Perfect Rice (sushi rice recipe)

As a sushi chef, I get asked on a daily basis what the secret to making good rice is. I’d love to tell you its years of practice and a little bit of the magic touch, but its basically all about understanding how rice and water work together. Here are a few tips before you get started:

  • If you’re making white rice, the end product should result in light, pillowy grains. If you get a gummy, sticky mess — keep trying. When using short to medium grained white rice, you’ll need to wash the rice sufficiently before cooking to remove some of the extra starch, or else it will turn out just so. Generally, filling the rice pot 4-5 times with water while swishing your hand around through the rice works just fine.  You will see the water gradually become less cloudy.
  • The water to rice rule for short grain rice is about 15% more water than rice. An easy trick is to fill the pot with water just so that the level reaches knuckles if you place your hand palm down on the rice.  
  • For cooking, I prefer to use a rice cooker as it yields a consistent product every time. If you’re using a pot on the stove you’ll need to make sure you bring the water to a full boil, add the rice and stir, then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low for about 20 minutes. Never stir the rice while it’s cooking. continue to cook until water is absorbed. Patience is key.

Ingredients

(makes 3 cups cooked)

  • 1.5 c uncooked short grain rice
  • 1.75 c water

For ‘Sharizu’ (rice vinegar dressing)

  • 6 tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 3 tbs. sugar
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice

1. Wash the rice thoroughly: rinse 4-5 times with water until the water is only slightly cloudy. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before cooking

2. In a rice cooker, add water and proceed to cook. If using a pot on the stove, bring the water to a boil. Add rice and slowly stir once. Let boil for 2-3 min. Cover, and reduce heat to simmer (med/low). Let cook for 20 minutes. If the water has not all been absorbed, continue to cook.  DO NOT stir rice while it is cooking.

3. Remove rice from heat, and let stand for 3-5 minutes. Put the rice into a bowl, and fluff or ‘cut’ the rice with a spoon, spatula or rice paddle to get rid of the clumps. If you’re making sushi rice, add the sharizu (recipe below) during this process. Fan to cool. Cover with a damp cloth.

Sharizu (rice dressing)

1. Combine vinegar, water, sugar & lemon juice into a small pot and bring to a simmer.

2. Stir until sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.

3. Pour over rice to taste. Make sure the dressing is hot. Hot rice, hot dressing.

La Boqueria – Barcelona, Spain

La Boqueria market is a delight for all senses. It is one of those places where something new and tantalizing lies around every corner. You could get lost in the rows of kiosks and booths for hours — which I happily did. If you are lucky enough to travel to the fabulous Catalonian city of Barcelona, make sure you allow yourself at least the better part of an afternoon to imbibe all of the exotic delicacies that this, dare I say it, market Mecca, has to offer. Though it may look as if the stalls are that of a traveling market, they are quite permanent and boast intricate displays, colorful facades, and lively vendors.

Enter La Boqueria to a feverish rush of shoppers checking out the specialty candy and dessert stalls. Make sure to pick up one of the fresh fruit cups from one of the vendors a little ways down the aisle. I took a few minutes to step back and observe the hustle and bustle as vendors brought fresh produce out for display, and noticed that only the best of the best was selected make the cut. Anything with even the slightest surface blemish was tossed aside. My favorite section of La Boqueria was the fish and seafood stalls located at the center of the market. Exotic items so fresh some were still moving were on display.

Don’t miss some of Spain’s traditional delicacies: Jamón Iberico (acorn fed pig) , salt cod (reconstituted in water), and massive green onions (traditionally charred as part of a springtime festival). Also, keep your eyes peeled for great deals on fragrant spices. I picked up a jar of saffron for 5 Euros. The booths closest to the main entrances are generally most expensive, so venture inward a little bit to find better prices.

I highly recommend taking a guided tour of the market with a local chef, and if you have time a cooking lesson. We had a great time making authentic Paella at Cook & Taste, Barcelona located only a short walk from the market. For more information, visit www.cookandtaste.net. Muy Deliciosa!

Spaghetti Squash Pasta Primavera with Turkey Sausage (Gluten Free)

Well, unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last couple of years, I’m sure that you’ve heard of this whole ‘Gluten Free’ eating trend. While most people aren’t afflicted with Celiac disease (about 1 in 133 Americans), many do have a slight intolerance to wheat. A great friend of mine suffers from such an intolerance, so I’ve been trying to come up with healthy and delicious recipes that we both can enjoy without feeling like we are missing out on anything. Enter: Pasta Primavera with Turkey Sausage.. over Spaghetti Squash.

Believe it or not, the spaghetti squash has very mild flavor, and similar texture to al dente angel hair pasta, and is a great substitute. We grabbed veggies from the garden, poured a couple of glasses of Pinot Grigio and got to cooking.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 med – large spaghetti squash (approx 3 lbs)
  • 1 med head of broccoli
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • selection of mushrooms: crimini, button, shitake
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 package of ground turkey or beef
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • fresh basil
  • parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • salt and pepper

Wash veggies, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In an oven safe stew pot, place the squash into about 3 – 4 inches of salted water. Bake for about 20 minutes, and then rotate. Continue to bake for another 20 minutes, remove from oven and set aside.

While the squash is in the oven, chop the veggies into large chunks. Split the garlic and onions into 2 equal size allotments, and proceed to sweat in separate pans until the onions are transparant.

In the first pan, brown the sausage and add salt and pepper to taste.

In the other pan, add the peppers and broccoli first, followed by the remaining veggies, adding the sliced tomatoes last. Salt and pepper to taste. Sautee until all of the veggies are just al dente.

Add 1/2 cup of medium bodied white wine. We used a California Pino Grigio. Continue to simmer for another few minutes.

With the last 2 minutes of cooking, add 1/2 can of tomatoes to each pan.

Combine the two pans.

Back to the squash. Cut it in half the long way. Run a spoon down the center of the squash, and you’ll notice that long ‘noodles’ start peeling off. In a bowl, continue to scrape the squash until you reach the shell. You should have a pretty substantial pile of squash noodles.

Portion out the squash noodles onto plates, and top with the sauce. Top with fresh basil and shaved parmesan cheese. Voila!