weather meals?

Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for the Finale ~ our rubber chickens' final appearance! And a story of our new life in the country, and a visit from that wild woman, Kitchen Angel. Love and kindness to all,

Pixie