Monday, April 14, 2014

Spicy Tuna Roll - Sushi Video Series

An Oriental version of a burrito, a sushi roll is a meal wrapped in dried seaweed. Almost any seafood and veggies can make up the filling, along with sushi rice. In my latest Sushi Recipe Video, I'll show you how to make a Spicy Tuna Roll.

If you were here a few weeks ago, I showed you how to make a Spicy Tuna Hand Roll -- now on to something a little more tricky to do, a hand roll.

Sushi rolls are sold everywhere now, even Trader Joe's markets (at least in Los Angeles.) You can easily get colorful sliced sushi rolls ready to go. The sushi roll selections are small, but I've seen a variety, including: California Roll, Krab, Tuna, Veggie, Salmon, and Scallop Rolls. Although these pre-packaged rolls are a bit on the expensive side.

While I like the convenience, fresh is still best. And it's not that hard to make. You only have to cook sushi rice (my recipe is here.) The trickiest ingredient to find are sheets of dried seaweed, but even that is now being carried in larger chain grocery stores.

You can use a bamboo rolling mat, also carried at larger markets and Oriental grocery stores. They look like tiny bamboo window blinds; and they are super-cheap, just click here to see (or order) online. (Here is a video that shows you how to roll with a dry kitchen towel -- you could even roll sushi with a large one-gallon plastic Ziploc bag or a flexible placemat.) And with a little practice you could try rolling it by hand.

Fresh sushi grade fish is expense, but I have a generous neighbor who supplies me with fresh, locally caught tuna for free (to see my blog post and video about him, click here.) So I can do this Sushi Recipe Series and stay in my budget - because it pays to be friendly with your neighbors. (For a cheaper sushi roll it's okay to substitute tuna with cooked imitation crab, or krab.)

My recipe uses chopped tuna, mixed with mayo and hot sauce.You can add some thin-sliced veggies to stretch out the expensive raw tuna.)

And for all my pescetarian visitors,  this post is especially for you. (A pescetarian dines on veggies and fish, but no other meat.)

Plus sliced Sushi Rolls make great party appetizers.You can make them with fish or keep it vegan to include everyone.

Like my other sushi recipes it takes a few tries to get good at it. So you may want to make your first couple of sushi rolls with cheaper faux crab, or just sliced veggies (avocado is a luscious seafood substitution.) But once you get the hang of it, you'll be sushi rolling often. It's actually fun to do.

  Spicy Tuna Roll  - VIDEO

Play it here, video runs 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

My YouTube video link for viewing or embedding, just click here.

Spicy Tuna Ingredients (2-4 rolls)
  • About 6 ounces of tuna - skinless and no bones. I used fatty tuna for this recipe. Okay to substitute cheaper imitation crab, also known as krab.
  • 3 tablespoons mayo - I used light mayo.
  • 1 teaspoon Sirracha Chilli Sauce - can also use a favorite hot sauce, or a pinch of ceyanne pepper. Add a little at a time to reach your own desired spicyness.

Other Ingredients
  • About 2 cups cooked sushi rice - for my recipe click here.
  • 2-4 sheets of dried seaweed - depending how much Spicy Tuna you use for each roll.
  • Favorite veggies - optional. Thinly chopped or sliced carrot, green onions, cucumber and avocado.

Directions for Spicy Tuna Roll
Prepare Sushi Rice according to my recipe, click here for details. The rice should be room temperature when making sushi.

Roughly chop raw tuna into small pieces.

Mix mayo and Sirracha Chilli Sauce (or favorite hot sauce) in a bowl. Mix chopped tuna and spicy mayo in a bowl. Cover and store in refrigerator until ready to use.

It's optional to add veggies. Thinly slice favorite veggies such as: carrot, green onion, cucumber and avocado. Slices can be long or short. You can use packaged shredded carrot, or peel and slice your own. For cucumbers slice in half lengthwise, spoon-out seeds and slice. (You can peel some of the cucumber.) For green onion slice off and discard roots and any yellowed stems, then thinly slice.

Now time to bring it all together.

Lay out sushi mat (dry kitchen towel, or large Ziploc plastic bag.) Surface should be dry, as dried seaweed is very absorbent. Place one whole dried sheet of seaweed on center of sushi mat.

