Adventures with Sushi

Sushi, raw fish, slimy texture, yuck and double yuck.

There are times in our lives that we just have to get a grip, suck it up and think that maybe, just maybe it’s time to escape from our preconceived  notions.

My first experience with Sushi was on a cruise to Alaska though the inland passage. There was a small spot  where you could get a small plate of that rice stuff. They called the little roll things, something like California Rolls.  I knew it wasn’t real Sushi because there wasn’t any raw fish oozing out and it wasn’t slimy. See, I am a man of the world. (You’re probably not laughing any louder than I am).

Well, the years rolled by and I didn’t give any more thought to Sushi until Francene took me to lunch at this strange little place that has a little train running along side the booths; and what was on the train? Neat little rolls of rice, seaweed and stuff.

What surprised me was that the stuff wasn’t a slimy eel sticking it’s head out of the roll, nor were there any dangling tentacles.

There was cooked shrimp and crab meat neatly tucked into that little roll of rice and seaweed.  Some of the rolls had the rice on the outside and some had the rice wrapped inside, There was avocado, cucumber, and lots of just tasty delights rolling past me.

Then Francene took me to lunch again at a different Sushi restaurant in Newberg, this one had all that I have mentioned, AND some of that fish stuff. AND, I ate some more of it.

Time to make Sushi at home, I can roll a bit of rice and some seaweed into a roll and make it look as good as what we find in restaurants. Well, I can at least do the first part.

Okay, if I’m going to do this I will need a Shashimi knife because we all know you need the right tools. And we always need a good excuse to buy another blade. Of course I later figured out I was making Sushi, not Shashimi :-).

I then made a trip to our local Asian grocery store, Uwajimaya in Beaverton Oregon.

There I found at least 50 different types of seaweed for Sushi, and a very nice lady who explained which types of seaweed were good and which ones weren’t as good. Next was the bamboo mats for rolling out the seaweed, and thank goodness there were only two to choose from. I bought two of the most expensive mats there, a whopping $1.75 each.  These are bamboo mats used to make your roll round, square, or to give a uniform shape.

Then to the condiments for Wasabi, or at least that mustard, corn starch and green food dye stuff that passes for Wasabi. Either way, it’s hot and tasty. I already had the sticky rice in the pantry.

Of course I also bought two sticky buns with BBQ pork to give me fuel to the next stop.

The mega mart provided some crab meat, cucumber and avocado and then I headed back home. The home freezer provided some nice shrimp and crab.

Later, back at the mega mart, telling a clerk about my adventures with Sushi,  she said something like   ‘Hey, did you check out the new Sushi Bar in the deli department?’.   I, of course just stood there with a manly know it all look on my face, and when they turned away I went to see what they where talking about.

I don’t spend much time in the fast food deli. Nothing against fried chicken under lamps, or any of that other stuff, although I have been known to get a broccoli salad or something similar upon occasion.

And there, right there on the corner of the Deli, close to the Starbucks (probably the reason I don’t go to that part of the store, a zillion dollars for a cup of coffee, I don’t think so.)See “When that first sip of coffee touches your soul“) was the Sushi display case, and there behind the case was the Sushi chef, and there in his hand, extended towards me, were samples of SUSHI, that tasted SO Delish!.

I now have a new favorite section of the store.

After my little adventure into fancy rice balls with a variety of yummy goodies, our interest has been perked and our taste buds tickled with anticipation. A little research and a whole new world has appeared and needs to be explored along with a lot of practice in having the final product look appetizing. I need to limber up these old and big hands, get the fingers a little more flexible. Or get Francene on the assembly side where her smaller and younger hands would be welcome.

Here is a quick list of types of Sushi, what they look like and consist of.  Picture below is a link to gurunavi.com and an excellent description of Sushi types.

Also from gurunavi.com

Read:How to Eat Sushi like a Native: 8 Sushi Etiquette Tips
Read:22 Things You Didn’t Know About Sushi

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Wonderful Curry from Jamaica

