September 6, 2009

Dishes that Are Puzzling Good

Do you know the feeling when you eat something new or different and you really want that flavor profile again? There are certain items that most people never make at home and they either are bought in a store or eaten at a restaurant. I usually go on a mad quest to figure out how to make some of those dishes. It could be a simple side dish or even a main dish, but it's something I have to know how to make so I can have it when I want it.

Namasu and pickled ginger are 2 of those items that I really wanted to know how to make. And they are so simple! What is namasu? Namasu is a Japanese pickled dish consisting of thinly sliced vegetables or vegetables and seafood, marinated in rice vinegar and sugar for several hours and can be stored for longer.

You usually find it as a pickled cucumber side dish at a Japanese restaurant. I found some really fresh Japanese cucumbers at the farmer's market on Saturday (these are the thinner ones with less seed) and decided to make my version of namasu so I could eat it as a healthy side dish when I got the craving.

4 med. Japanese Cucumbers (washed, with peel on)...note, the ones I used were med. size and not the huge ones
1 tbls. Sea Salt
1/4 Pickling Juice from Pickled Ginger (store bought or homemade, see recipe below)
1/4 c. Sugar
1/4 c. Rice Vinegar
1/4 large red onion finely sliced
1 large carrot cut in very thin 2 inch matchstick pieces
1/4 c. finely chopped pickled ginger

Wash and dry cucumbers, do not peel. Finely slice the Japanese Cucumbers with a sharp knife or in a food processor or other slicing device. Put cucumbers in large bowl and sprinkle sea salt on top. Allow to sit for 20 min. so that the liquid is extracted from cucumbers. Drain. Blot dry.

While cucumbers are sitting in sea salt mix the ginger juice, rice vinegar and sugar, mix well. Add the sliced onion, sliced carrots and pickled ginger. When the cucumbers are ready add them to the mixture.

Allow to sit for several hours before using. These can last for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. I store in a tightly sealed canning jar. Serve with fish, top on salads, eat as a side dish with wraps and sandwiches. Enjoy.

Here's the recipe for pickled ginger. Please note that there is a difference in the TYPE of ginger you use for this. I discovered that young ginger is what is used for the sushi type of ginger that most people are accustomed to eating. I also thought that the pink coloring was an additive (read the ingredients if you buy pre-packaged). I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that young ginger when it is very fresh turns naturally pink after pickling in rice vinegar and sugar. I found that the freshness of my homemade version unbeatable and the taste absolutely invigorating. I'm a ginger fan, so of course I was excited to be able to make my own.

Here's a great link for everything you want to know about ginger:

1 lb. fresh young ginger
2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 c. rice vinegar
1 c. sugar
Wash young ginger and gently rub skin off. Thinkly slice ginger. You will need a very sharp knife or you can use the thinnest blade on your food processor or slicing device. Put salt on ginger and allow to sit for 1 hour. Allow water and juices to extract. Drain and blot dry. Put the ginger in a sterilized jar or container.

In a saucepan boil sugar and vinegar. Allow to come to a boil. Pour hot mixture over ginger slices. Allow to cool. Cover and refrigerate. NOTE: the freshest young ginger will anturally turn light pink. Serve as a condiment with sushi, fish, rice dishes or any time you want to cleanse your palate. Stores for months in the refrigerator.
Explore, create and invigorate through your taste buds as you take yourself on your own culinary journey!

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