eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Category: MAIN DISHES

Meet In Your Kitchen | Roll your own Sushi at Kyoto’s Awomb

Awomb

Kyoto shares a kind of peace with its visitors that immediately takes control over body and mind. It answers all your questions and makes you speechless.

The city has two faces, the busy modern one of concrete, glass, metal, and noise, and then there’s the quiet side, when Japan’s old capital unfolds its true beauty. It’s not superficial, this beauty touched me deeply. You can see it, smell it, and taste it. Natural materials and clear lines create a compelling minimalist aesthetic dominated by dark wood and coal colored roofs shimmering silvery in the misty light. Silent stone gardens, temples, and shrines erase the noise in your head and fill it with serenity.

If this feeling could manifest itself in a restaurant, this would be the wonderful Awomb. The restaurant is in an elegant traditional house, hard to find in a narrow side alley in old Kyoto. You sit on the floor, on Tatami mats made of rice straw, in front of a low wooden table. The room is filled with natural light, golden warm as honey. The subtle sound of the floors creaking and birds hiding in the tall pine tree in front of the window break the gentle melodies of the traditional Koto music playing in the background. It sounds a bit like a harp, melodic yet hard, pure as single water drops.

The food created here is quite a new concept. Owner Ujita Hiroshi brings hand-rolled sushi, which is usually served at home, to the restaurant table to share with friends. A bowl of white rice, a teapot filled with steaming dashi broth, and a black lacquered tray full of little plates filled with stunning delicacies are the center piece of this culinary experience: you come to Awomb to roll your own sushi in one of the prettiest rooms that I’ve seen on my trip. The food itself, each little plate, looks like a piece of art. Seafood and vegetables can be mixed and combined according to your mood and refined with various seasonings, like fresh wasabi, grated ginger, plum sauce, salted vegetables, dried shrimp with mayonnaise, or tasty soy sauce jelly cubes. You can either add the ingredients to the rice bowl and eat it with chopsticks, or you can go for sushi in seaweed – rolled in your hands.

There’s no chance that I’ll ever have such a vast variety of ingredients to choose from in my own kitchen, but it’s so inspiring, I tried totally new combinations. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t be shy, just try not to use more than 4 to 5 main flavors and you’ll be rewarded with astonishing results. I got a bit excited and went overboard – the German girl came through – but my first “sushi in a bowl” made with pink grapefruit, salmon, fried sweet potato, square bean, gari (pickled ginger), and finely cut green matcha crepes tasted fantastic. Then I combined purple potato mash, octopus, and Ikura (salmon roe) and rolled it in seaweed, which turned into such a delicious beauty that I have to share this recipe with you.

The quality of each ingredient used at Awomb is outstanding, which isn’t a surprise, Ujita Hiroshi comes from a family that has been in the sushi business for decades. However, the young man didn’t want to follow his parents’ footsteps, he decided to start his own food adventure. His vision, to make hand-rolled sushi a delicious and fun experience for friends outside their homes, is a huge success. Long lines and waiting lists call for a well-planed reservation.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Awomb

 

Awomb

Build Your Own Sushi:

Hand-rolled Sushi and Sushi in a Bowl inspired by Awomb

Serves 2

For the mashed purple potatoes

100g / 3.5 ounces boiled and peeled purple potato, cooled
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon butter
Fine sea salt
Coarsely ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg

For the hand rolled sushi

Dried seaweed, cut into squares
Sushi rice (recipe below)
Octopus, boiled and cut into bite-sized slices
Ikura (salmon roe)

For the sushi in a bowl

Sushi rice (recipe below)
Pink grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments
Raw salmon, sushi grade, cut into bite size slices
Fried sweet potato
Boiled Edamame beans
Gari (pickled ginger)
Matcha crepe, very finely chopped
(if you make your own crêpes, mix 1 tablespoon of cooking grade matcha powder with 90g / 2/3 cup of plain flour)

Seasonings (optional)

Freshly grated wasabi
Freshly grated ginger
Plum sauce
Soy sauce

For the mashed purple potatoes, purée the potato, heavy cream, and butter in a blender or food processor until smooth and season to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

For the hand rolled sushi, place 1 tablespoon of sushi rice in the middle of a sheet of dried seaweed. Add 1 teaspoon of the mashed purple potatoes, a slice of octopus, and half a teaspoon of salmon roe. Roll like a cigar, add seasonings to taste, and enjoy.

For the sushi in a bowl, add about 2 tablespoons of sushi rice to a small bowl and stir in seasonings to taste (add just a little bit). Add 1 grapefruit segment, 2 slices of salmon, 1 crumbled slice of fried sweet potato, 2 Edamame beans, and a little pickled ginger. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the chopped matcha crêpe and enjoy!

For the sushi rice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine similar to sake)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
180g / 1 cup short-grain sushi rice
240ml / 1 cup cold water

In a small bowl, heat the vinegar, mirin, sugar, and salt, over low heat, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve; let it cool.

Rinse the rice 4-5 times with cold water, then drain in a colander for 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the rice for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let it rest for 15 minutes, don’t lift the lid. Transfer the rice to a large glass bowl.

Sprinkle the warm rice with the cold vinegar mixture and stir gently, you can fan the rice while mixing, that will help it to dry if it’s too sticky. Cover with a damp kitchen towel while you prepare the sushi. Sushi rice is best served at body temperature.

Awomb

 

Awomb

What inspired you to open a sushi restaurant? 

My parents ran a sushi restaurant that was very traditional but I wanted to do something different, something unique to me. I decided to focus on the idea of customers making their own sushi in an enjoyable way, and I started my own place.

Is that popular in Japan?

Hand rolled sushi (temakizushi) is popular now but it’s basically something that’s not eaten out. Everyone eats it with their families at home or at house parties. I thought that people would probably enjoy it if they could do something different and eat it at restaurants.

Which ingredients do you serve for the sushi creations?

Please let me tell you about aezushi, it’s sushi that you mix and prepare yourself. Firstly, we have vegetables and fish, we have sashimi – grilled conger eel – and turnip. There are vegetables from Kyoto that we often use, and this is yuba – a delicacy made from soybean milk. Further we have mackerel, which is served pickled in vinegar and Japanese scallop. Then we have shirae, a salad with white sesame, tofu, and white miso. We have aemono, which is vegetable, fish or shellfish dressed with miso, vinegar or sesame. Here is squid and fish roe. When you’re preparing the dish, you mix the seasoning with the other things and then eat it. We have lightly grilled skipjack tuna with deep fried tofu. Pickled ginger. Broccoli. There’s also octopus. Conger eel. Salmon. Pumpkin. Pak Choi and Kyoto taro root.

And we also have the soup. I’ll light the flame, once smoke starts to come out, it’s done. Then you mix it with small boletus mushrooms and eat it.

Thank you, Ujita Hiroshi!

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

 

Awomb

Meet In Your Kitchen | Taka’s Japanese-Italian Fusion Cuisine in Kyoto

Taka Kyoto

Eating at Taka‘s restaurant in Kyoto feels like having a Japanese feast celebrated with your exuberant Italian family. The place is tiny, it’s in a narrow old house tucked into a small secluded alley right in the old city’s busy heart. An L-shaped counter separates the celebrated chef from his hungry guests, however, there’s a lot of interaction going on. The kitchen is open so you can follow all of Chef Nishimura Takashi’s steps, how he grinds the fresh wasabi in smooth circles on a shark skin-covered wooden board (the only proper way to grind the green root as I’ve learned). The charming chef looks like a versed dancer. He quickly grabs pots and spices from the shelves behind him and then, in the next second, turns around to briefly cook tender chicken sashimi (see the recipe below) in the flames of his little grill; or local beef, or mackerel until it has a crispy golden crust all around. The restaurant’s menu is a revelation, sea urchin spinach and tempura lotus root sprinkled with matcha salt are simply divine. Sitting at the counter and enjoying Japanese tapas is a feast in its true meaning: You eat, drink, and share delicious treats with old and new friends.

