Monday, March 31, 2014

Steamed Jamaican Tilapia with Ginger Soy Sauce

Enjoying a predominantly pescatorian diet, finding a new fish to prepare is a real treat, such as these whole Jamaican Tilapia that I discovered at Diana's Seafood the other day. Diana's has a vast selection of fresh fish from all over the world, both whole and filets, but I'd never seen whole Jamaican Tilapia before — neither had my lovely lady fishmonger who regularly serves me at Diana's. When she's impressed, I'm impressed.

The whole tilapia are stuffed with lemon, dill, cilantro, mint and fresh sliced ginger

A fragrant sauce of soy, sesame oil, ponzu, rice vinegar and chopped green onion is poured overtop, then the tilapia are covered, sealed and baked at 425°F for 30-40 minutes

Steamed Whole Jamaican Tilapia with Ginger-Soy Sauce
Serves 2

2 whole Jamaican Tilapia, scaled and cleaned
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 handful of fresh dill
1 lemon, sliced
1 handful fresh mint
1 handful fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 scallions, sliced on the diagonal
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp ponzu
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil and liberally spread with vegetable oil to prevent the tilapia from sticking while steaming. Lay the tilapia on the foil, turn over in the vegetable oil to coat both sides, then lay to rest side by side on the foil lined tray. Stuff the tilapia with the dill, mint, cilantro, sliced ginger and 4 lemon slices.

In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, ponzu, sesame oil, rice vinegar then green onion, and pour over the tilapia. Cover the entire tray of tilapia with aluminum foil, so that it overhangs the edges. Seal the tray by crimping the foil around the tray and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the tilapia is cooked through. 

Using 2 large spatulas, remove each whole tilapia and place on pre-warmeddinner plates. Garnish with the remaining lemon slices and top with a sprig of cilantro. Serve immediately with a bone bowl on the side. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pan-Seared Salmon with Mustard-Caper Butter Sauce

I have a full blown love affair with salmon. Grilled, cured, smoked or raw, it's my absolute favourite fish. One of the ocean's super-foods, salmon is positively packed with nutrients, especially protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. It's also entirely carb free. Served over a mound of steamed spinach, which is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and you've got the basis for a beautiful, healthy, heart-smart meal. That is until we throw a saucy spanner in the works with a soupçon of Mustard-Caper Butter Sauce and a dollop of Sour Cream with Dill. Salmon, spinach, lemon, capers and dill — oh my! Now we have a gastronomic marriage made in culinary heaven.

Mustard-Caper Butter with butter, chopped capers, dil, olive oil, grainy mustard, lemon zest, 
salt and pepper, blended in a food processor until smooth

Then melted over medium heat

Dill Sour Cream with chopped dil, sour cream and mayonnaise seasoned 
with salt and white pepper

Fresh spinach steamed until wilted and spiked with a dollop of butter

Two Irish organic salmon filets

Dredged in vegetable oil and seasoned with salt and white pepper

Seared skin side down in a non-stick oven-proof pan over high heat for 2-3 minutes, 
until the skin is brown and crispy

Pan Seared Wild Irish Salmon with Mustard-Caper Butter Sauce
Serves 2

2 centre-cut wild Irish salmon filets (I get mine from Diana's)
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
8 ounces spinach
1 tsp butter

Mustard-Caper Butter:
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp drained capers, coarsely chopped
3 tsp coarsely chopped fresh dill, plus whole sprigs for garnish
1 tsp grainy mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon, plus thin slices for garnish
Freshly ground pepper

Sour Cream Dill Sauce:
1/3 cup sour cream or plain Greek Yogurt
3 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste

Prepare the mustard-caper butter sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a processor and blend until smooth. Spoon into a saucepan and warm over medium heat until melted. Cover and keep warm until needed. Combine the sour cream, mayonnaise and dill in a small bowl and season with salt and white pepper to taste. Blend and cover with plastic wrap; chill until ready.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rub both sides of salmon fillets with vegetable oil and season with salt and white pepper. Heat an oven-proof non-stick sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is very hot, swirl in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and then add the salmon filets, skin side down. Sear for 3 minutes or until the skin is brown and crispy, then place the pan in the oven and bake for 4-6 minutes, or until the salmon is just cooked through.

