Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sunday Celebration - Japanese-Fusion


  1. Thai Pumpkin & Cilantro Chutney w/ Pineapple on Rye Crisps (Appetizer)
  2. Tofu Vichysoisse (Soup)
  3. Sake & Pomegranate Juice Marinated Tofu, baked in Nori Wrapper (Main)
  4. Shitake mushrooms reduced in marinade spill-over (Side)

    Extra Prepared Items:
  5. Thanksgiving Raw Canapes (Extra)
  6. Curry Leaf Roti (Extra)
The Diet Direction: Building Diet (Leaning towards)

  • % Calories from Fat = 40%
  • % Calories from Carbohydrates = 37%
  • % Calories from Protein = 24%

The Experience:

I got all excited after our Japanese class to do my first Japanese-style dinner! What I really wanted to do is modify a recipe by renowned Japanese Chef, Masahiro Kurusu (Masterclass in Japanese Cooking. Authored by Emi Kazuko. © 2002 Pavilion Books, UK.), and make-it-my-own by using pomegranate juice around the entree and finishing it with a nori wrap bake (similar to what we did in the Macrobiotics class). Unfortunately, I ran into some problems. Firstly, I didn’t want to use fish. Secondly, the nori-wrap got scrapped, because I did something dumb (which I will tell you about in a second).

So what to do about the fish? Substitute I say! So tofu became the replacement and the rest is history! What I liked about the Masterclass in Japanese Cooking recipe was the use of Sake for marinating the main ingredient. It sounded really interesting, and I wanted to try it. So I combined the proper ingredients from the original recipe into a bowl (including shoyu, mirin, rice vinegar, sea salt), and added my own – pomegranate juice, and black pepper. I figured that the sour-bitter taste of the pomegranate juice would balance out the sweetness from the mirin and sake – and that it did and more! I sliced the tofu into small “bricks” – not too thick – and placed them in a casserole dish and poured the marinade over them. I sealed the dish with some plastic wrap.

While marinating the tofu for a good 45-60 minutes in the fridge, I started preparing the other items. Since I had already made the chutney, I took less time to prepare the appetizer – breaking rye crips into squares first, and sautéing some small tofu squares without oil on a frypan. Each crisp was layered first with the tofu square, then with some chutney, and finished with flaked parmesan cheese, drizzled, and a small “poof” of coconut flakes. Ready to serve with some nice wine! And boy, did everyone love it! I even had to make extra and “sneak-eat” them whilst I prepared them so I could enjoy them too!

Thai Pumpkin & Cilantro Chutney
w/ Pineapple on Rye Crisps

With the appetizer out of the way, the guests feeling somewhat “covered” for the time being, I decided to make the tofu vichyssoise. Now, I will admit, I had heard of “vichyssoise” before but never tried it. For some reason I thought that it is usually made with seafood, but learned quickly that it’s actually potatoes that are the main base. But this recipe called for the use of tofu, and blending it into a smooth paste. I didn’t make too much adjustment to the original recipe, except using a little Braggs Liquid Aminos for some flavour. After some careful balancing, I “bowled” the soups and garnished them genoursly with chopped chives and ceremoniously placed each one in the fridge to chill.

Tofu Vishyssoise

Now, back to the tofu ….

I pulled the marinaded tofu out of the fridge and looked them over. They looked quite good – the tofu changed colour, and started to crack slightly – which meant that it started to absorb some of the marinade more deeply. Cool. Just what I wanted!

Sake & Pomegrante Marinated Tofu

I had some mushrooms staring at me, so I thought that I should make use of them somehow. How about serving the “naked” tofu with them. So I poured some of the marinade out of the casserole dish and placed it in a bowl. I heated some oil and prepared the sliced mushrooms. As they heated up and browned nicely I added the marinade “spill-over” and let it reduce in the mushrooms.

In the meantime, I placed the casserole dish into the oven (which had heated to 425 degrees by this time), open-faced, and let the tofu bake for about 20 minutes or so.

Now, can you see what happened? What happened to the Nori sheets? Well, the nori were still in the fridge, waiting to be removed and wrapped around the tofu. I felt like a Parent who had just left their child all alone in the shopping center (my inner child was clearly overwhelming my “inner nori” at this point!).

Well, by this point, it was too late! I couldn’t take the tofu out in its almost-baked state, and re-wrap the nori, which would have probably “sogged up” at this point and ruined the dish.

