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GOOD COOKING

Say It, Cook With It: Wasaaaaabi

February 21, 2001|ABBY MANDEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Wasabi, that greenish Japanese horseradish familiar from sushi bars, has many more uses than just accompanying raw fish. It adds a spicy edge to all sorts of foods without the heaviness of bottled horseradish.

You can find it in specialty and Asian markets in two forms: ready-to-use paste in a tube or powder in small tins. To use the powder, you make it into a smooth paste with water, as you'd do with dry mustard. The ready-to-use paste has a slightly sharper flavor and a deeper green color, and it's my preference in these recipes.

As with all sharp seasonings, it's best to start with a small quantity of wasabi and add more after tasting.

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Mandel is a cookbook author.

Wasabi Double-Baked Potatoes

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 2 hours

Serve these potatoes with any simply broiled or roasted meat or poultry.

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Nonstick cooking spray

2 large baking potatoes, scrubbed

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/3 cup thinly sliced green onion (white and green parts)

4 to 5 teaspoons wasabi paste

6 tablespoons light sour cream

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/4 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese, divided

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly spray the potatoes with cooking spray. Bake the potatoes until they're tender (test them with the sharp point of a paring knife), about 1 hour. Alternatively, cook them in a microwave oven on high power for 6 minutes, then bake them in a 400-degree oven until they're tender and the skins are crisp, about 15 minutes more. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, split them lengthwise and scoop out the flesh, leaving about a 1/4-inch shell. Place the scooped potato in a bowl.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. When it's hot, sti r in the garlic and green onion. Remove the skillet from the heat. Transfer the butter to the potatoes along with the wasabi paste, sour cream, salt, pepper to taste and 1/2 cup cheese. Use a potato masher or fork to mash the ingredients together; keep the mixture slightly lumpy. Taste; adjust the seasoning.

Divide the mixture among the 4 potato shells, mounding it slightly. Sprinkle the tops evenly with the remaining cheese. Use your hands to gently press the cheese into place. Place the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. (They can be made a few hours ahead up to this point and kept at room temperature.)

Bake until tops are just lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serve hot.

4 servings. Each serving: 334 calories; 754 mg sodium; 59 mg cholesterol; 19 grams fat; 28 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams protein; 2.15 grams fiber.

Fresh Salmon Burgers With Wasabi Sauce and Pickled Ginger

Active Work Time: 15 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 2 hours chilling

To chop the salmon in a food processor, partially freeze it until almost firm, then cut it into 1-inch squares, and pulse it very briefly in two batches, using great restraint. The leftover sauce is a great spread on sandwiches or dip with crudites. Serve the burgers with coleslaw.

WASABI SAUCE

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1 tablespoon wasabi paste, or more

2 teaspoons honey

Combine the mayonnaise, wasabi paste and honey in a small bowl. Taste; adjust the wasabi. (This can be made a few days ahead and refrigerated.) Makes a little more than 1/2 cup.

BURGERS

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (white and green parts)

1 tablespoon seasoned sliced pickled ginger, drained, plus more for serving

2 to 3 teaspoons wasabi paste

1/8 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

3/4 teaspoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon oyster sauce

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 egg white

1 pound fresh salmon (after skin and dark parts have been removed), coarsely chopped

2 teaspoons butter or oil

4 hamburger buns

Nonstick cooking spray

Wasabi Sauce, for serving

Finely mince together the garlic, onion, pickled ginger, wasabi paste, sesame oil, sugar, oyster sauce, salt and pepper in a mini-processor. Add the egg white. Pulse just until the egg white is mixed in.

Combine the salmon and the garlic mixture and mix them together with a fork until they're well combined. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions, then shape each into a patty, about 1/3-inch thick. Wrap each separately in plastic. Chill the patties at least 2 hours.

Just before serving, heat the butter or oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When hot, cook the patties until they're lightly browned on each side, about 4 to 5 minutes total. They should be slightly pink in the center.

Meanwhile, lightly spray the cut sides of the buns with the nonstick spray. Place the buns, cut side down, on a hot griddle to toast, about 1 minute.

To serve, spread about 1/2 tablespoon of the Wasabi Sauce on each toasted bun. Place the patties on 4 halves. Top them with some pickled ginger and close the bun. Serve the burgers immediately, passing extra sauce and ginger.

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