Friday, November 27, 2009

Che Belli CANNOLI - DB

I am not worthy...I am not worthy. That was my first thought when I read that Cannoli was the pastry for the November Daring Baker's challenge. I am fortunate enough to have visited Italy and tasted these pastries made the way they should be eaten...oh, I'm swooning just thinking about them, AND the whole Italian experience. Can you tell: I'm a little in love with all things Italian. I have studied the language for a few years (on and off), visited all regions (every year for 5 years) and value my beloved Italian teacher (now good friend), Lorena Bignamini - and another one of my best friends, Erika Nadir, who teaches Italian at UCLA. I live in giant gratitude for the opportunities to travel to this amazing country and the friends that have come into my life as a result of my...well, frankly, obsession.

But fear not, readers and friends. If a young woman like myself (hey, it's the internet I can say whatever I feel like saying) can take a little flour, sugar, red wine and seasonings, and (with a bit of hot oil) create this flaky, bubbled, crispy sweet round tube packed with whipped delishiousness - SO CAN YOU.

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I couldn't launch into this Cannoli-making adventure without finding out a little about the Who/What/Where regarding these pastries. It was no surprise to learn that the Arab influence during Medieval times actually began the process. Before the Arabs brought sugar to Sicily, most pastries were sweetened with honey. The first time a Chef or cook tasted sugar cane and then started experimenting with it must have been like a carnival in the kitchen. In fact, research offers that the first time Cannoli were served was during Carnivale in Italy. The name, Cannoli, is from the word Canna - similar to Cane in Sugar Cane. Guess why. Like the tubes that are used for forming the Cannoli pastry, the first cooks wrapped the pastry around SUGAR CANES before cooking them in oil and filling them with the mixture of Spring Season fresh Sheep's Ricotta cheese and Sugar whipped together. The classic Cannoli is filled with Ricotta, Sugar and often candied fruits and nuts. The Italians love their endings to words (ie. piccolo and bacione) that means something is litte or huge. Canna plus the ending that would make it cute and small; olo. The plural adds the i instead of o = Cannoli!

The tubes for making Cannoli are not hard to find online or in a baking shop and aren't so expensive, but you can also use short wooden dowels (like cut broom handles).

The directions that we were given are below; along with a few pics to show the process and expected colors, etc. The fillings are up to you. I did the classic Ricotta, but with chipped chocolate, a Cinnamon Pumpkin Filling with Candied Ginger, and a Rose Pastry Cream.

Go for it! Then, save/plan/stretch/beg and borrow til you find yourself sitting on a little patio in the world's most friendly country, sipping a real caffe and closing your eyes every time you bite into a hand-rolled Cannoli. Che Buono!

2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Pasta Machine method:
1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:
1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The $84.00 Friendship Bread

Maybe you've heard of Friendship Bread? Basically, it's a "starter" dough that one person feeds, according to a recipe, then uses some of the starter to bake their bread and passes the rest along to a "friend". That friend feeds the starter til it grows and ferments and becomes ready to use in baking; then takes a little of the starter and passes the rest to the next "friend" and so on, and so on. When I was in college we had one that made it's way around the whole campus and back again. Frankly, it can be fun - or it can be a pain (and NOT the french word for bread.)
My mom, in North Carolina, was given one of these cups of starter by my sister-in-law a few months ago. I got a phone call when my mom was worried about what to do with the rest of the starter she had fed.

[Read the following with a sweet ultra-southern accent] "Cathy, I don't have any friends that want to make this friendly bread, I can't give it back; that would be rude, and I've cooked just about as much of this, and in as many ways as my brain can come up with. I've frozen it, I've fried it, I've made it to muffins, and I'm just sick of my friend bread. There's nobody that wants mine."

My mom is a soft southern 76-year-old with a sing song accent, but I would describe her as either 3 years old or 99 years old. She lives alone and has for years and years. Lots of times she seems like she's MY kid; pouty with a little girl's tiny voice asking for a favor. Other times she seems like she's wise beyond time, but somehow barely hanging on because of this ailment or the other. A common phrase of hers is "well...with my horrible bad luck..." Now, before you think I'm just being mean about my mom, let me assure you; I love this lady with all my heart. She was a single Mom (Dad, not so great) in the 70's to my brother and me. She worked as many jobs as possible. She gave up her own bedroom in our 2 bedroom apt. so I could have my teenage room to myself while she slept on the fold-out couch. She was at every play, majorette parade, and show I ever performed in as a kid. She's also crazy as a salted June Bug, sometimes.

