Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Nakashita Restaurant: Excellent and surprising Japanese food in the heart of Barcelona

My friend told me about Nakashita.  At first I was really wary about it, not because I don't think that she has excellent taste in food, it was mainly the location.  The restaurants in this area tend to be, somewhat, disappointing....to put it nicely.  Nevertheless, she invited me to go one day, extolling the virtues of the "Brasilian-Japanese" style sushi, and its decoration. 
When I stepped inside, my initial instict was that I liked it....it was a cold rainy night, sometime this autumn as the weather just started to turn, and the raw wood doors and windows framing the black walls was a triumph in simplicity and warmth.  Small, capacity for 20 people max, made it even more  inviting.  Immediately the first thing you notice is the bar, since it is the focal point of the place (being so small) and its main chef, Marcio, who hails from Brasil....not your average sushi chef, and as I soon found out, this isn't your average sushi.

The menu is small but well done, with your regular items such as home made gyozas, (I have tried them several times, some made with beef and pork and some made with shrimp and fish), miso soup, yakisoba and yakimeshi (noodles, and the latter rice) teriyaki chicken with shitake, etc.  The gyozas are light, filling and well made.  The yakisoba, is perfect, with its little wiggling tuna flakes on top, the yakimeshi rice with shrimp is brilliant, although I have to admit sometimes it is better than other times.  The miso soup, what can I say, there is miso soup, and then there is Miso Soup....this one falls under the category of capital letter Miso soup, warming, fresh ingredients...this isn't your package soup!

The real star though, is the sushi.  Marcio's ability to meld east and west flavors is impeccable.  He highlights the freshness of the fish with just touches of suprising ingrediets.  For example, one off the menu item that he proposed to us last week was salmon maki with a touch of caramelized onion jam.  Sublime.  One permanent menu item is the spicy tuna roll.  Yes, it sounds typical, except that he lightly batters it in tempura (lightly is the operative keyword) and then fries it for just a second.  The result is something heavenly.  The tuna inside is still raw, but the avocado turns into an unctuous delight that just melts in your mouth.  One surprising roll, not for regular sushi joints, but for Barcelona is the Soft shell crab roll.   Its not new or innovative, but it is one of my favorites and I was happy to see it on the menu.  The also have your typical sashimi and nigiri plates, but for the specials, check out the mirror by the entrace, for weekly specials.  One of my particular favorites is the foie nigiri.....I mean, who doesn't like anything with foie gras? 

The desserts are ok.  You have your mochis, your sake truffles, and some type of green tea cake.  The one thing that is strangely missing is green tea.  Huh?  That's what I thought.
In anycase, Nakashita has become one of my favorite neighbourhood jaunts.  I love going there, I love the warmth, and I love love love Marcio's take on sushi.  Sushi Samba.....eat your heart out!

Rec Comtal, 15
Barcelona 08003
93 955 378

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Japanese Dinner

A couple of weeks ago we decided to make sushi and gyoza at home, and have a Japanese themed dinner.  Normally, we do theme dinners, but we never ever had done a Japanese theme....mainly because I think that the thought of making sushi at home is a bit daunting!  It looks quite simple, but I know that it is the perfect balance of the rice, extra fresh fish and technique.  But we gave it a go, and it was actually quite fun!  My friend Cris prepared the rice, and she did a fantastic job.  I made the gyoza and the rolls and then the toro tuna tataki. 
I was pretty scared about the sushi, just because I have never made it in my life.  But I have eaten hundreds of times at my favorite sushi bar here in Barcelona, and have studied the sushi chefs closely.  So I put all of those memories to practice.  I remembered the part about keeping your fingers moist  so the rice won't stick to your fingers, and to press it down evenly in a semi-thin layer.  The cutting of the fish was what made me nervous.  I remember watching them slice it perfectly, discarding any bits that weren' t perfect.  But we bought our salmon form sushi restaurant purveyors in the market by my house, so freshness was guaranteed.  The actual rolling bit takes a couple of tries, but once I got the hang of it, I managed to make quite a few rolls that looked *close* to perfect!  I guess I will have to try it more than once a year to actually get the hang of it.  But, honestly, I much prefer to sit at my favorite place and watch them make it!

Here's the recipe for the gyoza, that turned out to be delicious and it is really easy.

