Friday, November 21, 2014

Sushi Rice Balls

This began as a savory finger food idea for a celebration at the neighborhood yoga studio where I teach. What could I bring that would be real food, easy to handle without utensils, filling enough to sustain after a 90 minute yoga practice, and with the least likelihood to make dietary or health problems for people? So sushi rice seemed a good start and I wanted to put something yummy inside the rice, making it possible to pop in the mouth and enjoy the flavors as they reveal themselves. I made a terrible mess the first go, and tried again, plus rolled some in Nori sheets and cut them into more normal looking sushi rolls. Not everyone likes seaweed flavor though, so I tried again for rice balls. Here's a plan that will work, with the warning that it really makes sense to keep your hands slightly moist with a water dipping bowl as you form each ball. Give yourself an hour to make these even though the rice only takes 25 minutes, since the rice soaks first while you cut up veggies, and then has to cool as you set up your production line. Once you are making them, it goes fast!

   with edamame, shiitake mushrooms, avocado & pickled ginger (plus unsalted peanuts if you like)

1 3/4 c sushi rice
1.5 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
3 TBLSP natural brown sugar
4 TBLSP rice vinegar

INSIDE (whatever you want...)
1/4 cup shelled cooked edamame (you can buy these frozen and just microwave them for 1 minute)
2 thinly sliced and cut up shiitake mushrooms
1/2 not-to-ripe avocado sliced in little bits
pickled grated or sliced ginger (you can make this yourself or buy a jar of it)
Other Options: bits of peeled seeded cucumber; roasted unsalted peanuts; bits of scallion or carrot or spiced tofu -- anything you like!

1/4 c toasted sesame seeds (you can roast them yourself in a few minutes in a small saute pan)

SAUCE: (all can be adjusted to your taste)
1/3 cup low sodium Tamari
2 TBLSP sweet black vinegar (or regular black vinegar)
2 finely chopped cloves of garlic
1/4 cup water

Sauce Option: Mix up some dry Wasabi powder with water - either runny like a sauce, or thick like a paste - if you like this spicy-hot addition (like horseradish or mustard sauce, some people love it and some don't)

Measure your rice into a strainer that fits inside a BIG BOWL in the sink. Run cold water over the rice, gentle massaging the rice in the water, as the bowl fills enough to submerge the rice (turn off the running water at this point!). Softly turn the rice over in your hand under water, releasing some of the starch. The water will get cloudly. Pour out the water and do it again - at least two, usually three times - until the water stays mostly clear. Leave the submerged rice soaking at this point for 10-20 minutes as you get all the other ingredients ready. I've been told this helps keep each kernel whole and gives it a beautiful sheen.

Cut up all your little bits of things you want in your sushi rice balls. Keep it small and simple at first - a little bit of ginger, cuke, avocado and a couple edamame are PLENTY in one rice ball.


Drain the rice. Put it in a good sauce pot (heavy bottom - even heat - good lid) with the water. Bring to a boil and as soon as it boils, cover it and turn it down to LOW. Set the timer for 15 MINUTES COOKING. If you hear it crackling before that, turn it off. In either case, 15 minutes or once you hear it crackling, turn it off, put the lid on it, take it off the heat and set the timer for 10 MORE MINUTES just sitting.

Measure out the salt, sugar and vinegar in a cup and dissolve -- perhaps even microwaving for 20 seconds to help dissolve the sugar. This needs to be fully dissolved before you use it.

After the rice has sat 10 minutes, GENTLY SCRAPE IT OUT INTO THAT LARGE BOWL. You want to keep the kernels intact. With your bamboo paddle or wooden spoon you will gently cut into the rice again and again as you drizzle the sugar/salt/vinegar over the rice. You are not mixing/stirring. NOT STIRRING. You are cutting in various directions, turning and cutting until all the kernals are soaked by the vinegar mixture. Let this cool - gently cutting to give more surface area - and traditional would have you fanning it at the same time!

This is a good time to toast your sesame seeds and set them out on a plate for use in the construction stage.


Once cool enough to handle, get your finger bowl of water ready, have all your ingredients right there, and set out a cookie sheet with wax paper on it, or the plates upon which you might want to put the balls once made. I like to put the cookie sheet of balls into the fridge for a little while before serving, so that they harden just a little and hold together better. I've set them out at a party for a couple hours before serving though, so it isn't necessary to chill them. You can actually make them a day in advance and keep them in the fridge with a plastic bag over them.