Now dampen your hands (as Sushi Rice is sticky and water will make handling easier,) and spread out an even layer of cooked rice over the dried seaweed.

You will be rolling sushi, so leave a half inch edge empty of rice. You can cover all the seaweed, on right and left sides, with rice. As for how much rice you pile on, it's up to you. I just do enough until you can't see the seaweed underneath -- about a 1/4 inch deep.

When seaweed is covered with rice (except half an inch along the closest edge to you) gently press on the rice with damp fingers, so it's spread evenly across the seaweed.

Now you can pile on all the tasty veggie toppings you like, or just keep it simple with Spicy Tuna. Cover about a quarter to a third of the rice with Spicy Tuna. I spread it across the center area, end to end. You can use a lot of spicy tuna or just a little - it's up to you. Use less tuna if you are adding sliced veggies, too.

Now time to roll it up. You can rotate the mat away from you to roll, or keep it facing you. Roll the loaded seaweed with a medium pressure as you go, tightening the roll. Keep rolling and adding pressure until you reach the half inch of clear seaweed at the end.

Dampen your fingers and moisten the seaweed edge and just press together to seal.

Once the roll is sealed, wrap the roll one more time in the mat and give the roll even squeezes from end to end. This will help keep the roll from falling apart when you finally slice it.

Remove the mat and place the whole Spicy Tuna Roll on a cutting surface. Take a sharp knife and dampen the blade with water slice the roll. I start in the middle and half it. Then I slice each half into 4 pieces, so I get 8 slices per roll, total. You can make thicker pieces if you like, to get 6 pieces total. The object is to make each piece eatable in one bite.

You can eat the sushi as is, or pour a small plate of soy sauce and dip sushi pieces as you eat them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Onigiri Salmon Salad - Japanese Rice Sandwich

These portable packages are loaded with any tasty morsel you can wrap in sticky rice. My Origiri filling is a favorite tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey salad. Origiri is a favorite of Japanese school lunches, and found in most markets there. And check out this fun photo-filled blog post with a lot of Onigiri colorful fun shapes and other tasty fillings.

You need to make Sushi Rice, but I have your back -- here is my video recipe:

After you've made Sushi Rice, it's time to make a quick and simple salad to fill the rice ball with. I like the ease and cheap prices of canned protein. For this recipe I made a Onigiri Salmon Salad, but you could use any cooked meat, like chicken or turkey (canned, fresh cooked, or store bought roasted bird.)

The Salmon Salad for my recipe is just mayo and a 5 ounce can (or pouch) of salmon. Just drain it and lightly mix with mayo. You roll a fist sized ball of sushi rice, press in a space to add the salad, and finally top it with more rice and seal it up.

That's the stripped-down version. Wrap it with a small square of dried seaweed to give it extra flavor, thus making it easier to handle. You can sprinkle on some sesame seeds, too.

I don't know if you've notice these packages of seaweed snacks lately, I get mine at the 99c only Store, and in different flavors too! They are similar to communion wafers, and they dissolve on your tongue like one. (Also like those paper sheets of breath mints - except tasting of the sea and salt.) The thin rectangles of dried seaweed are the perfect size for wrapping the finished Onigiri. Although crisp and brittle, the seaweed moistens and bends to adhere to the rice ball perfectly.

Normally you dampen your hands and form the rice ball. It's a bit messy -- so a cleaner way is tear off a sheet of plastic, wrap the rice and form a ball.

My Onigiri Salmon Salad makes great party appetizers -- just set out a tray and see how quick they go. So now that you've mastered making Sushi Rice (or at least have a handle on it) try out my latest Japanese fast food recipe.

Ingredients (about 6 rice balls)
  • 1 cup brown or white rice - use my Sushi Rice recipe. Click here for the recipe text with photos. For this recipe I used brown rice. (But white rice gets stickier, so it holds together better - maybe better to use white rice if you are doing this for the first time?)
  • Cooked salmon - I used a 5 ounce can drained (stored in water, not oil.) You can use fresh salmon (just saute it until done.) You can also use cheap canned tuna, or any favorite cooked fish. Okay to substitute with cooked chicken or turkey (canned or homemade.)
  • 1 tablespoon mayo - okay to use more, or less,  to taste.
  • Dried seaweed - optional. I used pre-cut (about 2 by 4 inch) dried seaweed snacks. Okay to use any size really, just cut them to size with scissors.

