B.C. salmon dressed in Ja­pa­nese flavours

Rich-tast­ing fish will work a treat with Ori­en­tal flavours when ac­com­pa­nied by rice salad and cu­cum­ber dish

Times Colonist - - Front Page - ERIC AKIS Sun­day Din­ner eakis@times­colonist.com

B.C. sock­eye salmon is in sea­son, so to­day I’ve cho­sen fresh sock­eye fil­lets to cre­ate a flavour­ful Ja­pane­ses­tyle sum­mer meal for four.

Sock­eye is a firm, tightly flaked fish, which makes it a good choice for cub­ing and skew­er­ing, as it holds to­gether well dur­ing the cook­ing process. Its rich-tast­ing flesh also works well with Ja­pa­nese-style flavours. That’s why I de­cided that I would make with it a seafood ver­sion of yak­i­tori, which is most of­ten made with chicken.

I started by mak­ing a yak­i­tori sauce, flavoured with such in­gre­di­ents as sake, soy sauce and mirin. Some of the sauce was used to mar­i­nate the cubed fish, be­fore it was skew­ered with green onion and grilled. The rest of the sauce was driz­zled on the yak­i­tori dur­ing and af­ter cook­ing.

To make a meal, I served the yak­i­tori with a sushi rice salad. It’s a cool, pleas­ingly sticky, sweet- and sour-tast­ing rice salad that con­tains a colour­ful mix of veg­eta­bles, cooked and cooled shi­itake mush­rooms, pick­led gin­ger and aro­matic sesame oil.

The salad paired well with the fish, as did the other side dish I served with it, cu­cum­ber sunomono.

The “su” in sunomono means vine­gar. In Ja­pa­nese cui­sine, sunomono is a term that refers to a range of vine­gar-based dishes.

To make my ver­sion of cu­cum­ber sunomono, I thinly sliced the veg­etable and mar­i­nated it in a rice vine­gar-based dress­ing.

The re­sult­ing dish is a palate-re­fresh­ing one that nicely com­ple­mented the rich tast­ing, nat­u­rally high-in-fat salmon.

Sock­eye Salmon Yak­i­tori

B.C. salmon cubed, de­li­ciously mar­i­nated, skew­ered with green onions, then grilled. Makes a nice Ja­pa­nese-style sum­mer meal when served with the sushi rice salad and cu­cum­ber sunomono recipes below. Prepa­ra­tion time: 35 min­utes, plus mar­i­nat­ing time Cook­ing time: About 12 min­utes Makes: Four (two yak­i­tori each) serv­ings 1/2 cup sake 1/2 cup soy sauce ( I used Kikko­man brand) 2 Tbsp mirin (see Note 1) 1 Tbsp gran­u­lated sugar 1 tsp finely grated fresh gin­ger 1 tsp corn­starch 500 grams sock­eye salmon fil­lets, skinned re­moved, flesh and cut into 24 (about 1-inch) cubes (see Note 2) 24 (2-inch pieces) green onion (white and pale green part only; see Note 3) • veg­etable oil for the grill

Make the yak­i­tori sauce/ mari­nade by plac­ing the sake, soy sauce, mirin, sugar, gin­ger and corn­starch in a small pot. Whisk to com­bine. Set pot over medium to medium-high heat, bring to a sim­mer. Sim­mer five min­utes, or un­til mix­ture is re­duced by about one-third. Re­move from the heat and cool to room tem­per­a­ture.

Pour 1/3 cup of the yak­i­tori sauce into a small bowl. Cover and re­frig­er­ate un­til needed. Pour the rest of the sauce into a medium bowl. Add the salmon and toss to coat. Cover, re­frig­er­ate and mar­i­nate salmon for two hours.

To pre­vent them from scorch­ing, while salmon mar­i­nates, soak eight, six-inch wooden skew­ers in cold wa­ter (see Note 4).

When salmon has mar­i­nated, pre­heat your in­door grill or bar­be­cue to medium-high. Thread three pieces of salmon, and three pieces of green onion, on each skewer (see Eric’s op­tions). Dis­card the mari­nade

In the mi­crowave, or in a small pot, warm the re­served 1/3 cup yak­i­tori sauce to just below a sim­mer.

Lightly oil the bars of the grill. Grill the salmon yak­i­tori two min­utes, then turn over and cook two min­utes more. Turn the salmon over again and baste with some of the warm yak­i­tori sauce. Cook yak­i­tori, one to two min­utes more, or un­til cooked through. Ar­range on a plat­ter, driz­zle with re­main­ing yak­i­tori sauce and serve.

Note 1: Mirin, a sweet, sake-based condi­ment, is sold in the Asian foods aisle of most su­per­mar­kets and at Ja­pa­nese food stores.

Note 2: If you don’t feel con­fi­dent about re­mov­ing the skin from the salmon your­self, buy the fish from a store with a fish counter and ask the fish­mon­ger to do it for you.

