different can be good

cooking for one... or two

Categories: Fish and Seafood, Grains and Pasta, Dinner for Two, Supper, Posted on September 27, 2020 by Sandy Bergsten

I can’t believe we just celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. There are days when it seems like we were married yesterday. There are so many things I adore about my husband. His boyish smile and heartfelt laugh certainly top the list. He’s absolutely brilliant and possesses the gentlest and truest of hearts. If I had to pick one of my favorite moments with him, it wouldn’t be one, but the myriad of dinners we’ve shared at our dining room table.

Honestly, I’m not sure what Dave ate before I met him. And honestly, I don’t want to know. I do know he melted my heart last week when he recited the first meal I ever made him, down to each and every component, to a socially distanced table of friends. Pretty sure it was the first time he had veal medallions, and a pretty safe bet the first he had sautéed spinach flanked with pureed carrots and cauliflower done in a nouvelle cuisine style.

One of the things about Dave is that he is passionate about what he loves. And he loves what he knows. While I tend to leap into adventure and unknown possibility. He prefers to stand on the cliff, hesitant, waiting. My marriage-meal mantra has always been- “hon try it you might really like it”. He usually does. But he knows me well enough that if it is truly terrible that I will be the first to dump it into the trash and suggest takeout.

Over the years I’ve learned that when I embark on a new dish that it’s important that I give Dave a big head’s up. Usually over a canapé and a sizable glass of Makers Mark. It’s often met with a notable look of concern. But a pat on the hand and a few sugar snap peas frequently smooths his wrinkled brow.

I love reading new recipes. This pastime has almost become a career in recent months. I was especially intrigued when I discovered Sawako Okochi and Aaron Israel’s Japan Lox Bowl in the New York Times. It sounded like the best of so many worlds, an edible mashup of Sunday brunch and weeknight sushi. The recipe seemed complicated. But I was up for the challenge. I made it my mission to set off to responsibly procure the more esoteric ingredients over the coming weeks.

With all in place I prefaced this dinner to Dave that it might be different. A furrowed brow followed. I reminded him that “different can be good”. His face softened slightly. I inched his glass of bourbon toward him and scampered back to the kitchen.

After my maiden attempt of this recipe I realized that I too could embrace difference. Some of these crazy, difficult to find, time consuming ingredients and steps could be suitably swapped. So here is my revised rendition of the lox bowl. You just might find that something different is good as well.

The original recipe called for sweet kombu. Which is a boiled hunk of seaweed until it is tender.

Then julienned.

Then marinated a sweet and savory sauce.

It also calls for kizami nori.

Softened, then thinly sliced as a garnish.

The two are a total pain. Skip both and pick up some freshly made seaweed salad instead. The sushi zu, on the other hand comes to together in seconds and is totally worth it. It truly transforms the rice. The chili mayo is easy to make and essential.

Quality lox makes this dish.

As does the fresh salmon roe.

I couldn’t find Japanese pickles. So I made a batch of quick pickles and they were perfect. If you’ve never made quick pickles, you simply must. They are so easy and a real delight.

First prepare the sushi zu. Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt in a small plastic container. Stir to combine, put a lid on it, then let sit at room temperature before using. (The mixture mellows with time and is best prepared a few hours in advance. It will keep in the refrigerator for several months.)

Prepare the chili mayo: In a small bowl, stir together the mayo, Sriracha and vinegar. 

Place in a small Ziploc bag. Seal and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the rice. Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1 cup water, cover with the lid, and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for exactly 10 minutes. Turn the heat off, but do not remove the lid. Let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Alternately, cook the rice in a rice cooker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Personally, I adore my rice maker.

Meanwhile prep all of the garnishes. Thinly slice a small avocado. Halve lengthwise then thinly slice half of a small Persian cucumber. Remove the leaves and tender stems for a half cup of cilantro leaves. Trim and thinly slice two small scallions on the bias. 

As soon as the rice is cooked, remove the lid and pour the 2 ½ tablespoons sushi zu on top. Using a rice paddle or the back of a wooden spoon, gently break up the rice with a

cutting and folding motion, delicately coating the grains of rice with sushi zu.

Divide the rice evenly among two shallow bowls. 

Cover the rice with an even layer of lox. 

Trim the corner of the Ziploc bag with the chili mayo. Pipe the sauce over the lox.

Arrange the selected garnishes in clockwise clusters: First, the avocado, then the seaweed salad. Followed by the cucumbers and quick pickles. Sprinkle the cilantro around the rim, and place the scallions in the center. Set the salmon roe (if using) in a nice mound next to the scallions.


This recipe, like this guy, is a keeper!

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