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Comments (0) | 31 May 2010

To make up for my lack of regular posting, I spent a good few hours this afternoon chronicling my sushi-making process. Then I ate them. Now I'm posting about them. Here we go!

Sushi is a very flexible dish. There are some standard fillings, and then you mix and match them however you want. That's part of why I love sushi so much; it does a good job of cleaning vegetables out of my fridge.

First, cook some sushi rice according to your preference. I use a rice maker and all is well. After your rice is done cooking (it should be sticky, not the kind of rice you'd like to pour your curry on), stir in rice vinegar and sugar, then cover--so it doesn't dry out--and cool.

Sushi's also one of those recipes where you really do want to have laid all your ingredients out infront of you, ready to go. As much as I try, I rarely have all my ingredients measured, chopped, or laid out when I begin baking or cooking. With sushi, however, that's different. Gather and prepare all your fillings ahead of time. Here's mine:

(Note: All the colors in this post are going to be crazy because it's splotchy cloudy outside, so sometimes I had natural light and sometimes I didn't.)

You can see my lovely orange knife in the above photo. I bought it at the grocery store in town. That sounds like a recipe for a terrible knife, but I love my bright orange knife.

I included: cucumber, carrot, egg, smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese. You don't see the cream cheese in that photo above because cream cheese looks ugly if you try to cut it into strips--or, at least, if I try to cut it into strips.  But you can see it here:

To prepare the egg as shown above, just cook two eggs like one would cook an omlette--but without any cream or fillings (more precise directions below.) Then it'll look like this:

Then you'll put it on a paper towel to cool, like this:

After it's cool, you'll cut it into a square by cutting off the corners, like so:

and then cut into strips, like this:

The salmon is sliced just as you think salmon would be sliced, but I want to show you a couple photos of my smoked salmon, because I think it's pretty. Just a note, you want to make sure you're using a sharp knife to cut your salmon, otherwise it tends to crumble along the natural boundaries (those little whitish lines you see). Now that I've said that, I can justify showing you my pretty salmon pictures:

See those white lines I was talking about? See how my first couple slices sort of crumbled at the bottom? That's when I switched to my sharper knife, and all was good:

The carrots are sliced just as one would normally slice carrots. The cucumber is sliced, discarding the watery seedy insides. Avocado is sliced as one normally slices avocado. I tossed by avocado with some lemon juice so that it wouldn't brown as it was waiting to become a vital component of my sushi rolls. The cream cheese is most easily sliced if you've chilled it in the freezer for a couple (10) minutes first; it lets it firm up.

Now that all your fillings are ready, comes the trickier (but completely possible and not-actually-all-that-hard!) part: rolling. You need a rolling mat, which looks like this: 

If you don't have one and can't get one before you absolutely need to make sushi (which should be after you've finished reading this post), you could try seran wrap or wax paper, but a rolling mat makes everything so much easier. 

Assemble everything you need, right now before you begin. In addition to your seaweed, rice and fillings you will also need a little cup of water with some vinegar in it. This is important, and we'll get to why you need it in a bit. You'll also want a pastry brush. So, with everything assembled:

Brush a little bit of the vinegar/water onto the seaweed; this'll soften it up--otherwise, it will crack and splinter when you try to roll it. You don't need much, because the rice is (or should be) damp. Then, spoon some rice onto the seaweed, onto the bottom center. 

Now, you desperately need to dip your fingers in the vinegar/water mixture, otherwise you'll be imminently covered in sushi rice, and then you'll be sad. So, with your vinegar/water-covered fingers, smooth out the rice across the sushi, leaving 1"-1.5" of uncovered seaweed at the top, like so:

Now, you want to assemble whatever fillings you want in your sushi and place them horizontally about two inches above the bottom. I belong to the "more fillings = better sushi" school of thought, so I slice my fillings thick and use a lot of them.

That said, these were more filings than I usually use, but it was delicious. This roll includes: carrot, cucumber, avocado, salmon and cream cheese. 

Now, you have to roll the seaweed. I tried valiently, but armed with my six year old, point-and-click camera and nobody to help me, I could not photograph the rolling process. Essentially, you want to roll the sushi using the rolling mat. You roll it all up over the fillings first and then just keep going, tidying and squeezing as you go, until you read the uncovered seaweed at the top. Then wet the seaweed a little with your pastry brush and water, and wrap the whole thing up. For photo instructions, the last image on this page: http://makemysushi.com/index.php/How-to-make-sushi/classic-roll.html has a nice little animation. Click on the image to start the animation. 

That's the trickiest part, so don't feel bad if you takes you a couple rolls to get a nice looking one. 

At this point I like to let the roll sit for a little bit with the seaweed flap down. It lets everything sit and stick together. Then, right before I'm ready to serve the sushi, I cut it.

