I’ve been to Japan four times in the last six months and racked up more frequent flyer miles than I know what to do with. I’d love to say it was for vacation, but I have to travel there often for work (my day job– I wish it was for something cooking related). If you have never been to Japan I suggest you go immediately. I’ve traveled quite frequently in the past few years, both domestically and internationally, and I can say that Tokyo is without a doubt one of the most incredible cities I’ve ever been to. It’s one of those places that can really change your entire perspective of the world. The people are so driven and career oriented, the city so fast paced, yet the Japanese culture of being kind, respectful and trustworthy is not forgotten. People will go out of their way to help you and make you feel welcome, and you never have to worry about your personal safety as a tourist . In Tokyo, you can ride the metro at 3 pm on any given weekday and see dozens of 5-year-old children riding the train home– by themselves!
This post would be incomplete if I didn’t mention the cuisine in Japan. It’s incredible. My favorite sushi joint, Sushi Zanmai, is open 24 hours and serves the most amazing, yet simple, sushi ever. Most of it arrives every morning from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, the largest seafood market in the world. Below is a photo of me exploring the market at 6 in the morning, right before I had tuna sashimi for breakfast at Zanmai.
Some of the traditional dishes in Japan are quite…interesting. Each time I go I try expanding my horizons a little, but to be honest there are just some things I will never eat. Things like horse meat, grasshoppers and fermented soy beans. No thank you! It’s funny when I go to Japanese restaurants in America now. Those Teppanyaki places are a total rip off! There is no such thing as white sauce in Japan. There is no fried rice either. With that said I did have an amazing ginger salad the last time I went to Tokyo. It was a little different than the standard kind you get in the states. They added avocado, used butter lettuce and the salad tasted much fresher than normal. Below is my take on ginger salad!
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 small shallot, peeled chopped
2.5 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 tablespoons white miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1 head of bibb lettuce or spring mix
1/4 red onion, sliced into rings
1 avocado, sliced
In a food processor, blend, carrot, shallot, ginger. Add white miso and sesame oil. While the machine is running, slowly add canola oil and water. Blend until it reaches desired consistency. Toss with bibb lettuce, onion and avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve immediately.
I love to entertain and I obviously love to cook. Combine the two and I’m happier than a pig in mud. Given the fact I started this blog recently I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to host a launch party and introduce my recipes to a live audience. I mentioned the idea to my friend Steve, a fellow chef, and within minutes we were party planning (on a yacht of all places, pinch me). We decided on upscale Mexican– flank steak fajitas, shrimp and avocado ceviche, guacamole from scratch, and black bean and corn salad. Don’t worry we didn’t forget the booze. I made my fresh, key lime margaritas with agave nectar and sauvignon blanc sangria.
My apartment was eliminated because it’s 900 square feet and I have an incredibly angry downstairs neighbor. Whenever I decide to move out of this place I am throwing an all-night rager just to spite him. And buying pogo sticks for all my guests. Anyway, Steve’s house is definitely bigger than mine but with the guest list growing, we were in need of a much bigger space. Luckily, Steve’s friend Chip graciously agreed to let us use his beautiful Georgetown home for our guests and let me tell you, this place was made for entertaining. Soaring ceilings, atrium that leads to an outdoor patio, rooftop deck, the list goes on. Totally chic and sophisticated, yet still has that warm and historic Georgetown feel.
I’m definitely a planner. Everything has to be organized, the menu has to be perfect, guest list finalized and the food prepped ahead of time. Planning a party for a large amount of people is all about the time leading up to the event. I would have an absolute panic attack if I did all my grocery shopping the day of and didn’t prep my food until the doorbell rang. As a hostess, it’s best to be calm, cool and collected when your guests arrive so that you don’t look like a chicken with your head cut off. Wellllllll…we ended up getting a late start. We made the mistake of buying frozen shrimp that were not peeled or de-veined–do you know how long it takes to peel and devein 4 pounds of shrimp? I delegated that task along with some others– like juicing 8 oranges, 8 limes and 8 lemons. Oh and seeding and chopping tomatoes (thanks Gordon).
Luckily most guests arrived fashionably late, about an hour after we told them to come. Phew! I put out some apps, tortilla chips and of course the sangria to keep everyone happy while we started the fajitas. When the party really started hoppin’ the meat was just about ready to come off the grill and the onions and peppers were done– perfect timing. We ended up having a great turnout, about 50 guests, and everyone seemed very pleased with the food. Hooray! Success. I can’t wait to try this again. Below you can find all my recipes (ceviche was from a previous post that you can find here) Oh and don’t worry, I scaled all the recipes down from 50 to 4 servings.
Flank Steak Fajitas
1 pound flank steak ($8.00)
1/2 cup olive oil ($2.00)
2 tablespoons soy sauce ($.10)
1 garlic clove ($.02)
2 scallions, cut in 1/2 ($.05)
3 tablespoons lime juice ($.05)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes ($.05)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin ($.05)
1.5 tablespoons brown sugar ($.03)
Salt and Pepper to season steak
2 bell peppers (green or orange) and 1 large white onion, cut into strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for the peppers and onions)
Trim fat from flank steak and season generously with salt and pepper. Combine the rest of the ingredients in pyrex baking dish large enough for the steak. Marinate steak for 6-8 hours in refrigerator. Pull steak out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to grill. Grill on medium-high heat until steak reaches desired temperature.
