Showing posts with label ahi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ahi. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Beyond the Point" by Claire Gibson, Served with Hawaiian Ahi Poke and a Recipe for Avocado Salsa

Happy Wednesday! I am very excited to be today's TLC Book Tour stop for the debut novel, Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson. My review of this story of three friends brought together by their time at West Point is accompanied by a dinner inspired by one in the book of Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Avocado Salsa and Corn Tortillas and Mango.

Publisher's Blurb:

Three women are brought together in an enthralling story of friendship, heartbreak, and resilience. Set at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, this is an amazing debut novel.
Duty. Honor. Country. That’s West Point’s motto, and every cadet who passes through its stone gates vows to live it. But on the eve of 9/11, as Dani, Hannah and Avery face four grueling years ahead, they realize they’ll only survive if they do it together.

Everyone knows Dani is going places. With athletic talent and a brilliant mind, she navigates West Point’s predominantly male environment with wit and confidence, breaking stereotypes and embracing new friends.

Hannah’s grandfather, a legendary Army general, offers a stark warning about the dangers that lie ahead, but she moves forward anyway, letting faith guide her path. When she meets her soul mate at West Point, the future looks perfect, just as planned.
Wild child Avery moves fast and doesn’t mind breaking a few rules (and hearts) along the way. But she can’t outpace her self-doubt, and the harder she tries, the further it leads her down a treacherous path.

The world—of business, of love, and of war—awaits Dani, Hannah, and Avery beyond the gates of West Point. These three women know that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. But soon, that adage no longer rings true—for their future, or their friendship. As they’re pulled in different directions, will their hard-forged bond prevail or shatter?

Beyond the Point is a heartfelt look at how our closest friends can become our fiercest battle buddies. After all, the greatest battles we fight rarely require a uniform.

Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (April 2, 2019)

My Review:

I jumped on this tour because having spent time at a local university and community college, I am always intrigued by books with more revered university settings, and then when you add that the three women, Dani, Avery, and Hannah, meet as plebes at the West Point just added to the appeal. My dad was in the Navy well before I was born and my nephew is in the Navy now, but military life is a world I know little about. Although Beyond the Point covers those subjects well, it is friendship that is at the heart of this novel. Dani, Avery and Hannah all play basketball, but otherwise don't seem to have much in common and each has her own reason for attending West Point and joining the Army. The book is told from their alternating perspectives and covers their final year in high school as they apply to the Point in 2000, through their four years there as their friendship forms and strengthens, then through 2007 as their lives take different paths. 

The characters are well written, not perfect, but easy to root for and the depiction of their friendship and how they come together feels realistic, as does their friendship after graduation as their lives separate and that closeness is put to the test. I found myself caught up in their stories and that the 500+ pages went by quickly, in fact I wanted more time with Hannah, Avery and Dani. There is heartache and heartbreak in their stories, but there is also humor and hope. 

This is the author's debut novel and she paints a vivid portrait of military life and the sacrifices it requires of soldiers and their families. The afterword tells of Gibson's inspiration--she grew up at West Point with her father, a lieutenant colonel, on the faculty. Her passion for the subject and appreciation for the cadets, particularly the women, shine through and there are excerpts and photos of her interviews with three Women of West Point. I found myself as engaged by the afterward as I was with the book. If you like novels with strong female characters, stories about friendship, and books with a military setting, add Beyond the Point to your reading list.  


Author Notes: Claire Gibson is a writer and journalist based in Nashville, Tennessee. Born and raised at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, she grew up captivated by cadets and always dreamed of writing a story that honored her childhood home and the women that inspired her there. Her stories have been featured in The Washington PostThe Christian Science MonitorThe Tennessean and Entrepreneur Magazine, among many other publications.

