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Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

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Sushi-Making Revelation

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So that's how you press tiny cucumber rolls.

I love homemade sushi, but it’s somewhat of a pain to make with a bamboo roller. Tonight, we discovered an easier alternative. You simply mold the sticky rice into these wooden maki presses and then push down with a block to create the perfect well for your filling. Add some more rice on top, push the block through the frame, and voila! A perfect sushi rectangle. The nori easily wraps around the filling and sticks. And it’s much faster and cleaner-cutting than the bamboo roller method.
There’s a smaller press for cucumber-roll size rectangles–so that’s how they roll those perfect little squares. For inside-out rolls, you wrap the roll in cellophane and then use your bamboo roller. But this defeats the purpose of using nori to keep the sticky rice off your fingers.
We also got learned how to make nigiri (open slab-style sushi) tonight. The teacher Sylvia Yamada said the trick is to first shape the sticky rice base to resemble a big garden slug:) Our Bangladeshi friend Christina held the event as a fundraiser for a Catholic Sisters of Charity school for very poor children (families live on $25 a month) in her hometown of North Laksmipur. It’s always nice to eat well for a good cause!

Much easier than bamboo roller (still necessary with plastic wrap for inside-out roll).

New method much easier than the bamboo roller.

Written by baltimoregon

April 2, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Food Factory Miyake

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Seaweed Salad with tiny, salty Japanese sardines (those little dots are eyes).

This one-man food factory slices up some ultra-fresh fish, including local Maine shrimp.

A refreshing sushi meal really started to appeal to me, with all the heavy eating we’ve been doing during this month of travel. We especially loved the food we had in Portland, Maine: the pillowy Sicilian slices at Micucci’s Italian grocery, the crispy duck fat-fried fries washed down with the Allagash wheat beer/homemade lemonade shandy I custom-ordered at Duck Fat, the addictive, buttery financiers from Standard Baking Company, the fine lobsters and steamer clams you crack open at any seafood joint. What we didn’t realize is that Portland is also great spot for sushi.

Micucci's stellar pizza.

My parents raved about Food Factory Miyake and I couldn’t wait to check it out. Chef and owner Masa Miyake is a one-man “food factory,” churning out inventive maki rolls, nigiri and sashimi combos in his 25-seat brick storefront space (with a Chinese takeout-sized kitchen). But diners misunderstood the restaurant name, so now it’s just Miyake. And apparently a second ramen-focused restaurant is in the works.

For lunch, the $15 sampler is the way to go. It began with a mesclun miso salad with grape tomatoes. Next, instead of the standard chalky miso soup, we sipped on bowls of sesame oil-and-scallion-dotted, umami-rich dashi broth. Then came a hamachi (yellowtail) scallion roll, topped with grated daikon (perhaps, I couldn’t identify it) and garnished with beet-red micro-greens (amaranth, maybe?). But first, I now remember, our waiter (who blogs at brought us an amuse-bouche of delicately fried butterfish.

The hamachi roll.

Lagniappe butterfish.

For those squeamish about raw fish, try the Spicy Maine shrimp roll, coated with plenty of Japanese Kewpie mayo. In fact, our waiter recommended using Kewpie (because of its higher egg content) to make your own lobster rolls. He also punches up his lobster rolls with fresh tarragon (take that, Dad!). Miyake does its own version of a lobster sushi roll that’s drizzled with truffle oil, but weren’t looking for food that chichi. My mother-in-law also enjoyed her Salmon Lady roll with seared salmon and umeboshi plum paste. Also, tuna takaki appetizers may be a dime a dozen, but the pink gems are gorgeously presented in a salad here.

And if the sushi doesn’t fill you up, there’s always the old-school Tony’s Donut Shop (my father-in-law’s favorite). Though I hear the glazed chocolate cake donuts taste even better fresh-baked, at 6 a.m., on a frigid, Maine winter morning.

Tuna Takaki Salad.