Kyoto born Chef Taka has lived and worked abroad for years, in Australia, Denmark, and in Italy, in Milan, where he also met his wife Akane. Before they opened their gastro pub in Kyoto, Taka worked at Armani’s Nobu Milano restaurant for 10 years, which explains why you can also find wonderful organic Tuscan wines and Mediterranean style dishes on the menu, like the fruitiest eggplant slowly cooked in an aromatic tomato sauce. It’s the combination of these two worlds that makes the couple’s restaurant in Kyoto so exciting, yet at the same time it’s so relaxed. It’s the kind of place where you end up chatting with the guests sitting next to you, exchanging stories and dishes, saying Kanpai (cheers) with a glass of red wine in your hand or ending the night with an extensive sake tasting involving everyone in the room.

Taka and Akane love food and people, the people who visit them, their guests, and the people they work with, their kitchen team, but also the suppliers who deliver fresh produce and products of the best quality to this tiny kitchen in the heart of Kyoto. The couple knows all of them personally, they’ve been working with them for years, most of them coming from the area. Having lived and worked in two food meccas in the world, Italy and Japan, the restaurateurs say that they can only create fantastic food, if the ingredients are perfect, vegetables picked at the peak of their season, the meat coming from animals that were bred and fed with care and respect. Japanese and Italian cooking is similar, both cuisines are very simple and focus on good ingredients, and at Taka, they create a very complete fusion.

In the next months, I’ll share many Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

Grilled Chicken Sashimi with Wasabi

By Taka Nishimura

Chef Taka uses chicken of outstanding quality, he knows the farmer and he can guarantee the meat’s quality and freshness, which is why he can serve this dish almost raw. However, it is highly recommended to cook chicken until it’s cooked through.

Serves 2

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast tenderloins, sashimi grade
Freshly grated wasabi
Rock salt
4 wooden skewers

Heat the BBQ.

Cut each chicken tenderloin into 6 pieces and thread onto the 4 skewers. Grill lightly until just done.

Spread the chicken with freshly grated (!) wasabi and season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Nishimura Takashi. I lived in Italy for a long time, about 15 years. I worked in a world-renowned restaurant called NOBU. And about 2 years ago I moved back to Kyoto, my hometown, to open this small restaurant.

What is your most cherished childhood memory connected to the kitchen?

A cherished memory would have to be, when I was a child, all I watched were shows about food on TV. All I watched were cooking TV shows, and I remember cooking a lot with my siblings when we were small. No one in my family is a cook, I’m the only one who followed a career as a chef. And it was when I was in primary school that I decided to become a chef, it was then that I decided to learn how to cook Japanese cuisine.

Why did you decide to move to Italy and work in Italy as a chef?

Well, I had always made Kaiseki cuisine in Kyoto, I trained in Kyoto Kaiseki for about 15 years. And so then, at that time, Kyoto was amazing, it was a narrow entrance into Japanese cuisine. Now foreigners come here to learn how to cook Kaiseki, but it wasn’t like that at all back then. So I wondered why? Japanese people go to Italy to study Italian cuisine, and to France to study French cuisine. So I thought, why don’t foreigners come to Japan to study Japanese cuisine? I figured that if that was the case than I wanted to go abroad to teach Japanese cuisine, that’s what I felt I wanted to do. And I remember feeling that I’d been a chef for 10 years, I’d learnt a lot in that time and wanted to share my knowledge abroad. So I chose somewhere that had similar food. I first chose Italy because I thought they had a simple way of cooking, and ingredients that had a lot of umami, where Japanese cuisine would be accepted by Italian tastes. And then I worked at NOBU in Italy.

Now, in the last 10 years, things changed. Many chefs come to Kyoto and Osaka, Tokyo, studying the Japanese style.

What changed over the years? 

That was probably because Japanese chefs became more open-minded. I think one reason is that they began to look outside Japan more. Also, famous chefs wanted to learn more about the mentality behind Japanese Kaiseki cuisine and how to make it. Making each course and slowly serving one small plate after another is Japanese Kaiseki’s style. That’s how you draw people to your restaurant. You’re delicate even when you serve the food, there is even a special orientation for each plate.

Every country’s cuisine is wonderful, but in Japan it’s all about the cut. For example, how sashimi is cut, how the vegetables are cut, how the meat is cut. These cuts create an excellent style of cooking, it’s Japanese cooking. It’s “katsuru” which means “cuts”, which is what gives it such a high aesthetic. Even with sashimi the chefs cut them beautifully. It creates a very unique Japanese aesthetic. The kitchen knife cuts amazingly, every day you need to sharpen your knives, and sharpening them is one part of a chef’s training, and I think even foreigners now sense this beauty. That’s what I think. Vegetables cut straight, how they’re beautifully peeled into hexagons, all kinds of shapes, the manual work that goes into it is amazing.

What makes a good knife? What are the important features of a good knife?

Of course how it cuts, the better it cuts the more beautiful the cut is. Also, how it feels when you hold it. You might have the same knife, but their weights can be different. Or there are knives that suit only you, so Japanese chefs will always buy their own knives. There’s also a balance to them. And chefs are using them for a long time, for the entire day, so it needs to not get worn out, it needs to not be a burden for chefs that work for a long time. I think all of these things are considered when knives are made, there’s a long history for this. Japanese knives are very particular. Fish is fish, vegetables are vegetables, meat is meat, and we divide them as such, but I think a knife that can be used for all of these is amazing.

What is special about Kyoto cuisine compared to other parts of this country?

I’d say how we compose the meal. There are a lot of difficult things about it but the best thing is how you can enjoy it as you like. Next is how the plates match. There are a number of Japanese meals where you look at the plates as you eat, and there are lots of regions that can make great plates. There’s also the matter of gathering good ingredients. Of course each region of Japan has its own wonderful ingredients, but among those, you have Kyoto chefs who will search all over the place to find the best ingredients of the season and who will think of their customers’ faces as they make them. That mentality is unbroken, it’s passed down from generation to generation, there’s always been this fantastic culture. That’s why there are so many things that I think are amazing.

In Kyoto, it’s really easy to distinguish between the 4 seasons. So when autumn comes you can use autumn ingredients and incorporate their beauty into the food. Kyoto chefs understand this sensibility.

How close is the relationship between you and your suppliers?

That’s a great question. You can do that really easily in Kyoto. I’ve been working… since I was young, so I’ve been working with suppliers since the beginning. There are fishmongers and vegetable suppliers that I’ve known for over 30 years. People also introduce me to people they know, like butchers. I’ve used a lot of connections, and I try to use Kyoto wholesalers as much as possible, and I want to use them more. I have my restaurant in Kyoto right now. We say “local produce for local consumption”, and it was the same in Italy. There are ingredients specific to regions and I try to incorporate them in my cooking as much as possible. Now I get requests from the Ministry of Agriculture and other chefs help out too. I want to help revitalise the area, so I get introduced to a lot of different people, and I can get hold of good ingredients. That really makes this job easier.

What was your vision for your restaurant?

I wanted a small restaurant where I could be close to customers sitting at the counter, so they’re closer to the chef too. That way everyone can enjoy themselves as they eat, that makes the meal even more delicious. That way people’s circle of friends could grow too. I want to make a restaurant like that and introduce everyone to it. And if I get any foreign customers, I want to help give them a place where they can make wonderful memories of Kyoto. I really wish from the bottom of my heart that I can help them make memories.

 Thank you, Taka and Akane,  for creating wonderful food and memories!

