Sushi Sampler

I’ve had a serious hankering for sushi for 48 hours. I tried to get sushi with my girls on Sunday afternoon but was painfully reminded that Japanese restaurants across the board are closed on Sundays. We pulled up to three places, one after the other, while the three of us got sadder and sadder with each failed attempt. We ended up at an Indian buffet which was as awesome as Indian buffets tend to be, but I still hadn’t satiated my desire for a plate of edible art.

So homemade sushi it was. I’ve made my own sushi many times before but it’s something I have to get geared up to do. It takes awhile to prepare all the different ingredients (unless you just want to eat 8 avocado rolls), the sticky sushi rice gets everywhere during both the process of preparing AND eating (I found sushi rice in the baby’s diaper the next morning), and finally, your efforts yield an awful lot of sushi. I mean in my opinion, if you’re going to go to the trouble of preparing all the ingredients, you may as well make a ton. And we all know that sushi needs to be eaten the day of, so leftovers aren’t really in the cards. But thankfully, an adorable family in our neighborhood was free to come for dinner and they all happen to love sushi so I went ahead and rolled a bazillion maki to my heart’s content.

What you see here is avocado, shiitake, cucumber and carrot maki, glazed seitan nigiri, blanched sugar snap pea nigiri and sauteed tofu nigiri. The variety of colors and flavors in this sampler were a feast for the eyes AND the taste buds!

To make this sampler you’ll need: nori sheets, all the sushi ingredients, agave, hoisin sauce, teriyaki sauce, sushi rice, rice wine vinegar, sugar, mirin and then soy sauce for dipping (I combine equal parts soy sauce and mirin to soften the saltiness of the soy sauce), and of course wasabi and ginger.

Cook the sushi rice and then while still warm, mix in 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar and 1 tbsp sugar per cup of uncooked rice. Add more to taste if you’d like. The avocado, cucumber and carrot all remain raw and just need to be cut into slices for rolling. To make the shiitake, in a small saucepan over medium heat, combine a tbsp of mirin, a tbsp of soy sauce, a tbsp of sugar and a cup of water. Bring to a boil and then add in sliced shiitakes and cook until the liquid is completed reduced. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

For the maki rolls, spread the rice in an even, thin layer on a sheet of nori. This is a messy process but fun, too. Then place whatever ingredient(s) you want, lengthwise towards the bottom of the nori sheet (the part closest to you). Then holding the roll firmly with all your fingers, start rolling it up. Some people use a bamboo mat for this but I never have. I just place the whole thing on a cutting board and roll with my hands. If you need to, add a little more rice or water to the top of the nori sheet to seal the roll once it’s been rolled up all the way. Set aside. As the rice moistens the nori, the whole roll will soften. If you want to make these ahead of time, wrap each roll tightly with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter. Do not refrigerate! When it’s time to eat, unwrap it and slice into pieces using a sharp, serrated knife.

For the nigiri, I pan-fried strips of seitan in agave and hoisin sauce until they were caramelized and browning on the edges. For the sugar snap peas, clean and “unzip” them and then blanch and set aside. For the tofu, cut little slabs of medium-firm tofu and saute with just a few splashes of teriyaki sauce until browned on edges. When you’re ready to assemble the nigiri, cut one of the nori sheets into small strips for the nori “belts.” Then wet your hands and take a small amount of the seasoned rice and squeeze it together with your hands firmly, shaping it into a little pillow of rice. It’s important for your hands to be wet so the rice doesn’t stick to you. Then place one of the nigiri ingredients on top of the rice pillow and carefully wrap a belt around, sealing the ends underneath. The ends should not overlap or else they’ll be harder to get to stick to each other.

I served this sushi sampler with a couple of Japanese side dishes that I’ll be posting over the next couple of days so stay tuned.

Happy eating!