The single most important thing about slicing sushi is that you use a very, very sharp knife. Otherwise, you squish the whole roll. I use my sharpest knife, and then usually sharpen it a little more before I cut the sushi. 

I have found gentle, back-and-forth slicing with a santoku knife to be the easiest way to slice sushi cleanly. 

Now, see in this picture how dirty my knife is already? It's really dirty, mostly from the cream cheese in this roll.

A dirty knife like this sticks to the sushi as you're cutting it, so I frequently clean my knife as I go, being careful to dry it well, lest it sticks despite having washed it. 

The ends will always be a bit messy. This is a fact of life. Some fancy schmancy sushi chefs make their ends look all nice, but I'm convinced it's just to make me feel bad about myself. I accept that my ends will always be messy, but J will always happily eat them, destroying the evidence. 

That's it. Wonderful sushi. 

Now, if you're me and the smell alone of seaweed makes you convulse--or wish you were convulsing--there is hope! These wonderful soy wrappers wrap sushi wonderfully, and produce excellent, seaweed-free sushi.

I understand some will say this is sacrilege, but I disagree. This is beautiful.

And colorful, too! The wrappers are flavored, but not very strongly. I can't really taste the flavorings in sushi, so you may want to be sure to put in flavorful fillings when using these. 

Since I'm also not a huge fish fan, I resort to using lots and lots of wasabi mixed in with my soy sauce when I eat these. Not just more-than-normal levels of wasabi. I'm a spice-fiend. My soy sauce is a paste after I've added my wasabi. Here, I'll show you:

Hmm, that is hopefully the worst photo I'll ever put on this blog. But you see what I mean? That pastey olivey greeny soy sauce is delicious. And most of the reason that I eat sushi. Yum. 

Now for the more concise recipe. 


2 Sheets of nori (dried seaweed)
1.75-2 cups cooked sushi rice 
4 tbspn rice vinegar, separated
2 tspn granulated sugar
1/3 cup water

1 carrot, peeled and cut into strips
1 cucumber, peeled with watery/seedy center removed, cut into strips 
4 tbspn cream cheese, cut into strips
1 oz salmon, cut into strips
1/3 medium avocado, cut into strips and tossed with lemon juice
2 eggs, cooked like an omlette, cooled and cut into strips 
(note: feel free to swap out or include any fillings you want. Cavier, crab, etc. If you use raw fish, I'm not responsible if you die.) 
Required Items
rolling mat 

sharp knife 
pastry brush

1.) Mix sushi rice with 2tbspn vinegar and sugar. Set aside. 

2.) In a small container, combine water and remaining vinegar. Set aside. 

3.) Lay seaweed on the rolling mat. Using a pastry brush, moisten the seaweed with the water/vinegar mixture. Be sure not to get the seaweed too wet; the rice will be damp and moisten the seaweed further later. 

4.) Spoon half of rice onto bottom center of seaweed. Moisten hands with water/vinegar mixture to prevent sticking. Smooth rice out on seaweed, leaving 1"-1.5" free at the top. 

5.) Arrange desired fillings horizontally about 2" above the bottom of the seaweed. Using the rolling mat, roll sushi. 

6.) Let sushi roll sit for 5-10 minutes, allowing the seaweed to seal and adhere to itself.

7.) Using a sharp knife, slice the roll into individual pieces of sushi. A gentle, back-and-forth motion works well. Clean the knife as necessary to prevent sticking. 

8.) Serve.  

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Comments (0) | 28 May 2010

It has been a long time since my last post. For awhile, I had pre-finals, and then finals. So that's understandable. But it's been 1.5 weeks since my last day of class, and almost 5 days since graduation. I have no excuse. I've been sleeping until noon, getting up groggily, playing video games and reading the internets, and then going back to sleep. No excuse. Oops.

I do, however, have these.

Oh, and these

And, on the very rare occasion that safeway has them, these.

They're delicious. They taste like I took a bunch of fruit, put it in a popsicle tray, and froze it. Only, I didn't have to, which is very, very important during pre-finals, finals, and finals recovery. (I did, however, have to walk to Safeway to get them. But that's exercise, right?)

I eat very, very many of them. But I figure, they're healthier than all the ice cream I would eat if I didn't have them, right? (Note that I'm basically begging for affirmation).

I'm eating a lemon one right now. And it's delicious. (Can you tell from my sentence fragments and frequent parentheticals that I've been reading a lot of thepioneerwoman.com today? Because I have. An awful, unhealthy lot. I probably know more about her than her distant family. And I dearly, dearly hope that someday I'll have a kitchen that the one in her guest lodge. Do not go look unless you want to feel pathetically sorry for yourself.)

In lieu of a recipe and pictures of food, I have graduation photos!

