Recipe by Gerald Warner, executive sushi chef, Café Japengo
Cooking is a family thing for me. We live in a cul de sac, so sometimes the neighbors come over, too. A lot of times, I cook on the grill. I do steaks and chicken dishes that go with what we grow in our garden. Every night we have a cheese board with dinner. We do some melted Brie and sharp Parmesan before dinner with good wine. Sometimes we have fresh artichokes or other vegetables in season. It’s just family time. It’s how I grew up.
The kids grew up with me in the garden, planting seeds. My kids pick green beans and cucumbers and I give them a butter knife so they can help prep salads and cut up vegetables. They love to help. In our garden we grow carrots, asparagus, cucumbers, peas, green beans, corn, and peaches and oranges. We also have chickens so we can always have farm-fresh eggs. I go out with the kids and they have a partnership with what they are eating. Anytime I need to plant I have the kids help. I say, “This is your corn. These are your green beans.” I say, “Go get me some carrots,” and they feed the tops to the rabbits. Once I told my kids that if they ate beets it would turn their pee pink. They try things and like them and vegetables become the norm.
I grew up in Poway with a big garden and loved to cook with my mom, slicing and dicing in the kitchen. I was always big into the outdoors, too, and got a degree in fitness from Humboldt State. I started making sushi because my Japanese history professor at Humboldt had a Japanese restaurant and he hired me. I love to fish and bring in abalone, so making sushi fit right in. When I started at Japengo, I was a little tempura boy in the back of the restaurant and the sushi chefs bossed me around. But I worked my way up the ranks and now I’m the executive sushi chef at Japengo. I love the interaction with people in the restaurant. I ask, “Hey, what do you like?” and when they tell me, I make new combinations of sushi for them.
I love to cook. Even when I am off work, I cook.
1 cup shredded green papaya (shoestring style)
1 cup shredded English cucumber (shoestring style)
1/2 cup strips of fresh mango
1/4 cup cleaned cilantro leaves
1/3 cup ponzu (citrus soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon grated or minced ginger (not pickled
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon chili sauce (optional)
1/2 cup chuka seaweed salad (sometimes called “ocean salad,” available in Asian markets)
1 cup assorted sashimi grade fish (tuna, fresh salmon, yellowtail, octopus, crab)
HOW TO DO IT
Slice papaya and cucumber into very thin, shoestring-size slices or run through a mandolin. Slice fresh mango and chop cilantro. In a medium bowl, mix the ponzu, ginger, sesame oil, sesame seeds, and chili sauce (if desired). Add vegetables, chuka seaweed salad, and fish and gently combine. Serve in bowls or on beveled plates.
NOTE: Sushi ingredients can be purchased at:
Catalina Offshore Products.
5202 Lovelock St. San Diego, CA 92110