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Archive for March 22, 2015

FOOD FUN: Sashimi Cubes, 21st Century Sashimi Art

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A sushi chef interprets sashimi for the 21st
century. Photo courtesy RA Sushi | Orlando.

 

The sashimi tradition dates back to Japan’s Muromachi period, approximately 1337 to 1573 C.E. In the 1500s, when someone thought to cut up raw fish and dip the pieces into soy sauce, sashimi was born.

The marriage with pads of rice (nigiri sushi) and in seaweed-wrapped rolls, both known as sushi, came later. Modern sushi was created by Hanaya Yohei (1799–1858) at the end of the Edo period (1603 and 1868). He invented it in Edo, the city that is now Tokyo. It was an early form of fast food.

Today, sushi chefs train for years to achieve a level 1 certification, and prepare both sushi and sashimi (see the differences below). But back to sashimi:

In this beautiful evolution from RA Sushi (see photo), the fish is cut into cubes. If you think you don’t have the knife skills to make sashimi at home, think again.

 

This is much easier for a home cook to do than cutting the thin slivers of fish in a way that sushi chefs take years to master.

A Japanese saying, “kasshu hojo,” means that cutting is the most important; cooking skill comes second. But fear not: All you need to can serve this beautiful plate at home is a sharp knife and an eye for straight lines. (Don’t have an eye? Use a washed ruler or other straight edge.)

Then, enjoy this “special occasion” dish that is so easy to make, you can enjoy it anytime.

 
RECIPE: SASHIMI CUBES

Ingredients

  • Fillets of salmon, tuna and yellowtail
  • 2 shrimp per person
  • Soy sauce
  • Wasabi
  • Optional: grated ginger
  • Optional: grated lemon or lime zest
  • Optional garnish: microgreens
  • Optional: lemon or lime wedges
  •  
    Preparation

    1. STEAM or use other technique to lightly cook the shrimp (or for contrast, you can grill them). To get the elongated shape shown in the photo, cook the shrimp on skewers.

    2. CUT the fish into bite-size cubes, about one inch square.

    3. PLATE, ideally in a square grid on a square plate, as shown in the photo. But large round plates work, too. Garnish with the shrimp some pretty microgreens.

    4. SERVE with soy sauce and wasabi. To make the soy sauce more interesting, mix it with fresh grated ginger (lots!) and a bit of lemon or lime zest. We always serve sushi and sashimi with lemon or lime wedges, and squeeze the fresh juice over the fish before dipping the pieces in soy sauce.

     

    SQUARE PLATES

    You can buy square plates with angled rims or without rims.
     

    Or, if you don’t want to make an investment, pick up some very inexpensive yet attractive white plastic square plates, in 8-inch or 10-3/4-inch sizes.
     
    SUSHI & SASHMI: THE DIFFERENCE

    What Is Sushi?

    Sushi is a dish made of vinegared rice (it also has a bit of sugar to counter the vinegar) that can be variously combined with thin slices of seafood, vegetables, egg and, in the world of nouvelle cuisine, other items from beef to barbecue chicken to fresh fruit.

     

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    A traditional deluxe sashimi plate. Photo courtesy Bamboo Sushi | Portland, Oregon.

     
    Sushi does not mean “raw fish,” but “vinegar[ed] rice.” While much of the fish used to make sushi is raw, some of the items are blanched, boiled, broiled, marinated or sautéed, either for a tender consistency or to kill any microscopic parasites.

    Sushi was originally developed as a snack food—as the story goes, to serve at gambling parlors so the gamblers could take quick bites without stopping the action. There are different styles of sushi:

  • Chirashi-sushi, fish and other items served on top of a bowl of vinegared sushi rice (chirashi means to scatter).
  • Maki-sushi, rolled sushi (including hand rolls, temaki—maki means roll).
  • Nigiri-sushi, slices of fish or other foods on pads of rice (nigiri means hand-formed).
  • Oshi-sushi, squares or rectangles of pressed rice topped with vinegared or cooked fish, made in a wooden mold (oshi means pushed or pressed).
  • Stuffed sushi, including chakin-zushi or fukusa-sushi, ingredients wrapped in a thin egg crêpe; and inari-sushi, with ingredients stuffed into a small pouch of fried bean curd (tofu).
     