While the salmon is in the oven, steam the spinach until just wilted. Dot with some butter if desired, cover and set aside.

To serve, place a mound of spinach in centre of each plate and top with a salmon fillet, skin side up. Drizzle melted mustard-caper butter sauce around the plate and a little over top of the salmon. Garnish with 2 lemon slices, a dollop of Dill Sour Cream, and top with a sprig of dill and serve immediately accompanied with a bowl of Lemon Dill Rice.

Lemon Rice Mitchell
Serves 2

1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp chopped fresh lemon rind, plus curls for garnish
2 tbsp fresh chopped dill
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Mix the broth, rice and garlic in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low for 20-30 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the lemon rind, dill and butter and serve garnished with dill sprigs and lemon curls.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Swordfish with Citrus & Cilantro Marinade

I adore swordfish and serve it at least two or three times a month. Ideally, it's best grilled outdoors on a barbecue to create gorgeous grill marks, but when faced with a winter that just won't quit, baking the swordfish in the oven is the next best thing. With a dense, meaty texture and mildly sweet flavour, the key is preparing a marinade that is fragrant enough to enhance the swordfish without overpowering it's delicacy. This fabulous Citrus and Cilantro Marinade of lemon and orange zest, cilantro, sesame oil, olive oil and Ponzu sauce works beautifully on swordfish as well as salmon, tilapia or even seafood. Marinated for at least half an hour, the swordfish is simply baked in a 400°F oven for about 25 minutes, or until it's just cooked through. Served with a light salad and chilled glass of white wine, warmer weather doesn't seem so far away.

Citrus and cilantro marinade with lemon and orange zest, cilantro, sesame oil, olive oil and Ponzu

The swordfish is bathed in the marinade for 30-60 minutes

Red Oak Leaf salad with red cabbage sprouts, macadamia nuts and 
Tanimura & Antle Artisan Petite Tango lettuce

One ripe avocado is diced and added to the salad then dressed with a citrus vinaigrette

Swordfish with Citrus & Cilantro Marinade
Serves 2

1 lb swordfish, cut in two
3 slices of orange and arugula, for garnish

2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Kikkoman Ponzu citrus-seasoned soy sauce

1/2 head red oak lettuce
1/2 head Tanimura & Antle Artisan petite tango lettuce
1/4 cup dry roasted macadamia nuts
1 tbsp red cabbage sprouts
1/4 cucumber, halved length-wise and finely sliced
2 gren onions, finely chopped
1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced

Citrus Vinaigrette:
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 orange
salt and pepper to taste

In a small food processor, blend the cilantro, lemon zest, orange zest, olive oil, sesame oil and ponzu sauce until well combined. Place the swordfish in a flat dish and coat with the marinade. Allow the fish to marinate 30-60 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the citrus vinaigrette by adding all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until emulsified, then set aside. 

Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake the swordfish in a non reactive dish for 25 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. While the swordfish is in the oven, prepare the salad. Wash and dry the lettuce in a salad spinner and add to a salad bowl. Top with the chopped cucumber, green onions, cabbage sprouts and macadamia nuts. Dress the salad with the citrus vinaigrette then top with the diced avocado.

To serve, place the swordfish on a warmed serving plate and garnish with sliced orange and arugula, accompanied with the salad and a chilled bottle of white wine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spaghettini with Tomato Sauce & Fresh Basil

What better way to celebrate the full flavours of an Italian spring than with pasta bathed in homemade tomato sauce spiked with an aromatic punch of fresh basil. I love to find ways of using our homemade 'Mamma Styles' tomato sauce that we make each autumn, and this recipe is one of the more delicious ways to enjoy the fruits of our labour. Topped with a sprig of fresh basil and a flutter of grated pecorino, there is no better way to ward off the last vestiges of winter, and open our culinary arms to spring.

Spaghettini with Homemade Tomato Sauce & Fresh Basil
Serves 4

1 package dried Spaghettini pasta
4 cups quality Tomato Sauce, preferably homemade like 'Mamma Styles'
1/4 cup red wine
1 bunch fresh basil, washed and dried
1 cup grated Pecorino

Start to boil water in a large pot. Place the tomato sauce and wine in a small saucepan over medium heat, and gently simmer until warmed through. Cover and keep warm.

Add the dried pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the pasta is cooking, julienne about 10 basil leaves and select 4 attractive sprigs for garnish. Drain the spaghettini into a colander, reserving 1 cup of pasta water, return the pasta to the pot and toss with the tomato sauce and chopped basil. Spoon a tablespoon or two of pasta water to the sauce and gently mix to combine.

Serve the pasta as large nests in pre-warmed dinner bowls: using a large fork, twirl a portion of spaghettini and cradle in a large spoon or small bowl until it forms a nest-like shape, then place in each serving bowl. Garnish each 'nidi' with a sprig of basil and serve immediately with a bowl of grate pecorino on the side.

Guy's Garlic Bread
Serves 4

1 fresh ciabatta or baguette
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mash up the butter and minced garlic until it's well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped parsley. Cut the ciabatta in half length wise being careful not o cut all the way through — it should open like a book. Liberally spread the garlic butter on the inside of both 'halves', then wrap snuggly in aluminum foil. Place in a preheated oven set to 375°F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, open the garlic bread up from it's foil package and allow it to cook open to the heat of the oven for another 5 minutes. To serve, close the bread back to it's original loaf shape and slice into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bread basket and serve with the pasta.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Prosciutto, Pear & Arugula Wraps with Cambozola

A simple and delicious appetizer with sensational Italian flair: prosciutto, pear, arugula with smooth, rich and creamy full-flavoured Cambozola. Wrapped into tight little bundles of mouthwatering perfection, these hors d'oeuvres look beautiful when presented together on a plate, spoke-fashion, and finished with a drizzle of Balsamic glaze — buonissimo!

Prosciutto, Pear & Arugula with Cambozola
Makes 16 appetizers

16 slices Prosciutto di Parma
6 oz Cambozola, Gorgonzola or Saint Agur cheese
1 bunch arugula, washed and 16 large leaves selected 
1 ripe Bartlett or Bosc pear
Balsamic glaze, for drizzle garnish

Quarter the pear lengthwise and remove the core. Cut into quarters and then in half again, making 16 slices. To create each bundle, place a slice of prosciutto on a clean surface and spoon a portion of cambozola on one end, top with an arugula leaf and a slice of pear, then roll up into a tight bundle and arrange on a serving platter, seam side down. Garnish with a drizzle of Balsamic Glaze and serve.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grilled Asian Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin with Cilantro

These Asian-inspired pork tenderloin grill up wonderfully tender and flavourful, and take only minutes to prepare. Chinese five-spice powder is an aromatic blend of spices that have the five different flavours: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. For this recipe, the five-spice, brown sugar, minced garlic and salt are turned into a rub for the pork. After grilling, the tenderloin is tossed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, fresh ginger and crushed red pepper, then sprinkled with freshly chopped cilantro. Full flavoured and delightfully robust, the five-spice marinade gives the meat a real kick without being too hot. Absolutely delicious, Grilled Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin presents beautifully too! To round out the meal, you could serve the grilled pork with some steamed jasmine rice, a crunchy Asian slaw and cold Soba noodles.

Grilled Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin with Soy-Ginger Sauce & Cilantro
Serves six

2 tbsp Chinese five-spice powder
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp Asian sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 pork tenderloin, about 1 1/2-pounds
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plu more for the grill
3 tbsp chopped cilantro

Mix the five-spice powder, 1 tbsp of the sugar, garlic and the salt in a small bowl. In another bowl, mix the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, red pepper flakes and remaining 1 tsp sugar. Put the pork tenderloin in a shallow pan, or plastic baggie, and drizzle with the vegetable oil, tossing to coat evenly. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the pork, then toss and rub to coat thoroughly. The pork can be made ahead up this point and refrigerated until needed.

On an outdoor grill: Grill the on the BBQ over medium heat until one side has dark grill marks, about 8-10 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until well marked on the other sides and cooked through.