Anyway, to begin making the balls, moisten your hands, take some rice in the palm of the left hand and spread it just a little. Put your inside ingredients in the middle, and with a moistened right hand, take a little dab more rice and put it over the left hand materials, squeeze gently into a ball form, gently dabbing each ball in the toasted sesame seeds and setting them on the prepared wax paper or plate. Continue doing this -- moistening your hands, figuring out how much rice goes in the first layer, how much filling to put in, how much on top, and how much to squeeze into the ball shape.

You can always decide to make sushi rolls with the same ingredients!! Taking sheets of nori (seaweed prepared in thin sheets that you can buy at many grocery stores) on a bamboo rolling mat, you spread a spare layer of rice over the sheet, put the filling materials in a line along the middle across the sheet. Then you roll from the edge closest to you, gently tucking the front edge in and under, using steady light pressure along the bamboo mat as you continue rolling to the opposite edge -- tucking and compressing to firm up the roll. Remove the mat and then slice however thick you want your rolls - using a VERY SHARP KNIFE or you will have a squashed mess.


Most people like a soy sauce type of dipping sauce for sushi or dumplings. You can make this up as you go along - I used low sodium Tamari to reduce the salt content and make sure there was no wheat gluten in it. Regular soy sauce has wheat gluten in it.  I use Chinese Black Vinegar and Sweet Black Vinegar, and lots of garlic. You can add fresh ginger, or even pepper flakes! I know some of my family and friends love wasabi - the Asian Horseradish - so I buy the powder and mix it with water to get a fairly thin but potent sauce. If I make these into sushi rolls, I would not use as much water and let it be a soft/loose paste that is easier to put on a sushi roll slice.

ENJOY!! Remember that you can change what you put inside - if you don't like avocado, or can't eat peanuts, use something else like cucumber, little radish bits, shiso leaves, kimchi, soaked tofu or even refried black beans! My goodness the possibilities are endless.

These keep well for a day or two in the fridge, but generally won't last that long if people know they are in there...

Friday, May 16, 2014

Hummus Taco

Using whatever is in the house is my way of operating. This taco is totally a product of that way of thinking. It made a lovely easy fresh lunch. This means that you, too, can make a fabulous taco lunch practically no matter what you have around for ingredients. This is what happened today and I do recommend it!

Hummus Taco

Corn tortillas (ready made or home made)
Tomatoes - cut into chunks (we used kumatoes, but cherry or grape tomatoes would work)
Avocado - cut into small cubes
Mushrooms sliced thinly and cut into rectangular bits (I used white button mushrooms)
Hummus - ready made or homemade (we used roasted red pepper hummus)
Red pepper chopped in small bits
Hot sauce - your favorite kind

 Put all the cut up ingredients on a large plate. Heat each tortilla about 30 seconds per side over a hot gas burner or in a small nonstick fry pan. Load your taco with the assortment of goodies and enjoy! So simple it almost seems crazy to write this down. It didn't occur to me that I would blog this, so the only picture I have is what was left I my hand when my husband said, "this was so good, you should blog it."

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Parsnip Quinoa with Enoki

Quinoa is a versatile material for absorbing flavor and the texture is also flexible enough to replace a risotto as a main course. This was a variation that invoked cooking chopped vegetables with the quinoa-- adding more flavor and textural elements at the very end. It went beautifully with a lemon-ume plum treated broccoli and a quick anything goes miso soup! Here's the plan:

Parsnip Enoki Quinoa

1.5 c white quinoa
4 c water 
2 small sweet parsnips chopped small
1 medium onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
1 poblano pepper finely chopped & set aside
1 package Enoki mushrooms (chopped & set aside)
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dry
.5 tsp white pepper or to taste (black pepper is on too but you will see it...)
.5-1 tsp sea salt

Put quinoa, parsnips, onion, garlic, salt & water in a good sized saucepan. Bring to boil uncovered and then turn way down to simmer with lid on for about 15-20 minutes.

Check on the absorption if water but don't stir. When water is all absorbed add the chopped poblano, white pepper, chopped enoki and stir in until the green flecks of pepper for the whole thing. Cover and let sit while you get everything else organized, and serve!

Lemon-Ume Plum Broccoli

Large bunch broccoli 
Half a lemon
Tsp ume plum vinegar
2 tsp Braggs liquid amino
5 cloves minced garlic 
2 tsp mirin

Steam the broccoli in medium sized branch pieces until just tender.
Put the lemon juice and garlic together and microwave 1-2 minutes or sauté just long enough to heat and soften the garlic.

Add all the other seasonings/sauces to lemon garlic and mix in with broccoli in a large bowl. 

