But I did.
Trust me, I didn’t succumb to the traditional sushi rolls.
Instead, I had a delicious raw sushi roll at Organic Lives. Completely inauthentic, it was filled with a pecan pate, sprouts, veggies, avocado and mango. With the zippy fruit-based dipping sauce, it was so completely different from any sushi roll I have ever had. The only similarity was that it was a nori roll wrap.
Once the hubbub subsided after I returned home, I was craving a more traditional sushi roll. Without all the hard work of actually rolling the little buggers…
When I visited Japan, one of my favourite meals was eating sashimi at the Tsukiji Market, which is the wholesale marketplace for seafood in Tokyo. With daily auctions, this is where you can eat the freshest fish. The sashimi was unbeatable. I have never been able to enjoy sea urchin anywhere else. So fresh, it was so buttery soft and creamy.
I actually visited Tsukiji two days in a row and sampled sashimi from two different vendors. Both times, I ordered a sushi bowl with an assortment of sashimi. One resto had better sashimi and the other had better rice. The rice was so good, it eclipsed the fish. And I don’t really like rice, actually. I consider it filler in sushi rolls, when I would rather be eating the filling. I tolerate rice for the most part, but here, I learned how great rice can taste.
I have experimented with a few rices since my return, and I still remain partial to a short-grain Japanese-style rice. Recently, I bought the Taiwanese Yih Chuan Aromatic Rice, which has a faint aroma of taro (yes, on sale at T&T). It brings rice to the next level. The rice is nicely flavoured, shaped and most importantly, tastes great.
My whole preamble about rice is because if you are going to make a sushi rice bowl, you should try to use a nice rice! The dressing helps, too. The toppings, too. But let the rice get the spotlight it deserves as it isn’t supposed to be a bland side.
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks, I wouldn’t call this an authentic Japanese recipe, but a lively citrus-flavoured sushi bowl. Top with your favourite sushi toppings such as steamed asparagus, avocado, grilled tofu, and dare I suggest mango? (Mango, next time…). The key to keep this a sushi bowl, and not a rice salad, though, is to include the toasted nori strips. You can buy them pre-shredded, but you could also toast the nori and then cut it into thin strips yourself.
The New Best Salad Ever (Roasted Garlic Tofu Salad with Cilantro Rice, Black Beans and a Mango Salsa)
Hi! It’s Rob again. I know that I haven’t posted here in a while. A few months ago I was worried about Janet’s blog when she was going through a really busy time at work. I’ve realized, however, that Janet has many dozens of recipes on deck waiting to be posted and she always had things well in hand. I knew that The Taste Space would forge on boldly without my extra help.
I’m back, though. A couple days ago I made a salad which both Janet and I agreed was the best salad we’d ever had in our lives. It was simply amazing. There was a cacophony of bold flavours bursting with every bite. There were so many things going on. Every portion was enhanced for extra action and pleasure. I knew that I had to share it here.
The salad is the Uptown Salad, adapted from Radiance 4 Life by Tess Challis. Janet suggested it to me as something that was up my alley. It only took me a few seconds of looking at the recipe for me to decide that I had to make it. It hit many of my ingredient buttons: mangoes, coconut, tofu, cilantro, citrus, and chilies. And that’s the just the beginning.
The recipe suggested that it would take 30 minutes (or less!) to prepare the recipe. No way. It took me an hour and a half of chopping, shredding, soaking, slicing, and frying. I was getting cranky by the end. This salad was more work than advertised. The verdict was going to come when we finally got to try it.
Janet occasionally uses some swear words. She’s generally a good girl, though, and restrains herself. However, when she tried the Uptown Salad there was a foul concoction of some four swear words in a row. These words were not uttered in anger. They were the stunned response of a girl eating the best salad she’d ever had in her life. These words were an emotional response of extreme awesomeness. This is a salad with the power to move you.
I had a veritable Brazilian meal. Along with the Portobello Feijoada (Brazilian Black Bean Stew with Portobello Mushrooms), I also made a savoury side of rice, Brazilian-style of course.
This recipe was also found in Viva Vegan, which is a treasure trove for Latin food recipes. I must admit my bookcase was severely lacking in this area, and I am starting to learn more about Brazilian cooking. Brazil may be my next vacation destination, but since there are so many countries on my vacation hit-list, I will have to settle (for now) to cooking up Brazilian specialties at home. It is a lot cheaper than an airplane ticket, and a lot more fun too (the airplane ride is less fun, not the Brazilian vacation!).
This rice is unique because it incorporates not only slow-cooked onions and garlic, but also has a touch of sweetness from the orange. It paired well with the less-sweet Portobello Feijoada, but could work well with any other savoury dish.
