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A little spill gives baby his first taste of raw ahi

LAST UPDATED: 1:19 a.m. HST, Jun 16, 2011

With more channels devoted to cooking, restaurants opening by the dozens, thousands of blogs dedicated to food, slow food movements, local food fanatics and new cookbooks on every cuisine and technique, it’s not surprising that the world of baby food has gone gourmet. The amount one could spend on baby food gadgetry and the time one could spend on special puréed dinners make me think kids might start being picky in whole new ways. Instead of only eating chicken nuggets, maybe your son will only open his mouth for perfectly cooked calamari (as long as it was locally sourced and organic).

I was thinking about this while in line at the Kailua Farmer’s Market. I had already picked up a Sushi Surfer Slider from the Otsuji Farms’ booth. I negotiated the tempura-fried eggplant topped with raw ahi and various sauces while I bounced around, trying to keep my 5-month-old son, Mozely, happy. I had him strapped into a front-facing infant carrier; he mewled just to let me know that dragging him around on a four-hour vegetable shopping trip was not the best idea I’d had lately.

I took a bite of my slider but failed to make a clean cut. Some ahi fell onto my shirt, and I looked down just in time to see Mozely bury his face right into the food. A protest jumped out of my mouth as I tried to mop up the flavorful stain. He looked up and smiled a big, gummy, gleeful grin. I could not find that piece of fish anywhere.

I’m fairly certain that Mozely’s first solid food was raw, saucy and tender ahi. While I’m not endorsing this for obvious safety reasons, I suppose that his was the most delicious one could hope for. Even so, I was a bit disturbed at how easily he chomped up that spicy morsel.

I guess I will need to do some studying on cooking technique for the world’s newest, and youngest, food critic. When he’s old enough to eat sushi, I’ll be ready with this recipe. Maybe it will remind him of his first, perfect bite.

Poke Salad

Inspired by Stage restaurant’s ahi poke appetizer
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons mirin
1/2 small red or sweet onion, thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup toasted Marcona almonds
1 pound sushi-grade ahi, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup sunflower sprouts
1 cup baby arugula
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
2 teaspoons thinly sliced jalapeño pepper (optional)

Heat soy sauce, sugar and mirin in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir it around until it thickens to the consistency of maple syrup, about 6 minutes. (Sauce will bubble for most of that time.) Let cool.

Put onion into small bowl and sprinkle with sherry vinegar. Let it sit for 10 minutes.

Chop Marcona almonds to consistency of big pieces of bread crumbs. Remove onions from sherry vinegar.

In medium bowl, toss ahi, cooled sauce, onions, almonds and sesame oil. Add avocado and toss gently again. Be careful to keep avocado from getting mushy and dissolving into the sauce — you want it in chunks alongside fish.

Place a bit of the sprouts and arugula on individual plates and top with poke. Sprinkle with green onion and sesame seeds, then jalapeño peppers if using.

Serve alone or with rice. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 400 calories, 18 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 40 mg cholesterol, greater than 1,100 mg sodium, 22 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 38 g protein

Mariko Jackson blogs about family and food at

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