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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Locrio de costillitas - Dominican rice with spare rib tips

Yum, yum, yum!! Locrio is one of my favorite Dominican dishes. It is a red rice cooked with some sort of meat (chicken, spare rib tips, longaniza (a type of sausage), or even spicy sardines (pica pica)). It's always very flavorful and delicious! I didn't have much cubanelle pepper around (the sweet pepper that is typically used), so I used two small serranos (about 2 teaspoons - 1 TB, depending on how much spiciness you like) and about 1 teaspoon cubanelle pepper. This dish is not normally spicy, so if you have to go to the store anyway, you can make the choice to make it spicy or not. Use a whole cubanelle if you make it the traditional way. I hope you all enjoy this dish as much as I do!

3 cloves of garlic (two is fine if they are the gigantic cloves I've been seeing lately)
1 onion chopped
1 TB + 1 tsp tomato paste (sauce is NOT a substitute)
1 stalk of cilantro (chopped)
1 stalk of parsley (chopped)
1 teaspoon celery leaf (if available) (chopped)
a pinch of dried oregano
adobo (there are different Goya Adobo varities, but use the one with the blue top)
Baldom Dominican sazon (if available, otherwise, use more adobo)
crushed black pepper to taste (probably about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 TB salt
1lb to 1.5 lbs spare rib tips (cut into pieces with 1-2 of the small vertical bone pieces each - as close to equal size pieces as possible)
2 cups of long grain white rice
3.5 cups water

This method of cooking rice produces a nice layer of crispier rice on the bottm (this is the intended result. In Dominican cooking, it is prepared in a nonstick pan to get a crispier rice on the bottom. As most Americans are not accustomed to this (although I really enjoy it), you may want to make an effort to prepare it in a nonstick pan the first time to see how you like that first. When cooked in a nonstick pan, this crispier layer (referred to as "concon" in Spanish - the most desirable part of the rice in Dominican cooking) acquires a tasty, lightly nutty flavor.

To place the cooked rice in serving dishes. Spoon the softer rice off (without scraping off the crispy rice) and place in one bowl. Spoon off the bottom layer of crispier rice and place in a separate smaller bowl.

Season each piece of the spare rib tips with generously with salt, Dominican sazon, adobo, and dried oregano. Set aside. wash and drain rice (move it around with your hand in a large bowl of water until water becomes white). Season dry rice with about 2 teaspoons to one TB adobo and the 1/2 TB salt in the list of ingredients. set aside.

Place the garlic and onions (not the herbs yet) in a skillet (the one you want to cook the rice in) with about 1/2 TB - 1TB extra virgin olive oil until they are translucent.

Toward the end of the process, add in the tomato paste and sautee mixture with it for about 1 min, along with oregano and fresh herbs.

Once the vegetables are done sauteeing, turn the heat up to medium and add the ribs, being sure to cover them well in the adobo mixture as you cook them.

Let the meat brown on all sides. Add enough water to cover bottom of pan, cover pot well and let it cook for a few minutes to lightly stew meat. Once water evaporates, add rice and add 3.5 cups water.

Cook rice (UNCOVERED) over medium to medium high heat (the least it takes to get a boil), stirring CONSTANTLY. Continue stirring until all of the water evaporates.

Once the water has evaporated, spread rice and meat evenly over bottom of pan. Cover tightly and take temperature down to low.

Let the rice cook on low for exactly 20 min (do NOT check the rice or remove the top for any reason). Remove from heat.

Let the rice sit for 5-10 minutes and enjoy!

Most people like to enjoy this dish with a splash of fresh lime juice and sliced avocado on the side, but of course it's delicious just as it is!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer rolls!

Nam chow (fresh spring rolls/summer rolls)

1 package Rice paper (Summer roll wrappers)
shrimp (medium size works well)
fresh cilantro (stems are fine), fresh mint, fresh thai basil, and/or fresh sweet basil
thin rice vermicelli
1 plate or cutting board to roll spring rolls on
1 plate to set prepared rolls on
1 large head bibb lettuce (romain can work if you remove hard stem in middle or you can use another soft leaf lettuce)
bean sprouts (rinsed and dried)

