During the pandemic, many of us received cooking tips from the pros over Zoom.
Just like the famous chef Giada De Laurentiis.
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When Japan House Los Angelesan organization that encourages appreciation of Japanese culture, approached De Laurentiis to give one-on-one virtual cooking lessons with the chef Shinji Ishida of the starred restaurant Nogizaka Shin in Tokyo, she jumped at the chance. The two have teamed up to shoot a two-part video series on Japanese-style fermentation.
As a Food Network star, bestselling cookbook author and successful restaurateur, De Laurentiis is synonymous with Italian cuisine. But when it comes to other cuisines she likes to explore, Japanese dishes top the list.
“I think it’s something a lot of people don’t know about me, but I am amazed by the beauty and delicacy of Japanese cuisine,” says De Laurentiis. “It’s so artistic.”
She first became familiar with cooking at the age of 20, studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris with classmates from Japan. She admired their light-hearted approach to food and their artistic skill in preparing dishes.
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Since then, she’s sought to bring this art to her own kitchen, whether it’s laying out a bowl of pasta or a platter of bruschetta.
“We Italians might be a bit more rustic,” she says, but the two cuisines share a love of simplicity that allows the flavors of all the ingredients to shine through. Like Italian cuisine, she notes, Japanese cuisine is vibrant, colorful and full of flavor.
In this video, Ishida walks her through the steps to make pickled vegetables and miso fish.
“We forget how easy it is to make fermented foods,” says De Laurentiis. “Anything can be marinated!”
It’s a simple technique – time does most of the work – to enhance the flavor, texture and nutritional value of virtually any food. Fermentation creates gut-healthy bacteria that are ideal for digestion.
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Fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut and kombucha may be all the rage, but that’s nothing new. “It’s been thousands of years,” says De Laurentiis. And it’s a technique used in almost every kitchen. Chances are you already have the basic ingredients for pickling food: vinegar, water, sugar, and salt.
“These ingredients really connect all of our cultures,” says De Laurentiis. “We may use them in a different way, but these are ingredients that we all use.”
In Japanese cuisine, rice vinegar is the standard for pickling. Another key ingredient is miso, a paste made from a fermented mixture of soybeans, rice or wheat, salt and koji mold. In this recipe, it boosts the umami in the fish.
Point: The miso solution used to marinate fish can also be used to marinate meat, vegetables and tofu. To avoid cross-contamination, be sure to marinate the ingredients separately.