Archive for March, 2012

March 28, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons: Make a Citrus Dipping Sauce

by Jen Wanous

I have been on a bit of a hiatus for the past few weeks, and with good reason — I took the plunge and submitted myself to a 9-5 (or 6, or 7). You see, post-culinary school I enjoyed my days of piecemealing jobs together, working with a variety of small food businesses- from cookie baker, to Korean taco restaurant consultant, to ice cream sales person. I loved this exposure, but I needed something more consistent to pay for the Le Creuset I’ve been wanting (paying back my culinary school loan and health insurance would be nice too). I was excited to see the posting for a job as an Events Director at StarChefs because the position perfectly combines my background in event management with my culinary training.

I started the position a few weeks ago and, as ideal as the position sounded, it has proven to be a hard transition. I have been taking big gulps of air to stay afloat in a work culture that is filled with chaos and urgency (think The Devil Wears Prada meets Top Chef). It’s a small office of 18 people with an open work space — no walls. I have been tasked with executing a 3,000 person, three day culinary symposium with workshops, demos and culinary competitions. The event will host 90 star chefs, 80 sponsors and a large staff and vendor battalion to keep everyone full and happy. The event is called the International Chefs Congress and will be held in the last week of September.

I am confident in my ability to execute this major production and I even get glimmers of optimism when someone from the office brings a daffodil for everyone or has a staff tasting of homemade beer. Wading through a new workplace environment can be very complex. Trusting myself and staying hydrated has been key.

Through all this, I am definitely learning a ton, which I am grateful for. I consider this to be another great chapter in my culinary adventure book. So, stay tuned for more posts, from workplace triumphs to kitchen adventures, I hope to write now once a month now.

Sushi Party on the Fly

I recently had a couple friends over for dinner and we had an impromptu Sushi Party. With a few simple improvisations to the traditional methods, it’s fun and easy to host your own.

The idea is to do a build-your-own sushi hand roll. Hold the sheet of nori seaweed in your hand (like a diamond), then smear the inside quinoa (not too much) and fill with fresh accompaniments. Fold the tip of the diamond (closest to you) in (like a burrito) and drizzle on different sauces. Every guest will be having fun making their own unique sushi hand roll.

Serves 4


Package of Nori sheets (big sheets of seaweed)

Quinoa sticky rice sushi-style (recipe below)

Optional Accompaniment Ideas

– Sushi grade raw fish such as salmon or tuna

– roasted tofu (recipe below)

– avocado

– mango

– cucumber

– threads of green onion

– pickled carrot (recipe below)

– Sesame seeds (toasted)

– thin slices of jalapeño

– Suracha mayo dip (1/4 cup may plus 1-2 tbs Suracha)

– pickle ginger (click here for how to make)

– wasabi (can reconstitute powdered wasabi)

Quinoa – Sticky Sushi Rice Style


1½ cups quinoa, rinsed

3 cups cold water

1 teaspoon salt

¼ cup brown rice vinegar


1. In a medium pot, combine the quinoa and salt with the cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20 mins. Remove lid and stir in rice vinegar with a fork.

Citrus Dipping Sauce

This recipe was inspired by a favorite cookbook author and blogger: Heidi Swanson.


Zest and juice of 1 orange

Zest and juice of ½ lemon

2 tablespoons agave syrup (or sugar)

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar


1. In a small pan, combine just the citrus juices and agave. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 mins, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Return to a boil, cook another min or two. It will be slightly thick. Stir in the zests.

Tahini Dipping Sauce


½ cup tahini (ground sesame seeds)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 inch ginger minced

1 clove garlic, chopped



1. In a mini food processor, combine all ingredients. That’s it.

Tofu Planks


1 block firm tofu

2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon olive oil



1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the tofu block into ¼ thick pieces that are about 1×3 inches.

2. On a rimmed cookie sheet, combine all ingredients. Slather on the tofu. Bake on 350 for 20 mins, flipping half way. Cut to thin threads (about the width of a chop stick).

Quick Pickled Carrots


2 carrots, julienned (cut long and thin)

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

couple drops sesame oil

salt to taste


1. Combine ingredients and let sit for at least 15 mins, up to a few days.