 There they are, the grads (and the people who shows up really early for their seats!). Now y'all know what college I go to. Ew. I said y'all. I've been reading way too much PW.

You can't see because this photo is small, but my favorite graduate (sorry everyone else...) is standing RIGHT THERE. Behind the person in the fancy blue "I have good grades" sashy things.

And the start of the procession out of graduation, after all the speeches and names and majors and (summa) (magna) cum laudes that made me feel bad about my grades were over.

AWWWW. And there's my graduate. This picture is very blurry, but my camera was dying and he was technically still in the procession out, so I had to click the picture fast. I actually didn't even think I got the picture, because my camera died immediately as I clicked the "take picture" button, even though I'd bought (and by "I bought" I mean, sent my mother down to the campus center to buy..) brand new batteries for it not 2 hours earlier. And I'd turned it off a lot during that time, because it started blinking "battery low" within about 15 minutes. I think my camera's on its last legs.

But this weekend, I promise a recipe.

Congratulations to everyone who graduated (or will soon graduate if, you know, you go to a state school or whatever...)!

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Roasted Radishes

Comments (0) | 12 May 2010

Yesterday was the first box of our CSA season! Among other things, it contained radishes and fresh oregano! I promised to post one of my very own recipes soon (not just those recipes from other bloggers I've reviewed), so here we go! 

Fresh radishes means roasted radishes for dinner! They're quick to throw together, and then you can go do something else (like an inorganic test!) while they're baking. If you don't have a spastic oven like mine, they don't take that long, either. They go well as a side to almost anything. We had ours with corn, stir fried green garlic, tomato and new onions, and fried eggs.

Roasted Radishes
Servings: 1

          7 or 8 medium-small radishes
          1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
          1 tablespoon shopped fresh oregano
          1teaspoon fresh ground pepper
          1/2 a teaspoon salt (or 1/4 teaspoon, if you're a more reasonable person than I am)
          1 teaspoon sugar
          dash lemon juice
          1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 400F

In a small baking dish, toss radishes with olive oil pepper, oregano, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Cover with aluminum foil and place in oven for 15-20* minutes, until radishes soften but are still firm in the middle.

Take radishes out of the oven. Sprinkle sugar over radishes and return to the oven uncovered for about 20-30* minutes, or until the radishes look well roasted, with a bit of crisp, caramelly-sugar covering them. Take out of oven, sprinkle with salt and serve.

*these cooking times are rough estimates; my old oven has a very uneven gas flow, and so the temperature is wont to vary widely while cooking.

Delicious! Mine didn't brown as much as I'd like, but I had a meeting to get to so I was running short on time. You might want to leave yours in the oven a little longer to brown, if you like that sort of thing.

As a chemistry aside, remember how I said we had these with fried eggs? For the first time ever while frying eggs, I noticed these funny little bubbles welling up inside the yolks:

(Ignore the massive hunks of ground pepper... it's an addiction.) Curious as to what these bubbles were, I looked up the contents of egg yolks. I was pretty sure these were actual bubbles and not part of the egg yolk which separated while it was still a liquid because of how they flitted around and... bubbled... so much. Incidentally, egg yolks are about half water (52.31g of water per 100g of egg yolk, according to wikipedia), so these bubbles are actually gaseous water--steam, basically. The really interesting part is how we only get a few bubbles in the yolk, if so much of it is water. There's actually a really simple reason, but I found it exciting. 

You don't see a giant buildup of gas largely because the membrane on an egg yolk is permeable to gases.  However, if we lost all 50% of egg yolk mass to volatilizing the water in the yolk, the membrane wouldn't be able to release the gas fast enough and the yolk pop after the pressure got high enough, just like those obnoxious bubbles that form between the bottom of the egg white and the pan and pop--spurting hot oil/butter all over you--when frying eggs. Incidentally, this is also caused by volatilized water. The water in direct contact with the pan (i.e, at the bottom of the egg) heats the fastest and then gets trapped between the egg and the pan until it has enough pressure to pop its way out along the side. (Yay thermodynamics!) 

Anyway, back to the yolk: instead of losing all or most of the water in the yolk, we first lose a little bit. After that water is volatilized and taken out of the fatty-acid, egg-yolk solution, the solution is concentrated. That is, there are more fatty acids per a unit of volume. The fatty acids look something like this:

Where the black, white-dotted chains are CH2CH2CH3 chains, mostly. There could be some double bond scattered about. Those red dots are oxygens which are making up the carboxylic acid part of the fatty acid.  That carboxylic acid group is the really polar part of the fat. 

Polar parts like to stick together. Water's polar, so that means the water's going to want to stick around those little polar tips way more than the black bits. 