  1. Wash fresh herbs, dry them, and place them into a bowl. 
  2. Boil rice noodles according to package recipe or until tender. Strain and set aside in bowl once tender. 
  3. As rice noodles are boiling, sautee raw shrimp over medium heat until bright pink. Set shrimp aside in bowl and let cool. 
  4. Create an assembly line with each item in a row on a table.
  5. Put a small pot of water on simmer and once it is warm, pour into a low-sided bowl. 
  6. To begin the process of rolling spring rolls, dip one round of rice paper into the warm water until the pattern disappears. 
  7. Although the paper will appear to still be a bit firm, don't worry. It will soften up during the time you place ingredientes on it. Don't over-moisten or it will tear.
  8. Place a piece of lettuce (maybe about as big as your hand without stretching it out)closest to the edge nearest to you. Leave a little space for the rice paper to stick to itself and seal at the end. 
  9. In front of (NOT on top of) the lettuce, place three pieces of shrimp along it's front edge (in a horizontal line). This placement allows you to see the shrimp through the roll like you do in restaurants, which makes it look nicer. 
  10. Place a small handful of noodles over the lettuce. 
  11. Cover noodles with a layer of bean sprouts (be careful to place any sharp ends downward so they don't pierce rice paper. 
  12. Add a line of your choice of fresh herbs along its length. 
  13. Roll the rice paper tightly over the noodles, tucking in the ends tightly as you roll. Keep rolling until you seal the end of the rice paper to the top of the roll. There you have it!

Enjoy with dtuk trei or fish sauce (I recommend 3 crabs brand, and recommend against Thai Kitchen). This dip should be prepared in advance (1 day if possible) because otherwise it tastes too strong and the flavors don't blend well). To the recipe below, add two or three cloves mashed then minced garlic. It's very important for a good flavor, in my opinion.

Fresh spring rolls (also called summer rolls) are best enjoyed fresh, but can be stored and enjoyed later if the proper precautions are taken. Rice paper tends to harden over time, but if you wrap your rolls in a damp paper towel (being sure to create space between each roll to avoid them sticking together) and store them in an airtight container in the fridge, they should be fine.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fruit and Nut Rice

I tried a similar dish in the most unlikely of places and I absolutely loved it and so did a friend of mine. I actually tried it at UVa's dining hall, where the food is usually downright depressing, but every now and then they have a nice surprise. In their version, there was a mixture of dried apricots, raisins, prunes, and dates. Since a bag of dried fruit you won't use otherwise is pretty pricey, I settled for what I had in the house--raisins and prunes (prunes are very tasty, by the way. Of course you can't eat too many ;)

Fruit and Nut Rice
1 cup long grain white rice
2 small boxes of raisins (1/2 oz - I believe this is just one box Sunmaid)
about 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almond or a mixture
about 6 pieces or so of large dried fruits, such as apricots or prunes. Dates would work well also. (do not cut them because the skin will boil off and it's much better to just cut it on ur plate if you need to)
1 sprig of thyme
1TB cinnamon (dominant flavor)
2 teaspoons allspice (maybe a third one. This should be one of the dominant flavors)
5 cloves
1/2 TB coriander
1/2 to 1TB salt
2 TB onion
1 clove garlic (you don't need more, the spices should dominate in this dish)
5-10 peppercorns crushed in mortar and pestle, depending on desired spiciness (or use regular crushed, but it's a lot less spicy)
1 TB grated coconut (preferably unsweetened, but I used sweetened and it was fine)
1-1/2 cups chicken broth (beef would likely work well also)
1/2 TB oil
1/2 TB butter

I cooked my rice with 1-1/4 cups broth using the uncovered method that's typical in Dominican cooking, but I think this dish is actually better covered since there isn't much in it to make it as moist as rice dishes with meat in them. The Dominican style is to cook the rice uncovered on medium, stirring constantly until all of the water evaporates. After this, you cover and cook on low for 20 minutes. This creates a drier, more separated rice and can sometimes create a nice crust on the bottom and/or sides of the pot (which is desired in Dominican cooking). In the case of plain white rice, I love this method. I think it's also great for rices prepared with coconut milk instead of water or broth and it also works well with rice and meat dishes like Locrio because of the extra moisture/fat from the coconut milk and meat respectively. In the case of this dish, the typical method or a rice cooker is just fine. In this method, bring rice to a boil over medium heat while stirring it constantly, then you cover it for 20 minutes over low heat (#2 on numbered stove dials). Whatever you do, do NOT uncover your rice in this method until you have let it sit for 10 minutes AFTER it has cooked for 20. This way, all excess moisture evaporates and rice continues to cook to perfection.

