Saturday, April 7, 2012

A Cook's Journey to Japan - Weekend Cooking!

I picked up "A Cook's Journey to Japan" in my local library. It was in the cookbook section, and it looked like a winner to me because one of my favorite sub-genres is the travel cookbook. These are, of course, books where the author travels around cooking and eating and seeing the sites, and dragging us along for the ride!

Right off the bat, I have to say that after the introduction, which explained how she came to be in Japan, author Sarah Marx Feldner, did not do much travel writing, and this turned out to be pretty much a cookbook, minus a whole lot of the travel part. Having said that, it turned out to be a really good Japanese cookbook.

Feldner starts with the very basics of Japanese cooking. For example, after the introduction, the first section is called 'Useful Japanese Tools and Utensils.' This is indeed very useful for those of us accustomed only to Western cooking. She shows us things like ginger graters. She also includes beautiful photographs of basic ingredients and explains what they are and how they are used.

This post was written as part of Cookbook Sundays (button below!) and also as part of Weekend Cooking, a weekly meme hosted by Beth at Beth Fish Reads. Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to head over to Beth Fish Reads, grab the button, and link up anytime over the weekend.  (The button is on your right...)

Then, she gently takes us to the very basic Japanese cooking techniques. We learn to grate wasabi; make ginger juice; and shave vegetables. My runaway favorite basic technique is "Pressing Tofu." This is a means to get the excess water out - something that she says is very useful when you are going to deep-fry your tofu. So, she places a block of tofu on a large cutting board. Then she puts a small, thin board on top of that, followed by a very clean looking rock! I love the idea of cooking with rocks! I have not done that since girl scouts when we were supposed to use rocks to make an oven in our campfire and bake gingerbread (Yea, THAT really worked...).

We learn to make stocks and different kinds of rice and pickled ginger...and then on to the recipes!

You will see that I picked an oh-so-simple recipe for today. Why? Because I am doing ScriptFrenzy in the month of April! We have one month to write a script. Mine is a movie script for a romantic comedy! The bad news is that it is taking more time than I had thought that it would; the good news is that I think it is pretty good so far! Having said all that, my offering today is a quick snack, lunch or appetizer recipe! And, sometimes you need a quick recipe...I also think that this would be good to use up all that extra sticky rice that you get with Chinese take-out. You could buy some thin sliced smoked salmon and the other ingredients and turn the leftover rice into something special the next day!

So, without further ado, I bring you, "One Bite Sushi Nibbles." Here is the recipe from page 118... Makes about 8 dozen balls

1 recipe Sushi Rice
5 oz smoked salmon, sliced paper thin
Chives, cut into 1-in lengths

WASABI MAYO
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wasabi paste or freshly grated wasabi, or to taste

1. To make the Wasabi Mayo, mix the mayonnaise and wasabi together in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. With damp lightly salted hands, shape the Sushi Rice into 2-teaspoon-size balls. (I found that a 2-teaspoon Oxo Cookie Scoop is ideal for portioning the rice balls.)

3. Wrap each ball with a piece of salmon - squeeze gently to refine the shape and help make the salmon stick to the rice.

4. Dollop each ball with some of the Wasabi Mayo and decorate with the chives.

That's it!

A note about the chives...garlic chives grown wild here, so I got mine from the yard :)
CookbookSundays

57 comments:

  1. maybe I should go out and pull some from my yard to...they are there!

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    1. Do it! Its the ultimate locally grown food :)

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  2. I don't cook a lot myself but I enjoyed your post. You create an intersting story instead of just providing a recipe. Who would've thought garlic chives would grow wild?

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    1. I thought they were weeds, but they looked suspiciously like chives. I broke one off and smelled it...yep. So, I pulled them up and voila(!) I have been trying to cook with them as much as possible because they are abundant, fresh and free :) Thanks for commenting!

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  3. Oh I love the sound of this book. I adore Japanese food and can certainly learn more about the techniques and the equipment. And how great that you grow your own garlic chives. Yum. The photo of sushi is awesome.

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    1. I know you don't grwow the chives on purpose ... but still cool.

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    2. Thanks. I need to chop and freeze a ton of the wild chives. This is the perfect primer on Japanese cooking.

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  4. Japanese food is my favorite! Those sushi nibbles are so cute :) -- nothing like wasabi to clear your sinuses.

    Speaking of pressing the water out of tofu, when my mom made Korean dumpling filling for a crowd, she needed a lot of tofu, so she used to wrap several blocks in dishtowels, tie them up, and put them through the washing machine spin cycle! Don't ask me how she managed to keep all the tofu from leaking out, but she ended up with nice, dry, crumbled tofu.

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    1. That is such an awesome story!! One of us needs to do a post on off the wall cooking techniques - using rocks, washing machines, etc. etc. LOL! ;)

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    2. I just remembered reading that Crescent Dragonwagon used to put a whole bunch of washed lettuce in a pillow case (because she was running the B&B and had to make really big salads) and would go outside and spin it around and around over her head! LOL!

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  5. This looks like a great book - so many basics, too. I'm going to see if it's available in my library.

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    1. It really is a good intro to Japanese cooking. My little sushi snacks were so easy!

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  6. I love cookbooks that incorporate personal narratives. It is the best kind of cookbook. I don't like fish but when I see pictures like this it makes me wish I did. It looks so clean and simple and fresh. It is the best when you can walk out to the garden and pick something fresh for one's meal.

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    1. Thanks, Stacy! I liked this book. One that has a lot of personal narrative that I reviewed for Weekend Cooking a month or two ago was "My China" by Kylie Kwong. I think you would like that one, as well.

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  7. Wasabi mayo sounds easy enough but I'm not up to dabbling too much in Japanese cuisine.

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    1. The whole thing was easier than I thought it would be!