The weather is getting cooler, and comfort food is most definitely on the horizon. Business also slows down this time of the year and I find I have more time on my hands then I care for.  I also find it difficult to cook for two, as I had too many years of cooking for a family. I am not one for leftovers, so the portions get bigger and bigger. So what can we do to keep fall and winter from becoming blimp season? Cook? Yes, cook. But let’s start by getting a bit more creative. You may wonder how being creative helps to keep the portions under control. Well, I may not like it so I really don’t want a week’s worth in the refrigerator.So, how about if we make something that onlytakesminutes to prepare. Now back to cooler weather and comfort food. I wanted Shrimp Curry, really what I wanted is the shrimp curry my father made in the 50’s and 60’s that seemed so worldly to a young boy. Yellow curry, that stuff from the spice isle.  On second thought, I can do better than that. Okay, lets make Shrimp Curry, but kick it up a notch. Most curry dishes are a breeze to make, really nothing to them and can be made in the time it takes to cook the rice. So how are we going to kick it up? Lets start by deciding what part of the world we are going to be dining, that will tell us more about our curry mix, How about Jamaica? Okay, that means a curry with a bite to it.
If you want really good curry, never go to the spice isle for a bottle of Shillings or McCormick’s curry. Get your Masala box out and start mixing, after all, all kitchens have a Masala box, don’t they? For those that are shaking their heads, wondering just what am I talking about.  Indian cooks have a spice box; this is either a large metal tin or carved wooded box filled with more tins or boxes filled with the individual spices used to build curries or masalas.
Curry is not a spice, but a blend of spices. We think of curry as being from India but native curry dishes can be found through the Caribbean, African coast, India and just about where ever ancient travelers and tradesmen ventured to in centuries gone by. At one time it was spice that was the universal currency, not gold and baubles. Well, maybe some silk as well. Back to dinner, there was shrimp in the freezer, some jasmine rice in the pantry and a door full of spices. A little later, after cruising the Internet I came up with a Jamaican Curry recipe that sounded good, all I was missing was some Fenugreek seeds. Darn, how could I not have had Fenugreek on hand, I’m sure you do. So my recipe from the net looked good, made it, and then started adjusting the spices till I got what appealed to me.
  • 2 teaspoons dry yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 teaspoons ground fenugreek seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons All spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mace
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon  cayenne pepper
Combine all and grind in your spare coffee grinder. Yum. And its more than the 2 1/2 tablespoons I will be using. Now another spice tin, this one labeled Jamaican Curry, home made. Now for the dish itself.
  • 1 1/2 pound cleaned, shelled large shrimp
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 small red bell pepper finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons of your home made curry powder.
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
Heat olive oil and add onions and garlic along with the curry powder.  Saute till the onion and garlic are translucent and have lost most of the water. Add the coconut milk, tomato paste and simmer mixture for 5 to 7 minutes, add stock or water till you have the liquid consistency desired. I prefer a thicker sauce if serving with rice, thinner is for when eating a soup or stew. Now add the shrimp and red bell pepper, and cook at a simmer another 5 minutes or until the shrimp is as you prefer, and do a quick final seasoning. I never mentioned salt as I don’t think this dish needs any salt added to it.
Serve over rice, or add rice on top. Both ways taste the same, just a different presentation, Enjoy. I would pair this dish with a nice beer or light ale.  
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Red Beans and Rice, beans are beans and rice is rice, right?

Red Beans and Rice is not made from a can or box of seasoning.

I was 20 years old and visiting one of my friends and his Mother when the conversation turned to food.   Jim's mother told me she was from the south.  To me it was the 'south of what'? But she continued with stories about some great foods, and Red Beans and Rice in particular. Probably because that was what was on the table before us.

Now to me, beans were beans and rice was rice, but what I was eating sure didn't stop there as it was just something new and wonderful.  I never did get a recipe from Doris, and didn't really give a lot more thought to the subject, I just remembered how good it was.

A few years later after subscribing to the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbook series, the Creole-Acadian issue showed up and like fate it seemed to drop open to Red Beans and Rice. Oh ya, my interest was on high.

Now I can tell you that there is no short cuts to this meal. It takes forever to cook and tastes like heaven when you scoop a mouthful.

I see recipes for all kinds of short cuts from our Southern Celebrity Chefs and wonder how they can refer to a few cans of red beans and some andouille from a supermarket as Red Beans and Rice.

Now when put down some store bought sausage I need for you to understand that I live in Oregon. You may find some great Andouille in a southern supermarket; I mean you have Trappy's down there. We don't.

I think the major sausage makers in our stores make one sausage, a form of kielbasa and then change the label if they include some liquid smoke, oh the shame of it.

So why this recipe is so great, time and ham hocks. Lots of ham hocks with lots of marrow and the time to cook it out of the bone and into the dish, then at the end you take the back of a serving spoon and mash some of the beans to create a fantastic gravy.

Go for it, you will not be disappointed. Please don't take any shortcuts.

This recipe is straight out of the Creole and Acadian Time-Life Foods of the World series of cook books.

RED BEANS AND RICE
Serves 4-6

6 cups water
1 pound dried small red beans or 1 pound dried red kidney beans
4 Tbsp. butter
1 cup finely chopped scallions, including 3-inches of the green tops, divided use
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 cups water
1 (1 pound) smoked ham hock
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 to 8 cups freshly cooked long-grained rice (for serving)

In a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, bring 6 cups water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans and boil briskly, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can soak the beans over night in water.) In either case, drain and rinse the beans in a sieve set over a large bowl. Set the beans aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy 4 or 5 quart casserole or stockpot. When the foam begins to subside, add 1/2 cup of the scallions, the onions and the garlic and, stirring frequently, cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are soft and translucent but not brown.

Stir in the beans and 4 cups water, the ham hocks, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are quite soft. Check the pot from time to time and, if the beans seem dry, add up to 1 cup more water, a few tablespoons at a time. During the last 30 minutes or so of cooking, stir frequently and mash some of the softest beans against the side of the pan to form a thick sauce for the remaining beans.

With tongs or a slotted spoon, transfer the ham hocks to a plate. Cut the meat away from the bones and remove and discard the skin, fat and gristle. Cut the meat into 1/4-inch dice and return it to the beans.

Taste the beans for seasoning and serve at once, directly from a large heated tureen. Place the rice and remaining 1/2 cup of scallions in separate bowls and present them with the beans.

Note: In Louisiana, red beans and rice are traditionally made with a leftover ham bone and you may substitute a ham bone for the ham hocks in this recipe. Without trimming off the meat, cut the bone into 2 or 3 inch pieces with a hacksaw, so that the marrow inside the pieces will melt and flavor the beans. Add the pieces of bone to the soaked beans and water and pour in enough additional water to cover then completely. When the beans are cooked, remove the bones from the pot, trim off and dice the meat, and return it to the beans. Discard the bones.

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