Recipe: Sesame Crusted Tuna with Peanut Noodles and Spicy Cucumber Salad

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Having eaten such fresh and delicious seafood in Seattle a couple of weeks ago, especially at Shucker’s, I was inspired to make my work fish dinner at home. Everything that comes out of kg kitchen has a twist though, so here’s my idea of a delicious fish dinner for company or family. Sushi grade tuna is marinated in a salty, spicy mix of soy, ginger and chili, then crusted in sesame and seared. To go with the tuna is a spicy cucumber salad, and peanut noodles that are so easy to make, you’ll be wondering why you’ve ordered them from takeout all these  years.

Sesame Crusted Tuna:

  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce—the fish sauce is already salty, so a lower sodium soy is better. A sweet soy sauce like tamari would work nicely too
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Sambal Olek—an Indonesian red chili paste flavored with salt and vinegar. It is very spicy, without the sweetness associated with sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon of fresh ginger
  • 1/3 of bunch of scallions, sliced
  • 3-4 large sushi-grade tuna steaks–I recommend you splurge for the high end tuna. Trust me, you’ll taste the difference
  • 2 large bulbs of baby bok choy
  1. Combine soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sambal, ginger, and scallions in a medium bowl
  2. Add the tuna to the marinade, and let the fish sit in the marinade for 1-2 hours to absorb the flavors of the sauceDSC00301
  3. Remove the fish from the marinade, and shake off excess liquidDSC00313
  4. While the fish is slightly wet, drip it into sesame seeds and crust both sides with sesame
  5. In a sauté pan, heat up some vegetable oil on medium heat, and get the tuna ready
  6. Cook the tuna steaks for about two minute per side—pay attention because it cooks fast, and higher quality tuna is best cooked rare
  7. Sauté some baby bok choy with garlic and excess fish marinadeDSC00317 DSC00319
  8. To serve: lay the bok chy on a big platter, and then set the sesame crusted tuna atop the bok choyDSC00327

Peanut Noodles:

  • 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of (crunchy) peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 1 box of angel hair pasta
  • 2/3 bunch of scallions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon of white sesame seed
  1. Combine the first 6 ingredients and whisk together until it becomes a thick, homogeneous sauce—a blender or food processor works as well, but I like the texture that the nut pieces give to the sauce when it’s hand mixedDSC00303
  2. Chill the sauce for at least 20-30 minutesDSC00318
  3. Cook the pasta according to package directions, and drain wellDSC00320 DSC00321 DSC00322
  4. Toss the hot pasta with the sauce, sesame seeds and scallions
  5. Chill for 15 minutes in the refrigerator
  6. Serve in a big bowl, garnished with chopped scallions, and some chopsticksDSC00329

Spicy Cucumber Salad

  • 2 hot house cucumbers–also known as English or seedless cucumbers. I like this variety of cucumber since it’s longer and the skin is much thinner, so you can eat it easily. Plus is has much less seeds and comes prewashedDSC00307
  • 1 tablespoon of sambal olek
  • 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon of white sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. Chop the cucumbers—skin on—into half moon piecesDSC00304
  2. In a bowl, combine the sambal, sesame oil, soy sauce and vinegarDSC00312
  3. Toss the cucumbers with the sauce and let sit for at least 20 minutes—the longer it sits, the more the cucumbers will expel liquid, and absorb the flavors of the sauceDSC00315
  4. Serve garnished with sesame seeds over the top on a bright plateDSC00316

This is a wonderful meal to serve for dinner to your family–like I did–or use it to wow your dinner guests as you take them on a culinary tour of Asia. Leftovers from all three of these dishes will taste even better the next day!

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A Culinary Tour of Machane Yehuda Market (Part IV: What I Ate On My Israeli Vacation)

I would be very remiss if I were to only focus on restaurants in Israel. Throughout the small country, there are many, many outdoor markets or “the shuk.”