For 20 gyoza approx:

1 package of wonton wrappers
1/2 lb ground pork or beef of a mix of both
3 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup boiled napa or chinese cabbage, sliced
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1 tbsp oil

For Serving Sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
Chili oil to taste

Mix all ingredients except oil in a large bowl.  Place 1/2 tbsp of filling in wonton wrapper, and with wet fingers press together to seal.  When done, heat oil over high heat in a non-stick skillet.  Place the gyoza flat side down, and brown for about 2-3 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium low, and add 1/4 cup of water and cover the skillet and steam until all the water has evaporated.
Serve with the sauce and your favorite Sake.......Kampai!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fish Vizcaina Style

As our shadows get longer, and afternoons lazier, I only want to eat oven baked things or stews. Probably its because I am from Miami, and for me, even if it is 19 degrees outside, I am free-zing. As a child, we lived on an island. Even so, we really didn't eat much fish. My journey into the discovery of all things aquatic began here, in Barcelona. I never realized the amount of edible things that come out of the sea, or the enormous variety of fish. As an American, my staples were Tuna, Swordfish, Salmon, Grouper (because of my island life) Tilapia, Trout.....all very basic, and very boring. The fish aren't boring, don't get me wrong, just sticking to these types of fish is. Especially now, that we are so conscious of what we eat and if we are depleting our oceans, those type of fish are the ones that suffer the most, and I am wholly against farm raised fish. That is the good thing about Spain. We eat a large variety of fish, and the market where I go to, most of them are line caught. Mine even still had the hook in its mouth when we bought it. I love fish. It is so flavourful, so easy to cook, and ridiculously healthy. Recently I have become obsessed with fish prepared a la Vizcaina. This is a Basque preparation of fish, right before serving, they top it with a garlic-chili vinaigrette. You can do it with most fish, but I do think they can't be as strong tasting as salmon or tuna. Today we prepared Large Scale Scorpion Fish. It is similar to scorpion fish, but with bigger eyes and smaller fins. It was really different. I would say it is extremely similar in taste and texture to monkfish, so if you can find it at your local fishmonger, its a safe alternative to monkfish, which are on the endangered list.

Here is an easy recipe that is sooooo delicious. The best part is that it doesn't take long, so if you are having guests for dinner you can pop it into the oven when they get there and sit and chat with them for a while.

For 4

Two 1/2 lb large scale scorpion fish, gutted and scaled

1 large red pepper, chopped

6 shallots, cut in half

6 garlic cloves, cut in half

8 small potatoes, sliced crosswise

1 sprig of thyme, leaves separated from the stem

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

Vizcaina Sauce

1 tsp chili flakes

1 garlic clove, peeled and whole

1/8 cup olive oil

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 deg. In a large baking dish, place the red pepper, shallots, garlic and potatoes. Top with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, salt, pepper, and cover with foil and set in the oven. Cook for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, wash and dry your fish. Salt and pepper it on both sides, and then sprinkle your thyme leaves.

Lower the oven to 375 deg, and take out your pan with the veggies. Place the fish directly on top, add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and cover with foil again. Cook for about 15 minutes, and then uncover for the last 15.

In the meantime make the Vizcaina sauce. In a small saucepan, place your olive oil (not the extra virgin) chili flakes and garlic. Over low heat, swirl your saucepan and cook it gently for about 5-8 minutes. If you notice that your garlic is starting to burn, take the saucepan off the heat, continuing to swirl. When it is really fragrant, add the extra virgin olive oil and the vinegar, take off the heat and continue to swirl to emulsify the sauce.

When your fish is done, fillet the pieces on to a plate, add your veggies and spoon the sauce over the fish. Open up a bottle of Albarino, or another full bodied white.

I am positive you are going to love it.....Enjoy!!!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Mediterranean Connection : Fusili with smoked aubergine and tomato sauce

As you all know, I recently returned from Istanbul.  One of my favorite favorite mezze was the smoked aubergine dip.  I was racking my brain how I could possibly recreate it back here at home, then flipping through my cookbook, it showed the process.  I had no idea it was this easy....you can smoke it on top of your gas flame or on the barbecue! 
Needless to say, I don' t have a barbecue, but I do have a gas stove top.  I already made the dip on its own, but since I am so in love with it, I wondered if it could be recreated into a pasta dish.  Since all the ingredients I am going to use are Mediterranean, both common in Italy and Turkey, I figured, why not?

