This past Saturday was my first–and most likely only–doing nothing day. Knowing me, it was by-far the most productive day I may have had this semester. My chef de Japan was gone for the weekend, and I wanted to surprise her. But not just with another Mediterasian recipe. I wanted to surprise her with a twist on her already experimented with and established staple of her cuisine: rice. Ambitious. Rice has been a staple for centuries most of the world, found in just about every form. Yet, my brain was stuck. I needed to impress her.
But by what method?
Obviously, I was going to use a rice cooker. But fried rice? No, already done. Onigiri, no alread–wait. The pantry door opened in my head. What if I combined typical Italian seasonings into an onigiri? Too simple. That would just be rice–cling-wrapped to form a triangle–that would taste like Italian rice pilaf. No, I needed something with a little more kick. But I was on to something. . . . . Instead of just Italian spices, I could add in a Japanese seasoning instead, Furikake.
It comes in a variety of flavors: salmon, wasabi, spicy, et al. However, traditional onigiri may be plain and served with sushinori (the seaweed that wraps sushi) for the flavor. So I could make Salmon Teriyaki Nori Wraps. That hadn’t been done before. Yet, I pushed the idea to the side. It wasn’t unique enough. Maybe I’d just surprise her with my onigiri making skills? Stick with our typical Spicy Onigiri? That wouldn’t work! The whole purpose of my cooking adventure was to have an adventure!
My mind kept going back to onigiri. I would say they are a typical bento box favorite. Simple to make and easy to grab from the fridge as a lunch. So how could I make it even better? Opening the fridge, I examined our sauces. Sesame Seed, no….Our Pork Sauce…no…wait, why not? I picked up a bottle.The black liquid capped with red was easily distinguishable. Every Japanese–no, every Asian restaurant--carries this. It was perfect. And heck, if I make enough rice, why not just make all three?
In the end, it went perfectly with the Italian seasonings. Who would have guessed?! By experimenting with a rice cooker and my favorite Japanese and Italian seasonings/sauces together, I created a savory, salty, and spicy alternative to the traditional onigirithat makes a great addition to any office lunch box.
Italiagiri with Salmon Teriyaki Nori Wraps and Spicy Onigiri
My favorite way to eat this dish is unwrapped and warmed in a microwave. Warmed the basil, red pepper sparks from the otherwise mild tang of the soy sauce. Refrigerated is just as good to get the initial flavor, but it won’t give you the same satisfying effect. Also, when it’s not sushi, I’m still not the biggest fan of cold rice.
To be honest, the best way to cook rice is in a rice cooker. It provides the adequate amount of sticky and heat to form the onigiri and allow the seasonings to meld with the rice itself. However, if you do not have a rice cooker, pot-made rice should just as well. And making it in the pot gives you the freedom to just make rice–plain and simple. Therefore, this could also be called Rice de Mediterasia; however, Italiagiri is so much cuter.
Yuuki and I are obsessed with peppers in all forms. Sweet peppers, green peppers, hot peppers~ Mmm. We also both love a good kick* in our food, so when we wanted a somewhat milder dish, it was hard to not add an extra vigorous shakes of the cayenne pepper–which we ended up doing. That being said, this Lime Basil Pork is exactly as it sounds:
Strips of pork were cooked in a Wok with a slight dash of Extra Virgin Olive Oil to simmer them. As the Wok cooked the pork, the excess fat replaced the olive oil. Dashes of salt and pepper seasoned the meat before the basil was added. Basil is a tricky spice. When you think you have too much basil, you are just about at having enough. Lime juice must be periodically added to adequately seep into the meat. I might try marinating the meat in a lime, oil, basil mixture before being put in the Wok next time. But what can I say? We were very, very hungry.
Our farmer’s market has wonderful fresh produce at wonderful prices! Our current love of the farmer’s market–besides the pancakes at Griddle Me This (http://www.facebook.com/Griddle.Me.This)–are Green Peppers. I can now taste the difference between Fresh Green Peppers and store-bought green peppers. The crispness of the green pepper is perfect with the stark lime/basil combination simmered into the pork.
Adding the peppers last, some more pepper and salt might need to be added. We also added some parsley for a bit of a bite and, as a I mentioned before, we couldn’t keep our hands off the cayenne. The only change I think I’ll make is the lack of “asian” in our Mediterasian. I will probably add in a sort tilt of soy sauce OR even better, I’ll add some sort of sesame seeds in a sauce or by themselves to really give it that asian like texture as a dish.
This Post’s Rant:
The ratio of one cuisine to the other is a hot topic in fusion cuisine culture. For me, whether or not the ratio is a perfecto 50/50 or reaches to a high 80/20, it isn’t as important as the finished product. Mediterasian’s first post reflects this concept. The Multipepper Lime Basil Pork is roughly 75/25–75 percent Italia influences and 25 Nihon.