The black bits, however, also do not want to be near the water. So these things tend to ball up into a sphere with all the black ends pointing inwards toward each other, and all the red ends pointing out. These are called micelles, and if I were an experienced blogger, I'd have an image for you. But I already took the fatty acid image from wikipedia, so that's enough photo-theft for today. Anyway, the waters cluster around those little red-dot-encased spheres, but there are a whole lot more waters than there is space around that sphere normally. 

However, when you boil away some of those waters and concentrate the solution, that's not really the case anymore. Now most of the water is in contact with a whole bunch of fatty acid carboxylic groups. Really, the waters and the carboxylic acid groups are hydrogen bonding, and you can form long-range, groups of hydrogen-bonded waters/carboxylic acids. When these things bond together, they stick together. You have to put in more heat to break that interaction, and that's why so much of the water stops boiling away out of the solution--because after a point, the interactions are so strong that you don't have enough heat to boil away the water. 

And that's why only a little bit of water boils off and your yolk doesn't explode! To test this theory, you could heat your fried egg above the boiling point of water, so that the temperature is high to break those linkages, and try to boil off all the water. However, the proteins and fatty acids in the egg will likely decompose before you hit that temperature, and then you'd be left with a black, tarry mess. 

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Element Cookies

Comments (0) | 09 May 2010

Last week some of us chemistry juniors gave a presentation to the freshmen and sophomores interested in the chemistry major to talk about scheduling, what to expect from the classes, requirements of the major, research opportunities, REUs, etc. Naturally, these sorts of presentations necessitate food. The natural college-food option is pizza. The cardboardy, sauce-and-cheese-drenched, dripping-oil-everywhere, floppy pizza. Absolutely turns my stomach. Now, I ate a piece, mind you. But I also believe in offering something more aethestically appealing and tastier, if not more healthy.

Enter: The element cookie. 

Don't pay too much attention to the gritty, disgusting cookie sheet. I didn't bake these babies on it, I just needed it to transport them and ran out of parchment paper.

I say "element" cookie and not "periodic table cookies" because: (a) technically... a periodic table is a collection of elements arranged in a specific pattern, and each cookie only denotes one element, so the cookies themselves are not periodic tables... but mostly, because (b) I only have a circle cookie cutter, not a square, so I couldn't really make them fit together like a table; if I'd made them into a table, I would have called them periodic table cookies anyway... since they're cookies that make up a periodic table. Semantics aside, these were a great hit, despite them being the first time I made them.

The sugar cookie recipe came from Martha Stewart, the royal icing recipe from Not So Humble Pie.  Some day, I swear I'll have the time to post my own recipes. Some day soon.

I did, however, make the atomic symbols with my own ingenuity. I printed out two sheets of atomic symbols in a large, bold font with plenty of space between them. Then, I melted white chocolate, put the pieces of paper onto a cookie sheet and covered them with wax paper, and then piped white chocolate by tracing the letters I could see through the wax paper. Or at least that's what I tried to do, in reality, the letters I printed in the science building were too small so I had to go by hand. But if I owned a printer and could have reprinted them easily, that's what I would have done. After all the symbols were piped, I popped them in the freezer to harden. (Tip: try to make sure that the letters in two-letter symbols are touching, like the Tc above. It makes it easier to pop them on quickly as one piece, rather than searching for a lost letter after you've already put on the first letter, just to discover it's already been broken.) I kept these in the freezer until it came to putting on letters; keeping the chocolate extra firm helps not to break them in the process. Piping thicker letters will also help in this regard.

Anyway, I made the sugar cookies according to the instructions linked above, baked them, and let them cool completely. This time, I made them thinner the MS recommends, because I was on a time crunch. Next time I'd make them 0.5" thick as she recommends, if not thicker.

The icing was a bit trickier. Because Royal icing dries out, I only divided the icing into separate containers for coloring as I went. So, I spooned out some icing into a ramekin, dyed it purple, piped my flood barricade (the outer circle of the icing), watered it down a little bit, and flooded the inside of my circle with a spoon. I then immediately dropped white chocolate atomic symbols into the flood icing and pressed down carefully to make sure they'd stick. Then I sprinkled with the appropriate color of sugar glitter and let dry completely.* I did this for however many cookies I wanted of that color, then repeated with each other color.   After the cookies had all dried, I used a food color pen to write in the atomic number and mass.

(* I actually didn't let them dry completely because I ran out time, but if you can, let them dry completely. That way, the food color pen won't break through the icing and get icing stuck to the top of your pen. If you don't have enough time, pop the cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes or so; that'll harden the top layer of icing a little, then just... write softly.)

There you have it! Element cookies. I apologize for the messy pictures; as soon as I have time to try this again when I have more than 3 hours to make the cookies (and this was my first time making roll out cookies, using a cookie cutter, making royal icing, coloring icing, and using a pastry bag, mind you!), I'd edit this post with prettier photos!

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