So, I bought my firm, medium, unblemished aubergine and dutifully smoked it.  Combined it with a spicy tomato sauce that I had leftover from pizza night on Monday (Barca vs. Madrid game....5-0!!!) and toasted up some pine nuts, chopped some fresh parsley and mozzarella. 

It was amazing.  I really wasn't sure what the flavours would taste like together, but the smoked aubergine gave the spicy tomato sauce a rich meaty flavour!  The best part is that its really easy to make, healthy and light! 

250 g Fusili pasta

For the tomato sauce:

1 small can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half
1 tsp crushed red chillies
1/2 tsp oregano

1 medium aubergine
2 tbs pine nuts, toasted
1 mozzarella, cubed
1 tsp fresh parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put a large stock pot of water to boil.  In the meantime place the olive oil in a small sauce pan over low heat.  Add the garlic, chillies, and oregano.  Heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Over a gas flame set on medium, place entire aubergine.  Keep turning until you touch the aubergine and its soft, but not mushy.  Place in a plastic bag and let it sweat for 5 minutes.  Over a bowl, cut aubergine in half and scoop out the flesh and mush with a fork.  Set aside. 

Toast your pine nuts, until dark golden, swirling but don't let them burn.  When the water is boiling, add your pasta and boil as it says on the package instructions.  When the pasta is done, drain and mix it with the sauce, aubergine, pine nuts and mozzarella.  Mix well, and top with the fresh parsley, salt and pepper to tase.  Have a glass of red wine, and your done!  Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My birthday/Thanksgiving dinner

This year, my birthday/Thanksgiving dinner seemed like it was going to be an absolute disaster.  On Thursday, when I was buying all the vegetables I suddenly started feeling....not so well.  So I took some vitamin C, and did some salt water gargles and prayed for the best.  Friday morning.....oh the horror.  I felt like a bobcat had climbed into my bed while I was sleeping and gashed at my throat over and over again.  But, knowing that I had 20 guests coming over for dinner and about 30kg of vegetables strewn all over my kitchen made me get up, and go pick up my turkeys.  Disaster number two struck.....my turkey lady confused my 2 fourteen pound turkeys for 2 twenty pound turkeys and said she didn't have anymore and she was sorry.  So I went back home, only to spend half of my birthday morning plucking the remaining feathers from the monstrous beasts only to then realize that 1) I had to make more brine for them then 2) they didn't fit in my oven.  So, I did what any normal person in this type of situation would do.  I slumped down on the kitchen floor and cried.  Just a little bit.  Then I had a beer.  My boyfriend came home and found this burbling idiot and did what a smart person would do in this situation.  He called the turkey lady and gave her a piece of his mind.  Then, ta da! Just like magic, she DID have two 14 lb turkeys that just happened to appear after he spoke to her.  Anyhow, so all seemed to be going well, except that then the 3rd disaster struck.  They didn't fit in the fridge.  So, got a large plastic organizer container (with wheels, thank God) and placed the brine and the turkeys in there, sealed it with its lid and had to put the suckers on the balcony.  Its about 10 degrees outside so I thought they would be ok.  Except for that night, we had a cold spell and I was hoping and praying that I didn't wake up to two frozen turkeys.  Alas, they were fine, and I was able to pull off my whole meal in relative calm (read : in my pj's, overdosing on paracetamol, and taking naps any minute I could).

So this is my turkey day extravaganza menu, and I will share what I think is one of the knockout recipes with you!



Sausage and Potato Puffs
Truffled Brie with a Warm Wild Mushroom Fricassee


2 Riesling and spice brined Organic Turkeys
Asturian Cider Gravy
Apple, Leek, and Bacon Stuffing
Mini Corn Bread Puddings
Green bean Casserole, updated with porcini instead of button mushrooms
Sweet Potato and Potato Gratin


Chocolate and Bourbon Tart
Apple Pie

Sausage and Potato Puffs Recipe: Sorry...no picture cause they flew before I got out the camera!!!!

