The reasons why I hate sushi: Raw fish, seaweed and mandatory one-bite-mouthfuls equal a mushy mess of foreign flavor that makes me gag.
The reason why I made sushi: The man that I love...loves it.
We never go out for sushi. Poor guy. And it was his birthday, after all. So I decided to make the one food that makes his heart pitter-patter. Even if it meant forcing a few pieces of sushi down my throat and possibly baking a back-up pizza. (Why couldn't he love steak or fried cheese, instead?)
But there was one obstacle in my way that seemed even harder than eating the sushi. And that would be making it. Sushi chefs treat the process like an art, spending years mastering their craft. And I was going to slap something together in one night? Right.
But I had a secret weapon. YouTube. There I learned how to julienne cut a cucumber, properly use nori (dried seaweed), and correctly and quickly roll the sushi so it would stay intact and look like, well, a sushi roll. Once I'd gained a bit of confidence (and a little more anxiety) I hit the store.
Thankfully, all the ingredients were stocked in Kroger's sushi department, so there was no hunting. But guess what else I found? Sushi. Tons of colorful, convenient, pre-made and perfect sushi. Some were rolled in caviar. Some were topped with fancy sauce. All of them were mocking me with their beauty.
I'm not going to lie. I pondered the benefits of buying a few boxes. After all, it was a surefire way to guarantee a disaster-free, delicious meal for Luke. But alas, where's the sentiment in grocery store sushi? So I passed on the easy button this time. In a pouty fit I stole a few sets of complimentary chopsticks reserved for paying customers. Hey, I bought a jar of pickled ginger. Close enough.
At home, I started on the fillings. I cooked the rice, mashed the avocado and wasabi, sliced the shrimp and cucumber, chopped the cilantro and rinsed the chives. Whew.
Everything seemed pretty normal and tasty at that point and I was actually looking forward to trying the sushi. Sorta.
Then it began. I rolled up my sleeves, set up a filling buffet, covered a bamboo place mat with plastic wrap (a must-have for sushi making if you don't own a sushi roller), and took a deep breath.
I started by breaking off one end of the nori at the perforated lines. Then I dipped my hands in ice water (to prevent sticking) and gently patted cooled rice all over the nori, except for a strip at the end farthest from me. I was careful not to smash the rice down because according to my YouTube sushi instructor, "you must respect the rice."
Next, I spread on the wasabi avocado mixture. Looks like guacamole. Tastes like something a fire-breathing dragon would cough up.
Then I arranged the shrimp pieces, cucumber slices and chives on the bottom third of the rice.
Next I lifted the bamboo mat while holding the filling in place and quickly flipped it over into a roll. Then I firmly tucked the mat under and gently pressed along the top of the roll to insure it was firm and secure. Remember how I left a little bit of nori at the end? That was so rice wouldn't squeeze out. When I released the mat....*drum roll please*...
I had a perfect sushi roll! (Well, in my non-sushi-eating opinion at least.)
And before long, I had eight perfect sushi rolls! The recipe only makes six, but I had a little extra filling, so I went ahead and made a couple more. I was sure Luke wouldn't mind.
I let the rolls sit for five minutes, then starting with a center cut, sliced them each into eight pieces. Beautiful!
A little wasabi paste and pickled ginger went on each plate, along with a small bowl of soy sauce on the side.
Once everything was ready, I brought in Luke. Oh, how I wish you could have seen the look on his face when he walked into the candlelit kitchen and saw the 64-piece sushi platter with all the fixings. Not to mention crab Rangoon and icy rum & Cokes. Actually, it was less of a look and more of a girlish squeal. Then an "oooh my gooooodness." Then another squeal. Then a look of confusion as if to say, "Wait...you made this?" He was in awe. So I did good, right?
Then it was time for the moment of truth.
Luke took a bite...and loved it. He said it was just as good as a restaurant's (riiight) and even better than grocery store sushi (so glad I passed on that one).
I took a bite...and I liked it! For the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed the sushi experience. Maybe it was because it contained cooked shrimp instead of raw fish. Maybe because the flavor was much milder than authentic sushi. But I think the real reason my gag reflex wasn't activated was due to the fact that I made it myself, had become comfortable with the ingredients, and knew exactly what was inside. There were no surprises. Well, accept the surprise that I actually liked it.
Luke couldn't stop thanking me. Although, I couldn't really hear what he was saying through his sushi-stuffed praises. He was one happy husband. So happy, that I think I'll start making sushi more often. It was a lot of fun and it's just so beautiful. I'm thinking I'll start to develop a taste for it, too.
Maybe next time I'll make one of the varieties I found on YouTube. Like the ever-so-healthy and elegant Kentucky Fried Chicken sushi roll. Now that's what I'm talkin' about!
Shrimp & Avocado Sushi
Cooking Light, January 2006
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 8 pieces)
Cooking Light, January 2006
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 8 pieces)
Cookbook Note: Using mashed avocado makes this California-style sushi easy to roll. Use precooked shrimp for an easy shortcut. Serve sushi with the typical accompaniments of wasabi, low-sodium soy sauce, and pickled ginger.
2 cups uncooked short-grain white rice
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon wasabi (Japanese horseradish)
1 avocado, peeled and mashed
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
24 large shrimp, cooked, peeled, and halved crosswise (about 8 ounces)
6 nori (seaweed) sheets
12 (7-inch-long) julienne-cut seeded peeled cucumber strips
Prepare rice according to package directions. Stir in vinegar; cover and cool to room temperature.
Combine wasabi and avocado in a small bowl, and set aside. Combine cilantro and shrimp in another small bowl; toss well.
Cut off top quarter of nori sheets along short end. Place 1 nori sheet, shiny side down, on a sushi mat covered with plastic wrap, with long end toward you. Pat 3/4 cup rice mixture evenly over nori with moist hands, leaving a 1-inch border on one long end of nori. Spread 1 tablespoon avocado mixture over rice.
Arrange 8 shrimp pieces, 2 chives, and 2 cucumber strips along bottom third of rice-covered nori.
Lift edge of nori closest to you; fold over filling. Lift bottom edge of sushi mat; roll toward top edge, pressing firmly on sushi roll. Continue rolling to top edge; press mat to seal sushi roll. Let rest, seam side down, for 5 minutes. Slice crosswise into 8 pieces. Repeat procedure with remaining nori, rice mixture, avocado mixture, shrimp mixture, chives, and cucumber.
Nutritional Information: Calories: 365 (16% from fat), Fat: 6.5g (sat 1g,mono 3.4g,poly 1g), Protein: 13.2g, Carbohydrate: 60.3g, Fiber: 3.9g, Cholesterol: 57mg, Iron: 4.3mg, Sodium: 311mg, Calcium: 35mg.