Cook and prepare Sushi Rice. Allow to cool and reach room temperature.

Drain one can of salmon. Place in a bowl and flake salmon into smaller pieces. Remove bones, if any. Add 1 tablespoon of mayo. Mix well.

For assembly, place a sheet of plastic wrap on a dry surface. Pile on about half a cup of cooked rice in the middle of plastic sheet.

Press into the middle of rice mound to make space for the salmon/mayo. Add about a tablespoon of salmon mixture.

Pick up the four corners of plastic to start forming a ball. Add just enough rice on top of salmon mixture to cover it. Now you can close up the rice ball with plastic wrap. Lightly roll and squeeze the ball. You can keep it round, flatten one side, or form a traditional triangle shape.

You can serve or eat the rice ball right out of the plastic wrap; or use a piece of dried seaweed and partially wrap the Onigiri. The piece of seaweed gives you a dry surface to hold, for easier eating.

Plastic wrapped Onigiri can be frozen or just stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Edible Type Video - Anatomy of a Title Sequence

The Graphic Gourmand is going to geek-out now and show you how I made a title sequence using a cheap can of Campbell's alphabet soup. Normally I just use computer generated type from Photoshop in my videos, but lately I've been having fun playing around with organic typography.

I've always done art, starting out as a 9 year old copying cartoon characters from the comics. Even my high school aged Aunt had me doing her art homework. And for many years I worked as a director of photography/cameraman shooting title sequences, animation (stop motion,) and effects for movies and television commercials.

Now, during lunch, I often take a short break and walk down the street to a bookstore or library to peruse art and graphic design magazines and books (along with the latest food magazines, of course.)

The concept crystallized when I saw a type logo, in a design magazine, that was made out of twisting strands of spaghetti - I don't remember if it was a photo or illustration. Just imagine a letter form similar to these, but twice as ornate and made out of spaghetti.

While I liked the idea, it would be too much work to make a title out of spaghetti strands. Then, pasta letters from Campbell's alphabet soup popped into my head - organic type. The letters are easy to use and already made!

How do they appear as a title sequence? After mulling it over, why not use the soup, that comes in the can, and let the liquid drain away to reveal my type logo?

Well, here's the time-lapse and stop motion animated title video I shot, below.

Looks simple enough, just some boiling liquid that drains and reveals the title. However, what you just looked at is a movie clip that's run backwards. That is, when I shot it, I started with the type in an empty pan, and slowly added drops of soup until the type was covered. Then I turned on the heat and got the soup to boil -- that's how it was shot originally, below.

Original Footage

Well, which title version is better? I like the title mysteriously revealed.

After I shot the last frames of boiling liquid, I loaded the still frames into my computer and converted the footage to run backwards using some movie making software.

Well, if you want more details of how I made the cool title sequence with a can of Campbell's vegetarian alphabet soup, just keep on reading.

For my Campbell's alphabet title sequence I first opened the can and emptied the contents in a large bowl. Next I added a cup of water to loosen up the contents. Finally I carefully fished out the veggies and pasta letters, emptying out and reserving the liquid. I had to handle the soft-cooked pasta type carefully.

The letters I am looking for spell out the words: A 99 Cent Chef Recipe. There are a couple of problems though. First there are no pasta numbers in the can of soup. So I made "'99" out of the letter "P", turned backwards.

The other letter problem is a "C". For some reason that letter is not included in the ingredients. So the simple solution is to cut out a segment of the letter "O" -- easy enough.

Once I separated out the relevant type, including any duplicate letters (some will look better than others, or will break during handling) I clean off the type and set them out in a large wide pan.

 So, this is hand-set type and it takes some time to get everything centered in the pan. It's all organic so I'm not too worried if the kerning and tracking (letter spacing) is perfect.

For this setup a toothpick gently moves around tender pasta letters easily. Once the title is laid out to my satisfaction, I compose the image on my digital still camera and light the frying pan and type.

