Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘pokē

It was a pleasant May in Seattle. I did not feel sodden as I did last spring and we were blessed with many glorious days as a prelude to the northern summer. On a pleasant Saturday we enjoyed apéritifs at Tavern Law and sauntered down to Momiji (紅葉) for dinner with a group of Australian expats and tourists.

The sister restaurant of Umi Sake House in Belltown, Momiji is Japanese for maple. Painted burgundy, the front bar featured a curious white latticed lampshade and was saturated in natural light.

With the exception of the wide street frontage, the layout of Momiji is the same as Umi’s. A corridor opened to a spacious dining room. The counter had a prime view of the sushi chefs deftly slicing sashimi and shaping nigiri.

At the centre was a serene Japanese garden.

We perused the comprehensive menu as I sipped a summery cocktail, The Getaway. In a tall glass was Hendrick’s Gin, Pimm’s and soda topped with a lychee.

We ordered an array of dishes among the seven of us. First was ahi pokē. Diced ahi tuna and cucumber were tossed with onion slivers, shichimi (Japanese seasoning), soy sauce and sesame seeds. The first time I ate pokē was at a Flying Fish cooking class. A Hawaiian salad, it had a luscious contrast of textures.

A plate of prawn and vegetable tempura was coated in a lumpy batter and pleasingly crunchy.

Poached beets, and a mound of arugula and shiso were drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.

Portions of grilled king crab was paired with ponzu dipping sauce and mixed greens. A generous serving, the crustacean was charred and meaty.

Soft shell crabs were pan fried to golden brown. The spindly morsels were sweet and succulent.

Wrinkled and charred, the half dozen prawn and scallop gyoza were juicy parcels of seafood encased in a thin wrapper.

Buckwheat noodles were stir-fried with cubes of tofu and an assortment of vegetables. Garnished with green onions, pickles and nori, the triangular bowl of yakisoba was a symphony of flavours.

With casual ambience and quality ingredients, Momiji is a delicious addition to 12th Avenue in Capitol Hill.

I succumbed to a Groupon deal a couple of months ago. I paid twenty five dollars for fifty dollars worth of food and beverages at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar. We were at the Kangaroo and Kiwi Pub in the early hours of Sunday morning to cheer on the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup. Alas we were disappointed with the result and woke up lethargic. Within walking distance, the voucher was perfect for a lazy dinner.

As with many restaurants in Seattle, Seastar is dimly lit. The restaurant was full so we sat in the bar. A spacious area with individual tables, a communal bench and counter seating, it was a busy evening being the first day of the autumn Seattle Restaurant Week. A single glassybaby was our source of light to read the menu.

The menu was a combination of hot and cold seafood. We selected a soup, a sushi roll and the raw bar sampler to share. The large bowl of Dungeness crab and corn bisque was warming. Absent of corn kernels, the bisque had chunks of Dungeness crab and was drizzled with a Madeira reduction and fresh chives. The Port added a depth of flavour to the bisque.

We misread the menu and expected a plate of tempura but it was futomaki tempura! Coated in tempura batter, the sushi roll had cucumber, carrot, bell pepper, asparagus, green onion and daikon pickle. It was an odd sensation to eat warm sushi but the vegetables were pleasingly crunchy.

The three tiered raw bar sampler was presented with a flourish. On the bottom was scallop ceviche with mango-kiwi relish, lemon, lime and cilantro. Unripe fruits and acidic juices masked the sweetness of the scallops.

In the middle was a California roll of Dungeness crab, avocado and cucumber. These bite size morsels had plenty of fresh crab.

And on the top was ahi pokē. Cubes of tuna were marinated in soy, chilli, Maui onions and sesame seeds. Wafer thin taro crisps were the utensil topped with strands of daikon radish and green onions.

On a glass tile, the aloha roll was bursting with ahi, hamachi, salmon, avocado, cucumber and chilli. This sushi roll lacked the finesse of Japanese cuisine but had an abundance of glistening sashimi.

Service was mostly absent but it was value for money!

On a cool and drizzling Saturday morning, we were indoors at On the Fly for a cooking class with Chef Christine Keff. We laughed at the irony of recipes for summer parties in this flippant Seattle weather.

Christine relocated Flying Fish from Belltown, where Local 360 is, to South Lake Union about a year ago. Next door is On the Fly, a popular spot for weekday lunch for the surrounding offices.

The walls displayed wines for sale and clusters of cookbooks defied gravity, seemingly suspended in mid air without support.

Neat rows of chairs faced the counter where Christine would be demonstrating the recipes. A door conveniently opened to the Flying Fish kitchen where Christine sought assistance from her team as needed.

Christine was finalising her preparation as we were seated. She unfurled a black knife roll and sharpened her gleaming tools.

We had expected Christine to demonstrate three recipes but flicking through the booklet, there were nine recipes plus the grilled whole salmon not printed! Affable and knowledgeable, Christine entertained us with her commentary and encouraged us to ask questions as she cooked each dish.

The first was the ahi tuna pokē, a Hawaiian marinated raw fish recipe. Pokē is often likened to ceviche but no citrus is used to ‘cook’ the fish and it doesn’t require time to marinate.

Christine recommended Pike Place Market for fresh salmon, halibut and crab as they sell large quantities daily, and Uwajimaya and Mutual Fish for other seafood such as tuna. We learned that tuna doesn’t have to be a dark colour to be fresh; translucence and shine are better indicators for quality.

Scooped into a brittle lumpia cone, the pokē was succulent and infused with the flavours of sambal, soy, sesame, onions and chives. If you have a chopping board and a knife, you can make this deceptively simple hors d’oeuvre! Christine suggested spiking the cones in a bowl of rock salt for presentation. I never deep fry at home so I would serve this on crisp flatbread.

