In the the spirit of Julie Andrews’ unforgettable song, “My Favorite Things,” I’ve compiled a list of a few of the exciting food-related items I discovered and came to love in 2013.
Coleslaw for a crowd and gratin by the cubic yard are not a problem if you have a mandoline in your arsenal. For a decade now, I’ve experimented with various mandolin-type slicing tools, including one that took several adults several hours to assemble and operate. A pound of annihilated potatoes later, we gave up and banished it back to its box. Finally I found the one I love. It’s a Benriner Japanese mandolin, sometimes called an Asian mandoline or V-slicer.
I call it extraordinarily handy in the kitchen and affordable. Fortunately, the directions are also reasonably self-explanatory and came with three julienne widths. Need one? I found mine at the Oriental Market, 112 Pauls Drive, Brandon.
My new favorite afternoon pick-me-up is settling in at the bar at Little Habana in Riverview with a steaming cup of cafe con leche. Need I say more?
Apollo Meats is certainly worthy of mention in this column of good things. Determining how many chicken breasts I recently needed to make 300 chicken salad sandwiches was not as simple as, say, picking out apples. I didn’t tweet my friends for advice. I consulted Apollo Meats owners Rita and Steve Godfrey. In this day and age they are incredibly – and atypically – helpful. It’s so nice to have an actual conversation with human beings.
I’m convinced the success of the market stems from their personalized customer service and a superior quality of product. Asking for a certain cut, particular thickness of sliced ham, the amount of fat on a steak and trimmed chicken breasts is never a hurdle. I’ve also taken in a recipe and gone over it with them, just not at noon on a Saturday when there’s a line out the door.
We have a multitude of chain restaurants and eateries in the South Shore area. Nothing wrong with that but I’m always on the lookout for places that provide food that isn’t the same from to Minneapolis to Miami. Enter Asian Yummy House, a new Asian restaurant in Riverview. It’s barely a month old, and its name is totally apropos. You’ll find it at 10681 Big Bend Road.
You want hot and spicy, they make a mouth-watering Hunan Style Chicken, one of the staples of their lunchtime menu. A mere $6.95 gets you white or fried rice, wonton or egg drop soup and dishes that include mango chicken, shrimp, beef or chicken with asparagus. I opted for the luncheon sashimi, a pretty display of 10 pieces tuna, salmon and yellowtail.
Oh my goodness. Welcome to the neighborhood!
Speaking of raw fish, I recently picked up a half-pound of ahi tuna from Fresh from the Boat, a monthly seafood vendor at Jen’s Market in Apollo Beach. Sushi-grade tuna is not always easy to find so that’s a real treat.
The ahi flesh melted like butter over my tongue, leaving just a hint of the ponzu dipping sauce and the slight sting of wasabi. I like my tuna extremely raw, like sashimi, so 45 seconds on each side was perfect.
With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, here are a few other of my favorite things: Chocolate-dipped strawberries and crisp, apple streudels; scones and jelly-filled donuts and schnitzel with noodles; wild mushroom filled ravioli with homemade marinara...I’m getting hungry.
I hope Santa has stuffed your stocking with a few of your favorite things! Merry Christmas!
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
Sesame Crusted Seared Ahi Tuna
1 (5 ounce) sushi grade ahi tuna steak
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon canola oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Let tuna steak completely defrost overnight in the fridge; if using fresh tuna skip this step. With a paper towel, lightly pat the steak to absorb excess moisture, then cut steak to your liking. You can sear the entire steak as is or cut it into a rectangle to get more even slices.
In a shallow dish, combine the black and white sesame seeds as well as the salt and pepper. Stir to mix.
In a searing pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil until smoking. Place the tuna in the hot pan and sear for about 45 seconds on all sides. Tongs really help for this process.
Transfer the tuna to a cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the tuna on a bed of arugula. Serve with ponzu or soy sauce and wasabi.