    What Is Sashimi?

    Sashimi is sliced fish that is served with a bowl of regular boiled rice (no vinegar) on the side. The word sashimi means “pierced body”: sashi means pierced or stuck, and mi means body or meat. It may derive from the culinary practice of keeping the fish’s tail and fin with the cut slices to identify the fish being eaten.

    Sashimi fish is cut into thicker pieces, since it neither has to drape over a rice nor curve into a roll.

    Check out the different types of sushi and sashimi in our glossary.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fish Fillet Vs. Fish Steak

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    A salmon fillet: no bone, but skin on the
    bottom. Photo courtesy DailyPerricone.com.

     

    You’ll note that some fish recipes, like the one below for Pretzel-Crusted Tuna, call for fish steaks. Other recipes call for fillets. What’s the difference?

    It’s all about the cut.
     
    FISH FILLET

  • To fillet (it’s a verb as well as a noun), the flesh is cut whole away from the backbone of the fish by cutting lengthwise along one side, parallel to the backbone.
  • Fillets do not contain any pieces of the larger bones, but some species have smaller, intramuscular bones (called pins) within the flesh.
  • Butterfly fillets are a specialty cut, produced by cutting the fillets on each side in such a way that they are held together by the flesh and skin of the belly.
  • The skin may be removed before the fish is filleted.
  •  

    What’s the difference between a fillet and a filet?

    Just the language, which impacts spelling and pronunciation. Fillet (FILL-it) is English and filet (fee-LAY) is French.

     

    FISH STEAK

  • With a steak, the flesh is cut crosswise (perpendicular to the spine), cutting through the bone. The resulting steak may include a piece of bone and skin, or it can be boneless and skinless, especially with larger fish.
  • Steaks are usually cut with fish that are larger than 10 pounds.
  • With very large fish (a swordfish or tuna can be hundreds of pounds, if not 1,000 pounds or more), a cross-cut is too large for a single serving. With such large fish, the steaks are cut into smaller pieces that resemble fillets, but are more even/rectangular.
  •  
    IS ONE BETTER THAN THE OTHER?

    Considered more elegant in appearance than steaks, fillets have been traditionally used by restaurant chefs. More casual eateries are more likely to use salmon steaks these days; and of course, they’re in your grocer’s fresh and frozen fish cases.

     

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    A salmon steak. Photo courtesy Tbilisi.all.biz.

     

    However, more than a few people claim that bone-in beef steaks taste so much better than boneless cuts. So why wouldn’t it be the same with bone-in fish?

    This article does a very good job of explaining why the argument for bone superiority may be specious.

    There are also recipes that require one or the other by definition. Fish and chips, for example, requires fillets.

    A final consideration: Because they are thicker than fish fillets, fish steaks are less likely to fall apart when cooking. Cod, dorado (mahi-mahi), tuna, larger varieties of salmon, and swordfish are typically cut into steaks.

      

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    RECIPE: Pretzel Crusted Tuna

    pretzel-crusted-ahi-bonefishgrill-230r

    A delicious way to prepare tuna steaks: with
    a pretzel crust! Photo courtesy Bonefish Grill.

     

    Beyond panko: Turn pretzels into a tasty crust for seared fish.

    We love the appeal of this seared tuna recipe from Bonefish Grill. Not only do we love tuna; but the pretzels offer a fun alternative to the sesame crusted tuna recipe we typically use.

    We endeavored to recreate the recipe at home, and discovered that:

  • The recipe can be used with any thick fish fillet or steak.
  • It is easiest to crush pretzel sticks; thin and uniform, they crush quickly and evenly.
  • But you can use any pretzel. We also tried the gluten-free Pretzel Crisps we had on hand, and whole wheat pretzels from Snyder’s Of Hanover (which also makes GF pretzel sticks).
  • Our favorite crust was made from Utz sesame pretzels. But we think our choice going forward will be to add some toasted sesame seeds to whole wheat pretzels.
  • Don’t add much salt to the red wine sauce, unless you’re using salt-free pretzels. Otherwise, there’s plenty of salt in the pretzel crust.
  • Check out the history of pretzels, below. Without prayers and kids, we wouldn’t have them.
  •  
    RECIPE: PRETZEL-CRUSTED TUNA