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

 

Taka Kyoto

Meet In Your Kitchen | Masako Imura’s White Curry in the Heart of Tokyo

Kakura Curry Tokyo

It’s quite a surreal scene that Chef Masako Imura chose for her acclaimed Kakura restaurant: classical music playing in the street from invisible loudspeakers, no cars, but people riding bicycles or walking slowly listening to the gentle harmonies filling the city’s warm air. We’re in Tokyo, right in its vibrant heart, however, the peaceful scenery, the narrow house where the restaurant sits snugly speaks a different language. The green facade covered in ivy and sparkling little lights, pots of flowers, herbs, and leafy plants arranged in front of the restaurant’s window, create a vivid contrast to the city’s monotonous grey. Aromatic mint, basil, rosemary, and curry leaves grow right at the chef’s doorstep ready to be brought into the kitchen and turned into complex spiced dishes.

The outside couldn’t suit the inside any better, it’s a green oasis created for a restaurant that celebrates Japanese curry based on the old knowledge of Chinese medicine. Masako Imura’s creations are rich, colorful, and delicious. Her Kakura Curry, Black Curry, her seasonal vegetable, or fish curries are a pure pleasure to eat and caress and activate different parts and functions of the body. The nutritionist follows a holistic philosophy, in which mind and body, people and nature complete each other in harmony. The ingredients that she uses are organic, regionally and seasonally sourced, the chef knows how to treat each vegetable with respect and creativity. It’s about healthful food that gives you energy rather than taking it away from you.

Fans from all over world, many artists and musicians, love her beautiful cuisine, all those fascinating flavors that Masako brings to the table at her cozy restaurant that she opened in 2005. The food warms up your soul. When you get a chance to meet her in her kitchen for a few hours to chop and chat, and peek into her pots and pans, you get a glimpse of this universe that makes her creations so unique and special. Spices are her most important tool, the heart of every composition. She works with perfectly balanced curry mixtures, individually put together for each dish, like in the fish curry that she shares with us. The warming fragrance of mustard seeds and curry leaves sizzling in hot oil are the start, the tempting invitation, before the other parts follow to add more depth: Nam Pla (fish sauce), shrimp paste, ginger, and colorful spices, which she attentively arranges in little bowls next to the cooker. Lotus root, sticky Japanese potato, golden pumpkin and carrot, and various mushrooms lend freshness and flavors to a creamy sauce full of heat.

The love for the kitchen lies in the family, Masako Imura’s mother taught her daughter how to cook and use food for more wellbeing. Masako was the youngest, but physically the weakest, her mother paid a lot of attention to her girl’s diet. Nourishing, natural, and rich, using Chinese medicinal cuisine, it helped her to become the strong and inspiring woman that she is today, loved for her curry creations at the Kakura restaurant.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

Autumn White Curry with Salmon

By Masako Imura

Serves 3-4

3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
8 curry leaves
100g / 3.5 ounces onion, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
60g / 2 ounces radish, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
60g / 2 ounces carrot, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
100g / 3.5 ounces shimeji mushrooms, shredded
3-4 fresh cayenne peppers, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon grated garlic
40g / 1.5 ounces shrimp paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon coconut flour
1 tablespoon almond flour
5 g sweet radish root
500ml / 2 cups water
800ml / 3 1/3 cups milk
30g / 1 ounce lotus root, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
60g / 2 ounces yam, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
90g / 3 ounces pumpkin, cut into 1 cm / ½ inch cubes
10g / 1/3 ounce white cloud ear mushroom, soaked in water
300g / 10 ounces salmon filet, cut into bite size pieces

Boiled white rice, for serving

A handful fresh coriander leaves, for serving

In a large pot, heat the oil, mustard seeds, and curry leaves over medium-high heat for about 15 seconds or until the seeds start popping. Add the onion, radish, carrot, and shimeji mushrooms, turn the heat down to medium and sauté, stirring once in a while, until soft.

Stir in the cayenne peppers, ginger, garlic, shrimp paste, salt, and fish sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes; then add the garam masala, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, garlic powder, coconut powder, almond powder, and sweet radish root, stir and cook for 1 minute.

Pour in the water and milk, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes over medium heat. Add the lotus root, yam, and pumpkin and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft. Gently stir in the white cloud ear mushroom and salmon and cook for 5 minutes or until the salmon is cooked through; season with salt to taste.

Divide the rice and curry between bowls, sprinkle with fresh coriander, and serve immediately.

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

What is your most cherished childhood memory in the kitchen? 

I couldn’t eat carrots, so every day my mum would mash them up so they were easier for me to eat. Every single day without fail. Now I love them.

How old were you when you decided to become a chef?

It was actually quite late, I was 25. Actually, I used to be a cooking instructor, but I was 25 when I wanted to work in a real restaurant as a chef.

What makes Japanese cuisine so special? 

It has to be the culture of using dashi. Western cuisine uses stock but in Japan we use kelp and bonito and have the custom of using dashi instead. Staple Japanese food will almost always harness dashi, giving them a subtle undertone of flavour. I would say that’s what makes Japanese cuisine special.

What kind of dashi do you use in your restaurant?

I use dashi made from kelp and dried shiitake mushrooms.

Which role does curry play in Japanese cooking?

I would say it’s similar to Japanese miso soup, each family will have their own curry. Mum’s curry will always taste like mum’s curry. We’ve always had miso soup, but lots of Japanese people say their favourite curry is their mum’s curry. But each Japanese family will have their own Japanese curry. Normally.

Do you have a close relationship with the suppliers of your restaurant?

There are suppliers I’m close to and those I’m not so close to, but I buy products from them because I trust them, because they’re people I know.

Are organic and local products important to you?  

Very, very important!

Is there a rising interest in Japan for organic food?

It’s incredibly popular.

Do you think that the people – over the last few years – became more critical with their food?

I’ve found that lately more and more people are concerned about their health, and so I’ve been getting a lot more customers who express interest in organic and chemical free food, as well as cuisine that incorporates Chinese medicine.

What fascinates you about Chinese medicine? 

The more I learn about Chinese medicine the more it makes sense, so I study more and more. Of course, each person is different so I have to learn what that means. There are things that will work for someone but not for others, so I diagnose each individual and carefully select the Chinese medicine that works best for them. I love it that, what each person has to eat, is always going to be different.

Where did you learn about Chinese medicine?    

I studied at the Japanese branch of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

What made you so interested in Chinese medicine?

I’d have to say it was when I was young, my mum used natural things. She actually used natural Chinese medicine more than conventional medicine. Well, we went to the doctors when we were sick, but if we had to take medicine, had to put something in our bodies, we took Chinese medicine. Yeah, that was it. Ever since I was really small, we went to a Western hospital for treatments, but if we had to take anything she always used these really old, traditional Chinese medicines because she thought they were safer. That’s how I was brought up. Then I learned a little about macrobiotics and all sorts of other things. But it wasn’t because I thought “people have to eat these”, it was because each person’s biological makeup is different. And so, I started to make food using Chinese medicine for individuals to match their individual makeup. I slowly realized that I didn’t just have an interest in this, that this was real cooking. There are foods that can be good for certain people but not good for others. There are all kinds of medicinal diets that are good, but finding the right ones for each person can be a challenge.

What’s the clients’ feedback? Do the people come because they want healthy food? Or do they just come because they find it’s delicious?

I think they come because it’s delicious and healthy. Because they want to be healthy in a delicious way.

What’s your association with the cherry blossom season?

It’s the season students start the new school year so it’s seen as the season of new beginnings. It makes me feel really optimistic. This area here called Nakameguro is famous for a lot of cherry blossoms, it’s also called a town of cherry blossoms.

Can you use the blossoms for your cooking?

Yes, I use them a lot. I put them into the rice, ice cream, and pudding. The ingredients I use will vary depending on the season, but they’re all good for you.

Thank you very much, Masako Imura!

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

 

Kakura Curry Tokyo

Meet In Your Kitchen | Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market & the Secret of Sushi Dai

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

Traveling is bliss. To leave the known behind and discover new tastes and smells, cities and landscapes is food for our minds, it lets us grow, change, and evolve.

