There was a turning point in my life recently: the day I started traveling with my chef's knife. Whether it is a trip home or to a friend's house, I don't dare to leave my baby at home in case the opportunity to chop an onion presents itself and I find myself without the proper tools. So, last week, while out of town for quite a while and in need of a soothing activity, a vegetable to dice would have been lovely. However, on this particular trip, there was no kitchen to be found, and therefore, no knife needed.
It was precisely this lack of creative outlet that became catalyst for my most recent cooking spasm. While away, I spent a long period of time thinking about all the things I was going to cook when I got back - asian, indian, thai, italian, greek, etc. So, when I returned, I hit the store, and like a shopoholic in Gucci for the first time in a month, I went nuts. Without plan or purpose, I bought everything in sight. This spree continued as I got home and cooked roughly 5-7 disjointed, unrelated meals.
Therefore, for this post, I give you:
The Hand Roll Experiment and Other Pretty Pictures.
I have been craving the clean, fresh simplicity of sushi for quite a while now. A friend of mine was recently telling me how she and her family would always snack on nori rolls when she was a kid. Hence, it was immediately added to my ongoing "things to cook" list.
You should know, before we begin, that I acquired a new kitchen gadget this week. Although I have enacted a strict "no purchase" policy in the kitchen due to my upcoming wedding and therefore possible wedding gifts - I simply cracked. I was trying to make a good baba ganoush last week, and I remembered the "smoked eggplant dip" that was made in Philly vegan kitchen I worked in - that was all it took. 5 minutes later, there was a smoker box on the way to Daytona from Cheboygan, Michigan via Ebay. DONE!!!
So, when the nori roll craving hit me, my first thought was - SMOKED TOFU. Now most of you probably don't have a smoker, especially if you are vegetarian. People smoke ribs and pork all the time, but not everyone is sitting home smoking strips of eggplant, tofu and tomatoes. It's cool. Baked tofu will do just fine. You don't all have to be crazy like me.
There are a number of things you can put in sushi and hand rolls, so I will just give you the recipes of some of my fillings. They are clean and simple. For a tutorial in making your own hand rolls, watch this video.
Carrot & Daikon Salad
1 carrot, grated or julienned*
1/2 daikon radish, grated or julienned
2 green onions,sliced thinly on a bias
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar or sugar
1 block smoked tofu or baked tofu, diced
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
4 tablespoons Sriracha chili sauce or Sambal (add more for a little kick!)
2 green onions, finely chopped
My Favorite Sushi Stuffin's
Panko bread crumbs
*A mandolin is ideal for this, but I don't have one. So, I like to use the biggest holes on my box grater. Perfect.
**Traditionally, a short-grained white rice is used in sushi. It is essential to create that sweet "sticky rice" that is so yummy. However, I prefer brown rice, and since I am not making something traditional, brown works. If you can find it, short-grained brown rice is ideal. You can choose any kind you would like (you can even go crazy and use millet or quinoa if you are feeling feisty) - just cook 1 cup rice according to the directions, then spread it out in a baking dish, and sprinkle with a mixture of 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar mixed with a little sugar. This will give even brown rice that sweet subtle sushi flavor.
This was my first attempt at a hand roll, and I have to agree with the video, they are much easier than inside-out sushi rolls. It took me a couple tries, and they were not perfect by any means, but they are a GREAT snack or light lunch. Use any of these fillings for traditional sushi as well.
Before I move on to the "random photo" section of this post I would like to add one final note. My beautiful, loving uncle, Kevin Martin, passed away last week. While it feels silly mentioning this in my blog about food, it would feel sillier not doing so. Kevin was a huge foodie, and especially loved a big plate of sushi. So, I would like to dedicate this rough-looking, half-thought-out plate of sushi to him. He would have eaten it up gladly and asked for more.
And now, as promised, some random pretty pictures: