Monday, July 24, 2006

Fresh Strawberry Topping

Growing up we often had a slice of angel food or yellow cake drowned in sweetened strawberries for dessert. At least my slices were always drowned because I was allowed to add the berry topping at my own discretion. They almost seemed unlimited as we were fortunate enough to have bushels of fresh berries picked from a patch in our mother's garden. When strawberry season was over, there was frozen berries in the freezer and what seemed like endless jars of jam.

Today I don't have my own berry patch, but I make the most of strawberry season by buying the fruit when available down at the farmer's market. This past Saturday I found some absolute jewels at Dirty Girl Produce at the Ferry Plaza. One great thing about having access to a farmer's market is you're able to buy the old varieties of strawberries that have not been engineered or cross bred to ship long distances. I shutter when I see some of the huge berries in the super market. Dry and flavorless, these often are more white then red. The Dirty Girl berries had not been toyed with. These were the small, sumptuous berries of my childhood and not a smidgeon of white flesh was found as I detopped them. It's getting late in the year, but if you run into some ruby red juicy strawberries that taste like strawberries are supposed to taste, make some cake and top it with this simple concoction.

Buy three pints of small, great tasting strawberries
Clean and detop them reserving 1/3 of them in a separate bowl (I usually reserve the most attractive ones)
Mash the 2/3 with a pastry blender or chopper. Or just pulse a couple of times in a food processor. It should be pretty chunky, just mash until the juices flow. Stir in sugar to taste. Start with 1/4 of a cup. When the sugar is dissolved, add the whole reserved berries and stir them in. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sushi at Home

Attempting to make sushi at home can be a daunting undertaking, but once you practice it a few times, it really sticks-literally. Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean raw fish, it actually refers to food made with vinegared rice, or sumeshi. Correctly seasoned sumeshi is the key to good flavored sushi. I've found great results by following the guidance of Emi Kazuko in her book, Easy Sushi. I use a rice cooker to cook the short grained Japanese rice and then follow her technique of folding the seasoned rice vinegar into the just-cooked short grain rice as it cools to body temperature. Next thing you know, the rice is sticky but not mushy. The individual grains seem to be coated with glue.

With a foundation of well made sumeshi and a bamboo roller, you can tackle making your favorite sushi rolls. Just julien (cut into matchsticks) a variety of vegetables such as cucumber, avocado, and green onions. Thinly slice fresh herbs such as japanese shiso leaves or thai basil, then cook some shrimp, slice some raw fish, and set it all out for everyone to create their own favorite combinations. This is a great way to get friends and family involved in making dinner. Honestly, this is about the only thing Lou makes besides tuna melts and burritos, so it's worth a little preparation for some quality time in the kitchen.

As you can see, a little fish goes a long way. We were stuffed after the miso soup, edamame, sashimi, and all our favorite sushi rolls topped off with some unfiltered sake. Next time, we'll invite some friends.