Flying into Tokyo and seeing its cityscape spread out peacefully in front of me in misty pastel colors felt unbearably exciting. It’s a place where I had never been before, a place that everybody told me would change me, and my culinary perspectives. Food plays a central role in Japan’s complex culture, food of high quality is not a random choice, it’s a philosophy, they are tied together, inseparable. I was curious and impatient to put the first bites of the country’s celebrated cuisine into my mouth, but also to wander around and fully experience the next stop of my culinary trip around the world together with Zwilling.

Japan is a world of contrasts, connecting the past and the future, silence and noise, gardens and buildings, minimalism and colorful kitsch, it all exists right next to each other, framed by a fascinating culture of multiple layers, it’s not easy to grasp. Its depth is captivating and disorienting, it’s mysterious, and sometimes hard to understand for someone who comes from the outside. I usually visit countries for my Meet in Your Kitchen features that I’m personally connected with, either through former trips or through my own culinary upbringing. So I usually take a lot of experience, information, and understanding for a culture with me, but when you enter a world that you’ve never seen before, you can’t just look at its kitchens. It’s not enough to visit the famous Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo or talk to the cities’ celebrated chefs and enjoy unknown culinary pleasures at their excellent restaurants.

I wanted to see more, I wanted to listen to the stories – or at least some of them – that make this culture so rich and colorful, in and outside the kitchen. I joined a tea ceremony at 6 in the morning when the sun and the birds just woke up. I visited the famous temples in Kyoto, we stayed at one of them (Jorengein) overnight, and I interviewed a temple gardener to gain a better understanding of the gardens and their centuries-old architecture. I got swept away by this overwhelming peace that takes over your mind like a wave, when you sit on the wooden steps in front of the meditative gardens of the Ryoanji or Kenninji Temple. Time seems to stop as you enter the stone gardens, there seems to be an invisible curtain between the world outside and the world inside the temples’ walls.

I felt a bit worried, how would it feel to be in a country where you can’t read any signs, where you can’t really communicate, or even order a taxi or book a table at a restaurant? Would I get lost in translation and miss out on the “real” Japan? I believe the best way to discover a new city is on foot, to walk and keep your eyes open, and not to be shy. Just smile, the easiest form of human communication. That’s what we did on our first evening in Tokyo and within seconds we found one culinary gem after the other.

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

The Tsukiji fish market has its own pace, it’s fast, busy, and loud, it’s a universe with its own rules. The craziness starts late at night, at 2am. When Tokyo is still asleep and covered in quiet darkness, fishermen, chefs, and fishmongers stream into the legendary halls to buy and sell, to bid on tuna at the famous auction and ship the daily catch out into the world.

The floor under the filigree metal construction built in 1935 is grey and wet from the ice, daylight cutting sharply through the skylights falls onto men in rubber boots carrying bags and boxes, running diligently, or driving little electronic carts so fast that you have to jump quickly to save your life. It’s a man’s world, running like clockwork. The world’s biggest market for fish and seafood is the heart of the fishing industry. It’s the place where the sea’s treasures are rated and traded, where the best fish in the world is taken straight into the kitchens of the sushi restaurants that set up their businesses in the low buildings around the market. Yet it’s also the place where you can listen to the stories of the people who’ve been working with the sea and its gifts for generations, these people are concerned about the state of this sensitive ecosystem. The number of fish decreased dramatically and shoals that used to pass the coasts seasonally are missing. Due to global warming, summer fish fills the fishing grounds during winter and the fish that used to flourish in the cold season is nowhere to be found. There is such a beautiful and rich variety out in the seas, which we’ve always used in our kitchens, but we have to keep the balance. The fishmongers and chefs that I met all said the same. “Fish and seafood used to be a delicacy, a special treat, if we degrade it to fast food, we’re going to lose this treasure!” says Mr. Yokoyama, the owner of EIKO Suisan Fisherman fish store at Tsukiji.

At Tsukiji, you can admire the whole abundance that nature gives us, hundreds of different kinds of fish and seafood, in all colors and sizes, mussels, crustaceans, octopus, and sazae (turban sea snail). It’s almost mesmerizing to wander through the corridors between the stalls, which makes it hard to pull yourself away from it. Going straight to one of the most celebrated restaurants in the area definitely helps. Sushi Dai is just outside the market, you can easily spot it, as it has the longest waiting list and queue lined up outside the curtains swinging at its door.

Chef and owner, Urushibara Satoshi, has two outstanding qualities. There’s no doubt that he makes some of the best sushi creations in town, he learned from his father, but this man also has highly entertaining qualities. He’s like a conductor and Sushi Dai is his stage. Behind his narrow restaurant’s counter, he attentively cuts the fish and shapes the rice, you can see that he was trained for more than 20 years to become the master that he is today. The movement of his hand and arm looks like a smooth dance, so concentrated yet intuitive. And this man is funny! As he placed one gorgeous creation after the other in front of us, he told us stories with the dramatic voice of an actor, you can see and taste that he truly enjoys what he does.

Every morning at around 3am, he goes to the Tsukiji market to pick the fish for the menu. The relationship between him and his suppliers is close. He knows that a pure minimal treat like sushi depends on the quality of its ingredients. Sushi is what it’s made of, a handful of ingredients. So trust the masterly hands of Urushibara Satoshi and his team of chefs and go for the Omakase menu. Depending on the daily catch and find at the fish market, you can indulge in the freshest tuna, flounder, and horse mackerel, or Ikura (salmon roe) rolled in seaweed. Scallops and clams, prawns and sea urchin, every piece looks like a piece of art, every bite is like tasting the sea.

Thank you Mr. Yokoyama for showing us around at Tsukiji, Urushibara Satoshi for your fantastic sushi and humor, and Makiko for guiding us through your city!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

How to make sushi

I’ll share a recipe for sushi rice with you, but when it comes to the most important ingredient, the fish, I can only recommend to go to your trusted fish monger and ask him which fish he can offer, fish of the best sushi quality. After I ate sushi in Japan, prepared by outstanding sushi masters, I don’t even bother eating it anywhere else anymore. No matter if you go for fatty tuna belly, halibut or fish roe, it has to be of the best quality. Then you just cut it into slices, eat it pure, or lay it on a bite of rice. Heaven.

For the sushi rice

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon mirin (rice wine similar to sake)
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
180g / 1 cup short-grain sushi rice
240ml / 1 cup cold water

In a small bowl, mix the vinegar, mirin, sugar, and salt, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved; let it cool.

Rinse the rice 4-5 times with cold water, then drain in a colander for 15 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, bring the rice and water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the rice for 15 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let the rice rest for 15 minutes, don’t lift the lid. Transfer the rice to a large glass bowl.

Sprinkle the warm rice with the cold vinegar mixture and stir gently, you can fan the rice while mixing, that will help it to dry, if it’s too sticky. Cover with a damp kitchen towel while preparing the sushi. Sushi rice is best at body temperature.

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

Interview with Urushibara Satoshi, Sushi Dai restaurant, Tokyo

Can you tell us about your work?

I come to work in the morning, go to buy fish, and then I spend the rest of the day serving customers. At 3am I go to buy the fish, and then start making sushi at 4:30 am.

 

How old were you when you started learning to make sushi?

I was 18. So, that’s 27 years ago. I came to the restaurant 25 years ago. I started off making kaiseki ryori in Kyoto. For two years. Then I came back to Tokyo and became a sushi master.

What made you become a sushi master?

As I said, I started off in kaiseki ryori. This is a world where you can’t directly serve a customer until you’ve been doing it for 20 or 30 years, and then it’s just serving sashimi or something. I wanted to be talking to the customers. And within the world of Japanese cuisine, it was only as a sushi master that I could serve customers face to face. So, it wasn’t that I became a sushi master because I wanted to, I just had to become a sushi master. And I also just enjoyed it too. That was the first time I really enjoyed my work. I mean, with kaiseki ryori you don’t really get to meet the customers. You’re working behind the scenes, and it’s usually the women who serve the food. The chef has to stay hidden in the shadows. But I didn’t want this. I wanted to chat with the customers while I was serving them.

