Making Garden Variety Sushi With Cats
My friend Noyuri recently gave a little class on how to make simple sushi. It was so much fun and the sushi tasted so delicious that now I make myself a batch every week. I am especially fond of combining cucumber, avocado, and mustard greens, with a slice of egg pancake tucked in. Yum!
Mustard greens are gorgeous and tasty, adding color and a snappy little bite to almost anything, from tuna or egg salads and cheese and bacon sandwiches to green salads. Shredded mustard greens make a wonderfully crunchy, spunky garnish for soups and stir fries and are lovely with grilled fish or vegetables like asparagus and young peas. This year, my favorites are Red Rain and a pungent mix of wild garden types (from Log House Plants, of course).
Cats In The Kitchen
In March, I inherited a young Maine Coon cat, Pippsissewa, when my son and his wife moved to Indianola. Pip is usually a scaredy cat but she is fascinated by sushi. She had never jumped on the counter before (at least not when I could see her) so I was amazed when she boldly poked her little nose right in to see what I was up to.
When my back was turned for a moment, she sneaked up and stole the whole stack of nori sushi wrappers. When I turned around, she was rolling on the floor, happily growling away and tussling with the big sheets. I took them away from her but gave her one that she had poked a hole in. She played with it for hours, rolling on it, chewing away, then tearing around the house with the whole (sort of) sheet of seaweed in her mouth.
Cats Love Seaweed
When I told Noyuri, she laughed and said that her cats also love seaweed, perhaps because it smells like the sea. Who knows? Anyway, it is full of minerals and fiber and certainly can’t hurt her, so I decided to let Pip have her very own seaweed sheet to keep. She has certainly had less attractive play things that were way harder to clean up (and involved a lot more feathers!).
Roll ‘Em Roll ‘Em Roll ‘Em
Noyuri had classic bamboo rolling mats for students to use. The mats are fun, but I find that I can roll up my sushi beautifully on a clean tea towel. Like several of my other Japanese friends, Noyuri uses the kind of nori sheets that come from Japan, which are more expensive than the kinds from China. Many people say that any kind will do, but I have noticed that some Chinese versions tend to be a little persistently chewy, where the Japanese brands are less obtrusive in the mouth.
The temperature of your ingredients also makes a big difference to the end product. For best results, everything should be at room temperature, neither hot nor cold. Thus, it’s good to make your rice well ahead so it has time to cool. If the sticky rice is still even a little bit warm, it can cause the nori sheets to buckle and shrink (as I soon discovered).
Here are a couple of very simple recipes to try:
Garden Sushi Rolls
1 English cucumber, sliced into long, thin pieces
2 avocados, sliced lengthwise into strips
1 red or yellow sweet pepper, sliced lengthwise
1 tablespoon ponzu or sweet rice vinegar
Nori wrappers (package of 10)
2 cups sushi rice (see below)
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
10 leaves mustard greens
1 egg pancake, sliced (see below)
Combine sliced vegetables and vinegar, set aside. Toast the nori wrappers for a few seconds over a hot oven burner (electric or gas). Place one sideways on a tea towel or bamboo roller (the orientation is landscape rather than portrait). Dab four blobs of rice (about a tablespoon each) in the corners of the nori wrapper. Dipping your fingers in cold water (often), smush rice thinly over the whole sheet, leaving about 1/2 inch bare at the top. (Add more rice as needed, but sparingly.) Sprinkle a band of sesame seeds across the wrapper about 2 inches from the bottom, then arrange slices of vegetables sideways across the sheet. Add mustard greens and a slice of egg pancake, tuck in tightly and roll up, pressing gently to seal the roll closed. Slice completed rolls with a VERY sharp knife, starting with a center cut (slice, don’t saw) and rounding each piece as you go. Each roll makes either 6 or 8 pieces, depending on the size of your nori wrappers.
Variations On A Theme
Through the summer, you can vary the ingredients according to your garden yields. Other good additions include sliced radishes and radish sprouts, carrot spears, green onions, asparagus, green beans, snow peas or snap peas (whole pods), pickled peppers, and pickled ginger slices.
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Heat oil over medium high heat in a covered pan. Whisk eggs, sugar and salt and pour into heated pan, tilting to spread evenly. Cover and cook over medium heat until set and puffed. Cool and cut into strips.
2 cups Niko Niko or Japanese rice
12.5 ounces (360 ml) water
4.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
Rinse rice until water is clear, drain and put in rice cooker with water. If cooking in a pan, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to simmer until water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). In either case, once the rice is done, let it stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt. Put rice in a bowl and fold in vinegar mixture with a wooden paddle (don’t stir). Let cool to room temperature before using.
Make Inari With Leftover Stuffing
Chop and mix all extra stuff with rice and tuck it into Inari wrappers (I like the refrigerated kind, especially the brand Hikari Inari). These are little pockets, like bite-sized tofu pita, that come soaked in soy sauce and mirin. Be warned: They are irresistible!