Add seasoned tofu or mushrooms! 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kabocha Squash Chili with Poblanos

What to do with a 5 pound Kabocha squash that will make for fast food dinners over the next couple nights? I decided to steam about half of it and make a chili style meal, bake the other half to use either for a salad or for a spicy puree.  This is how the chili went together, for eating on rice (or rice noodles!).

Kabocha Squash Chili with Poblano Pepper

2.5 lbs Kabocha squash (1/2 of a medium sized one) cut in wedges and steamed
3 stalks celery sliced in thin slices and chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
6-8 frozen plum tomatoes
1 medium large onion chopped
1 poblano pepper chopped medium fine
2 Tblsp chopped fresh cilantro (at least)
3/4 cup chopped greens - I used beet greens
1 tsp each cumin, ginger, paprika, thyme
.5 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp (at least) chili powder
1 can dark red kidney beans (or fresh cooked, or any other bean you like)
.5-1 tsp salt
2 tsp Bragg's Liquid Amino

Chop up everything else and put all the other ingredients into a medium large pot. (I used the same one that I used to steam the squash to keep my clean up to a minimum.)

Once the squash has cooled enough, cut off the peeling and the dark green part so that it is all tender flesh. Kabocha has a kind of chestnut-like quality that is crumbly, so cut it into fairly good sized rectangular chunks that won't just dissolve in the chili.

Let this cook on a simmer for 20 minutes uncovered. Stirring occasionally. ADD SQUASH and let simmer another 20 minutes. You can keep for a couple days in the fridge -- or eat the same day! It's great on any kind of rice, and also on thin rice noodles -- or soba!!  We ate this on kasha and sprinkled lightly salted peanuts on top, which was great for a textural combination.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Roasted veggies with seasoned tofu

We are straddling two seasons as the root veggies start softening up, storage onions start sprouting greens and the fresh asparagus begins arriving from just a little south of us. For me, a meal is especially pleasing that has qualities of warmth and coolness, color and texture. This meal met all those aspects plus it came together simply. I steamed fresh asparagus in the last 10 minutes that the food in the oven was uncovered, and the kale salad softened the whole time the veggies roasted. I have to admit that my husband and I ate nearly all of this in one dinner, but adding an additional beet, sweet potato and a couple onions (or parsnips) this could feed 4 people! You can also double the tofu.

Roasted Veggies (bakes 1 hour)
Set oven to 350F

3 beets
2 carrots
1 sweet potato 
4 cippolini onions
teaspoon Herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
tsp olive oil optional

Scrub, peel and cut into medium, similar sized pieces. Place on tin foil in a baking pan - I prefer cast iron enamel to distribute the heat, but use what you have. Sprinkle the herbs, salt, pepper and oil (if you are using any), cover with another sheet of foil and place in oven. Set the timer for 40 minutes.

Kale salad
Use one good sized bunch of any kale you like - choosing moderate sized tender leaves.  We like curly and lacinato especially for this. Tear the leaf off the stem and tear into reasonabe edible pieces - not longer than your fingers or wider than your hand. Wash and spin dry. Place leaves in a fairly large bowl ( they do compact but start out needing space). In a separate bowl, mix together the dressing:
 1/2 c tarragon vinegar,
 1-2 Tblspn of a second vinegar like pomegranate or balsamic, 
add 2 cloves finely chopped garlic 
about 1/2 tsp salt. 
Smooth this dressing into the kale leaves, gently bruising the leaves and rubbing around to spread the dressing into all the pieces. Refrigerate while everything else cooks - smooshing  the leaves once more 10 minutes before serving (just about when you take the foil off the veggies).

Seasoned tofu

Cut a block of firm tofu into 6 short thick slices. Set out a bowl to soak them in. In a second bowl mix the mustard marinade:
1.5 Tblspn spicy mustard (your favorite)
1tsp Braggs Liquid Amino
1tsp tamari 
1/2 tsp ume plum vinegar
2tsp maple syrup
1Tblspn chili sauce (you could use ketchup with a little horseradish and vinegar added)
A shake of sriracha sauce
Pour this over the tofu and stir gently to cover all the surfaces.
After a few minutes, tip the bowl and recoat the surfaces with the sauce. Then add:
5 chopped shiitake mushrooms
2 chopped scallions
Let this sit, stir once or twice.

When the timer goes off, take the foil off the veggies, stir them gently and push them towards the edges if the pan. Put the seasoned tofu mixture into the center of the pan, spreading it so the tofu doesn't overlap too much. Cover with the foil and set the timer for 10 minutes.

When the timer goes off, take the covering off the baking pan and set the timer for the last 10 minutes. Steam the asparagus in that 19 minutes.


