Friday, October 8, 2010

Sushi Bowls

Lots to be happy about today:  
  • The weather is finally warming up again.
  • I'm looking forward to a weekend in San Francisco, exploring the city and seeing a band.
  • We successfully made homemade sushi last night!
We love going out for sushi, but it can get expensive.  I've been wanting to make sushi at home for the longest time, but with all my fear of finding good quality fish, using unfamiliar ingredients, figuring out how the $&%! to roll those things tight enough... I was never up to the challenge.  The other day I came across a recipe for sushi bowls at 101 Cookbooks that helped me bypass all those fears. 

There's no fish in them.  Tofu provides the protein, and I had some that needed to be used up anyways.  The ingredients didn't sound too foreign, although I did have to go to the "Asian specialty" aisle of my grocery store for a few things.  Best of all - you don't roll anything.  It's a kind of deconstructed maki (sushi roll) - also known as chirashizushi or chirashi sushi.  

Just like sushi rolls, the best thing about this recipe is that you start with the sushi rice, and add whatever other veggies, fish or other protein, sauces, etc. that you like.  The term "sushi" just refers to the rice, so the rest is up to you.  This is the recipe we ended up with.  I used Mark Bittman's recipe for the sushi rice.

  • 1 1/2 cups short-grain rice 
  • 6 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed, cut into thin sheets
  • 1 sheet nori, cut or torn into small pieces
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and julienned
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • sesame oil
  • pickled ginger
  • soy sauce

Cook the rice according to the directions on the package.  Combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a bowl, and microwave ~30 seconds.  Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved.   Cool the vinegar mixture rapidly in the freezer or by floating the bowl in ice water.  Once the rice is done, toss it in a large bowl with the vinegar mixture and the sesame seeds with a wooden spoon or a spatula.  Keep tossing it until the rice is mostly cool.  Directing a fan towards the bowl helps speed this step along. 

Heat a skillet with a small amount of sesame oil.  Cook the tofu sheets for a few minutes on each side, just until lightly browned.  Cut into thin strips. 

This tofu is a little overcooked.  Don't do that.

Fill bowls with the rice and top with the tofu and vegetables.  Serve with the soy sauce and pickled ginger on the side.

4+ servings.

I don't have a picture of the finished product because we ate them so fast.  If you like sushi, you will like this.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Veggie Chili

A rainy day in Reno inspired me to make a batch of chili for dinner tonight.  I'd already picked up a few kinds of squash at the grocery store this morning (it was on sale... I can't help myself) and remembered that a friend had mentioned to me that she likes to put squash in her chili.  I always forget that zucchini is technically a squash - which is what she uses - but I decided to try the butternut squash I already had on hand.

Be careful peeling your squash if you use one with a firm peel (like butternut).  I used my sharpest knife and still struggled a little with it.  Cut it into manageable pieces and scoop out the seeds first.  I rinsed the seeds in cold water to remove the pulp, dried them on a paper towel, and roasted them at 275 degrees with a spritz of olive oil and a little salt for just over 15 minutes (like you may have done with seeds left from pumpkin carving).

Tonight's batch of chili is based on the recipe I normally use from the Amateur Gourmet site.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped (or ~1 small)
  • 1 jalapeño, minced
  • 1 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz beer (all we had was Coors, but usually I use an amber ale)
  • 3 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • scant tablespoon ground coriander
  • scant tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chiles in adobo sauce, chopped*
  • 1 tablespoon paprika

For a firmer squash like butternut, you'll want to steam it to soften it up a bit before putting the chili together.  I steamed mine for about 8 minutes: 

Sauté the onion and jalapeño in the olive oil for a few minutes, until soft.  Then combine with the rest of the ingredients.  

Simmer away on the stove for as long as you can resist: 

I heat it up enough to just start to boil, then put the lid on and leave on a low heat for a few hours.

We garnished with sour cream and shredded smoked gouda.  It would be good with other cheeses, cornbread, crackers, chopped mild onion... anything you normally like with your chili. 

*A note on the chiles in adobo sauce:  These are extremely hot.  Two tablespoons is only going to be a small portion of the can they come in.  My chili turned out a little spicier than I planned.  They do give a nice smoky, spicy flavor to the chili so I wouldn't skip them.  Just be aware that for the heat-averse you might dial back the amount.  I freeze what's left from the can in an ice cube tray lined with plastic wrap.  Each "cube" is about the amount I use in each pot of chili.  Transfer them to a freezer-safe bag once they're frozen so they can be thawed out and chopped as needed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Confession #2

It's nights like these I don't feel like a cook at all.  I'm watching cheesy French films on NetFlix and making cheap mac'n'cheese on the stove.

I don't even speak French.