My mother often made potato salad for potluck dinners with family and friends when I was a child. I loved the mixture of waxy potatoes, wedges of hardboiled eggs and crunchy cubes of apples – very retro!

Christine’s version catered for adult tastebuds with green beans and mustard. Boiled in their skins in generously salted water, the potatoes were peeled, cut and combined while warm to soak in the dressing.

Christine shucked and grated ears of fresh corn for the next recipe. There was a lively discussion when she was cooking the creamed corn and poblano. Christine explained that the heat of the chilli is in its membrane and not the seeds. She also warned us not to wash the poblano pepper when peeling the skin as it would dilute it.

The recipe stated one to two tablespoons of heavy cream with optional in brackets. Christine poured in at least half a cup! She declared an additional one to two tablespoons was optional.

The creamed corn bubbled as it reduced, its sweet and smoky aroma wafted through the room. Saffron coloured and studded with kernels, there is something alluring about creamed corn. We each sampled a spoonful and I would have licked the pan if I could!

As Christine sautéed the ingredients for caponata, she elaborated on her remark about the locovore movement. She joked that we would be eating kale for nine months of the year if we only ate food grown in the Pacific Northwest, and we would have to abstain from drinking coffee and using lemons!

Christine supports local producers and she elaborated that food has been shipped for centuries and her preference is to develop cleaner transport than to limit our diet.

We could smell the caponata slowly caramelising as Christine mashed hardboiled egg yolks for sauce gribiche. Olive oil was trickled into the bowl and whisked to form a paste.

The final recipe in On the Fly was cantaloupe agua fresca. Agua fresca translates to fresh water and the cantaloupe was blended and strained with sugar and lime juice adjusted depending on the ripeness of the fruit.

The group walked through the kitchen into the restaurant for the flatbread and whole grilled salmon recipes. Clean and tidy, the kitchen overlooked the dining room.  

Christine rolled out a ball of dough the size of a lime. She then seasoned the sockeye salmon and oiled both sides of the whole fish for grilling.

Flying Fish doesn’t have a weekend lunch service so we were the only people in the restaurant. Two long tables were set up for our buffet lunch. The interior is modern with colour accents.

The first course of our feast was the cantaloupe agua fresca. An orange sherbet colour, the fruit flavoured water was refreshing and summery. 

Charred skin and just cooked, the salmon was grilled to perfection with the flesh flaking easily off the bones.

The potatoes were sliced for the potato salad which maximised the surface area for dressing coverage.

There were audible moans as the pork belly melted in our mouths. A tip from Christine was to cut the pork belly larger than bite size as the chunks will shrink as the fat renders. I’m usually averse to fruits in savoury dishes but this was an exception as the juicy cubes of watermelon cut through the fatty and rich pork belly.

A deep red wine colour, the caponata stained the warm flatbread. The eggplant was silky and imbued with heady spices.

It was a challenge to eat the creamed corn with a fork but we all persisted!

My buffet lunch buffet, clockwise from top: creamed corn with poblano, caponata, grilled sockeye salmon with sauce gribiche, potato salad with green beans and mustard, flatbread, and pork belly and watermelon salad.

A palate cleanser, the rhubarb soda was too sugary for me. It was a pretty drink with the pink hues of the rhubarb syrup at the bottom and the effervescent water poured over it.

We rested our full stomachs for a while and some people were ready to leave to enjoy the emerging sunshine. They were stopped as there was dessert!

A blob of cream dotted with dark chocolate malt balls hid the salted caramel pot de crème. Although smooth and velvety, I had to abandon this as I unfortunately dislike salted caramel.

At $55 per person for recipes, three course meal and matching wines, it is exceptional value. I highly recommend the cooking classes with Chef Christine Keff at Flying Fish!

I grew up eating seafood – steamed whole fish, prawn dumplings, crab stir-fried with ginger and spring onions, lobster with egg noodles, squid balls in hot pots. But we rarely cook seafood at home, except for baked or barbecued salmon. I worry about how to prepare seafood for cooking, I’m concerned that I’ll overcook it and ruin the delicate flesh. When I read that Whole Foods Westlake was having a one day sale of scallops a couple of Fridays ago, I added the accompanying scallops three ways happy hour to my calendar. For five dollars, it was good value to ‘taste a trio of scallop preparations’.

I arrived early and there were only a handful of people in the dining area. The counter was brightened by a colourful posy of flowers. I sat and watched Chef Hayden cook the display dish, he expertly answered questions while chopping and plating.

I miss cooking with gas immensely. I was transfixed by the portable induction stove, with three plump scallops sizzling. Convenient and lightweight, this would be a welcome addition to my kitchen!

The dining area is in a front corner of the store. With floor to ceiling windows, it is a light and airy space. On a jade green plate were a generous serving of scallops, clockwise from top: scallop and Oregon Bay shrimp sunomono with cucumber and radish; seared scallops with ginger miso butter and sweet broiled eggplant; and spicy scallop pokē with seaweed, red chilli, shallots, sesame and macadamia nuts.

Sunomono, a Japanese style salad with vinaigrette, was a simple dish that highlighted the natural sweetness of the scallops. Chunks of poached scallops paired well with the crunchy vegetables and a slightly tangy dressing.

Next I tried the pokē, a Hawaiian tartare. This sample was punchy and nutty, overwhelming the flavours of the scallop. And the scallop appeared cooked.

My favourite was the seared scallop. Three charred and juicy molluscs were on a bed of velvety eggplant. Sweet and smoky, these were simple and fresh ingredients cooked exquisitely with love.

Check your local Whole Foods store calendar for upcoming events!


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