I'm writing this from Japan! I have a high speed internet connection while I am in Nagoya tonight, but who knows what my status will be once I travel onward tomorrow night to Kyoto and beyond...
I was so excited when I read that the IMBB theme this month was anything orange. I immediately knew what orange ingredient I was going to use: IKURA!!! My favorite sushi topping and an inspirational model for my food photography! I knew right away that my dish would be ikura-based.
I've always liked ikura, and for a long time when I was a child, I thought ikura was an adult-form sea creature. I envisioned them floating along the ocean current, glorious and gem-like. It was a little bit traumatizing to find out that they were actually fish eggs and that each little ikura could've been a big healthy salmon. Oh well. Good thing I didn't see Finding Nemo when I was an impressionable little girl.
Anyway, once I decided that I was going to use ikura, I had to think very hard about how I was going to do something different and unique with it. I'd already done sushi for the last Paper Chef event, so that was out. Since ikura looks so good against a white background, I thought some kind of lasagna with ikura would be good. But ikura cooks into an unedible lump, so I scratched that idea out. But I still liked the layering concept, since I thought the color contrast between orange and white would likely be gorgeous. After much mucking around, I settled on doing a rice lasagna, using rice instead of pasta to build the layers.
Once I knew what the general theme was going to be, I enlisted salmon to the ingredient list, because a dish with ikura alone could cost me quite a bit and potentially too single-flavored/textured. I had in mind a sort of seafood oyako-don and decided to collect the ingredients first before finalizing the preparation. Oyako-don translates literally to 'parent-child over-rice', and it is a common dish in Japan where chicken is stewed with eggs and veggies, then served over rice - the chicken and the egg comprises the 'oyako'.
I picked up some Tsar Nicolais smoked salmon at Andronico's, assuming that this is the same Tsar Nicolais as the UC Davis partner in caviar farming to start constructing the Orange Oyako. But before the Orange Oyako could be united in my fridge, I ended up getting ikura a bride, Miss Tobiko. I definitely wouldn't have brought the tobiko into the arrangement had the ikura been the stellar variety that could face Mama Salmon alone and carry the dish single-handedly, but the ikura at Mitsuwa was lackluster and frankly, kinda sad looking. I much prefer Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley or Suruki in San Mateo, but I had a busy weekend and couldn't make it either fish sellers. I took the newly weds home to meet Mama Salmon, hoping that the ikura would be able to stand up againts the Mama with a bit of help from his bride.
As good as the Orange Oyako may be, it needed something else. I saw some fabulous basil and asparagus at the farmer's market, so I added those to freshen up the fishy line-up... Once I had all the ingredients at home, inspiration hit me and this is what I made:
The Triple O (Orange Oyako Over-rice)
The combination of basil and the Orange Oyako was excellent. The basil, along with the light vinegar in the rice, really freshened up the dish and made it so very addictively delicious. The fresh chopped basil in the rice to counter act the potent Orange Oyako was inspired by the Vietnamese combination of basil with their also potent shrimp sauce, mắm nêm. This worked out perfectly. This dish was, in typical Alice fashion, quick, easy, colorful, and satisfyingly tasty.
The layers of white, green, and orange looked really nice. Very appetizing.
I found out that the Papa Bear had mad knife skills when he meandered over and made me fine asparagus shavings out of the blue. He was watching cautiously for a while, but then assembled one of his own creations:
1. Blanch asparagus
2. Chop basil
1. To 2 cups of rice, add one handful of chopped basil and the usual amount of water and cook.
2. To cooked rice, add:
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 handfuls chopped basil
Mix in a 'cutting motion'.
1. Put saran wrap into ramekin or other small bowl
2. Add whatever you want to show up on top into the bottom. You will be flipping this over, so you are going to reverse assemble.
3. Add rice layer and squish down to lightly compact rice
4. Keep layering rice, asparagus, salmon, and fish roe to your heart's content. Remember to make sure the sides of the ramekin get colorful representation. These are going to be what makes the dish orange!
5. Flip ramekin over serving plate and slide saran wrap out. Gently peel saran wrap.
6. Add topping to apex of the rice mountain, such as extra ikura, tobiko, salmon flower, or slivered asparagus.
7. Enjoy outside with sparkling water on a sunny Sunday afternoon!