While you’re grilling the steak start your peppers and onions in cast iron skillet with vegetable oil. They will take about 12 minutes to cook. Put steak on a platter and let it REST at least 10 minutes. Carve steak against the grain and serve with sauteed peppers and onions on flour tortillas. Top with your favorites– cheese, sour cream, salsa, guac, etc.
3 ripe avocados (cut them in half, pop out the seed and scoop out the green part) ($3.50)
Juice of 1 lime ($.20)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin ($.05)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper ($.05)
1/2 medium onion, diced finely ($.25)
1/2 jalapeno, seeded and minced finely ($.10)
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced($.50)
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped ($.10)
1 clove garlic, minced ($.05)
Mash avocado with the black of fork, squeeze lime juice over avocado and combine all ingredients. Mash to your desired consistency– I like to keep mine a bit chunky. Pro-tip: Keep the seed in the bowl you are serving in while it’s in the fridge. Also cover tightly with saran wrap. This will keep the guac from browning before you serve! Remove the seed when ready to dig in and serve with tortilla chips.
Black Bean and Corn Salad
1 (8 oz) can Rotel tomatoes & chilies ($1.00)
1 (8 oz) can yellow corn ($.85)
1/2 (8 oz) can black beans ($.85)
1/2 (4 oz) can green chilies ($1.00)
1/2 cup diced white onion ($.50)
garlic powder, to taste
chili powder, to taste
cumin, to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro ($.50)
Juice of 1 lime ($.20)
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir and refrigerate for 1 hour. Yes, it’s that easy.
1/2 cup hot water (free)
1/2 cup sugar ($.20)
750 ml Sauvignon Blanc ($3.99– use the cheap stuff)
3/4 cup brandy ($6.00)
1 lime, sliced into rounds ($.20)
1 orange, sliced into rounds ($.50)
1/2 pineapple cut into chunks ($2.00)
2 cups club soda ($1.00)
1 cup raspberries ($2.00)
In large pitcher or other container combine the hot water and sugar. Stir with a whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add in the wine, brandy, lime, orange and pineapple. Put in the fridge at least 3 hours. Before serving, add in 2 cups of club soda and raspberries.
It’s officially spring in DC. Not exactly tropical weather, but I can finally drink rosé wine and wear white pants so I’m celebrating. Who the heck makes up these rules anyway? For now I’ll blame Joan Rivers. So my taste buds were in the mood for something to complement the clear sky today and I started daydreaming of vacation. My last mini-getaway was to Miami for a bachelorette party and since then, I’ve been totally obsessed with ceviche. They actually have ceviche delivery in Miami. I know, I was a bit skeptical to order raw seafood from some dude on a Vespa, but if you’re in Miami you must try My Ceviche. It’s trendy, fresh, affordable and super gourmet—perfect for that Bachelorette Pre-Game 🙂
Anyway, traditional ceviche consists of raw seafood tossed with something acidic, i.e. citrus juice or vinegar that “cooks” the fish. I prefer to take the guess work out and cook the shrimp before marinating, though …that’s just me—I’m too young to die from food borne illness. Personally I would just put this in a big bowl and eat it with spoon, but if you’re feeling like a “Susie Homemaker” it would look really cute served in margarita glasses. Oh, it can also be more of a dip if you pair it with tortilla or plantain chips.
* Pro-tip: Unless you want your ceviche to taste like tin foil, you need to use a nonreactive bowl. Sorry to go all Bill Nye on you, but the reason for this is because many foods—especially salty or acidic ones—react with untreated surfaces such as iron, copper and aluminum. In terms of bowls, it’s pretty hard to find anything but nonreactive ones these days; most are made of plastic, stainless steel, ceramic, or glass, none of which are reactive.
1 quart water (free)
1/8 cup sea salt
½ pound raw shrimp peeled and deveined ($4.50)
Juice of 1 lemon ($.40)
Juice of 1 lime ($.40)
Juice of 1 orange ($.40)
½ cup diced, seeded, peeled cucumber ($.50)
¼ cup finely chopped red onion ($.20)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced finely ($.10)
1/2 cup diced seeded plum tomato ($.75)
½ avocado, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces ($1.00)
½ tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves, plus more leaves for garnish ($.10)
1/8 cup extra-virgin olive oil ($.50)
Sea salt to taste
Combine water and 1/8 cup salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Add shrimp and immediately turn off the heat. Let the shrimp sit until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board until cool enough to handle.
Chop the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and place in a medium nonreactive bowl (see pro tip above). Add lemon, lime and orange juice. Stir in cucumber, onion and jalapeño. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Stir tomato, avocado, chopped cilantro, and oil into the shrimp mixture, season generously with salt. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Garnish with more cilantro leaves.