My digital still camera is a Canon EOS Rebel T3. (It also shoots hi-def movies.)

I place the camera on a tripod. This is imperative for the style of stop motion animation I do. Basically I compose the action with a tripod in mind. How close can I get to the object being animated, or how wide must I get to capture all the action (chopping, peeling, mixing, frying, baking, etc.) Using a tripod for shooting keeps the animation smoother. Sometimes I even tape the tripod feet to the floor.

I also use a camera shutter release cable. This cable plugs right into the camera body. Now I don't have to touch the camera or accidentally bump it, once I start animating.

For this shoot, my still camera manual settings are: ASA 800; F8 aperture; 1/20 of a second exposure; set white card color balance; adjust manual focus; and I turn off any auto exposure corrections in the camera menu.

What I want is for the exposed still frame to have the same settings, from frame-one to the last frame. If any camera auto settings are left on, then the exposure and focus will change during the shoot, and you will get flickering and/or shifting of the image size during the title sequence. The only thing I want you to focus on is the animation, not on jittery camera problems.

So once the camera is set, I shoot a frame, and check out on my camera viewing screen: the exposure, lighting and composition. That's the time to tweak the lighting and framing, because once I start shooting, I don't want to move the camera or light any more.

My still frame image size is captured in a medium/high resolution. My final movie output is 1280 x 720 pixels, or high definition video. By shooting still frames larger, at 3088 x 2056, I can zoom in and create camera moves in my digital editing program. I can also recompose a sequence - into medium or close up framing.

When I am satisfied with the title, I shoot a final frame and check for spelling, alignment and final image exposure.

I'm shooting the title sequence to be viewed backwards because it would be difficult to shoot it any other way. Just imagine the work involved draining every last drop of hot soup, then trying to arrange the messy pasta letters -- ugh!

So here are the animation steps. The title is set on the frying pan and I shoot about 10 frames. Then I add a drop of soup and shoot one frame. I continue to add a little soup and shoot a frame each time -- until the letters are covered in liquid. (Also, I supplemented the alphabet soup with tomato soup, otherwise the liquid would be too thin and transparent.)

Now time to turn on the heat and get the soup to boil. I turn the flame to high and start shooting camera frames - one frame about every 10 seconds. When the liquid starts to simmer I shoot frames quicker, maybe every second or so. When the soup gets to boiling, I just shoot frames as fast as the camera will go, about 2 or 3 frames per second. When the soup gets to boiling I shoot at least 50 frames. The whole sequence is comprised of just over 250 frames total -- that's equal to about 10 seconds of running time (24 frames makes up one second of time.)

It took about 2 hours to set up and shoot the title sequence in my kitchen. And I did 5 takes to get it right, spread out over a couple of days. Earlier versions had veggies floating around, but I decided to strip it down to just soup and pasta type.

Earlier version with veggies.

When the sequence is played it goes way too fast, and of course, in the wrong direction. This is where the magic of editing comes in.

What I want to do now is put it all together in my computer. First I make and name computer folders to hold the images. Then I load-in the digital still frames I shot. I have a computer camera card reader, so that's easy enough.

I use 2 types of software by Adobe: Aftereffects and Premiere. Aftereffects is where I make the frames run backwards, and turn all the still frames into a movie. I also stretch out, or shrink the time - that is, my 10 seconds of animation will finally be 13 seconds long. Color correction and camera moves are put in, if necessary. And Premiere is where I add sound effects, music and do final editing.

Don't worry, I won't take you though the post production process. While it can be tedious, the stuff I come up with is fun to do, so there's instant gratification seeing it pieced together. I'll get into post-production with you in another organic title autopsy -- some other time.

All this is second nature to me. I hardly think about the process any more, it's all about making up something cool and trying to pull it off. And, thanks for reading my geeked-out blog post.

Oh, and I bet you wonder about my Cheap$kate Dining Scale rating for Campbell's alphabet soup? Well, on a scale of 1 to 9, 9 being best, I hate to give the soup -- a lowly 3! The veggies and pasta are overcooked and mushy. While the tomato soup is thin (once you add a can of water) and bland. I'm sure there are better Campbell soup selections out there, but this is not one of them. The soup is only good for animating with, and composting.
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