Photo Jun 04, 10 30 05One of the most well-known markets in Israel is Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. The market has over 250 vendors and sells everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, spices, meat, fish, cheese, breads, pastries, and more. It’s a cornucopia of smells, textures, flavors, sights, and beautiful food scenery—food porn really.

Photo Jun 04, 11 25 51Photo Jun 04, 11 47 06Photo Jun 04, 11 20 13Photo Jun 04, 11 47 27My trip was lucky enough to go on a culinary tour of Machane Yehuda, and have a fabulous guide—or madrich in Hebrew. Residents of Jerusalem come to this market from all over the city in order to do their shopping for the week, and on Thursdays and Fridays it gets super crowded with all the people doing their shopping for Shabbat. In fact, on Friday afternoon there is a bugle that plays to signify the market is closing for the Jewish Sabbath. Our guide gave us a funny anecdote on the market as well: How do you know if a woman is married, has children, etc., in the market? On Wednesdays the grandmothers shop since they have lots of requests from their grandchildren for special treats, on Thursdays it’s the mothers since they cook all day Friday, Friday morning it’s the married women, so they can cook Friday afternoon, and Friday afternoon it’s the single women since they forget to cook until the last minute 😉

Photo Jun 04, 10 16 47 Photo Jun 04, 10 16 49 Photo Jun 04, 10 16 51 Photo Jun 04, 10 16 53To start off our culinary tour, our guide went into the market and brought out some traditional appetizers and snacks sold throughout the shuk. Kibbeh, also sometimes known as kubbeh are football-shaped croquettes made of bulgar wheat, stuffed with minced lamb or beef, and baked. It has a thick skin that keeps the meat inside moist and delicious. It is often served with tahini to dip, and a staple dish in many Middle Eastern countries. The next treat for us to sample were cigars, which are not tobacco, but get their inspiration from it—they somewhat resemble cigarettes and consist of ground meat or potatoes rolled inside phyllo dough that’s then deep-fried. Though it sounds very heavy, it’s actually light and delicious. They have a nice kick of spice as well. The final pre-tour sample was stuffed grape leaves. The grape leaves are a vegetarian option and are filled with a mediterranean rice mixed with herbs, lemon, garlic, and other spices. They have a briny quality, very acidic and has a wonderful cleansing quality for the palette.

Photo Jun 04, 10 32 24 Photo Jun 04, 10 34 15 Photo Jun 04, 10 35 44The next stop on our tour was for the #1 food of Israel—Hummus! Waiting for us at a small cafe across from one of the entrances to the market  was a table filled with a variety of hummus and hummus-themed dishes. One of the plates had sautéed mushrooms, one with fresh chickpeas, one studded with roasted garlic, a bowl of tahini and a plate of fresh, hot, crispy falafel and more. The falafel balls, especially, were fresh from the fryer and even though they burnt the roof of my mouth a bit, they were soft and pillowy on the inside and a crunch while biting into the outer coating.

Photo Jun 04, 10 58 22 Photo Jun 04, 10 58 23 Photo Jun 04, 10 58 56We next stopped at an Eastern European cafe further into the market area for some khachapuri. Khachapuri is a traditional Georgian (the country, not the state) snack of cheese filled bread. This dish is so popular among Georgian people that it is sometimes believed to be more popular than pizza, and is, at times, used to measure inflation—similar to the butter and guns model in Keynesian economics. The stuffed bread is cooked in a pizza/laffa oven, which makes it chewy, but also slightly charred with a nice crisp crust. We also sampled a khachapuri filled with beans as well. While not as popular as the cheese version, it was tasty as well.

Photo Jun 04, 11 16 42 Photo Jun 04, 11 22 07 Photo Jun 04, 11 23 13 Photo Jun 04, 11 23 18We then spent some more time walking around the market and had the opportunity to taste delicious, fresh juices and smoothies, homemade spice blends, zahtar flavored flatbread and also buy some fruit, cookies, and more gifts to take home.

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Photo Jun 04, 11 19 48One of the interesting place we passed towards one end of the market was Casino de Paris. It’s a new project that developed from an entrepreneur that already opened another coffee shop in the market and has been very successful in transforming parts of the market into modern, chic hotspots. Casino de Paris is open after the market closes, and there are other locations, including in London and Paris.