Sushi sampler.

Written by baltimoregon

July 20, 2010 at 7:56 am

The Simplicity of Sushi

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Tried rice on the outside for the first time.

Imperfectly shaped but still delicious homemade maki rolls.

Just when I start getting back my momentum, I’ve abandoned you dear readers (if you still exist!) again. My sister was visiting from ATL, and then this week I had the cheesy Food Show and mounds of end-of-term papers to still grade. Excuses, excuses, I know.

After clogging my arteries with too much free cheese at the recent Seattle Cheese Festival, a light meal of raw, fresh, vegetal sushi appealed. I sprang for some nori, tiny ume plums, roasted sesame seeds and polished rice at Rice & Spice, a little Asian mart near downtown that I’m reminded of when I bike by. We had a ripe (now in season from California!) avocado at home as well as shaved ginger I pickled recently, with Linda Ziedrich’s easy recipe. And I had garlic scapes from dear Sang to use instead of scallions in the rolls. Though now I worry why hasn’t my garlic, which I dutifully sowed around Columbus Day, produced its own scapes yet? I want to make garlic scape pesto!

My pickled ginger over too fishy salmon roe. I bought it frozen but it is better (and less smooshed) fresh.

My package of nori prodded me to try an inside-outside fancy maki roll, with rice and roasted sesame on the outside, for the first time. If you line your bamboo mat with plastic wrap it really isn’t any harder than a regular roll. Just really press the rice into the sheet of nori. And cut that sheet in half. I usually use the whole sheet but that makes it actually harder to roll. Cutting is always harder than rolling for me. That’s when the sushi can fall apart. It’s important to cut the rolls with a sharp knife, which sadly mine are not. Nothing like making sushi to remind a gal her knives need sharpening!

Written by baltimoregon

May 21, 2010 at 10:11 am

Ume and Shiso (and Kiwi): Think Sushi

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Moosewood-inspired brown rice sushi with ume (pickled plums), avocado, spinach and green onion.

Ume (Japanese pickled plums) with shiso (otherwise known as beefstake plant or perilla).

I am in love with salty ume, those puckery, pink Japanese pickled plums. We picked up a big vat of them for cheap at Anzen Hiroshi’s, an old-school Japanese market in Portland. I can’t stop eating them out of the jar. Too bad two plums (actually closer to our apricots) have about 40 percent of your daily recommended sodium intake.

Umeboshi (the plums pickled and dyed red by shiso, or purple Japanese basil) lends itself to sushi. So sushi we made, with the ume paste spread atop the brown rice. Per a newer Moosewood cookbook’s suggestion, I also added some umeboshi vingear along with the standard rice vinegar and mirin to the sushi rice. This salty, umami condiment is worth springing for, for any dishes that need a little oomph. We piled on avocado, spinach and scallions and then rolled the maki up. With leftover rice, I made spicy tuna rolls, with high-quality chunk light tuna mixed up with mayo and Sriacha sauce.

Then today my friend Tony prepared another sushi feast for lunch, with that ume we purchased together. He molded rice triangles, which I fondly remember from Japanese quick-marts, topped with ume, avocado and kiwi slices. Tropical fruits like kiwi and mango make nice sushi toppings. Who knew that kiwi grew in Oregon and into November? It stores well through the winter so I could pick some up at the farmer’s market Saturday.

And I haven’t even gotten to shiso, that green Japanese herb I’ve hardly experienced. It’s also known as beefstake and perilla, as you’ll see it labeled on Japanese packaged goods. You say potato, I say potato. Ume and fresh shiso strips pair well together in maki rolls. A salad dressing of ume and fresh shiso is also tempting. You can find green and purple shiso fresh at Asian markets, like An Dong in Portland (wish I’d sprang for it when we were there!). Look for it here soon.

Tony's sushi.

Hairy kiwi butt: still tasted good.

Written by baltimoregon

January 29, 2010 at 1:44 am

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