Banana Oat Cookiies

As usual, my agenda began with an ingredient that required attention: 3 small overripe bananas. So I mashed them in a bowl, added oats and off I went. These are cheating a little on my usual strategy by using some dark brown sugar, but only 2 tablespoons. We ate these for breakfast, but my husband said, "Call them cookies, they'd be good anytime!" So I did.

Banana Oat Cookies

Mix together and let sit 
3 small overripe bananas mashed, or 2 large ones
1.5-2 cups whole oats 
1/2-2/3 cup almond milk (unsweetened plain) enough to make a mush, not liquidy
1 heaping tsp chia seeds

In a larger bowl mix:
1/2 c chick pea flour
2/3 c brown rice flour
1/4 c millet flour
1Tblspn tapioca starch
1 heaping tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1-2 tsp cinnamon (as you like it)
2 Tblspn dark brown sugar
2 Tblspn nutritional yeast

Combine moist ingredients into dry stirring til consistent, and toss in your favorite dry fruits/nuts. I used what I had on hand which ended up being about 1/2 c mixed raisins and cranberries plus 1/2 c walnuts.

Set oven at 375F and spoon out heaping tablespoon sized blobs onto a silicone baking sheet at least an inch space between them.

Bake 25 minutes (check 'em at 20 minutes). The house will smell great when they're done!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sourdough Millet Breadsticks: Struggling with sourdough

Last winter I bought a book all about gluten free bread baking. I read the reviews (very positive) and made the corrections from the errata related to oven temperatures and times. I bought all the expensive specific ingredients. I nurtured the sourdough starter and tried the yeast breads. Basically 3 out of 10 recipes were pleasant to eat and none were worth posting here or serving to anyone else. Sigh. 

So I went back to inventing my own misadventures in gluten free vegan bread baking. Except for the fact that I felt terrible discarding the sourdough starter, even though it had failed me. It smells so good and has so much Teff in it... 

Today's experiment centered around using the weekly discard from that starter. I have to reduce it by half and add new Teff and water so it can continue to grow (if that's what it's doing). So I made bread sticks using the rest of the millet flour that didn't fit in the quart jar I use for fridge storage, some sorghum flour, a splash of Xanthan gum (because I bought it for all those  failed bread recipes) a couple teaspoons of yeast, a tablespoon of molasses, well... It came out nicely and was a fun accompaniment to the corn chowder I thawed out for lunch.  Here's the way it went. The sourdough starter must be made at least 4 days in advance.

Sourdough Millet Teff Breadsticks

Sourdough starter:
4 cups ground Teff flour
Red cabbage outer leaf 
2-3 apple peeling pieces 
4-5 cups room temp filtered water
Large mixing bowl

Mix together 2 cups water 2 cups flour and the cabbage leaf, torn into 2 pieces, and the apple peelings in a good sized bowl. Leave this out on the kitchen counter or other moderately warm place where you will see it. Cover it with cheesecloth or a dish towel (especially in summer to keep bugs out if it) and stir it gently every 4-6 hours. Add 1/2 cup Teff flour and 1/2 cup water every 12 hours for at least 2 days. 

After 48 hours you should be seeing bubbles and smell some fermentation. Take out 1 cup and add in 1/2 cup Teff and 1/2 cup water. Let stand another 6 -12 hours. If you are going to use some right away , you can take 1 cup out and feed the starter again. Give it at least 4 hours and then refrigerate it in a closed jar. Every week you need to take out a cup & feed it, setting it out to give it time to restart the growth. You can experiment with adding other flour like millet, sorghum etc.


1.5 cup starter
1/2. cup Teff flour
1 1/4 cup millet flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1 tsp Xantgan gum (binder to replace gluten)
2tsp yeast
1 Tblspn molasses
1/2 -2/3 cup water to moisten
Mix all these stirring gently until thoroughly moistened and combined.

1Tblspn garlic powder
5-8 kalamata olives cut off the pit in bits
1.2 tsp dried (or fresh!) rosemRy crushed or chopped
1/2 tsp sea sat

Stir in all the above and let sit covered with a cloth for 40-50 minutes.

Sprinkle a surface with 1/4 c millet flour.
Take a fistful of dough and dredge just enough so you can roll it out on a non stick Silicone baking sheet on a large cookie sheet. They can be 5-7 inches long and best is a little wider than an inch. Makes about 8 sticks. After you've used up all the dough, sprinkle kosher salt and ground pepper in another handful of millet flour in the flat surface. Gently pick up each stick and dab and roll it in the salt/pepper replacing it on the baking sheet with the peppery side up. Make 3 quick diagonal cuts in the surface of each stick.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 375F checking for doneness afyer 30 minutes.