Find out more about Claire at her website, and connect with her Twitter and Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There was plenty of food in Beyond the Point, mostly meals eaten at West Point or shared with family and friends. Food mentions included pie (like strawberry-rhubarb, pumpkin and chicken pot pie), barbecued ribs, a salad of spinach and chard with lemon-garlic dressing, crusty homemade baguettes with soft salted butter, cake, three kinds of cheese on a platter, homemade cinnamon rolls, pierogies, lemon-pepper chicken, pancakes and eggs, homemade chili, brownies and ice cream, vegetable lasagna, roast chicken with tabbouleh, grilled salmon with mango slaw, and cookie dough ice cream, pizza, Cheez-Its, spaghetti, French toast and coffee, gin and tonic, oatmeal, green juice, lemonade, cereal, Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream, filets mignons in butter, roasted broccoli, salmon, Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, sweet potatoes, roasted corn, fresh broccoli, creamed spinach, and acorn squash stuffed with mushrooms and rice, a Middle Eastern dinner of lamb with sauces, tandori bread, yogurt sauce, chopped mint and preserved lemon, falafel, rice and steamed greens, meatloaf with red sauce, fish and chips, an undressed Caesar salad with chicken, a Nutella crepe, fettuccine noodles with butter, fried chicken, apple fritters, eggs over easy, a smoothie and Subway sandwiches. 

For my book-inspired dish, I ended up recreating an island meal shared by Dani, Hannah, and Avery and put together some local Hawaii favorites. I liked the fact that the three women were together and when poke comes up in a book, you know I am going to feed my addiction.

"Dinner's ready."

"Avery came to the patio holding a bowl of ahi tuna poke that she'd purchased from a shop on the way home from the beach. She placed it at the center of the patio table. Dani emerged from the kitchen, her hair back to a large, natural Afro. She added a bowl of mango, corn tortillas, and her famous avocado salsa to the assortment. With her strange restrictive diet, Dani had become quite the chef. Avery put a pitcher of margaritas on the table, and suddenly, a memory came to Hannah's mind."

I left out the margaritas--I rarely drink on "school" nights, and I grabbed poke from the grocery store and frozen mango (none of the fresh ones were ripe). All I needed to do was chop the ingredients for the salsa, open a bag of cabbage mix and toast some tortillas on my gas stove, and dinner was served. 

Avocado Salsa
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 2 to 4)

1/2 red onion, diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
the juice of two limes
a generous glug of olive oil
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss until well mixed. Serve and enjoy.

Notes/Results: I topped the grilled tortillas with the cabbage mix, the avocado salsa and the poke for poke tostadas which were delicious. I am not that big on fruit and fish combined, so I ate the mango on the side. Everything was fresh and vibrant and it was a very low effort meal--perfect for a busy week. My leftovers came together in a salad for lunch today as both the poke and the avocado in the salsa are best as fresh as possible.

I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Beyond the Point" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Friday, May 18, 2018

Eric Ripert's Seared Ahi Tuna with Sauce Vierge

This is a Friday night dinner that is quick and simple to make and full of flavor. The fact that it includes many of my favorite things like fresh ahi tuna, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, basil and fennel makes it even better. Normally I am leery about taking away too much of the deliciousness of seared ahi by adding a lot of other ingredients, but fish is usually in good hands with Eric Ripert, so I was excited to try his recipe for Seared Ahi Tuna with Sauce Vierge from Food & Wine Magazine.

I used local fennel and local ahi tuna--the pieces are a bit flatter than some tuna steaks but they sear quickly and taste delicious.

Food & Wine says, "This light, easy tuna recipe evokes the flavors of southern France. The fish is crusted with herbes de Provence, then drizzled with Ripert’s take on sauce vierge, an oil that he flavors with sun-dried tomatoes, basil and capers."

Seared Ahi Tuna with Sauce Vierge
Slightly Adapted from Eric Ripert via Food & Wine Magazine
(Serves 4)

8 drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced (about 1/4 cup)
2 Tbsp drained capers
2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
2 Tbsp finely chopped scallion greens
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Four 4-oz sushi-grade tuna steaks
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp herbes de Provence
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 fennel bulb—trimmed, cored & thinly sliced
1 lemon, quartered

Make the sauce vierge:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.