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 2 tuna steaks
  • 1 cup crushed pretzels
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  •  
    For The Sauce

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or canola oil
  • Pinch salt
  •  

    Preparation

    1. Pulse the pretzels in a food processor to the consistency of bread crumbs. Set aside.

    2. MAKE the sauce: Mince the shallot and heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until soft. Then add the wine and deglaze the pan. Simmer the sauce for three minutes so the alcohol evaporates and the sauce thickens.

    3. HEAT a cast iron skillet over high heat and add the butter or oil. Press the tops of the tuna steaks into the pretzel crumbs to coat. When the fat starts to smoke, place the fish face down in the pan.

    4. COOK for 4-5 minutes top down, then flip over and cook for another 3 minutes to serve rare, as they do at Bonefish Grill.

    5. SERVE with the sauce on the side, so the crumbs stay crisper.
     
    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SKILLET & A FRYING PAN

    It’s this easy: A skillet has slanted sides. A frying pan, also called a sauté pan, has straight sides that are higher than the skillet’s. (For this recipe, use whatever you have.)

    Why the two different side shapes?

    Frying/Sauté Pan Benefits

     

    homemade-pretzels-ws-230

    Dough for the original pretzels, called pretiola, were twisted to resemble a child’s arms folded in prayer. Photo courtesy Williams Sonoma. Here’s a recipe to bake your own homemade soft pretzels.

     
    If both pans are the same size, the frying/sauté pan will have a slightly larger surface area. In a 12-inch diameter pan, it can make the difference when fitting in pieces of chicken or other food, so you can cook everything in one batch.

    The other benefits of a frying/sauté pan: Liquids are less likely to splash out of the higher, straight sides; and lids fit more tightly, limiting evaporation.

    Skillet Benefits

    Chefs prefer the sloping sides of a skillet for quick cooking techniques like stir-frying, where the ingredients need to be moved around continuously. A skillet is also a better option for a frittata, served straight from the pan.

    It is a fun fact in cooking that a skillet is better for sautéeing than a sauté pan. The sloping sides make it easier to move pieces of food around while constantly stirring, and to more easily shake the pan to toss the food for even cooking. For the best sear, choose a cast iron skillet. It gets hotter than other metals.

    You can, of course, sauté your food in a straight-sided sauté pan, but it requires more work: constant stirring and turning.

    Guessing that the straight-sided frying pan may have come first, and the skillet adapted for greater flexibility, we tried to locate the facts. What we found was this, in Wikipedia:

    Before the introduction of the kitchen stove in the mid-19th century, a commonly used cast iron cooking pan called a spider had a handle and three legs used to stand up in the coals and ashes of the fire. Cooking pots and pans with legless, flat bottoms were designed when cooking stoves became popular; this period of the late 19th century saw the introduction of the flat cast iron skillet.

    Related Pans

    Professionals use a sauteuse (saw-TOOZ), a pan that combines the best higher sides of the sauté pan and the sloping sides of the skillet. It is also called a fait-tout (fay-TOOT), which literally means that it “does everything”.”

    Finally, mention must be made of the grill pan. It’s a frying pan with very low sides and series of parallel ridges on the cooking surface, which both enables cooking with radiant heat like a grill, and allows the fat to drain down.

     
    THE HISTORY OF PRETZELS

    It was all for the kids. In 610 C.E., monks in the what is today southern France northern Italy twisted and baked scraps of dough as a reward for children who had memorized their Bible verses and prayers.

    The shape represented the monks’ concept of a child’s arms folded in prayer. The monks called this soft, baked dough a “pretiola,” Latin for “little reward.”

    The word evolved into the Italian “brachiola,” which means “little arms.” Over the next few centuries, the pretiola journeyed through the French and Italian wine regions, crossed the Alps, traveled through Austria and arrived in Germany, where it became known as the Bretzel or Pretzel.

    Here’s more of pretzel history.

      

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