I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m wary of fusion cooking. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to national cuisines: when I try a new ethnic dish for the first time, or even a classic European or North American recipe, I want to do it right, and to me that means making it the traditional, “official” way. After that, I’ll tweak the recipe and make variations (for example, I will always put cream in a gratin dauphinois, even though by definition it shouldn’t contain any – because it just tastes so much better that way). But I’ll rarely get to the point where I start playing with cultures, probably because there are still so many traditional recipes out there for me to try. Indian croquembouche and Vietnamese osso bucco actually sound pretty good – but how about I master the originals first? (Although I think I’ve got osso bucco down pat… might be time to mix it up.)
For some reason, Japanese cuisine is an exception: I am much more open to fusing Japanese ingredients, techniques, and flavours into other types of dishes. Maybe it’s because this is one of most common types of fusion in restaurants: just look at all the yuzu and matcha green tea on the average gourmet menu. And maybe it’s because Japanese flavours tend to be clean and subtle, and therefore lend themselves to being combined with other aromas and tastes (unlike Chinese flavours, for example, which are a powerhouse that would take over most dishes). Or maybe it’s because I have a special place in my heart (and my belly) for Japanese food.
Then again, it could be simply because I have a particularly good fusion book in my personal library: Laure Kié’s Ma petite cuisine japonaise. Born of a French mother and a Japanese father, and married to a Southern Frenchman, Kié creatively blends flavours and concepts from both cultures. I initially purchased her book because the recipes were varied and seemed doable, but also because I was intrigued by them, almost to the point of being sceptical. Pizza margherita with nori? Savoury cake with miso and olives? Substituting pastis for sake? And what was with all the olive oil?
I still have many recipes from this book to test, but my scepticism evaporated after the first couple of tries. Nori, it turns out, goes amazingly well with tomatoes (thanks to the high levels of umami in both ingredients). Salmon teriyaki seized with olive oil tastes just fine, richer than when canola oil is used. And, as I found out this week, nori and parmesan can be great together.
I was making a traditional Japanese dish for dinner (cod marinated in miso), and wanted to make something fun as an appetizer. These little sablés jumped out at me. They are very quick to make, and I love the metallic aftertaste of the nori. As expected of a Mediterranean-influenced recipe, olive oil is used instead of butter, making for a stronger tasting, albeit less crumbly dough. I also added a couple of teaspoonfuls of shichimi togarashi, or Japanese seven spice powder, to add some zing – although Espelette chili pepper would also have been good.
Nori Parmesan Sablés
Adapted from Laure Kié’s Ma petite cuisine japonaise
Yields 45 small cookies
50g (1 cup, loosely packed) parmesan, grated
1/2 cups nori, cut into strips
180g (1 cup + 2 tbsp) all-purpose flour
1 tsp sea salt
1-2 tsp shichimi togarashi (optional)
80ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
2 tbsp water
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
In a large bowl, combine the parmesan, flour, nori, salt, and shichimi togarashi, if using. In another smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, water, and the egg. Mix the liquid ingredients into the dry ones (by hand or in a food processor), to obtain a homogenous, soft dough.
Roll the dough out on a pastry board, to a 5 mm (1/4 inch) thickness. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Using a 3,5 cm (1 1/2 inch) cookie cutter, cut out the sablés and lay them out over baking sheets lined with parchment paper (I used two sheets). Gather the scraps, re-roll the dough, and cut our more sablés. Repeat until all the dough is used.
Chill the sablés for 15 minutes, then bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on the baking sheets.