Living in a city as nice as Toronto, I am surrounded by many great restaurants. I try to cook at home most of the time, for health and economic reasons, but I am slowly scoping out delicious, cheap places to meet over food prepared by someone else.
Currently, some of my favourite places to eat out, if I must, include:
Folia Grill – excellent home-grown Greek fare with a delicious chicken gyro pita for $4
Sky Blue Sky – a quaint sandwich shop, with all under $5, including the suprisingly filling pulled pork sandwich. Chatting with the owner about the trendy (pulled pork) and less popular (cashew butter and cucumber) sandwiches is equally amusing when selecting your choice
The Fish Store – delicious fish sandwiches prepared from your choice of fresh fish, all under $10, and a delicious homemade lemonade for $3
Manpuku – my long-time favourite for Japanese, but you won’t find any sushi here. Their nikku udon (beef soup with udon noodles) is a great heart-warming dish for under $6
Guu – still Toronto’s newest sweetheart, with a second location expected in the Annexe, this is a popular Japanese izakaya (aka tapa-style bar). Everyone is welcomed as soon as they enter and leave the resto and the dishes have yet to disappoint me. All dishes are under $10, but the sizes are smaller and meant for sharing.
Pomegranate – a newer find that complements my latest love of Middle Eastern food. This is Persian food at its finest, at reasonable prices around $15.
Amaya – A bit of a splurge restaurant (mains under $20), especially since it is Indian, but I am enthralled by their butter chicken. If only I knew how to make it myself!
Canoe – This is arguably Toronto’s best restaurant and it has the price-point such that it is very elitist, and limited to special occasions only. You get what you pay for, and it is lip-smacking delicious. I really appreciate their use of local, unique ingredients, prepared, oftentimes, in a myriad of ways. I know these are dishes I would have a difficult time recreating at home, which is important for my restaurant adventures. While the written menu did not immediately appeal to me, I just had to ask the server to explain what each dish entailed. It is here that I had a surreal mushroom soup that tasted like apple due to the varieties used, and I had squab prepared in 3 different ways: marinated with Newfoundland screech, drenched in a Saskatoon berry sauce and served with a side of dinosaur kale.
Enough gushing over Canoe, because I like to post things I make myself on my food blog. Imagine my surprise when I saw Canadian Living had Canoe’s recipe for wild rice pudding with a rhubarb compote. I could now bring the taste of Canoe into my own kitchen.
It boasted a baked rice pudding with short-grain and wild rice within a orange- and cinnamon-scented creamy base, topped with a sweet-and-tart rhubarb compote.
While I have not had this at the restaurant, I might have to go there to try it out because my kitchen adventures were not as successful as I’d hoped. The rhubarb compote almost seemed to be in excess with the delicious flavours from the pudding. The wild rice added a nice crunch and the orange and cinnamon flavours blended well together, but my pudding was too thick for my liking. I wonder if there was too much evaporation during the baking? I think my substitutions were legit, but you never know. Maybe the recipe was meant to be a teaser, just to bring us back into the restaurant?
It is no secret that I love the library. Not only do I get to browse through cookbooks, but I also love the accessible movie collection and the free museum passes. There’s also the fiction section, but cookbooks have taken a priority for bedtime reading recently.
A few cookbooks leap from the library to my bookshelf. I took out Raising the Salad Bar four times, each time loving new recipes, before I decided to buy my own copy. Sometimes I bookmark so many recipes that I know the cookbook is a keeper. Rose Reisman’s Family Favourites was such a cookbook. Nearly every recipe was something that I wanted to make. They were so fresh, simple and healthy, I couldn’t resist.
After I bought the book, I noticed that her website also has many of my bookmarked recipes. This makes so much sense to me: propagate those healthy recipes! It is for the betterment of the planet.
I am all for open-source cookbooks, if you will, which is at the heart of my food blogging. Food blogs are great for encouraging and empowering people to cook at home, and a bonus when the recipes are as healthy as those created by Rose. The biggest thrill I get is when someone tried one of my posted recipes and loved it as much as me.
Now about the apricot-glazed tofu recipe, which was adapted from here on her website and is also in her cookbook Rose Reisman’s Family Favourites. I liked the sweet apricot glaze on the tofu but I think ours was a bit sweeter since we added another tablespoon or so of jam to finish off the jar. However, the sweetness of the apricot worked really well when combined with the tang from the sesame and soy sauce-laced bok choy. Really well! Enjoy!
I normally don’t go to the trouble of a meal with lots of side dishes, as I prefer one-pot wonders. I like to have a complete meal in one dish. Rather, I like to cook this way as I find it easier. Perhaps I am lazy and don’t want to make many dishes that need to be timed to finish at the same time, or maybe because I really don’t like to clean dishes.
