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Homemade Sushi

24 Feb

Thank goodness for the warm(er) weather this weekend. I dodged puddles Saturday and Sunday, going for long walks around the neighborhood. It felt so good to be outside again. I was also inspired to put together a few food projects this weekend, including sushi.

My mom taught me how to make sushi when I was in middle school. My mom, sister, and I loved making it together – we made all types of veggie rolls, Philadelphia rolls (smoked salmon, cream cheese, cucumber), and others. Yes, it takes a while, and no, it’s not the same as having a trained-for-years sushi chef carefully carve sashimi, but it’s still a healthy, delicious, and fun-to-make treat.

When I was an RA in college, I hosted a sushi party for my residents. I prepared all of the ingredients, set them out buffet-style, and then everyone made sushi. It was a lot of fun and I have since done the same thing with some friends in Boston. I wrote a quick post about it years ago with one blurry picture, so when I made sushi again this weekend, I thought I’d post an update with a little more information.

homemade sushi

Making Sushi: Ingredients

  • sushi rice (see instructions below)
  • nori
  • blanched asparagus
  • julienned carrots, cucumber, red pepper
  • thinly sliced avocado
  • wasabi (I buy the all-natural powdered kind and add water)
  • pickled ginger (I should make this sometime, I’ve never tried though!)
  • other items: cutting board, bamboo sushi roller, plastic wrap to cover sushi roller, sharp knife

ingredients for sushi

Sushi Rice

  • 2 cup sushi rice (short grain)
  • 2 cups water
  • pinch salt
  • sugar (about a tablespoon)
  • rice wine vinegar (about 2 tablespoons)

I love to use a rice cooker to make sushi rice. Simply rinse the rice in water until the water runs clear, put in the rice maker with the water (1 cup of water for every cup of rice) and salt, and turn on. When the rice is cooked (i.e. when the rice cooker lets you know it’s done – so easy), transfer to a large bowl, and carefully fold over the rice with a rice paddle or large spoon so it begins to cool. As you are turning the rice, add about half a tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. Keep turning over the rice, and then add the same amount of sugar and vinegar again. If you’re making a larger batch of rice, just use a bit more. I never measure them out and the rice always tastes great.

Put everything together!

1. With a sheet of nori on the plastic wrap, sushi roller, and cutting board (see image above), add about a 1/4 cup of rice to the lower third of the nori. Lightly press the rice down – I like to use the paddle and my fingers with a little water on them. Add a few pieces of vegetables (5-8 slices, depending on what fits) on top of the rice. Then, roll it up! Start at the bottom, rolling tightly. Wet the top edge of the nori with a little water. When you have a tightly wrapped roll, use a sharp knife to cut the roll into pieces.

To go with the sushi, I made miso soup with seaweed, tofu, and shiitake mushrooms (my go-to cold weather soup lately), and green tea.


South African Cuisine at Karoo Restaurant on Cape Cod

29 Nov

I love visiting Cape Cod in the fall and winter – it’s a family tradition that has taught me how to enjoy travel during all seasons. As nice as it is to wander through the Provincetown crowds and lay on the beach in the summer, the colder months represent a slower and more subdued side of the Cape that I appreciate just as much.

Interior of Karoo Restaurant in Eastham Massachusetts

My parents had been to Karoo once before and had a great experience, so I was excited to try South African food for the first time. There are two Karoo locations on the Cape: the seasonal Karoo Kafe in Provincetown (opened in 2002) and the year-round Karoo Restaurant in Eastham (opened this year). In both locations, Chef Sanette Groenewald brings flavors from the Western Cape in South Africa where she grew up,  while incorporating extensive vegan and gluten-free options.

South African cuisine is very multicultural as a result of colonization and immigration. As in all areas where people have experienced racial injustice, it is difficult to celebrate unique combinations of food that result without recognizing that people have been discriminated against or worse for decades. However, I always feel that people can appreciate and respect fusion cuisines if they understand the history that contributed to those flavors. Enjoying South African food at Karoo inspires me to better understand the history of the region.

Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer Stout

Karoo in Eastham has a great beer selection, including many local breweries on tap and imported bottles. One of their weekly draft specials was Clown Shoes Vampire Slayer Smoked Imperial Stout from Ipswich. I enjoyed the strong coffee and molasses tastes that are smoothed by a hint of sweet brown sugar  – all of these deep flavors were a nice complement to the light curry of my meal. I liked the glass that it was served in as well – a mini goblet of sorts.