Prepare the tuna:
Season the tuna steaks all over with salt, pepper and the herbes de Provence. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the canola oil until shimmering. Add the tuna and sear over high heat until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Transfer the tuna steaks to a cutting board and slice them 1/4-inch thick.

To Serve: 
Arrange the fennel on plates, top with the tuna and drizzle with the sauce vierge. Squeeze the lemon over the tuna and serve.

Notes/Results:  OK, this sauce vierge may be my new favorite sauce--it's so good and simple--just olive oil with chopped sun-dried tomatoes, basil, green onion and capers. I made a full batch of it and just half the fish recipe. I would use it on any fish and I don't eat chicken, but I think it would be excellent with it, and even just on the fennel, or other veggies, it would be great. I thought the herbs de Provence might be too much for the tuna and the sauce but it all went together really well--the cool, crisp bite of the fennel was perfect as a base. This will end up being one of my favorite Eric Ripert dishes and I will happily make it again.

Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is From the Sea
And I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Review & Recipe: "Everything We Left Behind" by Kerry Lonsdale, Paired with Ahi Poke Tacos and Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw

Even with the holiday on Monday, it takes some effort to get over hump day and a step closer to the weekend. A good book and a tasty dinner certainly help. Today I have an over-due review for Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale and I'm accompanying it with some quick and delicious Ahi Poke Tacos with Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw.

Publisher's Blurb:

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. 

She’s married and has a child of her own.
Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

Lake Union Publishing (July 4th, 2017)
350 Pages

My Review:

I reviewed Kerry Lonsdale's first novel, Everything We Keep, last August for TLC Book Tours (here's my review and book-inspired fritters recipe) and I really enjoyed the story and the mystery around what happened to James. I then read her second book, All the Breaking Waves, on my own and loved it. When I heard she was writing a follow-up to the first novel, I was excited to learn more about James's story, so when her publisher contacted me and asked if I would like to read and review Everything We Left Behind, I immediately said yes. I feel more than a bit bad that it has taken me so long to write and post my review. I did a quick reread of the first book, devoured this one and knew what dish I wanted to make, but July and August flew by before I knew it. Luckily I took plenty of notes. ;-) 

My first recommendation is to read Everything We Keep, before starting this one. It is possible to read Everything We Left Behind without it, but you won't have the complete background and the story flows better when you have been introduced to Amiee, James's fiancée, and the other characters and get their perspective on what's happened. I won't go into a lot of the details (the small spoilers if you have not read the first book are in the cover blurbs) but this book is about James coming out of his fugue state not remembering the previous six years he spent as Carlos living in Mexico, or his two sons and current love interest. This book is set in Mexico, California and Hawaii and goes back and forth both in time and in perspective between James and Carlos as the story unfolds. It's a bit mystery, romance, and family drama mixed together and Lonsdale keeps the story interesting and made me feel strongly for James's plight and for those who love him. The human mind is so fascinating and although there are novels out there that deal with memory loss, this one has a more unique take on it. Does it get a bit soapish at times? A bit, but it makes for a great beach and end of summer read, it certainly kept me turning the pages, and it has me looking forward to the third book coming out next year. 


Author Notes: Kerry Lonsdale believes life is more exciting with twists and turns, which may be why she enjoys dropping her characters into unexpected scenarios and foreign settings. She graduated from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and is a founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She resides in Northern California with her husband, two children, and an aging golden retriever who’s convinced she’s still a puppy.


Food Inspiration:

There is food to be found in Everything We Left Behind. Food mentioned included, egg salad sandwiches, gummy bears, Oreos, mahimahi tacos and some "famous beer-battered fish tacos," pink lemonade, tangerines, margaritas, grilled steaks and hot dogs, salad and potatoes, hot chocolate and pastries, oatmeal, coffee, an orange--peeled in one long curl, kalua pig, poi, taro smoothies, chicken on the barbecue, salad, a citrus and mango-flavored beer, pancakes, papaya, grilled zucchini, pineapple, Dragon fruit, apple-bananas, salmon, a Spam and pineapple sandwich, ice cream, and Scotch.