My mom still lives in the small little city she was born in and most of her friends have moved on (one way or the other). She is a child of the Depression and now lives on a fixed income of less than 12,000 dollars a YEAR. The idea of wasting anything, even a cup of starter dough is beyond sinful to her. And, let's face it; who could deal with that little pleading voice telling you that "nobody wants mine". So, I did what every good daughter would do; I told her to send it to me.
I live in Southern California. I visit Mom about every 3 months and my amazingly wonderful brother lives near her and is constantly helping. I'm often searching for ways that I can be of service since I'm the one who "left" town. So, in my mind, I just wanted to fix the emotional. I didn't need to knead bread, ya know? Mom seemed convinced that this AMISH FRIENDSHIP bread was a "secret starter dough". She almost whispered it, "If it stops, nobody knows how to make it again. It started with those Amish people many years ago." To be honest, I probably half listened. I was just bent on fixing the problem. "Oh, yeah that's cool, so just send it to me and I'll make a loaf and that way I can be a part of your Amish Friendship bread thing, too. Is that good?" As I do constantly, I waited to hear how I, wonderful me, had solved all her worry and NOW she was happy. But, her worry became about how to get it to the Post Office, it can't go but 24 hours before the next recipe step, and how she just couldn't pay for that. "No problem, Mom, whatever it is - and how bad can it be - I'll just send you the money back, right away." And that was that. It did make her excited that I would be participating. She started giving me ideas of how she added chocolate chips to it, how important it was to massage the plastic bag of starter exactly as the recipe stated. She was really into the idea. It was great. She would send me a cup of starter, over-night-it, as soon as it got to the sharing point of the recipe again.

A week later, I had just completed a giant project that had me working every day, my youngest son was on school break and my husband had a rare day off; we were taking a holiday at a nice hotel. I was sitting by the pool sipping a Pina Colada, taking in the sun and pretending this was my everyday life. I was in a zone. My cell phone rang and it was Mom. "Cathy, honey, I hope this was okay - I just left the Fed-Ex place and sent off your Amish Starter, but honey it was a lot. Are you sure that was okay, it will make a lot of loaves, but still and all - your brother said you were crazy, but I told him you said to do it, so honey, I did...and it was 84 Dollars."

I spit my half-chewed rum soaked pineapple out of my mouth. 84 DOLLARS? For bread? I could hear her child-like panic that somehow she had done something wrong and worse it had to do with money. "Well, I thought that was a lot, but I figured you knew what you said, did I mess up?" I knew it wasn't her fault, she just did what I so "cooly" told her to do. My brother was right; I was crazy. I tried to pass off my shock by calling it mild surprise at the delivery rates our country is charging these days, yada, yada, yada.
So, story mostly over except this extra salt in the wound. If you google - "Amish Friendship Bread" - you will find hundreds of starter recipes just like the one I paid 84 Dollars to use. When I got the bag and read through the daily instructions I got a giant laugh. After 10 days of massaging and feeding the starter the recipe for the bread began. One of the ingredients was powdered Vanilla Pudding, like from a box? I'm not sure, but I doubt the age old traditions of the Amish actually included boxed Vanilla Pudding Mix. I left that part out; forever destroying the secret Amish starter.
I have to admit, this made an amazingly moist caramel bread. It had that sweetness that comes only with fermenting and maybe a little bit of humble pie.

Starter Recipe given is one that I've tweaked from many sources to give you one that is simple and fun to start your own Friendship Bread.


1 TBL. dry active yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup warm milk

In a non-metallic bowl; sprinkle yeast over 1 cup of warm water (110F). Stir to dissolve yeast and wait about 5 minutes til frothy.

Add sugar, flour and warm milk. Stir to combine, then pour mixture into a sturdy ziplock bag and keep at room temp. for 10 days while you follow these directions.

Days 1,2,3,4 - Release pressure in bag and massage ingredients in bag.
Day 5 - Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Close bag, massage and hold again.
Days 6,7,8,9 - Release pressure in bag and massage ingredients.
Day 10 - Add 1 cup each of flour, sugar and milk. Massage ingredients and pour into a non-metallic bowl.