Peanut Soup

The West African Peanut Soup has a pumpkin-carrot base with hints of peanut. The clean peanut taste reminds me of fresh peanuts, which I really enjoyed. This was a great appetizer, particularly for the rainy and blustery day that we visited.

Snail Rangoon

Inside the snail rangoon at Karoo

I love trying new-to-me food and I am slowly adding to my list of ingredients and dishes that I’ve tried and cooked with. One food that I had never tried until Karoo was snails! I know, I can’t believe it either. The Fried Snail Rangoons served with a soy, ginger and honey sauce are not your typical escargot. Each of the five pieces that come in the appetizer are unfortunately mostly wanton wrapper, but the creamy snail inside the middle is very pleasant. I look forward to trying more snail dishes in the future, although I probably wouldn’t order this dish again.

Peri Peri Wings

These Peri-Peri Wings, however, I will absolutely order again. The Karoo website describes Peri-Peri sauce as an “African Portuguese sauce is made from tomato, chilies, onions, ginger, and a variety of different herbs and spices. Spicy, not hot.” It is SO good and my perfect kind of heat for wings. The grilled chicken wing meat is extremely tender and it is served with the perfect amount of sauce. There are a must-try and I can’t wait to make my own.

For my meal I ordered Bobotie, the national dish of South Africa, which is a beef meatloaf (my second meatloaf after the Painted Burro Yucatan Meatloaf!). This bobotie is a very soft texture, gently flavored with curry, and completely melts in your mouth. It is topped with a thin layer of egg, baked, and served with rice, chutney, and a few banana slices. The picture I have from the meal does not do the dish justice  (it’s really not that pretty of a dish in general), so just trust me that you need to try bobotie.

The atmosphere was very easy-going and welcoming. Our server was fantastic – he seemed to really enjoyed working there and was happy to answer all of our questions. The bartender was also very friendly and knowledgeable – Karoo would be a great place for drinks (their cocktail list has some fun local flavors)  and appetizers at the bar if you are looking for something lighter.

I’m so glad Karoo was my first experience with South African cuisine and I hope to return soon.

Karoo Restaurant, 3 Main Street, Unit 32B, Eastham, MA

Lemon Quinoa Artichoke Salad

23 Jul

Lemon Quinoa Artichoke Salad

I love quinoa, but without some focused flavoring, it can be on the bland side. Cooking Light has Cooking with Quinoa: 22 Recipes, including one recipe for lemon quinoa with artichokes. I made a few changes from the original version here on MyRecipes. This is an easy recipe for a weeknight meal that can also be lunch the next day. Plus, combining lemon and artichokes creates a sweet and slightly tangy flavor that’s perfect for summer. I couldn’t get enough.

Lemon Quinoa Artichoke Salad Recipe


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 diced sweet onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 jar of artichoke hearts (I used a 12 oz jar)
  • 1 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • greens of your choice, perhaps mixed greens or a spinach salad


  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and thyme; saute for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add artichokes and saute for about 2 minutes. Add broth and quinoa, turn burner to high until it reaches a boil. Cover, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 18 minutes or until liquid is completely absorbed.
  2. Remove pan from heat. Stir in parsley, rind, juice, and salt. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature over a bed of greens.

Roasted Lamb with Tzatziki and Spring Green Salad

15 Apr

I created a Greek-inspired lamb recipe. The Greek influence shouldn’t be too surprising – I’m always looking to regional flavors for my recipes. But the leg of lamb part – that’s something new for EatingPlaces.

Earlier this month I was invited to participate in the Second Annual American Lamb Pro-Am. Bloggers from the Greater Boston Area are invited to create an original recipe featuring lamb. After the recipes are posted, people vote for their favorite recipe. Voting has already started and will continue through April 26. To vote, click here. Based on the votes, top recipe-creators continue on to be paired with an amazing local chef and cook for folks as a team at the culminating lamb extravaganza American Lamb Pro-Am event on May 19. And Boston Chefs asked me to be a contestant!

So this week I picked up a 9-pound leg of lamb from the Boston Chefs Lamb Pick-Up Party at Tavern Road in South Boston. That’s a LOT of lamb! I had a great time meeting folks from Boston Chefs – Paul Schiavone (CEO) and Kate Vandeveld (Events Coordinator) – who are coordinating the Lamb Pro-Am event, and enjoying a cocktail and lamb apps from Tavern Road. More on Tavern Road another time, but for now, onto the recipes!