What is your most cherished childhood memory connected to the kitchen?

In the kitchen? I just used to get scolded (laughs). But ever since I was a child, I really loved cooking. I don’t know if I was any good, but I would imitate and pretend I was chopping things with a knife, for example. When I was in second or third grade, you know how everyone used to try and peel an apple in one long piece? Well, I was always top of the class in that! Also, if you’re going to be a chef, you need more than to be good at cooking. It’s most suited to someone who loves eating. More than being good at the actual cooking, feeling a real passion, and a hunger for food and eating is more important. If you don’t have any interest at all in eating, then there’s no way you’ll improve. No way.

What are the essential features of a good knife for you? What makes a good knife?

First of all there’s the length of the one I use. There are lots of different types of lengths. And it comes down to the weight, the thickness of the steel. At first, this knife used to be this long. But you sharpen it. So, it gradually becomes shorter and shorter. So the length and things like that are not features that last. Because the knife just gets gradually shorter. So, what else? The most important thing is that it can be controlled most effectively. I mean that it cuts exactly as you want it to. After that, the weight… Well, there are different types of people. People who like lightweight knives tend to use the strength of their arm to cut. I like heavier knives, and I use the weight of the knife to cut the fish. So, for me, I prefer a long, heavy knife. But it depends what kind of person you are. Everyone’s different so I can’t give a definitive answer. But that’s what I like.

How old is your knife?

I’m about 3 to 4 years into this one. On average, I would replace it after around 6 years.

How do environmental changes affect the fish that you buy for your restaurant?

Yes, it has had a huge impact. But, I don’t know if it’s the climate, or the flow of the ocean. This year, there’s the kuroshio Japan current, and the fish follow the flow of rivers where there are a lot of plankton. So, they come closer, don’t they. Then, when this Japan current approaches, that’s when we fish. But, this year it’s more erratic, so there are lots of types of fish that don’t come close to Japan as a result. So, I don’t know if it’s the temperature, or related to the flow of rivers. But there are fish we can’t catch. Each year it’s something different: one year might be good for yellowtail and the next year might be bad; or one year is good for saury and the next is bad; or another year might be terrible for sardines. It’s like this every year. For example, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and each year has been different. No two years are the same. At the moment, for example, there is a lack of urchins. This year, the fishermen can’t catch any salmon, and the saury is not so good. There are so many different situations. That’s why you have to adapt each year. You just simply can’t keep making the same sushi for 25 years. The fat distribution is also completely different. I mean, completely. This is what a battle with nature looks like. So, I keep an eye on the weather forecast. And depending on the weather, you have to change the fish you stock. It’s not like we’re working in a factory doing the same thing day in day out. You also have to check whether the fishermen were able to take their boats out. So, yes, of course. I go to the market, and, of course, I buy the fish that is there. But, how can I say? There are some fish that you don’t want to run out of. So, with these, if there’s a typhoon on the way, we can stock up on them before it comes and store them while they’re at their best. There are lots of different approaches.

Do you think we should change the way we consume fish? Like eating less fish?

Yeah, statistically… there are graphs, according to these, there’s been a dramatic decrease in the amount of fish people eat. But, compared with when I was young, ‘conveyor belt’ sushi restaurants are really popular. So I think sushi has become something really familiar for young people. This also has made it feel like something cheap. When we were young, if you didn’t have wads of cash, you couldn’t eat sushi – that’s the image I had. So, it has definitely become something more familiar for the younger generation. So, even in and around my restaurant, we get a lot of university students coming in, even in the morning. That’s something you never would have seen in the past.

How we can deal with the situation?

This is something that we battle year in year out, day in day out. All you can do is do as much as you can. That means keeping going until you get to a stage where you don’t want to make sushi with the fish that is available. I don’t know if this situation will ever come. I don’t know if this day will ever come. But I just want to keep going until it does. But if it does get to a point where I don’t want to work with the fish that is available, then I will quit.

Thank you, Urushibara Satoshi!

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

 

Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market & Sushi Dai

Meet In Your Kitchen | Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Nik Sharma

Spices, aromas, and flavors, and a great portion of tradition paired with curiosity create an exciting mix in Nik Sharma’s kitchen. Two worlds woven into his life feed the man’s inexhaustible creativity: India and the USA. The first country marks his roots, the land where he was born and raised, the latter represents his life since he was 19 and decided to leave the known behind and start an adventure that lasts till today.

Nik established a renowned food blog over the past few years, standing out from the start, visually and culinarily. A Brown Table  is loved for its eclectic recipes and stunning pictures. As a cook, Nik makes you hungry, as a photographer, he creates a unique mood that is captivating, appealing in a way that you want to frame his photograph and hang it on the wall and at the same time go straight to your kitchen and cook and eat the dish. He won Best Photo Based Culinary Blog awarded by the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) two years in a row, quite an astonishing career for someone who only grabbed the camera professionally in his mid twenties.

The fact that his dad was a successful photographer in advertising might have influenced the young man’s feel for light and compositions, but Nik says there wasn’t that much of an exchange about his work between father and son, he only learned how to use a camera after he left home. But despite his parents’ warnings – they told him not to follow their footsteps – the photographer, blogger, and soon to be cookbook author did what many kids do: he did it anyway. His mother worked in hotel and restaurant management, she didn’t like cooking, but she had a huge folder full of recipes collected from newspapers and magazines. Nik was fascinated by the world of cooking and baking at an early age, he loved spending hours reading through Indian and western creations, he joined the family’s cook in the kitchen, and eagerly followed his maternal grandmother’s culinary activities. Her Goan heritage is still very present in many of his own recipes.

Reading the titles of Nik Sharma’s recipes makes your mouth water, you can literarily smell the warm aroma of cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and rosewater filling the kitchen: Imagine Masala Chai Pumpkin Cake, Khasta Kachori (Edamame-stuffed Fried Indian Bread), Honey Sage Turmeric Wings, Goan Coconut Cake, Cherry Black Pepper Cake, or his Toasted Pistachio Cake with Blood Orange Sauce. The recipe he shares with us for our Meet In Your Kitchen feature is a vibrant explosion framed in comfort food: Goan coconut curry with tender game hen and aromatic spiced rice.

The cook’s approach to food is scientific, Nik has an analytic mind and way to think about dishes, but at the same time he looks at things from a “feminine standpoint”, he likes curves and his styling reflects that. “I always think of ballet dancers when I shoot, I envision the dish being a solo dance performer on stage, the light’s only focused on the dance and everything else is dark. I always think of dance and curves, I find them very sensual, I find straight lines and diagonals a little harsh. Even if I do introduce them in my composition, you’ll see that there’s a circle cutting through, like a tangent. Again, I bring math into it because I’m a geneticist by training”.

You can be a gourmet, an aesthete, and share the beauty of life, but if you’re a critical mind, you know that there’s always more to talk about at the table: You can often see Nik’s hands in his photographs, to show the technique of a recipe, the preparation and instructions, but also to showcase that there are people from different backgrounds, that there is diversity behind the scenes of a restaurant. Nik says “We don’t really see them because they are never brought to the front”. There’s an imbalance in our society, a hierarchy in the way who works in the front or the back of a restaurant, and in the way people are paid and it’s our responsibility to talk about this imbalance and solve it.

Every Sunday you can find one of Nik’s beautiful recipes in his A Brown Kitchen column printed in the San Francisco Chronicle (if you don’t happen to live in the Bay area you can also grab some inspiration online on the newspaper’s website) and on October 2nd, 2018, his first cookbook Season will come out. Reflecting Nik’s unique style, the book combines the author’s roots and fascination for flavors with his journey as an immigrant in the US who lived in different states and experienced the culinary heritage from people coming to this country from all over the world.

