It’s several days post-Thanksgiving and my jeans, like a sausage casing around my lower body, are a depressing reminder that I might have over-indulged. This time of year is tough; a huge feast kicks off a marathon holiday season that tempts with cheese platters, boozy eggnog, and cookies. Come January 1st, I’ll be dragging a larger version of myself across the finish line with a hefty, but hopefully lucrative, meal featuring collard greens and black-eyed peas. Then I’ll hit the treadmill.
In an effort to tip the scales back in my favor, I’m trying to fill my fridge with some lighter items this December. This vegetable sushi is a good start. Fresh, simple, and easily prepared ahead it’s a filling, but not slowing, meal that is good for lunch or dinner. It also makes a fine appetizer for a holiday party if you’d like to offer an alternative to crab cakes or brie en croute.
I’ve made sushi many times over the years and I’ve come to the conclusion that good rice is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary sushi. While you could certainly steam sushi rice in water and get an acceptable final product, adding a small square of konbu to the rice as it steams and mixing in seasoned rice vinegar at the end of cooking gives your sushi authenticity.
Once you nail the rice, it’s just a matter of finding the freshest and best ingredients for the rolls. Fresh vegetables are always a hit, but I also love the combination of fresh tuna with avocado and just a hint of sriracha mayo. Whatever you decide to fill your rolls with, sushi rolls can be made ahead or enlist your guests in the preparation and have a sushi rolling station at your next party. Happy cooking!
Sushi Rice – Printer Friendly Recipe (includes all recipes)
Makes about 2 ½ cups
You can always find Konbu at Asian grocery stores that carry Japanese ingredients although I was recently surprised to find that my local grocery store now carries it in the Asian ingredients section.
1 ½ cups sushi rice (rinsed under cold water)
2 cups water
1-inch square Konbu (kelp)
1 ½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Combine the sushi rice and water in a medium saucepan. Wipe the konbu square with a damp cloth and place on top of the rice. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the saucepan. Steam the rice for 20 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the sugar, salt and rice vinegar over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the sugar and salt dissolve. Sprinkle the seasoned vinegar over the cooked rice and use a paddle to toss the rice and vinegar together. Be careful not to smash the rice grains as you toss them. Spread the rice on a small baking sheet to allow the rice to quickly cool. Use as directed.
Vegetable Sushi – Printer Friendly Recipe (includes all recipes)
Makes 8 sushi rolls
This recipe shows how to make sushi with the rice on the inside of the roll. If you prefer your rice on the outside , please see the notes on “How to Make Inside-Out Vegetable Rolls” following this recipe. When in season, blanched asparagus makes a nice addition to these rolls.
1 recipe cooked and seasoned sushi rice (see above)
½ hothouse or regular cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/4” strips
2 green onions, julienned (cut into matchstick-sized pieces)
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
½ red bell pepper, julienned
½ yellow bell pepper, julienned
1/2 avocado, cut into ¼” slices
8 sheets of roasted Nori (seaweed paper)
Serve with: soy dipping sauce (recipe follows), pickled ginger, and wasabi
Wrap a sushi mat in plastic wrap and place a small bowl of water seasoned with rice vinegar near you. Place a sheet of nori on the sushi mat and spread about 1/3 cup of the cooked rice over the wrapper leaving a ¼-inch strip on the far edge of the wrapper clear of rice. The rice will be sticky and it may be helpful to dip your fingers in the bowl of water to prevent the rice from sticking to them. Place the vegetables you would like to use in your roll about 1-inch in from the nori edge closest to you. Using the mat and starting with the side nearest you, roll up the sushi to form a long roll. With your finger, dampen the edge of the nori that is free of rice and use it to seal the roll.
Set the finished roll on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to gently cut the sushi into bite-sized pieces. Serve with soy dipping sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
How to Make Inside-Out Vegetable Rolls
Wrap a sushi mat in plastic wrap and place a small bowl of water seasoned with rice vinegar near you. Place a piece of the halved nori on the sushi mat and completely cover it with about 1/3 cup of the cooked rice. The rice will be sticky and it may be helpful to dip your fingers in the bowl of water to prevent the rice from sticking to them. Once the nori has been coated with rice, gently flip the nori over so that the rice is touching the wrapped sushi mat.
Lay your selection of julienned vegetables about 1-inch in from the nori edge closest to you. Using the mat and starting with the side nearest you, roll up the sushi to form a long roll. Seal the sushi by gently pressing the remaining edge into the roll. Sprinkle the roll with toasted sesame seeds
Set the finished roll on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to gently cut the sushi into bite-sized pieces. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.
Soy-Dipping Sauce – Printer Friendly Recipe (includes all recipes)
Makes about 1/3 cup
¼ cup soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon thinly-sliced green onion
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds, toasted
Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, green onion and toasted sesame seeds in a small bowl. Serve.