4 dozen puffs

30 mins active, total time 1hr

3/4 lb potatoes
1 lb sausage ( I used a mix of chorizo, morcilla (black pudding) spicy italian and regular) casings removed
3/4 cups water
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 tsp of salt
3/4 cup flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded Gruyere
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tsp chopped thyme
1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
freshly ground pepper
1 lg egg yolk mixed with a tbsp of water

1. Preheat oven to 425 deg.  Coat mini muffin pan with oil spray.  In saucepan, simmer potatoes for 20 mins, or until tender.  Let cool and peel and mash coarsely.

2. In a medium skillet, cook sausages until browned, 8 mins, coarsely crumble

3. In a medium saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a boil.  Remove from heat and add flour, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, until combined.  Set over medium heat and cook dough, stirring until it comes away from the sides of the pan, 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.

4. Using and electric mixer, beat dough for 1 minute on low speed.  Beat in eggs, one at a time on medium speed.  Beat in Gruyere, Parmesan, herbs and pepper.  Stir in potatoes and sausage.

5. Fill muffin cups with dough, and brush the tops with the egg mixture.  Bake for 20 minutes until puffed up and golden.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anatolian flat breads with spinach: Gozleme

I'm back!  Yes, I have been off for a long time, was going through  a bit of food block...and also an injury to my ankle in Sept prevented me from standing for long periods of time.  But, the most important thing, is that I have my creative juices flowing thanks to an amazing weekend full of food and fun in Istanbul.

I love Istanbul, I love the people, the city, the breathtaking views from the Bosphorus, but I never really got into its food as much as this last trip, thanks to my friend Hulya who is a native and knows exactly where to take me.  This past weekend I had mezze (tapas like dishes) almost everyday.  I now have a new found admiration for Turkish food.  Growing up eating Syrian dishes most of my life, I never really paid attention to the details of Turkish gastronomy, always thinking it was similar.  Similar it is, but it is also uniquely their own.  I have fallen in love with the simplicity of their dishes, the complexity of the flavours, and the incredible variety and freshness of all the vegetables and fish. 

So, I returned last night, still craving mezze.  And today, I woke up, craving more.  Last night I made this amazing smoked eggplant, but today I thought I would tackle what looked like a harder recipe from my new cookbook.  I am amazed at how easy it was to make.  And quick!  And healthy!  And of course, delicious!  Need I say more?  Well, here it is, the recipe for Gozleme with spinach.  Oh, it also helped that I came back with a huge selection of spices! 

Serves 2-4

115g/1 cup strong unbleached bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2.5 ml/  1/2 tsp salt
15ml/ 1 tbsp olive oil, melted butter or ghee
50ml/ 1/4 cup water, plus more if needed

For the filling
250g/ 9 oz. fresh spinach
15g/ 1 tbsp butter
1 onion, chopped
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
5ml/ 1 tsp kirmizi biber, or chili flakes or paprika
7.5ml/ 1 1/2 tsp all purpose flour
120ml/ 1/2 cup milk
45ml/ 3 tbsp kasar paynir or parmesan cheese, grated
salt and ground black pepper

1. Sift the flour with the salt into a bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the oil, or melted butter or ghee, and the water.  Using your hand, draw in the mixture into a dough.  Knead for about 5-7 minutes.

2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, knead them for another 2 minutes each and then roll into balls.  Place the balls on a floured surface, cover with a damp cloth, and leave them to rest for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the filling.  Place the spinach in a steamer, or in a colander set in a large pan with a lid, and steam the spinach until it wilts.

4. Refresh the spinach under running cold water and drain well.  Place the cooked spinach on a chopping board and chop roughly.

5. Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, and soften the onion, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the spinach, and add the nutmeg and kirmizi biber (or other options).

6. Stir in the flour and pour in the milk, stirring constantly until thickened. Beat in the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Turn off heat, but keep the pan covered to keep the filling warm.

7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of the balls of dough into thin, flat rounds, about 15-20 cm/6-8 inches in diameter.

8. Heat a griddle over high heat, wipe it with a little olive oil, and place one of the rounds of dough on to it.  Cook the dough for about a minute on one side, then flip it over and spread a thin layer of the filling over the cooked side.

9.  Cook the second side for 1-2 minutes, allowing it to buckle and brown, then lift it off the griddle and place it on a plate or baking parchment., and roll it up!  Voila, you're done!  Enjoy!