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Who Would Have Thought Raw Fish Could Be So Tasty?

Sushi is an enjoyable part of a meal or enjoyed on its own. Traditionally made with cooked rice mixed with a little rice vinegar then shaped into bite-sized pieces topped with raw seafood. Other varieties come in the form of a long roll wrapped in seaweed "paper". This roll contains strips of vegetables and assorted seafood and is served by slicing it into small, bite-sized pieces.

In earlier days, sushi is regarded as exotic and can be found only in specialty Japanese restaurants. Now, this food item has transcended its origins and have become so popular that you can get your sushi fix from delis and supermarkets.

Making sushi at home can be a worthwhile experiment for the die-hard sushi lover. You get to choose what goes in your sushi and you get to have your favorite treat anytime. You will need a bamboo rolling mat, a cutting board, a sharp knife and a large bowl.

The rice is the foundation on which you will build your sushi. Good varieties include short grain or calrose rice. You might as well cook the fish you're planning on using if you insist on using brown or instant rice because you can never make decent sushi this way. Cook rice a little less compared to other Asian dishes. Never to the point of being mushy, sushi rice has to have a nice texture to it. Put your rice in a mixing bowl so you can add vinegar to it. A tablespoon of vinegar for every cup of rice is about the right proportion. Mix them well and let the mixture cool. Sushi is made with rice that has significantly cooled down.

While waiting for the rice to cool, you can prepare the other ingredients. Take your nori seaweed - bought from Asian specialty groceries - and lay it on top of your bamboo rolling mat. You can use plastic wrap over the bamboo mat to keep things clean. Spread rice over the seaweed, leaving around an inch of seaweed exposed for allowance when rolling. Don't fall for the common mistake of using too much rice. Limit thickness to just ¼ of an inch - the nori should still be visible through the rice layer. Overloading with rice will result in an uneven roll.

Chose one edge where you will place the fish and vegetables. You will start rolling from this edge. A new fusion of flavors is the California roll. It combines avocado with crab meat and cucumber. Other variations exist and you can experiment. The good thing about making sushi at home is that you are only limited by your imagination. You don't want to put too much weight on the bamboo mat when rolling. Just get one edge started and once that reaches around the midpoint of the nori sheet, you can start peeling away the plastic. Keep going until you reach the other end.

Roll it a few times on the bamboo mat to ensure that it will not unravel when you slice it. Slice the finished roll into six or eight equal parts. Serve by stacking but arrange in a way that the filling - with all its contrasting colors framed by the whiteness of the rice is shown to add to the appeal of this delicacy.


How to Cook Fish Properly

Many a cook has discovered that fish can overcook in no time. If there's one piece of advice for cooks who want to turn out peerless fish, it's this: Once it's on the grill or in the pan, leave it alone! Leaving fish undisturbed for two to four minutes helps the protein develop a nice crust. This crust makes it easy to turn the fish over.

Beyond this advice, there can be as many ways to cook fish as there are, well, fish in the sea.

For grilling, choose sturdy fish with plenty of fat, such as salmon, tuna, grouper, shark and swordfish. Clean the grill well and give it a light coating of oil before placing the fish on it. Lighter fish can be grilled in a basket or simply on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil placed over the grill. However, don't cover fish on the grill; the delicate flesh takes up too much smoke and becomes over-seasoned and sometimes dry.

A bamboo steamer is ideal for steaming fish, particularly for Asian recipes. To steam fish this way, put the stock or water into a large saucepan along with spices or herbs. Bring the liquid to simmer, not boil, because boiling liquid can overcook fish in mere seconds. Place the steamer over simmering water and keep a close eye on it. It's done when it flakes easily.

A lot of cooks might faint at the thought of cooking fish in a microwave oven, because the chances of overcooking fish are greater. However, a microwave can cook fish adequately if the cook adjusts for the nature of this cooking method. For starters, be sure to rotate the fish halfway through the recipe timing to assure even cooking. With filets of uneven thickness, fold the thinner part under so that the filet becomes closer to even thickness throughout. Also don't forget about standing time, which is important for microwave cooking. Always let fish stand on a cool, flat surface so that the cooking finishes correctly.