This meal has a few steps, but much of it can be done a two or three days in advance. If you like how this recipe sounds, you can help me get to the next level by voting here beginning on Wednesday. Plus, if I’m a finalist, I’ll cook this recipe for you at the live event!

Lamb with Mint Fennel Tzatziki Sauce and Spring Greens Salad

Roasted Lamb with Mint Fennel Tzatziki and Spring Green Salad

There are three main components to this dish: the lamb, tzatziki sauce, and greens with pickled onions. The onions, tzatziki, and herb marinade need to be made in advance, so I’ll begin with those:

Pickled Red Onions

Quick-Pickled Red Onions

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1/4 cup rice vinegar

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

3 bay leaves

hot pepper of any sort (I used 2 dried pequin peppers)

3 red onions, cut into thin rounds

Combine the white vinegar, rice vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaves, and pepper in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the onions (I did this in two batches so they were completed covered with liquid) and cook just until the purple edges turn pink.

Pour the onions and liquid into a glass jar – 3 onions should snugly fit in a quart-size jar. Let cool to room temperature and then put in the refrigerator. Marinate at least overnight before eating.

Stored in the refrigerator they will keep for about two weeks, if you don’t eat them first!

Mint Fennel Tzatziki Sauce

Fennel and Mint Tzatziki

1 cup Greek yogurt (plain Fage works well)
2 green onions (bottoms cut off, roughly chop white and green parts)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of about one lemon)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup finely shaved bulb fennel

Blend all ingredients except for the fennel in a food processor. Once completely combined, stir in the shaved fennel. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours. Will keep for about 4 days.

Lamb Marinade

This is enough marinade for a 3-4 pound piece of lamb. If working with a piece over 5 pounds, double the recipe.

2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of about one lemon)
4 cloves garlic
3 sprigs (about 1/3 cup) fresh rosemary, stems removed
7-8 sprigs (about 1/3 cup) fresh oregano, stems removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor. Put aside while you prepare your leg of lamb (see below).

Roasted Leg of Lamb
Roasted Lamb

The star of the show, although I must stay the other components of this dish really hold their own as well. Give yourself enough time (at least 30 minutes) to trim the fat and tough connective tissue from the lamb. Removing these pieces is worth the investment and, once you get comfortable with the process, it’s kind of fun. I completely lost track of time dividing up the huge piece of meat into clean smaller pieces.

1 leg of lamb
kitchen string

Set up your work station for cleaning the lamb. I worked on a baking sheet with sides that was covered with a layer of paper towels. Using a sharp knife, kitchen sheers, and my hands, I slowly worked off the pieces of fat and anything else that wasn’t meat, putting the pieces into a bowl. You won’t be able to remove everything, but once you get started your bowl will begin to fill up fairly quickly. As you work, you’ll see that large pieces of meat separate when you remove the fat. This is fine, as you’ll be wrapping everything up with string into a little bundle.

Once you have the pieces of meat, put them together into a log. With your kitchen string sitting in a small pot next to you (I learned this from Chef Gordon Ramsay), wrap the string horizontally around the meat and tie a knot, leaving a foot-long tail. Then, make a loop with the side of the string connected to the larger ball, slide the loop over the log and drag it closest to you, pulling it tight. Continue making loops until the entire package is secure. For a great video on the process, go to 0:47 in this video.

Once your lamb is bundled up, rub the marinade all over it, wrap in plastic, and put in the fridge overnight or up to two days.

Cooking the Lamb

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Add a little vegetable oil to a cast-iron skillet or other large oven-proof pan. Set burner to medium-high until the oil is hot. Place the lamb in the oil and brown each side (about 2 minutes for each side).

Transfer the pan into the oven and set your timer for roughly 20 minutes per pound of meat. I was cooking three pounds, so at around 45 minutes I checked the temperature and, sure enough, it needed another 15 minutes.

Your thermometer should read at least 135F. For detailed information about lamb cooking and safety, look here.

When you reach the desired temperature, take the lamb out of the oven and tent some foil over the roast. Let sit for about 20 minutes (the lamb will continue cooking and juices will settle).

THEN…last step – put together a simple salad and plate your masterpiece!

Spring Green Salad

blanched petite peas
pickled red onions (see above recipe)

Toss together arugula and radicchio with a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Plate greens and then add peas and onions on top.

If you’d like to plate this as a meal, see the top image. Or, if you’re looking for a small app, you could do something like the image below. Enjoy!

Lamb with Mint Fennel Tzatziki Sauce and Spring Greens Salad
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