Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Smoked Trout & Spring Onion Salad in Onigiri

These are a snack food which I learned of while browsing a Japanese market in New York City, looking for a quick easy to go snack. Once I'd realized the ease of basically taking a large one-piece sushi with me which was filled with a new set of fabulous, flavorful ingredients, I was hooked.

Onigiri, which literally means rice balls, are a popular, easy to eat on-the-go snack in Japan. The rice ball has an adorable triangular shape to make eating an onigiri an easier one-handed experience and they're often made with some kind of filling inside, although they are sometimes served plain, often after they've been grilled, which makes them yakionigiri. Popular ones include konbu (a type of seaweed), a delicious, light onigiri that as a bonus is vegetarian; mentaiko (seasoned cod roe)--I became quite fond of this flavor from the Japanese supermarket and I was always disappointed to find them out of stock; umeboshi (pickled plums) which I could never quite get the hang of, the flavor being too strong; sha-ke, grilled salmon, tasty of course; and tuna mayonnaise, my second favorite flavor after the flavored roe. I don't know if this is exactly traditional, but I make mine with sushi rice. And the filling I'll be sharing today is something that isn't quite traditional, it's more a twist on the idea of tuna mayonnaise: a smoky, rich smoked trout in mayo salad with delicate spring onions, which was heavily influenced by a fellow foodie friend's smoked trout mousse (my version uses mustard as opposed to horseradish and Mayonnaise as the creamy element, in the stead of creme fraiche). What gives it its twist is the spicy and acidic flavor of spicy brown mustard. This version of fish/mayonnaise salad is seriously tasty and you will likely find yourself with extra after making your onigiri. Spread it on crackers; use it to make tea sandwiches. It truly is rich and amazing.
I had a special mold to make my onigiri, but I'm told the technique becomes pretty easy with practice, and involves forming the points by cupping your hands and pressing the rice into the ridge formed in your palm. If you find yourself making onigiri as a snack pretty frequently, I'd highly suggest purchasing the mold as you can get a decent one for rather cheap on a site like amazon.

Smoked Trout & Spring Onion Salad in Onigiri

Makes 6 Onigiri*

For the sushi rice (to form into onigiri):

1 1/2 cups sushi rice
2 cups water
1 Tblsp mirin (rice wine)
2 Tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 Teaspoon neutral oil (such as vegetable or peanut)
1 Teaspoon soy sauce
2 pinches sugar
3 - 4 drops toasted sesame oil (optional)
4 sheets nori seaweed, cut into 3" wide strips

Optional garnish ideas: benishoga (julienned ginger pickled in shiso leaves), furikake (a sweet sesame/seaweed/salt dry condiment mix), toasted or black sesame seeds

For the smoked trout salad:

1 4 ounce tin smoked trout in oil, almost entirely drained
2 Teaspoons spicy brown mustard
1 - 2 Tblsp mayonnaise (depending upon taste)
pepper, to taste
4 spring onions, sliced (white parts only)

1. In heavy bottomed saucepan combine rice and water and bring to a boil.
2. When the water is boiling, cover the pan and turn heat down to lowest setting. Set a timer for the rice for 30 minutes.
3. While the rice is cooking use a fork to break up the trout fillets into small flakes. Mix in all other ingredients for salad, combine thoroughly and then cover and set in the refrigerator while the rice finishes cooking.
4. With the exception of the nori sheets, whisk together the rest of the ingredients for the sushi rice in a small bowl, heating the mix in the microwave in 10 second increments until the sugar is dissolved (shouldn't take more than 2 to 3 ten second long increments).
5. When the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, remove from heat, but leave it covered. After 5 minutes fluff it with a rice paddle while slowly drizzling the warmed mixture together (vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, etc.).
6. When the rice has cooled completely, dampen your hands or mold and press half full with rice. Press tight. Fill with smoked trout mixture (about 2 Teasp each). Cover with the same amount of rice, then press together. If you are forming them by hand, now is the time to try your corner making technique.
7. Wrap each onigiri with a strip of nori and sprinkle with condiment of your choice.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