Enjoy and let me know how it turns out!

Garlic Herb Steak

Do you guys ever randomly dream up recipes? I'm assuming I'm not the oddball out on this one. I do all the time and the ones I dream up are always the best. Last weekend I thought up this garlic herb steak marinade and it turned out to be amazing! It was so tasty! It really tasted like something from a fine restaurant's menu of gourmet foods. Try it out, my friends! I'm sure you'll love it!

Garlic Herb Steak (for 1lb of meat - I had ribeye)
3 cloves of fresh peeled garlic (add more if the cloves aren't a good size)
3 sprigs of fresh cilantro
a pinch of dried sage (about a teaspoon)
dried rosemary (this should be the predominate flavor, so maybe about 1/2 TBSP - I didn't measure)
about 10 black peppercorns (this is necessary to get a great spiciness)
1-2 teaspoons salt

about 1/2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

Place all of the ingredients in a mortar and pestle and pound into an even paste until well blended. Once paste is well blended, stir in extra virgin olive oil. Prepare meat by tenderizing with a fork, salting, and coating with a generous amount of the marinade. Add more olive oil, if necessary, to coat the steak evenly. Massage the marinade into meat. Let marinade for at least two hours, up to overnight.

Sear the meat on both sides over medium high in a hot skillet. Place uncovered in an oven heated to 425

Tip: I didn't have any fresh basil at the time, but I recommend adding two or 3 leaves of sweet basil, depending on the size of the leaves

Enjoy! If you try this recipe out, let me know what you think. I don't really use precise measurements, but they don't really matter in this recipe anyway, so it will turn out fine regardless.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

UMI Sushi!!!

Hey everyone!

It's been a while since my last post. Haven't really been eating out as much as usual, but Sunday I went to Umi. For those of you who have read my other posts, Umi is a sushi restaurant owned by the same people as Ichiban. Umi, of course, keeps up the high quality and flavorful goodness we have all come to expect from the owners of Ichiban. Umi is located across from Short Pump mall and, as you would expect based on the location, Umi is pricier. However, it does play the part to make up for the price difference. The menu has a few of the specialty rolls from Ichiban, but it also has some awesome one's only found at Umi. It has a very chic, modern decor with low lighting and deep purples and blues on the walls. It is very nice, clean, and intimate. You will wait a good bit for your food, just as you do at Ichiban, but it is well worth the wait and with such a nice ambiance, you don't mind spending a little time enjoying good conversation. And by the way, just like Ichiban, you get a nice photo album with photos of the plated rolls. This definitely comes in handy when it comes to making a decision so that you can see the size and amount of sushi you get and the type of sauce.

Sooo...the much awaited review... A bunch of friends and I went for my birthday and we all got a roll each and shared. My boyfriend and I got the Angel Roll and the Double Crunchy Roll and someone else at our table ordered the Superman. Those were the most memorable ones. The Superman was definitely my favorite of all of the Umi and Ichiban sushi. It was sooo incredibly flavorful! It has shrimp tempura, cream cheese, spicy crab, and caviar on top. That was, hands down, the best sushi I have ever had! My second favorite roll, counting the Ichiban ones, is the Double Crunchy Roll. Yes, it does defeat the purpose of eating a nice, healthy piece of sushi, the flavor was delightful! It has fried smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado. the cream cheese was nice and warm and melty and the salmon was so smoky it actually tasted like bacon. Can you imagine? Bacon and cream cheese in sushi and to top it off, it's all breaded in panko on the bottom side and lightly fried. Not a bit of greasiness, just wonderful flavor! This roll was great! Highly recommend both this and the Superman. Of course, the Richmond roll (one of the few rolls that are common between the two restaurants) is still a great option!

After we all ate, my boyfriend ordered another roll. I can't remember the name of it, but it was really expensive and it had steak and something else in it. I think it was $22. Whatever the roll was, just so you know, there are plenty of less expensive rolls that taste WAY better, although that one is tasty, too. But if we put it all in perspective, you're better off with a less expensive one because the flavor is amazing! In spite of the price, it just doesn't justify the price when you compare it to more moderately-priced options. This place is definitely worth crossing the river. haha all of you Richmonders know what I mean by that ;)!

Umi Sushi Bistro
11645 W. Broad Street
Richmond VA 23233
804.360.2077, 804.360.3336

Closed between the hours of two and 5PM in preparation for dinner.
***no lunch on Sundays***