Even the hand-written recipe she provided is pretty; it’s decorated with a charming drawing. It is a clue to pleasures to come, as are pineapple boats waiting to be filled and the impeccably coordinated table. The shining taste of the finished dish drives the point home: Noriko Sidlow sees cooking as a total art and likes nothing more than to prepare and share a beautiful experience at the table.
Sidlow came to Florida six years ago from Kobe, Japan. She describes her hometown as being to Osaka, Japan, as Beverly Hills is to Los Angeles — an upscale adjunct offering the finest in the arts, fashion and dining. Although she learned to make beautiful and healthy food from her mother, she credits eating in Kobe’s high-end restaurants as a significant source of inspiration.
A largely self-taught cook, Sidlow has no formal training and uses cookbooks only for their pictures as idea starters. Yet this story of a New Year’s Eve dinner reveals high regard for her skills. Two years ago, the owners of a prominent, local Japanese restaurant wanted a traditional meal for that holiday but did not feel that their staff had the time or skills to prepare it. They asked Sidlow to do it, and when that word got out, several more Japanese families asked for the same thing. Sidlow ended up delivering the complex, multi-course feast to four or five families.
She has expanded her repertoire far beyond her native cuisine to encompass the traditional Jewish dishes relished by her husband, Chuck, as well as diverse European cuisines. She loves French food and presented the Asian dish featured here with an eclectic, Italian “buon appetito.” Whatever culinary language she is speaking, Sidlow gives each meal a theme to be implemented in music, flowers and table decor. It is “exotic elegance” for this one. A Halloween dinner featured a haunted house cut from black seaweed atop a bed of Japanese-style rice pilaf tinted orange with ketchup and individual desserts in the shape of spooks. A luncheon for the star of Sarasota Opera’s fall production of “Madame Butterfly” was laden with lepidoptera.
Before moving here, Sidlow had a company in Kobe that produced events from fashion shows and business meetings to bridal fairs and weddings. She is also a trained pianist, violinist and keyboard teacher. Now she does it all from her home in Mote Ranch, including cooking lessons and catering for private parties. You can contact her at 928-2246 or look her up on Facebook as MoshiMoshiBonjour.
Sweet and Sour Shrimp in a Pineapple Boat
Start to finish: 1 hour
Yield: 4 servings
SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
8 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons potato starch or cornstarch
1 cup water
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
Vegetable oil for deep-frying shrimp
1/2 sweet red bell pepper
1/2 sweet green bell pepper
1/2 sweet yellow pepper
8 ounces mushrooms
1 to 2 carrots
5 tablespoons vegetable oil to sauté vegetables
1 tablespoon sesame oil
SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE:
• Dissolve the starch in 3 tablespoons of the water.
• Combine remaining water with other ingredients in a small pan and heat.
• Add the dissolved cornstarch and cook briefly over low heat until sauce shines and thickens slightly. Set aside.
• Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise. Remove the middle to make four boats. Remove and discard core and cut the pineapple into chunks.
• Coarsely chop the vegetables and mango.
• Dust the shrimp lightly with potato starch.
• In a sauté pan, heat two to three inches of vegetable oil to 360 degrees and deep-fry the shrimp until they start to change color and become crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel or wire rack. Pour off deep-frying fat.
• Heat the sesame oil and 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and sauté vegetables and mango until just crisp tender. Season with salt and pepper.
• Add sweet and sour sauce.
• Return fried shrimp to pan and stir to combine. Serve in pineapple boats
• Stir-fry can also be made with pork or chicken.
• For vegan preparation, use tofu.
• Dish is gluten-free.
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