I knew that I wanted to go with a fish taco since it was mentioned as something that James made in Mexico and Hawaii. Although poke wasn't mentioned, I thought that it is something that Kauai-dwelling Natalya would introduce him to and I decided to make Ahi Poke Tacos. If you aren't familiar and haven't seen my various poke posts, poke is a Hawaiian salad of cubes of raw fish--often ahi and various seasonings and other ingredients. Going with the more Asian feel of these tacos, I made a Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw to put in the tacos and eat alongside them. 

These Ahi Poke Tacos are really more of a suggestion than a recipe. If you don't do raw fish, send your poke to me and you can use a non-raw poke variation like cooked shrimp or tofu, or use your favorite cooked fish--it won't be a poke taco but it will still be good. If you are lucky enough to live in a city with grocery stores that have poke at their fish counters, it is easiest to buy your favorite kind. If not and you want to make it, here are a couple of recipes (Hawaiian Poke with Black Sesame Seed, California Roll Poke) to get you started--there are plenty recipes online too as poke has become quite popular in the last couple of years.

For the tacos, I used flat-bottomed crispy taco shells--because with the poke is in chunks, plus the other goodies stuffed inside, they hold up better than regular crispy taco shells. I placed the Miso-Ginger Cabbage Slaw in the bottom of the taco shell, layered in the poke, sliced avocado and topped it with some of my favorite Sriracha-Garlic Mayo, sliced green onion and chopped cilantro. Easy peasy! In addition to the cabbage slaw in the taco, I served it and some simple black beans with the taco.

Miso-Ginger Slaw
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen  
4 cups cabbage--green or purple, shredded
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 Tbsp sesame seeds

1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp white miso
1 Tbsp canola or olive oil
1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame seed oil
2 tsp honey or agave syrup
1 Tbsp finely minced or crushed fresh ginger

Place the cabbage, pepper and almonds into a large bowl and toss together. 
Place all dressing ingredients into a bowl and whisk until completely blended or place ingredients into the blender and process until smooth and well-blended. 

Toss the cabbage mix with the dressing before serving. The longer the dressing sits, the softer the cabbage and pepper become, so if you like a crisp slaw, toss just before serving, or if you like a softer, less crisp slaw, toss together and place in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving. 


Sriracha-Garlic Mayo Sauce
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1/2 cup)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I use vegan garlic mayo)
2 1/2 Tbsp sriracha, or to taste
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder (I use roasted garlic powder)
1/2 Tbsp pickle or caper juice + more to taste and thin as needed to drizzle

Stir together ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and add additional Sriracha or seasoning as desired. 

Cover and chill until ready to use. Will keep for about a week to ten days in fridge.

Notes/Results: If you love sushi and raw fish, you will love poke and if you love poke, there is no reason you won't love these tacos. They are so fresh-tasting and delicious, along with being a good mix of texture--the tender fish, the creamy avocado, and the crisp cabbage slaw make them a pleasure to eat. I completely forgot to put the sauce on them until after I took most of the pictures, but it adds a nice little kick to the mix, so I definitely recommend it, or you can use your favorite salsa or hot sauce. Much as I like just eating poke on its own, or with rice and veggies in a poke bowl, poke tacos may be my new favorite way to enjoy it. I have made them a handful of times now and I am sure I will continue to enjoy them--in fact I really want one right now. ;-)

I'm linking this post up to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.

Note: A review copy of "Everything We Left Behind" was provided to me by the author and the publisher. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Pistachio-Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna on Burnt Eggplant with Feta and Pomegranate Couscous (and PLENTY of Self-Respect!) for Food 'n Flix November Pick: "Burnt" | #FoodnFlix

November's Food 'n Flix pick is Burnt (hosted by Caroline of Caroline Makes--see her announcement post here). 