Photo Jun 04, 11 26 09 Photo Jun 04, 11 26 25 Photo Jun 04, 11 27 17 Photo Jun 04, 11 27 24 Photo Jun 04, 11 30 51 Photo Jun 04, 11 38 00The final stop on our gastronomic journey was at Kingdom of Halva or Mamlechet Ha’Halva in Hebrew. Kingdom of Halva has multiple stalls around the market and is known as the place to buy halva in Jerusalem. Halva is a traditional, Jewish dessert usually made with some sort of nut butter, and most Israeli halva is made from tahini or sesame paste. Kingdom of Halva makes all of its halva varieties homemade, and uses a blend of 90% sesame paste made from whole grain, Ethiopian sesame seeds and 10% sugar. They have over 100 flavors available including, but not limited to: pistachio, Belgian chocolate, pecan, coffee, nougat, piña colada, and more. The halva here is so delicious. It has a nutty taste from the sesame, a non-cloying sweetness, and a slightly grainy texture that melts in your mouth. Another great thing about halva is that it can be stored at room temperature for most of the year and last for months. Kingdom of Halva also makes many varieties of tahini that can be used to make delicious falafel or hummus, as a condiment on Mediterranean sandwiches, as a dip for bread, or even eaten on its own.

Photo Jun 04, 12 04 42 Photo Jun 04, 12 04 45Although our tour of the market was over, our guide surprised us with another treat to end the afternoon of Marzipan rugelach. Marzipan rugelach—as often assumed—do not actually have any marzipan in them, but rather are named since they were first made at the Marzipan Bakery in Jerusalem. These rugelach cookies differ from traditional rugelach, often flavored with cinnamon or raisins, with a flaky exterior, as they are filled with chocolate. In addition, marzipan rugelach are sticky, fudgy, intensely chocolatey, and have a cult following in Israel (and among many Jews around the world as well). They are super decadent with a wonderful richness, doughy and exceedingly sweet. They are almost like crack rugelach—they are that good and worth a trip to Jerusalem just to try these treats. What a perfect way to end our afternoon at Machane Yehuda market.

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Photo Jun 04, 11 54 41So I hope you’re inspired to go out and eat some tasty Israeli treats, or even take a trip to Jerusalem and visit the market yourselves! B’Teiavon and stay hungry!

What I Ate On My Israel Vacation

I recently returned from a visit to Israel. The trip was amazing and we did so many great activities – rafting in the Galilee River, riding ATV’s in Golan Heights near the Syrian border, partying and relaxing on the beach in Tel Aviv and much more. However, my favorite part of the trip was the delicious food that we had. Everyday there was a big spread at breakfast of salads, breads, fish, cheeses, yogurts, bourekas, and juice. The large Israeli breakfast is well-known and filled me up for lots of activities throughout the day. Yet it wasn’t just the breakfast that filled me up. Israel has become hotspot for a growing food scene.

IMG_2689FullSizeRender-1Nowhere is the growing culinary movement more prevalent than in Tel Aviv—the cultural capital of Israel. Tel Aviv is part beach town, but also had a big downtown area that is reminiscent of San Francisco. Plenty of young chefs come there to cut their teeth and open some amazing restaurants.

FullSizeRender-12One such restaurant that I had the pleasure of dining in was Branja, in Tel Aviv’s super trendy Sarona complex—a blend of historic Tel Aviv architecture, modern urban green space, and a mix of stores, cute cafes, and hip restaurants right in the middle of the city. Even better, many of the restaurants, bars and cafes are open on Shabbat (Friday night/Saturday day). Branja is a Spanish-Mediterranean inspired restaurant, housed in a two-story Templar building that allows for a vibrant first floor restaurant, and a night bar and private dining space on the second floor. Since I was part of a big group, we had rented out the upstairs area, which was a treat—especially the wonderful terrace.