In the oven: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the tenderloin on a foil lined baking sheet and cook for 25-50 minutes, until the pork is browned and cooked through.

Move the tenderloin to a serving dish and slice into thick 1/2-inch pieces. Drizzle with about half of the soy mixture, sprinkle with the cilantro, and toss to coat. Let rest 4 to 5 minutes, tossing once or twice. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature, with the remaining soy mixture passed at the table.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Ultimate Pizza Margherita: Homemade Magic

Making homemade pizza must be one of the most rewarding and satisfying culinary endeavours. Once mastered, there is no point of return. One pizza stone, a pliant mound of soft round dough, some homemade tomato sauce, a heap of grated mozzarella, fresh fragrant basil leaves and half a dozen salty mouth puckeringly fabulous anchovies, and you're all set. If you haven't got the time to make your own pizza dough, no matter. Any good bakery or supermarket these days sells their own for less than a dollar to two — a good deal at double the price. Customized with your own favourite herbs, cheeses, vegetables, sliced meats or esoteric garnishes, and you're away to the races. Less than 10 minutes in the oven and it's love at first bite.

Rolled into a rough round shape, the dough is place on a pizza stone and the edges brushed with olive oil

Warmed homemade tomato sauce is spooned on top

The sauce is spread around the top of the pizza dough

Sprinkled with grated mozzarella cheese

Dotted with anchovies

And finished with chopped fresh basil

Cooked in the oven for 15-20 minutes and buonissimo!

Pizza Margherita
Serves 6

Pizza Dough:
3 1/2 cups "00" Flour
2 tbsp salt 
1 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast 
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 ball mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 jar of anchovies, about 30-40 filets
1 cup flour or cornmeal
1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only

To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast mixture and oil. Using a wooden spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until the mixture is too stiff to stir, then mix with your hands in the bowl until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding only as much flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until smooth, elastic, and only slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Divide it into 8 pieces and shape each one into a ball. Freeze any dough not being used immediately. Cover with a tea towel and let stand for 15 minutes before stretching the dough. 

Place a pizza stone in the oven then preheat to 450°F. Dust a large work surface with flour, and stretch the dough into a round pizza-shape. When the pizza stone has come to temperature, using oven mitts, remove it from the oven and place a heat-proof surface. Place the round of rolled dough onto the pizza stone and brush the edges with olive oil, then spoon on some tomato sauce and and sprinkle with grated mozzarella. Garnish with anchovies and top with basil leaves. 

Transfer the pizza stone into the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the pizza is golden brown. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm while you make the other pizzas. We usually serve guests one slice each while the next pizza is cooking in the oven, so everyone gets to enjoy a hot slice. It's the best!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spinach Salad with Cabbage Sprouts & Macadamias

Light, healthy and delicious, this simple Spinach Salad with Cabbage Sprouts & Macadamia Nuts dressed with a low fat Wafu Japanese Sesame Dressing looks great and tastes even better. Having discovered this dressing a few years ago, it adds a light Asian accent to salads or even steamed green beans. I served this salad with Asian Five-Spice Pork Tenderloin and Cold Soba Noodles, for a tropically inspired evening on a cold wintery weekend. 

Wafu light Japanese Vinaigrette

Organic Red Cabbage Sprouts

Spinach Salad with Macadamia Nuts & Red Cabbage Sprouts
Serves 4

2 bags baby spinach leaves
1 flat of organic red cabbage sprouts
1/2 cup dry roasted Macadamia nuts
1/4 cup Wafu light Japanese Sesame Dressing

Add the baby spinach leaves into a salad bowl and garnish with red cabbage sprouts and macadamia nuts. Dress with the Wafu dressing and serve. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tagliatelle Marinara with Meatballs, Pecorino & Thyme

There’s nothing more satisfying than a heaping platter of Tagliatelle and Meatballs in a thick rich tomato sauce. It's the perfect Italian comfort food. However, it's not in fact an authentic Italian dish, but an Italian-American adaptation. But who cares? Smaller meatballs are more traditionally Italian, but the star of this dish are the meatballs, and in this case — size does matter. 

