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Apr 8, 2010 05:49 PM

Mark Bittman recipe questions

So I finally got Mark Bittman's 'Best Recipes in the World' checked out of the library. YUM! I've got like 18 post-its marking recipes and am drooling to start. SO and DS settled on Teriyaki Steak (p. 360) and I decided on Basmati Rice w/ Shiso (p. 510). I told them that if they didn't find SOMETHING good in this cookbook, I wasn't cooking until October!

Questions - Mark seems really good about giving alternatives if appropriate (I'm using cilantro and basil ilo shiso which I have no idea where to get - I've checked the Asian markets)

For the steak (which is a great deal this week or I wouldn't be making it) he states 1/2 cup sake or a slightly sweet wine like German Kabinett or Spatlese. I don't have sake or wine in my house (don't drink them) but I've had great success w/ vermouth (suggested here on CH and thank you very much). So can I / should I use the vermouth or spend the $$ for sake?? Has anyone tried this? The general gist is that start the steaks on high, pull them off and add sake, mirin, sugar and soy sauce. Bubble and put steaks back in and finish to a sticky finish.

For the Basmati rice, he asks for an oven finish. Gist is that you start the herbs w/ butter, add rice, add water, bring to a boil and finish in oven. When it's removed add remaining spices and viola! Dinner is served. Can I nix the oven finish? Not relishing turning on the oven. I'm wearing shorts and it's pushing 90 degrees.

Since Mark doesn't give his phone number, I can't call the home boy up and get his advice. I'm hoping CH can - I've gotten great recipes and advice here.

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  1. I wonder if shiso is available at any of your markets under any of its alternative names? This wikipedia article mentions some of them:

    Absent that, go ahead and use the alternatives Bittman suggests. I think I would use basil before the cilantro.

    If you like the recipe and want to try it with the real shiso, you can grow it from seed or plants. We've had good success with it in our garden.

    2 Replies
    1. re: karykat

      Thanks KaryKat - Um, I know I don't have Shiso growing here. What zone are you in? If it's an easy grow, I'll throw it in a pot. The fact that it's a re-seeder (is that a word?) makes me want one. I think I did see Aoba at the market. I'll check again - but it's so intimidating to look at a leaf and think, "Yeah! That'll work!"

      The reason I was going to use basil and cilantro, is cuz' that's what I have available. Thanks!

      1. re: karykat

        Jerry -- I'm in the northlands (Minnesota). We've grown the green and the red shiso.

        You can steep the red stuff in vinegar to make an amazing shiso flavored vinegar. The most amazing shade of magenta red and great flavor.

        Let us know how your dinner creations turn out.

      2. With that particular glaze, the vermouth would be a very fine alternative. You won't notice a huge difference in the finished product.

        I don't think anything tastes much like shiso, but the basil and cilantro together will taste good, if not much like the original. I'd think maybe basil and mint together, but that's still not all that close. I'm going to attempt to grow my own shiso this summer. I hear it's very robust.

        1. I don't think you're East coast but Shiso grows in Cental Park. It's a member of the mint family and the flavor intensity has been compared to that of mint and fennel, with cumin. parsley and cinnamon notes. Aka beefsteak plant or perilla, there are two varieties, red and green. So I don't know what you can use to sub for the shiso, a little cilantro, something citrusy and a little basil. Maybe a lime basil, if you can get that.

          Use the vermouth that you have, but it's not really the same as sake or a slightly sweet German wine. I don't think it will matter too much and the end result will be fine.

          You can finish the rice on the stove over a low flame, no prob.

          1. Thanks for all the input! I'll be looking for shiso to grow. I'm no where near Central Park (Phoenix AZ) but I appreciate the taste comparisons. I'll be using the vermouth. No need to store more booze.

            Thanks again!

            1 Reply
            1. re: JerryMe

              Do you have dry sherry? That might work better in place of sake.

            2. Email him at the New York Times. He might reply on his blog.