Use 1 cup of batter for making your own 2 loaves of bread. You will have about 3 cups of batter left (2 to share and 1 to keep for your next 10 days/ or 3 to share).


1 cup of starter
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
*optional: pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg/ caramel chips, choc.chips, nuts, raisins
**optional: 1 small box of vanilla pudding

Mix together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl.
In another bowl - beat eggs with oil, vanilla and starter, then add in the dry ingredient mix and optionals.

Pour batter into 2 well buttered loaf pans (or you may choose muffin tins). Bake at 325F for 1 hour (muffins require less time.)

Don't forget to give the recipes and instructions when you share your Friendship Bread. This makes a very fun gift for the holidays.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

RAW ROCKS - Daring Cooks do SUSHI

Sushi is one of those things ya either love or you haven't tried - heh heh. When I read that this month's Daring Cook's Challenge was Sushi I was a little intimidated. I love going OUT for Sushi, but going ALL OUT for Sushi was a little mind numbing. I figured I'd need to really focus just to get it all done before the raw fish turned green and SuSHI turned into SuSHIT.

Well, as it turned out, there was no need to worry.

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

I'm lucky to have a nice Japanese market not too far from my house and I must have spent 2 hours in there researching and studying everything possible (one of my biggest reasons for doing the Daring Kitchens every month.) I'm sure I gave the employees a good laugh as I asked over and over, "You're SURE I can eat this raw?" I came home with Tuna, Red Snapper, Eel, Salmon and tons of veggies, sauces and Nori sheets.
The "Lady of Gent of the Challenge" had obviously worked extremely hard to make the recipe clear, easy and thorough. The MAIN focus was to learn the proper way to make Sushi Rice. And then, we had several types of Sushi to try:


I've read that the true Japanese Sushi Chefs train for two years doing nothing but rice before they're even allowed to touch the fish. Thank Goodness, it only took ME about an hour and a half to "master" the art of Sushi rice. Actually it was very fun and I wanted to do it exactly as suggested. I rinsed, I soaked, I boiled and I used a handmade fan to cool the rice; it was truly delicious and worked perfectly.

The word, sushi, means vinegar seasoned rice and the rice wine vinegar does make it so sweet and sticky. You'll see below the recipes for all the sushi and the rice. It will look long and tedious, but I assure you it's there to make it easier. If you haven't done Sushi before (you can use veggies, fruits, cooked meats, etc..) Try it. Read it through, write out a plan and have fun with it.

Since working on the rolls we were challenged to do I also started experimenting with shapes and molds using cups and balls made by wrapping ingredients in plastic wrap. I had fun and I've added a whole new area of culinary choices to my world.

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes


  • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Optional Ingredients

  • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
  • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
  • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

Rinsing and draining the rice

  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

  1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
  2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
  3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat on low setting.
  3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

  1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
  2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
  4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

  • Turning out the rice

  1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
  3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

  • Dressing the rice with vinegar

  1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
  2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
  3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

  • Fanning & Tossing the rice

  1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
  2. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

  • Keeping the rice moist

  1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

* Tip: While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.

* Tip: Photo series on How to Cook Rice with a Pot

* Tip: Photo series on How to Make Sushi Rice with Tools You Already Own

Sushi Rice – choose a short or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice. Medium-grained calrose is a suitable rice. Rice expands (about 3 times) when cooked so make sure your pot is large enough. Washing the rice removes the rice flour that coats the rice and gives a fresh flavour and scent to the cooked rice. Look for rice that is labelled 'sushi' rice. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed. Cooked sushi rice should be sticky, shiny and the individual grains of rice can been see. Price: AUS $4/KG.

Dashi konbu – or ( dashi kombu) – dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice. Price: AUS $1.50 for ten 3”(75mm) squares.

Rice Vinegar – this gives prepared sushi rice its unique clean, crisp taste. Do not use bottled “sushi vinegar” as it is too harsh and has a bitter after-taste. Look carefully at the label of the rice vinegar it should have NO SALT and NO SUGAR in the product. Apple cider vinegar is a good substitute if rice vinegar is not available. You can use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar if you cannot find rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar. DO NOT USE NORMAL WHITE VINEGAR it is too harsh. Price: AUS $4 /500ml bottle.