And if you also want to eat in Nik’s kitchen, check out his supper club!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Nik Sharma’s Goan Coconut Curry

Serves 4

2 medium red onions, peeled
2 cups grated coconut (unsweetened)
1 cup (240ml) boiling water
1 inch-piece (2.5cm) peeled ginger root
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
8 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
6 cloves
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ghee or olive oil
2 whole garlic pods
2 Cornish game hens, patted dry
Kosher salt as needed
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
Boiled rice or bread (to serve)

Cut one onion into thin slices and keep aside until ready to use. Take the second onion and cut it into quarters.

Place coconut, water, ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, and the quartered onion in a blender and pulse on high speed until smooth and combined.

Melt the ghee in a medium-Dutch oven (or a heavy pot) on medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion and sauté until golden brown for about 8 to 12 minutes. Peel any extra paper off the garlic pods and trim about ½ inch (1 cm) off the top to expose the garlic. Add the trimmed garlic pods to the onion and cook for about 1 minute. Then add the ground coconut spice mixture into the pan and cook stirring occasionally for 2 minutes. Place the two Cornish game hens in the pan snuggly and fill the pan with enough water to just cover the two birds. Increase the heat to high and bring the contents of the pan to a rolling boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the birds are completely cooked and tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt. Garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice or bread.

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma11

 

Watch my interview with Nik in San Fransisco in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Nik!

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma10

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma13

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma14

 

Nik Sharma

 

NikSharma12

 

Nik Sharma

 

Nik Sharma

Meet In Your Kitchen | David Kurtz & the best Cubano Sandwich in San Francisco

David Kurtz

A food loving friend of mine who lives in San Francisco told me, if you come to California, you must (!) meet David Kurtz and visit his Homage restaurant in Downtown. I trust my friends, especially when it comes to food, so I emailed David that same evening, not only receiving an answer that he was looking forward to cooking with me, but also to showing me around his hometown and spending a day together to give me an insight into his charismatic city that has so many faces.

The first thing that people think of when it comes to San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge and – if you talk to bread obsessed foodies and Instagrammers – the famous Tartine Bakery. The bakery is a temple for baked goods that one shouldn’t miss, the bridge, however, is a moody diva that is hard to catch. San Francisco is a place of extremes when it comes to the weather, a fact that I had totally forgotten about and wasn’t really prepared for. You can be spoilt with blue skies, sunshine, and summery temperatures in one second, then walk two blocks and be swallowed by mist and end up shivering in the cold. It was a bright afternoon as we drove to the famous bridge, impatient excitement in our faces ready to capture its majestic elegance, yet to find ourselves fighting against thunder and rain as we arrived was sobering. Needless to say there was no bridge in sight, but seeing the clouds climbing the hills behind the bridge and filling the bay with darkness and lightning faster than one can run was just as impressive.

David Kurtz

The day we met David offered this exact spectrum of experiences, in food, weather, and sceneries. We started at the chef’s wonderfully relaxed, casual, yet elegant Homage restaurant, a culinary gem tucked in a little side road surrounded by high office buildings. It’s a tranquil oasis in the center of the vibrating buzz of this city. Sitting outside at one of the bistro tables, with a glass of Californian wine in my hand and a scrumptiously dripping sandwich on a chopping board right in front of me, was one of the best memories that I took home with me from this trip. This sandwich, the Cubano, is truly addictive and so famous that, according to David, it would cause a riot if he ever dared to take it off the menu. Imagine the best homemade baguette brushed and grilled in tasty pork fat (homemade lard), filled with succulent anise braised pork shoulder, hot smoked ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, dill pickles, and even more pork fat. It’s the best sandwich I ever had in my life.

But before I could take a big bite of this unforgettably delicious lunch snack, David and I met two days before to prepare the dough for the bread in his kitchen and give it time to rise and rest. It was a Saturday morning and David and his lovely assisting, coordinating, and always helping ‘right hand’ Anja welcomed me and my film crew at Homage. David has the kind of voice and aura that calms you down immediately, whatever instructions he gave, I gladly obeyed and followed, enjoying to learn how to make the restaurant’s beautiful baguettes and also being introduced to David and Anja’s friends and suppliers at the utterly stunning Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market. The market is their weekly shopping date, it’s a mecca for fresh produce. I’ve seen quite a few markets in my life, but this one is impressive, not only due to its setting right at the bay, but first and foremost because of the freshness and variety of the produce that the farmers offer at their stands:

Tomatoes kissed by the sun in all shapes, sizes, and colors; a sea of polished peppers; fragrant bundles of cilantro, basil, bay leaves, mint, and purslane; farmers’ stands specialized in beans (like Romano and Cranberry Beans), or figs, 8 or 10 different kinds of figs gently laid out in baskets, or a stand putting the spotlight on plums, peaches, and nectarines, run by a woman with the sweetest smile, Aomboon Deasy. Each person, each stand at the market focuses on the prettiest crisp fruits and vegetables, celebrating its taste and beauty. One stand in particular left me in an awe: piles of Baby Curly Kale, Red Russian and Dino Kale, green and red dandelion, each leaf packed with so much pungent flavor that you want to nibble them straight out of the baskets (which we did).

I found the perfect partner for my market visit, David and I love food so much so that when Anja gave me a beautiful flower bouquet at the market, both David and I started eating the petals. Like I said, when he tells me in his trustful voice “Meike, you can eat this”, I’ll eat it! But apart from flowers and greens, I also tried the crunchiest spicy kimchi, candy-sweet September strawberries (a luxury for a German girl who’s used to a rather short season of this fruit in her own country), ripe dates right off the vine, and the Rebel Within, a savory muffin filled with a soft boiled egg, sausage, Asiago cheese, and spring onions. It was heaven.

David Kurtz

After the ‘hard work’ at the market and in the kitchen, we spoilt ourselves with a little feast at Nopalito, David’s favorite Mexican restaurant. They cook delicious organic classics, like ceviche verde, enchiladas de mole con pollo (shredded tender chicken in a deep rich chocolaty sauce), and grilled fish tacos, all washed down with Michelada, Mexican beer with tomato, jalapeno, orange, lime, and salt – which was quite an experience. And after the meal we went for a walk at Golden Gate Park, where we were supposed to forage for forest snacks that one can find in a city if you keep your eyes open, but we chatted the time away. Wrapped in dense mist hanging heavily in the air, I was amazed by the beauty of the ever changing weather and the surprising scenes that it causes, and by David’s philosophy and thoughts about the food that he celebrates at his restaurant.

Homage is a very, very special place that I’ll always go back to when I’m in San Francisco, because of David and Anja, because of the food that’s created and put together by the chef and his team with so much love and attention to detail in every single ingredient, because of this warm atmosphere that welcomes you as soon as you open the heavy door flanked by the restaurant’s black facade, an atmosphere that makes you never want to leave again. And if you want to take a piece of it with you, you can grab a jar of the homemade pickles, jams, or a bottle of the wines and beers brought to Homage by David’s friends, a bunch of people who find satisfaction in creating products of outstanding quality, just like David. And thanks to them we enjoy treats that taste so good – maybe because of the last ingredient that David listed in the recipe for his Cubano sandwich that he gave me: Love.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey,  for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

David Kurtz

David Kurtz’ Baguette and Cubano Sandwich

David mills the grains for the flour that he uses for this recipe himself, however you can also use store-bought flour. It’s recommended to work with grams instead of cups, as it’s important to use precise measurements for this recipe.

For the baguette

Makes 3 baguettes

519g water (lukewarm)
30g honey
23g SAF instant yeast
875g all purpose flour
60g fresh whole wheat flour
Or if available
23g hard red wheat flour
23g soft white wheat flour
14g rye flour

157g good quality lard (cold)
20g sea salt

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, using a fork, combine the water, honey and yeast, let it sit for a couple minutes.