I am glad that I wasn’t intimated by the long list of ingredients, steps and components of this dish. Because it was phenomenal. I have been investigating unique ways of cooking rhubarb and this did not disappoint. Each component was outstanding on its own and together they were simply divine.
First, the rhubarb sauce is zesty: sweet, sour and pleasantly spicy all in one. Ginger, chili flakes, garlic, soy sauce and honey work really well together. Second, we have crisp firm tofu that has been marinated in a sweet and savoury sauce including allspice, ginger, and chili flakes. I have fallen for allspice recently and absolutely love it. This is served over a bed of rice that is combined with wilted kale, and as you use the same pan from the tofu, any brown bits (=flavour!) get included into the rice mixture as well. Topped with chopped cashews and green onions, this is a very tasty dish with many complex textures and flavours.
While in Turkey, I had wonderful Turkish rice pudding (Sütlaç) that was silky smooth and sprinkled with cinnamon. I never liked rice pudding as a kid (sorry Mom!) but can I blame that on my own bland taste buds as a child or the rice pudding? My brother loved the stuff, so I don’t know.. In any case, this, my friends, is a delicious grown-up rice pudding. I approve.
After making the Mango Sticky Rice and Mango Shrikhand, I decided that mango, coconut and cardamom work really well together, so I rearranged them a bit to make this wonderfully delicious (and easy!) coconut rice pudding that was topped with a mango puree. The coconut rice pudding was delicious on its own, with flavours bursting from the coconut and cardamom with the creamy rice speckling the pudding. I mashed half a mango and added it on top of the pudding, which was great, but certainly do not hesitate to make this pudding without the mango. You can eat it plain or top with other fruit – banana, raspberries, kiwi, etc. The nuts are totally optional as well. I used chopped macadamia nuts but think toasted pistachios would have been better, or simply not use any nuts at all. It can be served cold or warm. Personally, I couldn’t wait long enough before diving in, so I had it warm… Eating it chilled would be just as delicious and perfect for a cool summer day.
O mango, how sweet you are!
I must admit that I was a late bloomer when it came to mango loving. I will blame it on the lack of decent mangoes where I used to live. However, once I moved to Toronto I scoured Chinatown last year and devoured the Ataulfos. This year, I was on a mission to find the even sweeter Indian Alphonso mango. While I escaped Turkey unscathed from the erupting volcano, the Alphonso mangoes did not share the same fate. Their shipment had been delayed and I initially couldn’t find any at the Gerrard India Bazaar (aka Little India). Luckily, when I came back last weekend, I scooped up a case, split them with a friend and have been enjoying them all week. Arguably the best mango.
I used to wonder why mess with mangoes when they taste so good all by themselves? I love pretty much all (heat tolerable) dishes with mangoes, but when I have delicious fresh mangoes, I just want to eat them the way they are. I find it hard to incorporate the mangoes into a dish that may mask their flavour. No worries with Mango and Sticky Rice, because mango and coconut are simply meant to be together. They are definitely better than the sum of their parts alone. The sweet coconut creaminess envelopes the juicy Alphonso mangoes on a bed of creamy, yet sticky, coconut-flavoured rice. The benefit of making this dish at home, is that you can make the dish as sweet as you want. Not much sugar was needed to be added when the mangoes are brimming with taste. There are many recipes for Mango Sticky Rice, but I adapted my version from Taste Buddies.
One of my favourite dishes that was prepared during the Tastes of Tomorrow events was a delectable risotto made by Chef Morgan Wilson from Trios Bistro in Toronto. We gobbled up at least 4 servings of the risotto (nevermind the citrus-poached halibut and tomato, lemon and olive relish) and left contently stuffed. However, I know the secret to delicious risotto: a tasty fish broth, good quality Arborio rice, butter and lots of Parmesan cheese. The recipe says just to add Parmesan to taste, but I saw how much he added! LOTS!
Unfortunately, I probably ate my entire week’s caloric intake that night, and I knew it would have to be a very special occasion (ie. after my upcoming 70km charity bike ride would be ideal ) before I tackle it myself. For the other days, I need to find something a bit less artery clogging.
I found a lovely oyster mushroom and barley risotto, which I slightly adapted from the Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook. Each serving cup is 178 calories which is much easier to handle.
The dish is only for serious mushroom lovers. If you only kind of like mushrooms, this is not for you. Both the shiitakes and oyster mushrooms provided a meaty feel, almost akin to seafood. There was a nice earthy flavour to the dish and I liked the combination of barley with the short-grain sushi rice. There was enough cheese for flavour and texture and I liked the subtle difference Asiago brought to the meal. However, I won’t lie. It wasn’t nearly as creamy as my butter and cheese-laden risotto friend. But I am willing to make these sacrifices for my own health.