The robust combination of pork, beef and veal flavoured with fresh parsley, Italian seasoning, breadcrumbs and lots of Pecorino cheese, give these plump meatballs a rich depth of flavour that stands up to even the heartiest tomato sauce. The meatballs are gently pan fried and then braised in the sauce for about half an hour, adding an extra complexity to the thick marinara sauce. Served on a large platter over a mound of perfectly cooked pasta, this is a delicious heart warming dish to have in your repertoire, since both the meatballs and tomato sauce freeze wonderfully well, and can be reheated whenever you need a dose of comfort food on a cold winter's evening.

Tagliatelle Marinara with Meatballs
Serves 6

1 1/2 lb tagliatelle, cooked al dente according to package directions
Freshly grated Pecorino
6 sprigs fresh thyme, for garnish

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb ground veal
1/2 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
1 1/4 cup fresh white bread crumbs, crusts removed
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 extra large egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:
2 tbsp good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
2 28-oz can crushed tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp dried crushed red peeper
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for garnish
3 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Pecorino, salt, pepper, Italian seasonings, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a large bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork, being careful not to overmix. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs, which will make about 14 to 16.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil over medium-high, and very carefully place the meatballs in the oil in batches, and brown them well on all sides, turning them carefully with a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, dried crushed red peppers, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. As the meatballs cook, they will also add complexity to the sauce. Serve hot on a mound of perfectly cooked tagliatelle, garnish with some fresh thyme and pass the grated Pecorino. If you're feeling decadent, some warm garlic bread wouldn't go amiss!

Guy's Garlic Bread
Serves 6

1 fresh ciabatta or baguette
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a small bowl, mash up the butter and minced garlic until it's well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped parsley. Cut the ciabatta in half length wise being careful not o cut all the way through — it should open like a book. Liberally spread the garlic butter on the inside of both 'halves', then wrap snuggly in aluminum foil. Place in a preheated oven set to 375°F and bake for 15-20 minutes. Just before serving, open the garlic bread up from it's foil package and allow it to cook open to the heat of the oven for another 5 minutes. To serve, close the bread back to it's original loaf shape and slice into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bread basket and serve with the pasta.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ahi Sashimi & Avocado Stack with Wonton Crisps

Inspired by a dinner we enjoyed at Alan Wong's in Honolulu earlier this month, and adapted from the recipe from his 'The Blue Tomato: The Inspirations Behind the Cuisine of Alan Wong' cookbook, I recreated this fabulous Ahi Sashimi & Avocado Stack that I ordered the evening we were there. Although it takes some time to 'prep', the results are well worth the effort. An impressive first course for a special evening, the combination of flavours and textures are simply sublime.

Wonton wrappers cut into 1/8-inch strips then deep fried in batches until crisp and gold, 
about 30 seconds — I did this a day in advance

1 1/2-pounds luscious sashimi grade ahi tuna

The tuna is chopped into a 1/4-inch dice, then seasoned with sesame oil, samba oelek and finely chopped green onion

The avocados were chopped into a 1/-inch dice and seasoned with fresh squeezed lime juice, chopped cilantro, minced ginger, sambal oelek and sake

I made a quick Sambal Aioli using prepared mayonnaise, rather than the homemade mayonnaise Alan Wong suggests, and seasoned it with dijon mustard, lemon juice and sambal oelek

Rather than making a Alan Wong's Wasabi Soy Sauce from scratch, I found thus Kikkoman Wasabi Sauce and used this to garnish the plates, which worked brilliantly as it had a squeezed top nozzle 

Using an empty frozen range juice can as a ring-mold, the layers of the stack are scooped in and compacted then topped with aioli and garnished with baby sprouts

 The ahi tuna stacks are plated and finished with a few dots if wasabi

Ahi Sashimi & Avocado Salsa Stack with Crispy Wontons
Serves 5
Recipe adapted and modified from Alan Wong's Blue Tomato Cookbook

Crispy Won Tons:
15 Wonton Wrappers
Canola oil for deep frying

Ahi Poke:
1 1/2 lb sashimi-grade ahi
2 tsp sesame oil
4 tbsp thinly sliced green onion
2 tsp Sambal Oelek sauce

Avocado Salsa:
3 small ripe avocados, about 7oz each
2 tbsp roughly chopped fresh cilantro
3 tsp minced ginger
4 tsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp Sambal Oelek 
3 tsp Sake 

Quick Sambal Aioli:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp Sambal Oelek 

Micro greens or sprouts
Wasabi Sauce

Cut the won ton wrappers into 1/8-inch strips. In a saucepan, heat 3-4" of oil to 350°F then place a small handful of the won ton strips in the hot oil and fry until light golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain on paper towels and set aside, allowing the won ton strips to cool. This can be done a day in advance.