In a large bowl, combine all the flours, add to the yeast mixture and, using the hook, mix for a few minutes or until well combined. Add the lard and, using the hook, continue kneading for a few minutes or until the dough has come together. Add a little more flour if it’s too sticky or, if it’s too firm, add a little (!) more water. Add the salt and continue kneading until well combined and firm. Form a ball, place in a clean bowl, and cover with a damp towel. Let the dough sit in a warm place for 1 hour. Turn the dough completely over releasing built up CO2 and let rise again for another hour, covered with a damp towel.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Punch the dough down, take it out of the bowl, and divide equally into 3 pieces. Roll into smooth balls and let bench rest for 10 minutes under a damp cloth. When fully rested, take one piece of dough and stretch and pull it into a longish rectangular shape (about 14×5.5″ / 35x14cm). Carefully flip 1 long side over until it reaches the middle of the rectangle, mind that no air is trapped in the fold. Then flip the opposite long side over, so that you end up with 3 layers of dough folded on top of each other. Using your fingers, pinch the fold all the way to seal well. Gently roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then carefully, but quickly transfer to the lined baking sheet (the pinched fold should be on the bottom side). Continue forming the remaining 2 baguettes and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Cover with a damp kitchen towel, transfer the baking sheet to the fridge, and let the baguettes rest in the fridge overnight, further developing flavor and retarding the yeast activity.

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C (convection setting). Take the baguettes out of the fridge when the oven is hot and ready.

Spray the baguettes with a little water and bake for 6-12 minutes or until the crust is golden, spraying them with water once or twice while baking. Internal temperature of the bread should be 210°F / 100°C when fully baked.

For the Cubano sandwich

Makes 1 sandwich

1 large piece of fresh baguette, cut in half
Dijon mustard
Whole grain mustard
2-3 thin slices hot smoked ham
1.5 ounces / 40g Swiss cheese (one that melts well), thinly sliced
2-3 anise pickled spring onions (or fresh spring onion), thinly sliced
2-3 dill pickles (gherkins), cut in half
5-7 ounces/ 150-200g braised pork shoulder (preferably cooked with anise and citrus), pulled or shredded
Good quality lard (pork fat)
Love, most importantly

Heat two heavy pans, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat.

Spread the inside of the baguette with Dijon and whole grain mustard. Lay the ham on the bottom and topside of the opened baguette. Arrange the cheese, spring onions, and pickles on top of the ham. Spread the braised pork shoulder on top and close the baguette. Brush one pre heated pan with fresh lard, carefully place the Cubano onto the pan’s surface and brush more lard onto the top of the baguette. Squeeze, or press the Cubano with the other preheated pan directly on top of the sandwich. Cook in the pan, on medium heat, turning once, for a few minutes or until the cheese has melted and the crust of the bread is golden brown and crunchy.

Prepare with love and serve immediately with a large sliced pickle.

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

Watch my interview with David in San Francisco in September 2017:

Thank you, David!

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

 

David Kurtz

Meet In Your Kitchen I Maria Sinskey’s Culinary Take on Napa Valley

Maria Sinskey

The air is hot and dry in Napa, not the slightest movement, it stands still, wrapping the hills and vines in a magical silence.

We first stopped at a lake, Lake Hennessey, on our way to meet the Sinskeys at Robert Sinskey Vineyards. The scene was too peaceful and beautiful, as perfect as a postcard, the calm water spread out in front of us. A man sat at the sandy bank staring into the bluest sky reflecting on the water’s surface, I walked through the swaying grass and my film team made jokes about unseen alligators. Later, Maria Sinskey told me that there are rattlesnakes in the area – sometimes it’s good not to know the danger around you and enjoy the moment.

I had seen the wines of the Robert Sinskey Vineyards on the menu of some of the best restaurants in San Francisco, friends praised the quality of their reds and whites, so there were enough reasons to pick this particular wine maker in Napa on my culinary trip through California. But what struck me goes beyond an excellent bottle of wine: it’s the Sinskeys’ philosophy of making honest wine, their work ethics oblige them to take care of their team, who also hold shares of the company and have been with the wine making couple for decades. Maria and Robert create an environment of togetherness, they cherish people, nature and its gifts, they live a good life and share it with the ones around them.

Robert Sinskey was a photographer in advertising, he’s an artist, a philosopher, he never went to a wine school, but maybe that’s the reason why he makes good wine. It was a call from his father 25 years ago that changed his life, Sinskey senior needed help at his wine business, and young Rob fell in love with his new obsession for grapes and what you can do with them. He turned the 200 acres of premium vineyards into an organic, biodynamic ecosystem at a time when this step wasn’t as popular as today, he was a pioneer, inspired by Rudolph Steiner’s 1928 “Agriculture” manifesto. Believing that, if you harvest grapes of outstanding quality, you don’t actually have to do much, you can let nature do its thing and trust. In that respect, the Sinskeys feel closer to the European than the American tradition of wine makers. Rob says “wine should not be a quick study, but rather, sneak up on you, seduce you, and evolve in the glass and in the bottle. The goal is to make pure wines of character that pair well with cuisine.” And now, his wonderful wife Maria comes in.

Maria Sinskey is an acclaimed chef and cookbook author from New York, she’s the cooking soul of the winery. She worked at Michelin starred restaurants in France but when Rob won her heart, she moved to Napa and set up her beautiful open Vineyard Kitchen right in the heart of the winery’s rustic stone building, next to the wine tasting room. It’s not a restaurant, you can only book and enjoy her exquisite culinary compositions along with a tasting experience (a visit and reservation is highly recommended). Maria and Rob follow the same credo: nature is good, trust her, treat her well and you’ll be gifted. Organic fruits and vegetables come from the garden, sheep grazing the vineyards provide wool and meat, beehives pollinate the orchards and bring the most delicious honey to Maria’s kitchen.

You could call it a utopia, you could call the Sinskeys dreamers, but decades of creating fantastic wine and food with and not against nature that people praise all over the world, living and working harmoniously in a community with love and passion, and feeling – as a guest – the spark of happiness and dedication jump over, would prove you wrong.

Maria spoilt us like kids with her elegant, deliciously cozy comfort food. Her duck confit was a revelation and her herb marinated rack of lamb with sun-ripened tomato and herb blossom salad tasted just heavenly, thankfully she shared the recipes with us.

Check for visits: robertsinskey.com

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Sinskey11

 

Maria Sinskey

Sun-ripened Tomato and Herb Blossom Salad

________________

Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb with

Buttered Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, and Lamb Jus

By Maria Sinskey

 

Sun-ripened Tomato and Herb Blossom Salad

Serves 6

Capture the flavor of ripe, just-picked tomatoes at their peak with this simple salad. The sweet tomatoes are gently scented with herb and arugula flowers that provide small bursts of intense flavor. Blossoms can be gathered as herb and arugula plants bolt. If herb blossoms aren’t available use small herb sprigs and leaves instead.

6 ripe garden tomatoes, about 2 pounds, assorted colors and sizes
Extra virgin olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Flaked sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup (a handful) mixed herb blossoms – dill, arugula, basil, chive

Core and slice the tomatoes into ¼-inch / ½-cm thick slices and fork-size wedges. Arrange the tomatoes on a serving platter. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and grind a few grinds of black pepper over. Scatter the blossoms over the top. Serve with simple crisp flatbread if desired.

________________

Herb Marinated Rack of Lamb with

Buttered Green Beans, Roasted Potatoes, and Lamb Jus

Lamb Jus (to serve with the rack of lamb, can be prepared in advance)

Yield: 2 cups (470ml)

1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thinly
1 cup (240ml) red wine
4 cups (950ml) lamb stock
1 medium plum tomato, fresh or canned
1 3-inch / 8-cm sprig rosemary
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Wrap garlic in aluminum foil and bake until garlic is aromatic, soft and caramelized, about 45 minutes. Reserve.