IMG_2692 IMG_2693 We started the night off with a wonderful happy hour—waiters offered flutes of effervescent champagne, glasses of spicy red wine, and mugs of crisp, cold beer. There was a cute lounge bar in the salon with drink refills and they were very accommodating for our large group size. The dining room had a very rustic chic feel to it, with large, rectangular wooden tables set simply with ceramic plates and glass cups. IMG_2700IMG_2701Our meal began with a simple salad of peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, and cucumber in a light dressing made with fruity olive oil. Not only was the salad fresh and light, but also so pretty to look at with bold colors. There were also big baskets of freshly baked bread—white or wheat—served with creamy butter and house made schug, a traditional, spicy Israeli condiment made from hot peppers. The mix of the slightly sweet yet salty butter and the spicy schug spread on the bread made for a wonderful pop of flavors in my mouth. It was complemented nicely by some briny olives.

IMG_2702Next up was a plate of thinly sliced Sirloin Carpaccio. The beef was flavored with aged balsamic vinegar and pistachio to give it a nice punch of acidity, as well as an earthy flavor, and garnished with some peppery arugula that helped balance the richness of the meat.

IMG_2703IMG_2704To follow, we had some fried red mullet with a crispy coating, served with a Tzatziki and a tomato salsa reminiscent of a cocktail sauce. The fish was moist, and the bones were so small that you were able to bite right through them and eat the fish whole if you like. A plate with a large potato and cheese pancake arrived as well, which was tasty but didn’t strike me as super Mediterranean in nature.

FullSizeRender-4My favorite appetizer of the night were the lamb pierogies. The pierogi were pan-fried with a nice crust and a savory, slightly smoky lamb filling. They were garnished with a pan sauce and plated on a black plate which made them look even more enticing.

FullSizeRender-9We had finally arrived at the main course, and had a choice of gnocchi, chicken or ram–which many of us assumed was lamb at first. The gnocchi was served in a white butter sauce that was mild in flavor, but was nicely garnished with long pieces of Parmesan. The mini-dumplings were cooked al dente as to maintain a good bite without being mushy. They were also tossed with some asparagus that really woke the flavors up and helped cut through the richness of the sauce. My only complaint would be that I wish the potato in the gnocchi was incorporated a bit more.

FullSizeRender-6 FullSizeRender-8The second option available was for a chicken kabob, which was marinated in Middle Eastern spices, including cumin, garlic, za’atar, and harissa. The chicken was skewered and cooked perfectly. It was moist, and the chicken had a spice crust that helped seal the juices in the meat. It was plated with roasted eggplant and tahini. A popular cooking method for eggplants in Israel is to cut the vegetable in half lengthwise, then roast it until the flesh becomes super creamy and delicious. This eggplant was dressed with tahini sauce–made from sesame–and was a nice contrast in flavor to the bold poultry meat.

IMG_2714The final choice of entrees was ram steak on a stick. This was actually my first time eating ram, and, although we had to wait a little extra time for it to be prepared, it was very tasty! The meat wasn’t too chewy and had wonderful grill marks and was cooked somewhere between medium-rare and medium. It was plated with spicy, peppers, a generous amount of roasted potatoes, and demiglace.

FullSizeRender-13After our large meal we, of course, needed a delectable dessert, and Branja did not disappoint. We were presented with a trio of desserts. The creamy, mini cheesecake almost had a key lime pie flavor. It was not too tangy or sweet, and absolutely refreshing–especially following such a heavy meal. The lime crumbs on top were a nice touch. The plate also included some wonderful churros that were crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle. They emitted an amazing cinnamon aroma and were served with a bittersweet, dark chocolate dipping sauce. The final pastry of the trip was a dense chocolate cake square with nougat. The cake was intensely chocolatey, but not super sweet. It was delicious, but my favorite part was actually the house made whip cream.FullSizeRender

Overall, dinner at Branja was absolutely delicious and such a great taste of the local, Tel Aviv food scene. We followed up our meal with a wonderful wine tasting at Tasting Room, also in the Sarona complex, and went back to our hotel that night with our bellies full and having had a wonderful night. Check back for posts on “What I Ate On My Israeli Vacation.”