Sake – Japanese rice wine. Do not use cooking sake or Chinese cooking rice wine, look for a reasonably priced drinkable sake. Refrigerate opened sake & use within two months. You can use vodka or a mild tasting gin if sake is not available. Price: AUS $10/500ml bottle.

Sugar – you can use mild honey or any other vegan substitute to give the equivalent sweetness.

PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls


  • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
  • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
  • 1 Avocado
  • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
  • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)


  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)

1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls

Bamboo mat (makisu) – A 10 inch (25cm) square mat made of thin slates of bamboo tied together with string.
Substitutes: a thin magazine cut to size wrapped in plastic wrap or a few layers of parchment paper cut to size about 10 inch (25cm) square.

Nori – Sheets of seaweed (laver) processed into thin sheets about 7 inches x 8 inches (17.5cm x 20cm) in size. Always re-toast the nori sheet over a gas stove on low flame for 5 to 10 seconds, or place nori on a clean oven rack and bake it in a preheated 350F-degree (180C) oven for 30 seconds. Nori should be sealed tightly in a plastic bag and used within a few months. It can be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package so use quickly.
Substitutes: Thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet (7 inches by 8 inches or 17.5cm x 20cm). Also soya bean wrappers, rice paper, tofu wrappers, dosas, crepes or an overlapping layer of thinly sliced cooked vegetables.

Glazed Freshwater Barbecued Eel (unagi) – Deliciously rich and a little like pork they are sold in packs in the freezer (and sometimes the fresh fish) section of Asian markets.
Substitutes: Teriyaki chicken, cooked crab meat, smoked fish, smoked chicken, seared beef with BBQ sauce, deep fried tofu with dark soya sauce, tinned pink or red salmon, smoked salmon, fresh cooked soy beans with a selection of dark sauces, caramelized onions, firm cream cheese, or extra avocado with BBQ sauce as the filling. Any remaining eel should be left in the package re-wrapped in plastic and returned to the freezer as quickly as possible.

Japanese Cucumber – Japanese cucumbers are thin-skinned, seedless and contain much less water than normal cucumber.
Substitutes: English or hothouse cucumbers which have been peeled, de-seeded and salted as above. If not available try matchsticks of your favourite crisp vegetable.

Substitutes: If not available use slices of roasted capsicum (bell pepper), slices of roasted tomatoes, lightly cooked whole snap (snow) peas, slices of Japanese daikon radish or other cooked thinly sliced vegetables, or slices of 'sushi' grade fish such as tuna, yellow tail and red snapper; smoked salmon, pastrami, salami, various colours of fish roe, or various colours of sesame seeds.

Fish Roe (Fish eggs or caviar) – most roes (fish eggs) are rich so they are served in small portions. Try salmon roe (ikura), smelt roe (masago) or seasoned flying-fish roe (tobiko).
Substitutes: You can use toasted sesame seeds or black onion (nigella) seeds as a vegan choice.

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces


  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc....

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi


  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice


  • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form 'battleship' sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri

Seafood nigiri must use sushi grade (sashimi grade) fish. Try tuna, red sea bream (red snapper), yellowtail or salmon. Cooked shrimp, cooked crab, cooked meat can also be used! You can use any vegetable you wish try asparagus, pumpkin, carrot, avocado, cucumber, shiitake mushroom, tofu, thin sliced egg omelette, etc... Thinly slice or julienne vegetables, parboiling if necessary tie on with a thin (1/4” or 6mm) strip of nori or vegetable strip wrapped around the whole sushi if needed..

*MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE YOU MUST READ THIS* – If you are using raw fish or raw meat it must be 'sushi' grade (sashimi grade) ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and if in doubt don't use. Find your local Japanese market and ask them where the best sushi (sashimi) fish is. Maybe you can buy sushi grade fish at your local sushi bar. Purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Only salt-water fish and shellfish should be consumed raw. Crab and prawn (shrimp) should always be cooked. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system only use cooked ingredients. There is no need to use raw fish or raw meat in sushi.