Sake & Pomegranate Juice Marinated Tofu
w/ Shitake Mushrooms Fricasse

In any case, I left my “inner nori” alone (as well as my inner child), and served the tofu in dual-pieces with the shitake marinade (by then the soup was already consumed. Thankfully, they didn’t have to launch a parental strike on me!). But they looked beautiful and I got ravingly positive comments about the outcome. The Vichyssoise was not enjoyed by all – but one person loved it – and he was also very familiar with the dish. The appetizer positively skewed the meal overall.

Thankfully, my inner child survived. Maybe next time, I can help my “inner nori” survive too.

I had fun making a “raw” dish that people didn’t realize was raw! The Thanksgiving canapés celebrated all that is “fresh” and “wholesome” about thanksgiving. I layered the raw cashew spread (modified) with cheese, shredded celery (to give a 3-dimensional look) and sprinkles of coconut flakes to give the impression of a “building of foods”. I think people had at least as much fun eating it as I had in putting it together!

Thanksgiving Raw Canapes
(Raw Cashew Red Pepper Spread
w/Sheep Cheese, Egg, Shredded Celery,
Roasted Zucchini, Sesame Seeds,
and Coconut Flake Sprinkles)

"Up Close and Personal"
Thanksgiving Raw Canapes

One interesting challenge: I had to transport them to a party, and I was unsure how to make them first, and take them, without them falling apart.

A quick bite (mind the pun!) about the party:
One of my cool colleagues at Oracle, Candace Fender, and her equally-cool husband Miles, invited us to their home for Thanksgiving. It all happened rather unexpectedly. We were just chatting about our plans for the long weekend, and Jasmin and I had just moved into our home - so it was like "let's see, unpacking?". Having no plans, and probably partly-feeling sorry for us, they invited us to their gracious home. We had a great time -- there was way too much good food, and their home was spectacular (and in our favorite neighbourhood in San Francisco -- Casto/Eureka Valley). Of course, I had to offer to bring hence how the Canapes came about.

(OK...that wasn't exactly a "quick bite", but when is good food ever "quick". *8) )

Now back to the canape challenge ...

So I took a lasagna pan, lined it with saran wrap (so the canapés wouldn’t slide), then layered that with parchment (because a saran wrap layer would make it stick), then another layer of saran wrap, canapés, and so on. I did this until I had completed all of the canapés, and sealed the top with aluminum foil. The result: They didn’t break! (Although, some did get a little “soggy” at the bottom, which was interesting. I think the “heat” from the cashews was the culprit!

Raw Thanksgiving Canapes Layered
in Parchment and Saran Wrap
(for Transport)

I also made some curry leaf rotis. Modified from the traditional roti recipe with white and whole wheat flours, the curry leaf gave an amazing flavour that made the rotis items to just munch on – no accompanying curry required!

Roti making process from class:

Step #1: Roll & Cook the Roti

Step #2: Finish by Roasting on Open Flame

Step #3: Rub Ghee and Store
in Towel-lined Container
(to keep moist)

Health Benefits

Pomegranate Juice

Increasingly, pomegrantes are being heralded as the new “antioxidant fire-power”. Recent studies are showing that they contain almost three-times as much disease-fighting potential as green tea or red wine. It is also very high in potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. It has been used in India and Persia in ancient times to treat inflammation, rheumatism, and sore throat symptoms. In ancient Babylonia, it was thought of as the “nectar of resurrection”. Maybe we could coax one or two western world leaders to drink a few pints of this every day – maybe their “resurrection” will be our world’s peace.


Made from raw, organic sugar cane, it’s one of the most un-refined and natural forms of sugar. It can be substituted for wherever refined white sugar is required. Unlike refined sugar, it is high in potassium, calcium, and iron, and possess energy-producing capabilities, without the downsides of refined sugars.

Resembling ginger but known to have a sweeter taste, with a sometimes “black pepper” aroma, is considered to be an “aromatic stimulant, carminative and stomachic”. It has been used as an aphrodisiac in Asia and Europe for centuries. It is also known to help with nausea, flatulence, dyspepsia, rheumatism, among other ailments. Like ginger, it also possesses antibacterial qualities and is used for these properties in veterinary and homeopathic medicine. Interestingly, in India it has been used for millennia as a body deodorizer and remedy for halitosis remedy.