Branja
15 Rav Aluf David Elazar Street,
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

Smorgasburg: Feasting in Brooklyn

New York is a city filled with food—from old school Jewish delis, to giant slices of NY pizza, chewy everything bagels, authentic Chinatown dim sum, celebrity chef restaurants and more. In the borough of Brooklyn, food has become even more of a modern commodity. In 2011, the Brooklyn Flea company began an all-food that they named Smorgasburg—a reference to the Swedish word Smörgåsbord that’s often used as a colloquialism for a large spread of food, or choices.

FullSizeRender-26FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-1Smorgasburg is a foodie paradise. It takes place on weekends from late April – early November, in Williamsburg’s Kent State Park on Saturdays and at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5 in DUMBO on Sundays. At each location, local food vendors, food entrepreneurs, food trucks/carts etc. come and sell their products. This is not an event for the timid eater—you’ll wish you had 3 stomachs with all the selections. My plan is to try each stall at least once over the course of the season, and here’s my first entry for the 2015 season.

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Mac n' Cheese
Mac n’ Cheese
Classic Grilled Cheese
Classic Grilled Cheese

We arrived around 12:30, so there were already a lot of people around. I was in a group of 3, and we decided to share a few things from different vendors. We decided to start with something semi-breakfast, and got on line at Milk Truck. Milk Truck’s menu is basically exactly as it sounds – Mac n cheese, grilled cheeses and milkshakes. We ordered the Milk Truck Classic ($5.95) and added bacon. The sandwich was cheesy, hot, and crispy. The Gruyere cheese was creamy, gooey, and had a nice deeply nutty Swiss flavor. The bread had some nice grill lines and was a great way to start the day.FullSizeRender-6FullSizeRender-5

Bacon, Egg and Cheese
Asian Bacon sandwich
French Toast sandwich
French Toast sandwich

Our next stop was another semi-breakfast stop at Rise and Swine for the French Toast Sandwich ($9) with bacon! The sandwich consisted of cinnamon-cardamom French toast, lots of chewy bacon, and cream cheese. The French toast was sweet, but also slightly earthy, the bacon was fatty and delicious, and the cream cheese layer gave a nice tang. The cream cheese also kept the sandwich moist, and provided a contrast of temperatures–hot toast, hot bacon and cold cream cheese. I put a squirt of hot sauce—from another Smorgasburg vendor–and some maple syrup on my sandwich. It made it sticky and delicious, and the hot sauce highlighted a lot of the flavors in the rest of the sandwich.

IMG_1862On the way to our next culinary delight, we had some amazing samples from local food entrepreneurs. Spicy citrus horseradish from Ish Premium Horseradish, tangy vinegar-based hot sauce made from carrots at Tango Chili Sauce, earth truffle honey from The Truffleist, decadent pineapple velvet cake from Piece of Velvet, chewy and meaty filet mignon beef jersey from Three Jerks Jerky, as well as a ginger infused cocktail sauce from Tink’s Red Ginger Cocktail Sauce.

FullSizeRender-15We decided on a slight different strategy for the next pit stop—I waited on line for our food, while my two companions got us something to drink. They came back a few minutes later with some Prickly Pear Cactus Limeade ($4 or $5) from Zia Green Chile Company. The limeade was so refreshing, especially on what turned out to be a hot day. It was tangy, sour, slightly sweet, chillingly cool, and the perfect drink for an afternoon of eating.IMG_1830FullSizeRender-14

Lamb Merguez Scotch Egg with Yogurt Sauce
Lamb Merguez Scotch Egg with Yogurt Sauce

While off getting their drink on, I was holding our spot in line at Imperial Egg NYC. Imperial Egg makes awesomely unique Scotch eggs, which I’ve only seen before in London. A traditional Scotch egg features a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and then baked or fried. At Imperial Egg, they are taking the already unique idea of a Scotch egg even more out of the box.  They have flavor combinations like chicken sausage with a sweet soy aioli, butter bean, cheddar and enchilada sauce, or one with spicy chorizo. We went with the lamb merguez topped with yogurt ($9). The initial bite was meaty and juicy, with a slight kick from the spicy lamb sausage. The outside of the egg was crunchy from the Panko with a sort of soft center that was also creamy. The egg was fatty in a totally unexpected way. It wasn’t as heavy or greasy as expected, even though it was fried. The frisée and parsley garnishes give the dish a nice change of textures.