Friday, November 13, 2009

WOULD I FUYU? Persimmon Rum Raisin Bread Pudding

Here's how it started:
Me (to myself)
Wow, it's already time for the "Lets Lunch Bunch" posting and it's supposed to be
a Fall Dessert. (pause) Man, I love Persimmons. (pause) I could use a drink. (BOING!)

Fuyu Persimmon Rum Raisin Bread Pudding

Yeah, maybe it was a little more involved than that, but honestly this time of year, I'm so in love with these squatty little orange/yellow babies. Fuyu Persimmons taste like a Pumpkin, a Pear, and a crisp Apple got together know, what ever Fall Fruit would do.

Now, maybe you are reading this and thinking:
YOU (to yourself)
Is she out of her mind? I tasted a Persimmon once and it turned my mouth inside out!!

Well, guess what - you probably ate a different kind, another species of Persimmon. There are many varieties, but mainly TWO to be aware of when eating or cooking with them.

FUYU - are glossy orange/yellow and kinda squat like a tiny pumpkin. They can be eaten right off the tree like an apple, and they're sweet and crisp like a pear. These Persimmons are fantastic sliced in a salad, or sliced and dried in a low heat oven for a few hours to make Persimmon Chips, or cubed and cooked into a jam, or caramelized and baked into this delicious cozy Bread Pudding.

HACHIYA - are deep orange, shaped like an acorn and are a bit heavier and packed with tannin (the stuff that will suck the moisture out of your mouth if taken in too big a dose). When these gorgeous orbs are RIPE; meaning soft like a water balloon and almost ready to pop - Oh Momma, they are sweet and juicy and lusciously rich in vitamins, fiber and potential. Some people just freeze Hachiya Persimmons - then thaw for a short time - slice them open and scoop/eat with a spoon like the easiest cup of sorbet you'll ever have. If you happen to find a good buy at the Farmer's Market on Hachiya Persimmons, but they're not ripe yet; put them in a bag with an apple or banana and they'll move right into pudding-like ripeness in no time.

You will not find a more beautiful fruit than a FUYU - Starburst in the middle, almost liquid orange, no need to peel and naturally sweet. These guys are grown mostly in China, although Brazil and Japan also produce them. The domestic crop is almost completely produced in California (during the months of October through December). Since Persimmons are an Autumn treat they pair really well with dried fruits like raisins and figs. They also taste great with nuts and cheeses. Almost anywhere you could use an apple, you could use a Fuyu Persimmon; tarts, pies, pancakes, salads, chutneys or just sliced and baked with a sprinkling of brown sugar and cinnamon. And, of course, if the hot toddy ingredient: Spiced Rum is nearby for some reason, throw that into the mix.

Keep your Persimmons at room temp. whenever possible. Putting them in the refrigerator actually makes them go bad faster. The season is not very long for these lovelies, so I hope you'll have the chance to try this recipe. If not, try it with nice firm apples and substitute Calvados for the Rum.

Wanna hear a confession?
Time: A few days ago:

ME (to myself)
Well, I have the pictures so I could just eat the Persimmon Bread Pudding now, right?

Cut to: a few hours later
ME (to myself)
Wow, did I eat both of those ?!?

The #LetsLunch bunch started on twitter a few months ago when Cheryl at Tiger In the Kitchen and Elise at CowgirlChef decided to do a lunch theme together and then post about it. Right away, a bunch of us joined in the virtual lunch events each month. Check out the great Fall Desserts presented to you at these fine locations:

Cosmic Cowgirl
Geo Fooding
Bon Vivant
Free Range Cookie


4 cups diced Fuyu Persimmon
1/4 cup melted butter
6 slices of dry or toasted bread in large cubes
1/2 cup raisins - soaking in rum to cover for at least 1 hour
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 eggs
dash of cinnamon

Mix all dairy with dash of cinnamon and eggs in a large bowl. Drop in the cubes of bread to soak while prepping persimmons.

Saute Persimmons in butter on low/med. heat til softened.
Drain raisins and add them to pan. Mix thoroughly.
In a large bowl, gently whip eggs and add the Persimmon mixture all together. Fold over several times and pour into 6 ramekins or 1 large pan (approx. 8x8)
Bake in a Bain Marie for 30-40 minutes at 375F.

Cool and slice or serve from dish.

This can be held for 1 day in refrigerator. Re-heat in oven 300F for a few minutes, then put under broiler for browning the top, but watch carefully.