Cut the ahi tuna into 1/4-inch cubes. Season with salt then add sesame oil and mix to coat well. Add the remaining ingredients and gently toss the mixture together. Taste and adjust the seasoning; set aside.

Cut the avocados into 1/4-inch cubes then sprinkle with salt then lime juice. Add the remaining ingredients and gently stir, but do not mash. 

For the sambal aioli, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, sambal oelek and garlic in a bowl and mix until well incorporated. Season with salt to taste.

To assemble the stacks, position a 3 1/2" x 2 1/2" ring-mold, or empty frozen orange juice can with both ends removed, on a serving plate. Spread a small amount of Avocado Salsa to serve as a base to prevent the won ton layer from sliding. Place won ton strips at the bottom and gently press down. Fill the remainder of the mold with Ahi Poke and smooth the top. Spoon 1/2 tsp of Sambal Aioli in the center of the ahi. Garnish with micro basil and an edible flower. If you can't find micro basil, sliced green onion may be substituted as a garnish. Using a squeeze bottle, make graduated dots of Wasabi Soy from large to small around the stack, and serve. Delicious and impressive!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Crab Rangoon: Creamy Crabmeat Wontons

These crisp fried wontons with a creamy crabmeat filling were a family favourite of ours when we used to go to Trader Vic's at the bottom of the Hilton Hotel in London, in the 70's and 80's. We'd always start with the pupu platter, which included Crispy Prawns, Char Su Pork, BBQ Spare Ribs and Crab Rangoon. Although some recipes suggest these wontons can be baked, I find they're much flakier, more delicate and soul satisfying deep-fried. Not the healthiest of appetizers, they're a decadent treat and the ideal pupu for a Polynesian-inspired Tiki evening with Ma Tai's and listening to the beautiful music of the late great Hawaiian singer, Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

Crab Rangoon filling: cream cheese, crab, A1 steak sauce, egg and scallions

Each wonton wrapper is moistened around the edges, filled with a heaping teaspoon of filling
then folded 2 corners at a time to form a 4-sided crown 

This recipe made 36 Crab Rangoon Wontons, which I pre-made and lay on paper towel so they remained dry on the bottom before frying

Crab Rangoon Wontons
Makes 36

8 oz cream cheese
8 oz crabmeat, drained, squeezed dry and flaked
2 tsp A1 Steak Sauce
1 large egg
1/3 cup scallions, finely chopped
36 wonton wrappers, 4-inches square
1/4 cup water
4 cups vegetable oil, for deep-frying

In a medium bowl, combine the crab, cream cheese, A1 sauce, egg and chopped scallions, and mix well with a wooden spoon until smooth. 

To make the wontons, lay a wrapper on a clean dry surface and using your finger, moisten all four edges with water. Place a rounded teaspoon of the filling in the centre of each wonton wrapper. To seal, press 2 opposing corners together over the middle of the filling and crisp  sealing the wonton to create a triangle. Then bring the other opposing corners to meet the top of the triangle and crimp all of the edges to form a small pyramid — it should look like an X-shape looking down on it. Repeat with the remaining wontons and filling.

To deep fry the wontons, heat 3-4-inches of oil in a saucepan over medium-high until the heat registers 375°. Fry the wontons for 10-20 seconds or until they become crisp and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, remove immediately and drain on paper towels. 

The wontons can be filled, folded at refrigerated up to a few hours or day in advance, but are best enjoyed immediately once they're deep-fried. They can however be kept warm in a single layer on a baking rack set on a baking sheet in a 250° oven for up to 30 minutes, which is what I did, and they were delicious.