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    2. It's great that you say that because I think a lot of people are intimidated in undertaking cooking Asian cuisine, especially me! Having said this, I've been to enough Japanese steakhouses that I think I could handle that ok, except I may not toss any knives lol!

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  8. I love travel narratives mixed with recipes. I note that you mentioned Kylie Chong. She is an Aussie and I have thought about getting her books before but never actually borrowed one of her books from the library.

    I really like cooked Japanese food. Not so keen on the raw fish etc.

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    1. Kylie Kwong's book "My China" is the best travel cookbook ever. Seriously. The pictures alone make it worth getting. She takes you site seeing in every corner of China and shops and cooks along the way.

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    2. I have watched a couple of her TV series and I can definitely see that she goes to interesting places and cooks interesting food.

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  9. Very inspiring, you make me want to explore cooking more, which isn't a fav activity!! Sushi bites look delicious!! Yum

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    1. I kind of think of cooking as an art form like painting or poetry...and you get to eat the results, which is discouraged in both painting and poetry!

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  10. I prefer Chinese to Japanese cooking. But it is a very interesting post Libby!

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  11. I love learning about Japanese culture. I probably wouldn't be brave enough to try these recipes, but the book itself sounds like it's worth checking out.

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    1. I had a good time with it :) If you try making an easy recipe it will be fun. If it flops you can eat the evidence and no one will ever know - LOL!

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  12. This is so lovely! I have made something similar like this myself. I actually ate sushi tonight but seeing this makes me crave more, haha.

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    1. Oh that's right - with the whole bento thing, this would be right up your alley! I have spent some time looking at bento blogs...so amazing...if I made something that cool, no one would be allowed to eat it :)

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  13. We have some of those in our garden. The salmon bites look delicious and perfect to have with a few drinks.

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    1. That's what I was thinking - something you could whip up pretty fast for happy hour :)

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  14. Thanks for the introduction to this cookbook. It looks like something I would get a lot out of as Japanese food is something I love to eat but have never really prepared. Your sushi nibbles look and sound amazing.

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    1. Oh thanks! She kind of very gently leads up to the Japanese cooking so that it is easy for people who have mostly done American/European cooking.

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  15. I'm going to look for this book...for the past few weeks I've been "studying" two fantastic Japanese cooks/authors (Elizabeth Andoh and Harumi Kurihara) and am really hip on it. I need to add this to my collection!

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    1. Hey Heather- I just posted a note on your blog, in case you did not see this one, that Elizabeth Andoh wrote the foreword to this book :)

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  16. Wow - how fun (and convenient) that you can get your chives from the backyard! I live in an apartment without a balcony, so growing my own ingredients is next to impossible. Those sushi nibbles look delicious!

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    1. Thanks Cecelia- This is a new house (new to me, its over 100 years old, but I just got here). So, I will have to see what else pops up in the yard. So far, we have found an old well(!), the garlic chives, and tons of flowers!

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  17. Hi there - I spent two weeks in Japan a few years ago - what great food! It always looks difficult to produce at home - but I think I will have to try some.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Australia

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    1. Its fun to try at home...you can eat the mistakes if it doesn't turn out!

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  18. Hi Libby,
    Thank you so much for your kind words about my cookbook - I'm so glad you like it!
    And love the idea of using leftover take-out rice for the sushi nibbles. Nice!
    Warm regards,
    Sarah

    Sarah Marx Feldner
    author of A Cook's Journey to Japan

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    1. This is exciting! I am glad that you found me so that I can tell you in person (sort of) how much I enjoyed your book and how user friendly it is! If you have any plans for future cookbooks - or any books - and you let me know, I will help you get the word out!

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  19. These are the type of travelbooks I love the most too. I don't know much about Japanese food though and would love to get this book and find out more.

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  20. Sounds tasty and good luck with the movie script challenge.

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  21. Ironic...I just purchased two new cookbooks. Guess I'm bored with my own cooking. These look great [that you prepared]. Oh and I must say I perused your blog some, and found the blue bonnet forest nice!!!

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    1. I'm glad you liked the blue bonnets! What cookbooks did you get?

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  22. I love cookbooks too. But though I am Asian I do not have Asian cookbooks I think it is about time to scout some at our library too ^_^ I am very impress of my chives it stands several frost and never wither, love it! Thanks for visiting at my site I do appreciate it.

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    1. I like your site, Kim! Yes, see what the library has and then you can share with us :)

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  23. Intressant kokbok och det såg verkligen gott ut. Tack för din kommentar

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    1. I'm going to try to translate, and then I will ACTUALLY translate and see if I get this right: "Interesting cookbook, I will see if the library has got it. Thanks for the comment." Ok...now I will go actually translate it with software brb...

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    2. OK, here is the actual translation: " Interesting cookbook and it looked really good. Thanks for your comment."

      Thank you for YOUR comment too, Ormbunke! Thanks for helping me learn Swedish also - its not that hard...although I don't know why I thought verkligen meant library!?!

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  24. I love japonese kitchen and fortunately we have an excellent catering service here, lol ! I am far too lazy !

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    1. LOL! You are actually lucky to have that (maybe take some pictures for us next time you order!)

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  25. The sushi nibbles look delicious. Especially with wasabi mayo!

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  26. This looks like a very interesting cook book. I've never tried cooking Japanese before. I've got lots of cookbooks including an Indian and Italian one.
    Many thanks for your visit and comment on my post - I really appreciate it :))

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    1. No problem - that WAS a spectacular cake!!

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  27. I have just recently started making my own sushi - it is such fun, and variations seem limitless. This looks like a great book for developing an understanding of Japanese cooking - must see if I can find it at my library.

    Thanks so much for sharing this at Cookbook Sundays.

    Sue :-)

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