Waking Up the Palette with Sashimi, Sweet Potato Greens and Ponzu


I have at times been at a loss trying to find ways to make the food really appetizing and flavorful and yet low calorie. I’ve done sous vide chicken to implode the flavors into the meat. I’ve braised the veg and the food adding lots of fresh herbs. I’ve done miso soup, I’ve cooked potato greens, I eat baby bok choy almost daily. But I wanted something really interesting with lots of peppery vibrancy that was healthy and interesting.

Yesterday I went to my local Japanese market as I really enjoy cooking Japanese food and have cooked Japanese food for many years. This time I wanted to buy the ingredients to prepare one of my favorites, sashimi.  Sashimi is thinly sliced, raw seafood and served raw in the Japanese cuisine. It is usually arranged and served on top of shredded daikon and shiso leaves. Sashimi pieces are typically dipped into a dish of soy sauce, which can be accompanied by wasabi depending on the kind of sashimi.

I picked up a nice piece of tilapia to slice up as sashimi. Tilapia is a  tender, white fish, and a rich source of protein, low in calories, no trans fats, no carbohydrates, source of several essential vitamins and minerals, lowest level of mercury concentration of all fish.

Rather than doing a traditional soy/wasabi dipping sauce I chose to make a ponzu, ginger, green onion sauce and then drizzle that sauce over the tilapia. Ponzu is a terrific product, low in calories, a bit high on sodium, but fabulous with tilapia and a number of other types of fish. Ponzu has sweet, sour, slightly salty flavor and I thought it would pair beautifully with the delicate lovely fish combined with the freshly grated ginger with its dancing, peppery, slightly sweet flavors along with finely chopped scallions.

I had picked up some lovely sweet potato greens at the local farmers market and thought they would be a perfect accompaniment to the sashimi part of the menu. Yummy, peppery, crunchy notes of pickled mustard seeds were added as the finishing touch to the greens. I would not consider the greens to be particularly peppery but more as a foil to pick up other flavors.

To make the green dish, I removed the leaves from the stems (leaving some of the tender parts of the stems), quickly blanched the greens, cooled them under running water, then removed the excess liquid from the leaves and chopped them. They were then added to a wok, where I was sauteing chopped onions, garlic and red peppers, along with some water. I covered the wok, and cooked the greens until the liquid was absorbed and then added a bit of spicy mustard into the wok to tie it together.

The greens were topped with pickled mustard seeds to pull the peppery menu together. Mustard seed’s hot and spicy flavors enhance most meats, fish, and sauces and I believed that the pickled mustard seeds would tie into very well to the ginger and ponzu sauce (the pickled mustard seed recipe comes from the Momofuku cookbook and a favorite of my friend Dan).

My taste buds were definitely going to be awake with this menu. I laid out the tilapia topped with the ponzu, ginger, green onion sauce, with the greens topped with pickled mustard seeds (that were prepared earlier in the day) and a lovely side of sliced cucumbers.

The peppery notes blended beautifully between both dishes and the cucumbers provided a wonderfully cooling component to the meal along with some crispy crunchy texture.

A wonderful, refreshing lunch under 220 calories.

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