How to Roll Sushi

Not exactly a recipe today, but more of a technique post.  But I do have a few sushi recipes, that can be shared here, now that I’m covering the basics!

Since I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to hear what M picked for Valentine’s dinner…(haha)…surf and turf!  Perhaps a little traditional, but oh so delicious!  He grabbed some personal-sized sirloin steaks and a cluster of snow crab legs for each of us!  It was so, so good!  I think it’s actually been over a year since I had crab legs and I definitely will have to do some scrimping and scrounging of pennies and some careful sales watching so that we can have them again before this year is over!  I’ve admitted to my own recent conversion to seafood-appreciator on this blog before, but I had forgotten how much I like crab!  Especially the legs, because the insides and organs and gunk of blue crabs still grosses me out.  Plus I’m bad at picking those little legs.  Please give me those (somewhat) tidy clusters of snow crab legs!

Yummmmmm.  I thought about those crab legs and butter all day.  I also spent the day enjoying my Valentine’s gift of a brand new office chair!  It’s red, it’s sleek, it has any amount of support…perfection!  I’ve had a sad history of used and often-broken office chairs, though my latest model was doing just fine enough for me to stop complaining about my back pain (mostly).  But, M remembered and got me one and totally surprised me at work–enough to have me on the floor teary-laughing!  So I am very excited to adjust this exactly how I need it and improve my daily office life!

Anyways, I thought I would take advantage of the simple cucumber rolls in this week’s meal plans to take a few step-by-step photos to show how to roll sushi.  I’ll be honest: the thought of making sushi was on my list of Very Intimidating Cooking Things. (Side note: if you’ve been reading along for a while, you should be celebrating with me because you also realize that I have now tackled everything on that scary list!!!)  But then I finally did it and it really can be very not frightening and even almost easy, if you are kind to yourself!  The biggest impetus was honestly that sushi is so expensive!  It it so much cheaper to make at home, and if you are very, very nervous, then just start practicing with some veggies rolls that will cost you pennies!  But they look super fancy and taste delicious and still have that sushi magic of filling you up without much food actually being used…I still prefer the ease of keeping the seaweed on the outside of the rolls–still got all the right flavors in there!  Someday, perhaps, I’ll be brave enough to flip the rice to the outside!

Let’s get started!

First make your rice.  Be sure to use rice marked as “Sushi” or “Nishiki” rice!  Prepare according to the bag’s directions.  I usually bargain for about 3 sushi rolls-worth from 1 cup of uncooked sushi rice.  Remember, 1 cup uncooked is going to result in several cups of cooked rice!

After the rice has cooked and steamed according to the package directions, for every 1 cup of uncooked rice that you made, mix together 3 Tbsp rice vinegar + 1 Tbsp sugar + 2 tsp salt in a small bowl until the sugar and salt has dissolved (if I’m in a hurry, I’ll microwave this, since the warm liquid will dissolve the salt and sugar more quickly!)  Fluff the cooked rice with a fork, then pour over the vinegar mixture and mix gently, but well to distribute the flavor!   Continue to stir gently for 1-2 minutes more, to help the rice release steam and cool.  Cool the rice to room temperature.

Prep your sushi filling–thinly slice whatever you are putting in there: fish, veggies, etc.

Fill a bowl with water, grab your nori (seaweed sheets), put the filings and the rice beside you, and you are ready to go!

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Okay, so you do need to invest in a sushi mat.  I found them for a very reasonable price at my local grocery store–it came in a kit with a wooden spoon that can be used instead of the fork to stir the vinegar into the rice!  While it is possibly to roll sushi without a mat, it make it so much easier that it is definitely worth the investment!  Place the mat in front of you with the sticks running perpendicular to you.

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Put a sheet of nori on the mat.

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Dip your fingers in the water.  With WET hands, scoop two small handfuls of rice onto the nori.  Wet your fingers again and press the rice into a thin layer.  Leave about 1 inch of space at the far end of the nori, but make sure that the rice goes close to the other edges.  If your fingers are not wet enough, the rice will stick.  Keep dipping them in the water as needed.

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Lay your fillings on the near end of the nori sheet.  Try to make them even, across the whole sushi roll.

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Grasp the edge of the mat with your thumb and forefinger (with both hands, I just needed one hand to take the photo).  Use the rest of your fingers to press against the fillings.  Lift the sushi mat and begin to roll the edge of the nori sheet over the fillings as your middle, ring, and pinky fingers tuck the filling under the edge of the roll, like you would with a burrito. (Check out the technique next time you are at chipotle–they flip the tortilla over the filling and pull/tuck it back into the roll of the tortilla.  You are doing the same pull/tuck technique with your fingers!)