Broiling is one of the most popular ways to cook fish, because it gives a nice crust and seems to seal in seasonings, much like toasting spices enhances the flavor of Indian cuisine. To broil fish correctly, preheat the broiler, season the fish well, and position the pan four to six inches from the broiler. Then watch it carefully! Don't walk away to dress the salad or anything else, because you'll quickly have burned fish. Turn thick fillets of one inch or more once halfway through cooking; thin fillets don't need turning.

If you don't have much time consider getting a crock pot to make your dishes as crock pot recipes are really delicious and so easy to make, not to mention the time saving factors.

Baking and frying are two of the favorite ways to cook fish. Baking is the easiest; simply season as desired and follow instructions from any cookbook. Frying takes a little more skill, but when done properly, fried fish is absolutely heavenly. Farm-raised catfish is especially good when fried.

To fry fish properly, batter the fish with seasoned flour or cornmeal, and then gently lower it into oil at 375 degrees F. Don't guess; use a thermometer or a deep-fat fryer to ensure the proper temperature. If frying in a skillet, cook each side for about four minutes, turning gently just once. In a deep fryer, lower the fish gently into the oil and let cook according to the fryer instructions.

Anyway it's cooked; well-prepared fish makes for a truly splendid meal.


Tips For Preparing a Thanksgiving Turkey

It is almost that time of year again. The air is getting cooler and the leaves are starting to change, which is a sign that the holidays will be fast approaching. The holidays are hugely centered around food, whether it is holiday parties, cookie baking or the dinner themselves, cooking is a huge part of celebrating.

There is no better example of this than Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving turkey is at the center of the holiday and preparing a perfect turkey is much easier than you think.

First of all, you will want to decide what size turkey that will feed your guests. One handy rule of thumb is one pound per person. This amount will likely provide a generous amount to feed all your guests and leave you just enough for all those yummy holiday leftovers.

Once you determine what size turkey you need to buy, the next choice is brand. Your local grocery store will have a variety of brands available for you to choose from. Some brands, including your store brand turkey, will be very inexpensive, whereas others will be pricier but come with added benefits of built in thermometers to let you know when your bird is cooked to perfection. Whichever brand of turkey you choose, the secret to the perfect turkey is in the preparation.

The easiest and most foolproof way to achieve the tantalizing turkey you desire is to cook it in an oven bag. These are bags that take all the work out of cooking a turkey and leave little room for error. They also minimize the amount of cleanup you will have to perform. You can find them near the turkeys or in the plastic bag section.

Please remember that it will take a couple of days to thaw out your turkey if you buy it frozen. Too many Thanksgiving dinners have been ruined by a frozen turkey. The safest place to thaw a turkey is in the refrigerator or in cold water. It is also important to remember safe guidelines for handling raw poultry when handling a turkey.

Once you have all your supplies, you just need to decide if you want to stuff your turkey or not. Many people feel that a stuffed turkey makes a prettier presentation with the added benefit that the stuffing will help flavor the turkey as it bakes. Whether your turkey is stuffed or not will directly impact how long it needs to cook. You can find exact baking instructions on the oven bags if you choose to use them. The cooking time will depend upon the weight of your turkey and if it is in an oven bag and/or stuffed. Regardless, the turkey needs to be at a temperature of 170-175 degrees at the thickest part of the breast to consume safely.

You will want to perform a few steps as you are preparing your turkey

* Make sure that your remove the neck and giblets from the body and neck cavity

* Drain and rinse your turkey and then blot dry with paper towels

* Stuff your turkey if desired making sure to retuck the legs

* Place your turkey in the oven bag or roaster with the breast side up

* Brush your turkey with butter and seasoning to keep the juices in.

Just by following these perfect steps and taking care not to overcook the turkey will reward you with a picture perfect turkey that even your mother would be proud of.


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