Burnt is the 2015 film about a chef, played by Bradley Cooper, who self-destructs thanks to drug, alcohol, perfectionism and a bad temper and who burns out, leaving a path of destruction through his own career and those of his co-workers and friends. After a couple of years of sobering up and a self-imposed penance of shucking a million oysters in New Orleans, he heads to London to rebuild his career and attempt a coveted third Michelin star.

I saw this film on when it hit Netflix last year and couldn't help but be pulled in by the cooking and restaurant scenes--especially having seen Bradley Cooper and his co-stars Sienna Miller and Matthew Rhys talk about the training and practice they did to appear professional in the cooking scenes. The film is full of food inspiration and delicious-looking dishes and it was good to watch it again with my food goggles firmly in place. 

My inspiration comes from an insult given by Adam Jones (Cooper) to Tony the maître d'hôtel of his friend's restaurant Tony (Daniel Brühl). who now manages his father’s hotel.“You’re serving seared tuna. What happened to your self respect?" I assume the comment is because of the frequency that seared tuna, especially crusted in sesame seeds or another Asian-inspired preparation appears on restaurant menus, that it lacks originality. Well, I don't care how 'tired' seared tuna may feel to Adam Jones, I am always happy to find a well-prepared seared tuna on the menu, I make it myself at home, and I decided it would be my dish for the film--served with PLENTY of self-respect!

When thinking of how I wanted to prepare my tuna, I was also thinking about some of my favorite "burnt" foods, and Yotam Ottolenghi's Burnt Eggplant came to mind. I love how he blistered the eggplant, scooped out the flesh and made a sort of salad with it, so I decided to make a variation of his recipe, changing the quantities of some of the ingredients and adding in feta cheese, mint and lemon. 

Since I was going with those more Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flavors and ingredients, I wanted to take my seared ahi there too, and to crust it with pistachio nuts to add a pop of color. It turns out Ottolenghi has a pistachio crusted tuna recipe and I used his idea for a mustard sauce (adding some additional spices to mine) to adhere the nuts to the fish and add flavor. 

Finally, wanting even more color on the plate I added one of my favorite simple couscous dishes, Diana Henry's Pomegranate Couscous--a salad of pearled couscous, pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts, lemon and herbs.

Pistachio-Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna
Adapted from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook via The Washington Post
(Serves 2)

2 pieces of fresh ahi tuna loin (about 6-oz each)
2 Tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup roasted unsalted pistachios
3 Tbsp Dijon-style mustard
1 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat a grill pan or large cast-iron skillet over high heat.

Brush tuna pieces all over with the olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste. When the pan is very hot, add tuna to the pan or skillet and sear on each side, for a total of no more than 2 to 3 minutes; the tuna should be rare at the center and just cooked on the edges (a 1/2-inch margin or so). Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until well chilled (about 30 minutes).

Chop the roasted pistachios, preferably in a food processor, to the consistency of fine crumbs. Scatter them on a rimmed baking sheet and mix with the lemon zest. Mix mustard, sumac, cumin and cayenne together in a small bowl.  Lay 2 or 3 good-size pieces of plastic wrap on the work surface.

Place a piece of the cooled seared tuna loin on one piece of plastic wrap. Brush with some of the mustard mixture on the three visible sides, then invert and transfer to the crushed pistachios. Press gently to completely coat on the three sides. Brush the top of the tuna with mustard, then invert to coat the fourth side, pressing gently so the mixture adheres. Transfer to a piece of plastic wrap; wrap tightly and refrigerate. Repeat with the remaining tuna pieces, mustard and coating. Chill for several hours and up to overnight.

To serve, unwrap the tuna and cut it crosswise into 3/4-inch slices. 