Note 3: You’ll need two bunches of green onions to get the pieces re­quired for this recipe. Save the top of the green onion for other uses, such as the salad recipe below.

Note 4: If you can’t find six­inch skew­ers, sim­ply cut longer ones in half. If you have that size of metal skew­ers at home, you can, of course, use them here.

Eric’s op­tions: You can skewer the cubed salmon and green onions a few hours be­fore cook­ing the yak­i­tori. Keep re­frig­er­ated un­til ready to grill and serve.

Sushi Rice Salad

This cool, sticky, sweet-and-sour-tast­ing sushi rice is tossed with colour­ful veg­eta­bles, earthy mush­rooms, pick­led gin­ger and sesame oil. Prepa­ra­tion time: 30 min­utes, plus mar­i­nat­ing time Cook­ing time: About 22 min­utes Makes: Four serv­ings 1 cup sushi rice (see Note 1) 1 1/3 cups cold wa­ter 3 Tbsp rice vine­gar 1 Tbsp mirin 4 tsp sugar 1/2 tsp salt, plus more as needed 2 tsp veg­etable oil 12 medium, fresh shi­itake mush­rooms, tough stems dis­carded, caps sliced 1 Tbsp sesame oil 2 Tbsp pick­led gin­ger, cut into thin strips 2 tsp pick­led gin­ger juice, or to taste (see Note 2) 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion 4 medium radishes, halved and thinly sliced 1/3 cup grated car­rot • roasted sesame seeds, to taste, (op­tional; see Note 3)

Place the rice and wa­ter in a small pot (mine was 14 cen­time­tres wide), set over high heat and bring to a rapid boil. Turn the heat to its low­est set­ting, cover the rice and steam un­til ten­der, about 15 min­utes.

While the rice cooks, place the vine­gar, mirin, sugar and 1/2 tsp salt in a sec­ond small pot. Set over medium-high heat, bring to a boil for a few sec­onds and stir to dis­solve the sugar. Re­move from the heat.

When cooked, spoon and spread the rice into a large, shal­low-sided pan.

Stir in the vine­gar mix­ture and then cool the rice to room tem­per­a­ture.

While rice cools, heat oil in a skil­let set over medium to medium-high heat. Add the mush­rooms and cook un­til ten­der, about five min­utes. Re­move from the heat and let mush­rooms cool in the skil­let.

When the rice and mush­rooms have cooled, put them in a salad bowl.

Add the pick­led gin­ger, gin­ger juice, green onion, radishes and car­rot and toss to com­bine. Cover and re­frig­er­ate salad un­til ready to serve. It can be made a few hours be­fore needed.

If de­sired, be­fore you serve the salad, sprin­kle it with some roasted sesame seeds, to taste.

Note 1: Sushi rice is sold in the Asian food aisle of most su­per­mar­kets and at Ja­pa­nese food stores, as is pick­led gin­ger. Brands of sushi rice I have seen in­clude Nishiki, Lund­berg and Kokuho Rose.

Note 2: Pick­led gin­ger juice is sim­ply the liq­uid found in a bot­tle of pick­led gin­ger.

Note 3: Roasted sesame seeds are sold in bags or bot­tles at some su­per­mar­kets. If you can’t find them, cook reg­u­lar sesame seeds in a skil­let set over medium heat un­til lightly toasted.

Cu­cum­ber Sunomono

Thin, crisp slices of cu­cum­ber are soaked in a rice vine­gar dress­ing with fresh gin­ger. It’s a re­fresh­ing side dish that goes great with salmon. Prepa­ra­tion time: 10 min­utes, plus mar­i­nat­ing time Cook­ing time: none Makes: Four serv­ings 1/4 cup rice vine­gar 2 tsp gran­u­lated sugar 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp finely grated fresh gin­ger 1 3/4 cups thinly sliced mini English cu­cum­ber (see Note)

Place vine­gar, sugar, salt and gin­ger in a medium bowl. Whisk un­til sugar and salt are dis­solved. Add the cu­cum­ber and toss to coat each slice with some of the vine­gar mix­ture.

Cover, re­frig­er­ate and let cu­cum­bers mar­i­nate at least one hour be­fore serv­ing

Note: Three, four- to five-inch­long, mini English cu­cum­bers yielded the amount needed, sliced, for this recipe. You can use a hand­held slicer, man­dolin, slic­ing at­tach­ment of your food pro­ces­sor or very sharp knife to thinly slice it. Eric Akis is the au­thor of eight cook­books, in­clud­ing seven in his Ev­ery­one Can Cook se­ries. His col­umns ap­pear in the Life sec­tion Wed­nes­day and Sun­day.

This three-dish Ja­pa­nese-style sum­mer meal in­cludes sock­eye salmon yak­i­tori, sushi rice salad and cu­cum­ber sunomono.

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