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Keep rolling with the mat guiding the nori sheet until the edge of the nori goes entirely around the filling to meet the rice (I’m just lifting the mat to show you).

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You can release the mat once the filling is encased in the first part of the roll.  Keep  rolling until the rice is covered and only the edge of the nori remains.

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Use a little of the water to liberally wet down the edge of the nori wrap, all the way across.

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Roll all the way over.  The wet nori will stick to the roll.  Gently flip the roll over and press down the seam.  Place seam side down on the plate and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

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When you are ready to slice, use a serrated meat or bread knife.  Wet the blade before every cut.  I usually chop my sushi into eight pieces, as that’s simplest.  I’ll cut the roll in half, then line up the two pieces side by side to cut those pieces in half again, and then those four pieces in half one more time.

And there you have it!  Homemade sushi!

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Garden Plan 2016

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Spring Break! Wahoo!  I’m planning to get all kinds of crazy and…work through it.  Haha!  I had my grad student spring break last week, though that only meant that I did not have my classes in addition to work.  This ended up being ideal, because I caught some kind of  plague from my coughing, sniffling students and suffered through some kind of horrible chest congestion all of that week.  I was very happy that I could go home to sleep rather than drive out for my evening classes.  Next week is the public schools’ Spring Break, which means we are working even more as we host a Spring Break Camp.  We’ll have the kiddos with us during the day, learning all sorts in fun theater workshops.  But Spring Break also means that I have two weeks off from our Saturday rehearsals.  This means that I get to check out the early spring farmers market and I get to plant the garden!

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I learned a lot last year, in my first foray into square foot gardening.  This year, I’m sticking close to the plan, but adjust some spacing so that we use the space better.  The biggest change will be that I plan to border our box with a row of onions and radishes on all four sides.  One square would hold 16 plants, but instead, I can take a few inches around the edge to grow an pile of them!  I use onions in almost everything, so I am quite excited!  I’m adjusting the plants on the inside slightly.  I am going to try growing strawberries this year, though I don’t have high hopes of getting to the berries before the squirrels or the neighborhood kids (who don’t seem to understand that the garden isn’t their own personal buffet).  I am also focusing on sturdier greens: bibb lettuce, romaine, spinach, and, eventually, kale and swiss chard.  The mesclun mix that I planted last year never really sprouted and I never got around to my Fall planting for the hardier greens.  I’m planting a little earlier, since our March has been so warm.  I’m hoping this will help out my early spring greens. Tomatoes, peppers, and snow peas are all making a second appearance this year.  After the success of the jalapeños last summer, I think I may just stick with them and try to up my spice tolerance.  I didn’t get a single flower from last year’s poblano plant.  Last year’s bush beans never thrived, so I am trying pole string beans this year.  We love green beans, so I am hoping that they will do well!

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This year, my patio herb ladder (tutorial coming soon!) is also ready, so I will be able to plant my herbs early.  I think some of the more tender plants, like cilantro and dill, were planted when it was too hot for them to really take root well.  I am able to fit the full kitchen collection of herbs into my four troughs: cilantro, two kinds of basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage, dill, lavender, lemon balm, and oregano.  This year, I’m adding Bee Balm.  My gardening book suggests steeping it like tea.  I’ll have Thai basil, chives, and parsley in the garden plot again.  I’ll try planting a cilantro out there too–that herb seems to give me the most trouble.  Maybe a little more space will be what it needs!  The chives are the only thing growing in the plot at the moment.  They seem quite happy, so I’m hoping for the slim chance that we’ll have chive blossoms by Easter.  I loooove chive blossoms paired with goat’s cheese.  That sounds like the perfect appetizer before Easter dinner!

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The herbs will still be planted well after the seeds are planted in the garden plot.  I am hoping to plant the Spring seeds this weekend.  Saturday should be beautiful and warm.  Snow is on the forecast for Sunday, but only flurries with the temperature above 35 degrees.  The rest of next week gets back into the high 60s, so I’m hoping the little seeds will whether one chilly night without any problems.  None of them will be sprouting yet, so they shouldn’t be too fragile.

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I aim to be better at posting about the garden.  I have photos from last year, but my notes are not as detailed as I’d like.  Hopefully, I can keep this blog updated and have a nice record for my future self!