Burnt Eggplant 
Adapted from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2 medium eggplant (about 1 2/3 lb)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp fresh mint
2 Tbsp crumbled feta 
zest of 1 lemon + 1 Tbsp of the juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Either char eggplant over a gas range, rotating sides for 15-18 minutes, or broil in the oven for one hour--turning to get all sides. Allow eggplant to cool, scoop out flesh and drain flesh in a colander for at least 1 hour. Once flesh well drained, coarsely chop it and combine in a bowl with the yogurt, garlic parsley and salt and pepper to taste.


Pomegranate Couscous 
Adapted From Crazy Water Pickled Lemon by Diana Henry
(Serves 4)

1 1/4 cups pearled couscous
2 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds
2 oz pine nuts, toasted
3 Tbsp each chopped flat-leaf parsley and mint
lemon juice to taste
sea salt and black pepper to taste

Cook the pearled couscous to package instructions. Drain well and while warm, mix the couscous with the olive oil, pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, herbs, and lemon juice, and check the seasoning. Add a squeeze more lemon if you think the dish needs it and sea salt and black pepper to taste.


To plate: Place a scoop of the Burnt Eggplant and one of the Pomegranate Couscous on a small plate. Place the sliced Pistachio-Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna on top. Garnish with mint and preserved lemon if desired. Serve with warm grilled pita or naan bread.

Notes/Results: This was a delicious plate--the flavors work so well together and my self-respect is fully intact with each bite of the perfectly seared and tasty ahi tuna! ;-) The couscous with its pomegranate and pine nuts and the firm tuna add texture to the softer burnt eggplant and the bread allows for dipping and scooping. I kept the tuna slices thick to enable the pistachios to stay in place and it mad for wonderful bites of the rich and meaty tuna. All of these recipes are simple to make but do require a bit of prep and hold time--although once you have the three components ready, it goes together very quickly. Although I know I "overplate" a bit according to restaurant standards (there should be a small scattering of couscous and some smears of the burnt eggplant I suppose), I think it is a pretty plate of food. I would happily make this again.

The deadline for this round of Food 'n Flix is November 30 and Caroline will be rounding up all the dishes on her blog shortly after. If you missed this round and like food, films and foodie films, join us for December when Food 'n Flix's founder, Heather of All Roads Lead to the Kitchen will be hosting that heartwarming holiday classic (NOT!) Krampus

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Morimoto's Hawaiian Poke-Style Tuna Rice Bowl (Tekka Don No Poke) from the "Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking" Cookbook {#JapaneseHomeCooking}

I am a huge Chef Morimoto fan from years back, ever since discovering him on the original Iron Chef on Food Network. I have spied him at the airport, eaten at his restaurant here and generally will watch anything he is on, including episodes Hawaii Five-O. So when I had the opportunity to take part in The Book Club Cookbook's Japanese Home Cooking Party and to review Morimoto's new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, I immediately jumped on board.

Whether it be the skillful and detailed presentation or the often exotic and hard-to-find ingredients, Japanese cuisine has a reputation for being difficult to cook. In this new cookbook, Morimoto sets out to show the American home cook that Japanese dishes, especially recipes from Japanese home cooks, can be surprisingly easy to prepare. Having taken a few classes in Japanese home cooking and trying my hand at different dishes over the years, I agree and while I don't claim to be an expert and my dishes are often a mix of cuisines rather than authentic Japanese, I have found that it doesn't have to to scary to cook delicious Japanese dishes at home.

Still, it's nice to have such an expert guide in the kitchen and Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking is a cookbook that is useful, beautiful, and interesting to read. It is divided by category; Dashi (the basic soup stock, Gohan (rice), Supu (soups), Yaku (grilled, broiled or seared), Musu (steamed), Niru (simmered), Itame Ru (stir-fried), Men (noodles), Ageru (to fry), Ae Ru (dressings) and Tsukeru (pickled). It also starts off with Morimoto's thoughts about Japanese cooking and how to create a Japanese meal from the different recipes, and it includes a glossary of Japanese ingredients and sources to find them. 