FullSizeRender-17FullSizeRender-16We decided to take a slight detour from the savory offerings and wandered over to look at the desserts. We passed by some delicious looking whoopee pies, gourmet cookies and fudge before we found out next stop – Gooey and Co. The sign was advertising gooey butter cake at the price point of three for $5—we were three people, there were three pieces of cake—it was destiny! We chose the Original Gooey Butter Cake, the Gooey Maple Carrot Cake, and Gooey Banana Cake. The banana flavor had a burst of banana flavor, and the sweetness was very mild with a subtle cinnamon aftertaste. The cake also has some rum in it, which is cooked out, but makes for a classic flavor combination. The maple carrot had delicious cream cheese frosting, just like a slice of carrot cake, which I loved! The cake itself was very maple forward, with more carrot in the background. It was very sweet so not as easy to taste the cardamom in the cake, but extra delicious. The classic original flavor was by itself super decadent and lives up to its gooey name. The cake was buttery and soft with a great brown sugar and toffee taste. I could have eaten the entire stand!

FullSizeRender-24FullSizeRender-23FullSizeRender-21After satisfying out sweet tooth, we headed towards one of my favorite stalls at Smorgasburg, Cemita’s NYC. I actually saw a segment on a cooking show, Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel a few years ago, and instantly started craving this sandwich. A cemita is a Mexican street food, similar to a torta, that’s native to Puebla, Mexico. The cemita sandwich has 10 layers, and together they make an amazing sandwich experience. The layers include: mayo, lettuce, onions, tomato, avocado, bean spread, Oaxaca cheese, spicy chipotle and a protein. Cemita’s NYC gives you a choice between southern fried chicken, carnitas, barbacoa (shredded beef), or a spicy shredded chicken called ting. Just two of us were up for splitting one of these loaded sandwiches and we went with the Southern Fried Chicken Cemita $9. As you bite into the sandwich, the first thing your tongue hits is the fluffy torta bread slathered with mayonnaise, and not too much of a bite from the pickled red onion brine. There were layers of hot and cold intermingled textures and heats throughout. Chicken There’s creamy avocado that makes the sandwich nice and messy—the way it should be!—and a nice kick of heat from the hot sauce at the end. The chicken was perfectly crisped and added a lot of heft to the cemita, and also stayed crispy. The lettuce added a nice crunch with the soft bread, and the bean spread acted as subtle glue and gave a deep flavor to the sandwich. I only wish I had more sandwiches. This was definitely a sit down sandwich. Luckily there are a few picnic tables interspersed around the market area.

IMG_1845FullSizeRender-25The last stop on our gastronomical journey was for dessert, naturally, at Blue Marble Ice Cream. Blue Marble makes premium organic ice creams and sells them in a cup or cone. We each got our own cup for $5 each. The Salted Caramel was very caramel-y with a brown sugar taste. It reminded me of those old-fashioned, chewy caramel candies. The Gingersnap Cookie flavor was not too sweet, and a little savory, with great after notes of cinnamon and allspice. The Key Lime Cookie ice cream (my choice) was tangy and refreshing, with nice chunks of cookie pieces throughout. It would’ve made an amazing milkshake. The ice cream had a burst of key lime flavor without being too sweet.

IMG_1850As we walked along the Brooklyn Pier eating ice cream, I took a few minutes to soak up the sun and truly appreciate how awesome it is to eat in New York. Then again, I am not done with Smorgasburg for the season and will be back for more unique eats, sweets and culinary delights soon.IMG_1851