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The Best Asian Pan Sauce

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I thought about calling this post “The Little Asian Pan Sauce That Could…Be Put on Everything”.  But ultimately, I thought simple was better, because this sauce is exactly that: simple.  And, yet, it is extraordinarily delicious on everything I have brushed it onto: chicken, shrimp, pork, pineapple, roasted vegetables.  These photos are from the beginning of the summer, before the camp craziness, but I have made this sauce several more times throughout the past weeks.  Even after an 11-hour work day, the fifteen minutes spent to create this sauce were well worth it.  Though I rarely remembered to take photographs over the last seven hectic weeks, I still have a respectable list of recipes (and even a craft or two) waiting to be posted.  But this sauce tops the list.

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Camp is an interesting time in my life.  I keep hoping that I will be better adjusted each time that summer rolls around, but even after three years, camp is the sprint of my occupational race.  This year, with our move, we were up by 5:30am to walk the dog, pack breakfast, dress and get out the door to beat traffic.  M’s schedule had him outside for five hours of the day, and running around in between.  My schedule had me warming-up, stretching, dancing, writing, filming, improvising, acting, blocking, and directing 30 teenagers for seven hours straight, before joining M for the final hours outside.  Besides the physical energy needed to keep up with our campers, the mental energy needed also surprises me.  We are monitoring allergies and health issues, and students’ preferences, behavior, and participation.  We are leaders, mediators, teachers, and examples, whether we are behaving correctly or not.  Especially with teenagers, the moment that their teachers disengage in an activity, their interest is lost, as well.  We eat with the students and take breaks with them; every moment between when they step out of their car, until they climb back in, is under our eyes.

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So I suppose it isn’t so surprising that camp, while exhilarating, entertaining, and uplifting; is also entirely draining.  Though I jumped at the chance to participate in any opportunities for stretching during the camp day, I come out of camp craving long walks and yoga.  I find myself needing a nap by midday, and still climbing into bed early each night.  I yearn for the contemplative time spent kneading gnocchi dough, simmering soups, and slow-roasting vegetables.  I need to savor the meditative smells of rising yeast bread, caramelizing onions, and fresh-chopped herbs.  The end of camp sends me running to the kitchen and also induces cravings for the heartier, slower autumn dishes, in spite of the August heat.  Luckily, butternut squash is already starting to appear in our farmer’s markets, and the summery tomatoes and peppers lend themselves towards these fall flavors as well.  I’m alternating between long, involved dishes and quick sautés and stir-fries as I settle into this self-imposed time of renewal.  I’m looking forward to my mornings of walking and yoga, with more slow-paced stretches of work before I come to evenings of cooking, writing, and learning.  I finally have time to truly delve into my Lynda.com subscription, and I am very excited at the variety of program tutorials waiting for me.

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I suspect that this Asian sauce will be showing up in my kitchen again, very soon.  The full flavor, so simply made, is too perfect to ignore.  I hope you will make some, too!  Let me know what you try it on–I’ve yet to be disappointed.  Shrimp may be my favorite meat to glaze with this sauce, but it was absolute divine on the peppers and pineapple in these skewers.

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Asian Pan & Glazing Sauce

Adapted from Bonefish Grill

Serves: 4 | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cook time: 10 minutes

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. finely minced ginger
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. gluten-free tamari*
  • 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  • 1/2 c. gluten-free oyster sauce**
  • 1 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp. honey or agave nectar (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp.-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1-2 tsp. sriracha sauce (optional)

*Please always check labels.  The vast majority of tamari used to be gluten-free, but I am finding more and more that contain gluten.  San-J is a reliable gluten-free brand.

**Wok-Mei makes a gluten-free oyster sauce.  For vegetarians/vegan readers: several veg. brand are available.  Lee Kum Kee’s Vegetarian Oyster Sauce is, in fact, vegan, but contains wheat.  Please let me know if you find a reliable Gluten-free AND Vegan Oyster sauce.

Saute ginger and garlic in the olive oil in a small saucepan.  In a separate bowl, whisk together tamari, ketchup, oyster sauce, lime juice, vinegar, and honey/agave.  Once ginger and garlic is fragrant (1-2 minutes) and just barely beginning to brown, add sauce mixture.  Bring to a boil, turn down heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir in red pepper flakes and sriracha sauce.  Remove from heat.  Sauce will thicken as it cools.  If too thick, add up to 1 Tbsp. of warm water.

Brush sauce onto grilling or frying meats and vegetables, basting with every turn.  Or, use as a marinade.  Sauce will keep in tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.


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