The recipes are made up of classics--ones that are popular here in America, as well as dishes that are lesser-known here, and many recipes include the chef's clever spins that make the dishes fun. It's a beautiful book--almost every major recipe has a gorgeous color photo and an introduction from Morimoto about the dish. The recipe instructions are clear and there are even some "Japanese Grandmother Wisdom" notes included with tips and explanations sprinkled through the book. 

Having spent time in Japan for work years ago, reading it took me back to so many delicious meals I enjoyed. I found myself tabbing many of the recipes to make like Ohitashi (dashi-marinated kale), Furikake with Shrimp Shells and Potato Chips (I tend to buy my fuikake seasoning!), Chahan (Japanese-style fried rice), Asari No Miso Shiru (miso soup with clams), Tamago Supu (Japanese egg drop soup), Sake Shioyaki (salt-grilled salmon), Sakana No Sakamushi (fish steamed in kombu with spicy soy sauce), Oden (Japanese-style hot pot with sesame aioli), Kinpira (stir-fried parsnip and carrot), Zaru Udon (chilled udon noodles with scallions and ginger), Kaki Age (shrimp and vegetable fritters), Ingen No Goma Ae (green beans with sesame dressing) and Tataki Kyuri (smashed cucumber pickles).  
Even with all of the choices, it was not hard for me to decide on a dish to try out this fabulous cookbook for the #JapaneseHomeCooking event--it just had to be the Tekka Don No Poke or Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl. I live in Hawaii and love poke, so it had to be made!

Morimoto says, "Once you secure sushi-grade tuna, this meal in a bowl takes almost no effort to make. I upgrade the typical tekka don--sliced raw tuna, often briefly marinated in soy sauce--by merging it with the Hawaiian dish tuna poke (pronounced PO-kay) which I fell for while opening my restaurant in Waikiki. The cubes of luscious crimson fish dressed with a little salt, sugar, and spice taste great over wonderfully plain white rice or less traditional but no less delicious sushi rice."

Tekka Don No Poke or Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl
Adapted from Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking by Morimoto
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp mirin (sweet rice wine)
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 to 2 tsp tobanjan (chile bean sauce) preferably a Japanese brand
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 lb sushi-grade tuna, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 medium Haas avocado, peeled and pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 cups cooked short-grain white rice or cooked vinegared short-grain white rice
1 nori seaweed sheet
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh shiso leaves (also called Japanese mint or perilla) or scallion greens (I used fresh mint and scallions)
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, tobanjan, and sugar in a medium mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the tuna and avocado to the bowl, toss well, and set aside to marinate for a few minutes but no more than 5 minutes.

Divide the rice among 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with the tuna and avocado, leaving the sauce behind. Then drizzle the sauce over the tuna and avocado. Tear the nori into small pieces and scatter some over each bowl; top with the shiso and sesame seeds. Eat right away.

Notes/Results: This was a delicious poke-style bowl--a great combination of flavors and textures and just enough spice to make it interesting. As Morimoto stated, it is quick to put togethe--once you have your rice cooked and tuna secured. With the exception of picking up the fresh ahi tuna and an avocado, I had most of the rest of the ingredients in my pantry. I was bummed that although I can usually find fresh shiso leaves at my neighborhood grocery store, of course the moment I wanted them for this recipe there were none to had at any nearby store. I made do with a combination of some fresh mint leaves and green onion. The tobanjan or Japanese chile bean sauce is pretty spicy but I used 1 1/2 tsps (the recipe called for 1 to 2 tsps) and only marinated the tuna in it, figuring that it is was too spicy, the avocado chunks and rice would cool things down--and they did nicely. I was extremely happy with this delicious meal-in-a-bowl and I will happily make it again.  

You can see the recipes and cookbook reviews from the other nine bloggers participating in the Japanese Home Cooking Party on the Book Club Cookbook website.

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Note: A review copy of "Mastering the Art of Japanese Cooking" was provided to me by the publisher and The Book Club Cookbook in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking is my fourteenth foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2016 event. You can check out the November Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.