*With Trout Salad leftover

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tomatillo Salsa

Imagine for a moment you are eating a perfectly prepared carnitas taco : rich pulled pork is made slightly crunchy by being deep fried; sweet and slightly spicy raw onions have been sprinkled liberally over top and together with thinly sliced radishes lend a crisp and refreshing snap to your food; completing the flavor profile is the soft, rich, fresh homemade corn tortilla, made irresistible by the soft, yielding texture of stone ground masa (corn) flour. The best prepared carnitas taco is nearly perfect on its own. I say nearly because one of my favorite combinations of flavors is to add something with a tart, acidic flavor to rich fatty meat; in my opinion it cuts the fattiness of the meat just enough to really compliment (in fact, a lot of Latin flavors depend upon this fatty meat and acid combination; one of the main reasons I suspect these dishes are so popular). Enter that most humble and yet quietly outstanding of condiments,  tomatillo salsa. Tomatillos are not related to tomatoes, even though they give the appearance in texture and shape and even in the seeds. They're actually a rather large and tart berry and they make some of the best salsa one can eat! The recipe is simple, but part of the fun is knowing what you can eat the salsa with. I recommend anything rich with animal fat, such as steak al pastor or carnitas. This salsa is also my favorite to eat with freshly made tortilla chips. Feel free to adjust the amount/type of hot pepper; I made this batch for my in laws to be, who have an extremely low spice tolerance, so I'd describe the spice level of this salsa to be mild.

Tomatillo Salsa

Makes about 6 ounces

3 tomatillos, husks removed & chopped roughly
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Small pinch of salt
1 cm green serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed
1/2 a small yellow onion, roughly chopped
5 sprigs cilantro, stem ends trimmed off

1. Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. Pulse 10x for about 3 seconds each, or until all ingredients are smooth.
2. Serve with chips or main dish of choice.

If the salsa has been allowed to sit, mix gently before serving for best consistency.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and I welcome your feedback!

Stay tuned for beef stroganoff toward the end of this week!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Elotes (Mexican Corn on the Cob)

Here's the thing about the way Mexican street vendors prepare the corn on the cob they sell in their carts: it may be one of the world's most delicious foods! Sweet corn becomes even sweeter when buttered and roasted on the grill; the cobs are then slathered with mayonnaise, drizzled with salty firm cotija cheese crumbles and dusted with cayenne powder. The sweet corn plays off of the rich mayonnaise and the heat from the cayenne as well as the briny cheese serves to heighten its richness. I like to sprinkle mine with bright, herbaceous cilantro leaves and often drizzle a little lime juice on them. This also works quite nicely as a rich salad, if you cut the corn off of the cob after roasting. We ate this with a homemade version of Mexican rice a garlic-y salad of gem lettuce and heirloom grape tomatoes and marinated grilled carne asada. Dessert was my grilled peaches over vanilla bean ice cream with a honey/spiced cognac sauce spiked with cloves.


4 ears corn, shucked
1 Tablespoon butter, softened
2 Tablespoons mayonnaise
3 ounces cotija, crumbled
~1 Teaspoon cayenne powder, for sprinkling
(optional) 3 springs cilantro, minced
(optional) 4 lime wedges

1. Butter corn and place it on hot grill, right next to the hottest part.
2. Cover grill and allow to cook for 5 minutes.
3. Turn corn and cover. Cook for another 5 minutes.
4. Continue to turn and recover every 5 minutes until corn looks cooked (about 25 - 30 minutes) and has started to caramelize all over.
5. Remove corn from grill and allow to cool enough to handle.
6. When corn is still warm, cover all over in a thin layer of mayonnaise (it is easiest to do this by holding the corn ear vertically to apply the mayonnaise). Sprinkle with crumbled cotija and minced cilantro. Squeeze lime wedge on corn cob if desired.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and I welcome your feedback!