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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ponzu Sauce and a yummy Scallop recipe

Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Ponzu is a citrus-based sauce commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is tart, with a thin, watery consistency and a light yellow color. Ponzu is made by simmering mirin, rice vinegar, katsuobushi flakes, and seaweed (konbu) over medium heat. The liquid is then cooled, strained to remove the katsuobushi flakes, and finally the juice of one or more of the following citrus fruits is added: yuzu, sudachi, daidai, kabosu, or lemon. Commercial ponzu is generally sold in glass bottles, which may have some sediment.

Ponzu is traditionally used as a dressing for tataki (lightly grilled, then chopped meat or fish), and also as a dip for shabu shabu or sashimi. You can buy it any a number of local markets. Commercial Ponzu is not nearly as good as homemade, so here is a recipe from Mark Bittman for a homemade version.

Ponzu Sauce

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice, more to taste
1/3 cup fresh lime juice, more to taste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 cup good-quality soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin (or 1/4 cup sake and 1 tablespoon sugar)
1 3-inch piece kelp (konbu)
1/2 cup (about 1/4 ounce) dried bonito flakes (fish flakes)
Pinch cayenne

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Let sit for at least 2 hours or overnight. Strain. Just before using, you might add a small squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. Covered and refrigerated, ponzu will keep for at least several days.

So what can you do with it?
  • A few shakes of ponzu in the last few minutes of cooking will punch up the flavors in a stew or a stir-fry sauce.
  • In a marinade for flank steak or pork.
  • It's great in salad dressing — a ponzu-based vinaigrette goes particularly well with salads of hearty greens, like raw kale and radicchio salads
  • As a dipping sauce — Ponzu makes a great variation on our standard dipping sauce for steamed dumplings.
  • Add it to meatloaf, meatballs, and veggie burgers.

Seared Scallop Salad with Ponzu Sauce

1/2 cup Ponzu sauce
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
 Kernels from 3 ears corn
6 oz. baby tatsoi or baby spinach
6 scallions, trimmed and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves only
16 sea scallops
1 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted and ground with a mortar and pestle or a clean coffee grinder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper  

Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn, and sauté until lightly golden, about 5 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Add tatsoi, scallions, and cilantro leaves to the bowl, and toss with 8 tbsp. of the ponzu sauce. Divide salad among four plates.

Pat scallops dry with paper towels, then rub with remaining 2 tbsp. oil, and season with ground fennel and salt and pepper to taste. Heat the same medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add scallops, and sear (working in two batches, if necessary, to avoid crowding the skillet) until lightly browned, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Arrange scallops around salad, 4 per plate, then drizzle salad with remaining ponzu sauce.