Heat a 3-quart / 2.8-l saucepan over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon butter. When the butter starts to brown, add the shallot and cook for about 2 minutes until the shallot is wilted and starting to turn golden.

Add the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until wine is almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the lamb stock, roasted garlic head, tomato, and rosemary spring. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until stock is reduced by half. Strain the jus into another pan and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reserve at room temperature for up to 4 hours otherwise refrigerate.

To serve: Return sauce to a simmer. Check seasoning, then whisk in the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter until emulsified. Serve immediately.

 

Herb Marinated Rack Of Lamb

Serves 8

The herb marinade for the rack really perfumes the meat if it is done a day or two ahead of time. The same marinade can be used for many other cuts as well. It is best to remove as many of the herbs and garlic before roasting as they will burn and create off flavors.

2 lamb racks, 8-9 ribs each
¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoon for roasting the meat
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
2 4-inch / 10-cm rosemary sprigs, crushed
6 thyme sprigs, crushed
4 rosemary sprigs for garnish
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Clean the rib bones well by scraping off meat and sinew with a small sharp knife. Cut the racks in half so that each has four ribs. Mix together the olive oil, crushed garlic, crushed rosemary and thyme sprigs in a large bowl. Add the lamb and coat well. Grind some coarse black pepper over all. Wrap well and marinate the racks overnight.

The next day prepare the roasted potatoes first, then continue roasting the lamb.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Remove the lamb from the marinade and scrape off as many herbs as possible.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season the lamb well with salt; no additional pepper should be necessary, and sear fat side down until golden, about 7 minutes. Turn over so that the fat side is up and roast in the preheated oven for 17-20 minutes for medium-medium rare (120°F / 50°C internal temperature). Let the rack rest for 10 minutes before cutting. Prepare the beans while the meat is resting.

To serve, cut each lamb rack half into 2 equal pieces, two bones per chop, and serve on individual plates or a platter with the roasted potatoes, beans, and lamb jus.

 

Olive Oil and Sea Salt Roasted Potatoes

Serves 8

2 pounds yellow potatoes, Yukon Gold or similar
Sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Peel the potatoes and cut into ½-inch / 1.25-cm pieces. Reserve in a bowl of cold water to keep from browning.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil, season well with salt. Add the potatoes and boil for 7 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes into a colander. Make sure they are very dry.

Place the well-drained potatoes in a large sauté pan and toss them with the olive and butter and additional salt to taste. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges. Keep them warm.

 

Buttered Green Beans

½ pound freshly picked green beans or haricot vert
Salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Trim the stem off of the beans but leave the slender pointed tips. Reserve.

Ready a medium bowl of ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt until the water tastes of the sea. Add the beans and cook until tender about 3-4 minutes. The thinner and fresher the beans the faster they will cook. Remove the beans from the pot with a pair of tongs or skimmer and plunge into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. When beans are cool, remove from the ice bath and let rest in a strainer or colander to drain.

To serve: melt the butter in a large sauté pan and add ¼ cup (60ml) water. Bring to a boil to emulsify, season with salt to taste. Add the beans and toss until heated through. Remove with tongs to a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Watch my interview with Maria in Napa in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Maria!

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

 

Maria Sinskey

Meet In Your Kitchen | Jessica Koslow’s Sqirl in LA & the Magic of Sorrel Pesto Rice

Jessica Koslow

It’s captivating to watch a craftswoman concentrating on her material, a carpenter choosing the right piece of wood, a tailor feeling the fabrics, or a chef taking about a new recipe and picking the right ingredients. Jessica Koslow is a craftswoman, but she’s equally an artist gifted with a huge sense for freedom and creativity and this shines through every single one of her creations. She’s also a scientist who critically re-thinks all the single components of a dish until the final result is complete, until the textures and flavors feel aligned, until it looks deliciously tempting. This woman is so much, which makes her one of the leading figures of a new powerful movement of female chefs in California, but also in the rest of the world.

Sqirl is located just around the corner from Vermont Avenue that leads straight to Griffith Park, the restaurant is almost unspectacular, pleasantly unpretentious and casual, but the dishes that come out of the kitchen can easily compete with Michelin starred restaurants. The open kitchen works smoothly, peacefully, every chef seems to deeply enjoy the part they have in the Sqirl universe, it’s a bit like friends cooking, just more precise. Like the Sorrel Pesto Rice, inspired by Pierre Troisgros, the father of the nouvelle cuisine movement, that blew my mind: Kokuho rose brown rice, sorrel pesto, preserved meyer lemon, lacto-fermented hot sauce, watermelon radish, French sheep feta, and a perfectly poached egg spreading its shiny liquid yolk all over this vibrant composition. And the Sqirl Chicken Salad with Marin Sun chicken, bok choy, dehydrated citrus and root vegetables, grated carrots, and black garlic vinaigrette balances crunch and tenderness, sweetness and bitterness, it’s a dish that excites and satisfies.

Jessica comes across as very relaxed, she laughs a lot, but when you ask her a question she pauses and takes her time to think, to answer with the same precision you can find in her dishes, in the same way that she designed her restaurant, and how she put her first cookbook together, Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking. There is a vision that only she can see that seems to guide her in the right direction. She used to be a competitive figure skater which explains her discipline and dedication, and when she stopped at 19, she channeled her obsession into something new: food.

From then on it was all about cooking, eating, and tasting. She was fascinated by the moment when you put the first bite into your mouth and you’re overwhelmed. That’s the experience she wants to create at her restaurant and she knows that she only has this first second to reach and convince her guests’ taste buds. She and her team are gifted with outstanding produce, which she honors in her creations and that she receives from farmers who are friends and part of her community. This is the foundation of her work: “Raw produce defines a season, it’s the passing of times and in California, thankfully, it’s such a delicious marker of time. Our produce is an exciting time stamp and a building block from there.” The Sqirl world is about dishes that feel familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, they create comfort and inquisitiveness, it’s about different layers and textures, using the raw natural produce, but also playing with it, fermenting, pickling, or dehydrating it. As exciting as it is to eat this woman’s food, it’s a pure pleasure listing to her words.

Sqirl is a breakfast and lunch spot only, but in 2018 Jessica will open a dinner place for all her begging, hungry fans, called Tel – keep your eyes and ears open!

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

Jessica Koslow’s Sorrel Pesto Rice

Serves 6

3 cups (600 g) medium-grain brown rice, preferably Kokuho Rose
Fine sea salt
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons (130 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup (25 g) lightly packed kale leaves (stems removed)
2 cups (50 g) lightly packed chopped sorrel leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus more for serving
1 Preserved Meyer Lemon, flesh removed, peel finely chopped
2-4 small watermelon radishes, very thinly sliced
¼ cup (60 ml) Fermented Jalapeño Hot Sauce
¾ cup (85 g) crumbled sheep’s-milk feta

6 poached eggs
Fleur de sel
Freshly ground black pepper

Boil the rice in plenty of salted water until it’s tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Meanwhile, make the sorrel pesto: In a blender or food processor, combine ½ cup (120 ml) of the oil, kale, sorrel, and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Blend until smooth, stopping and scraping down the sides as needed. Season with salt to taste.

In a large bowl, toss the rice with the dill, preserved lemon peel, 1 table­spoon of the lemon juice, and the pesto. Taste and add a bit more salt, if needed.

In a small bowl, toss the radish with the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, the remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and a pinch of salt. Set aside to marinate for a few minutes, until the radish is pliable and tender.

To serve, divide the rice among six bowls. Spoon a line of hot sauce across the rice. Arrange a little clump of feta on one side and a rosette of radish slices on the other side. Set a poached egg in the mid­dle of each bowl and season it with fleur de sel and black pepper. Gar­nish with a tiny sprig or two of dill.

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Watch my interview with Jessica in LA in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Jessica! 

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

 

Jessica Koslow

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