An artist or creative person of some type must have been the first person to think of such a dish. To be able to make good sushi truly is an art form -- there is a preciseness to the whole process.
Going out and treating ourselves to sushi was a tradition that Andrew and I used to embark on frequently. There's something doubly pleasureful about sampling various bites on a platter and sharing a meal with someone. We'd usually order four rolls to share, along with some seaweed salad or miso soup -- and of course, extra pickled ginger.
About a week ago, I received a request for a sushi recipe from a Mainer who reads my posts here. Immediately, a time when Andrew and I played around with the meal and switched the rice for quinoa came to mind. I used red quinoa in this recipe -- I thought it would look quite festive against the green nori. We made our rolls vegetarian -- instead of local fish, we used local black bean tempeh strips, mixed with combinations of cucumber, raw carrots, and stir-fried portobello mushroom. On the side, I made a kale and seaweed salad, with diced white button mushrooms, tahini, sesame seeds, shaved carrots, and gluten free soy sauce. We got out our chopsticks, sat down, and started our traditional ceremony of sampling one piece from each roll, together. Every one was equally delicious, yet distinct. The cucumber added a vibrant freshness, the carrot offered a fun crunch, and the mushroom lent an earthiness to its roll. The fineness of the quinoa really held everything together. I enjoyed its nuttiness and color, even though its not what one would typically associate with sushi.
While I would suggest using a proper bamboo mat for rolling sushi, we made do without one. It's all about proper placement and alignment -- Andrew's a pro at it so I let him handle that while I slice the pieces up with a sharp serrated knife.
Festive Quinoa Veggie Sushi
- 1 cup raw quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons, approx., of olive oil or sesame oil
- 1 cucumber, sliced into thin matchsticks 3 inches long
- 2 carrots, sliced into thin matchsticks 3 inches long
- 1/2 package of tempeh, sliced into thin matchsticks 1.5 inches by 3 inches
- 1 portobello mushroom, sliced into thin matchsticks 3 inches long
- 3 tablespoons rice vinegar + 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sugar, agave nectar, honey, or 1/2 teaspoon stevia
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5 or so sheets of nori sushi seaweed
- 8 cups of chopped kale, loosely packed (or 8 hand fulls)
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 4 white button mushrooms, diced
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 carrots, grated
Step 2: While the quinoa is cooling, prepare your fillings. Slice the tempeh and portobello mushroom into strips and cook on medium heat with 1/8 cup of water and a good drizzle of sesame or olive oil. Chop your carrots and cucumbers into thin matchsticks, and you're ready to roll.
Step 3: (Visual how-to guide here) The aim is to smear a fine layer of quinoa in the center of the nori rectangle, with its short side facing you. Leave about 1 1/2 inches of the top and bottom filling-free. Then, you want to lay your veggies of choice horizontally along the bottom portion of the quinoa, letting the fillings gather up to be no more than 2 1/2 inches in height. Starting from the bottom, roll up the sheet of nori over teh filling, and then keep going until it is all rolled up. Moisten your fingers with water, and use them to seal the nori so that it stays secure. Slice with a super sharp knife. Drizzle with sesame seeds, if desired.
Step 4: The salad. In the same pan you used to cook the tempeh and mushrooms, add 1/4 cup of water and another drizzle of oil, for good measure. Add in the kale, and cover. When the kale has cooked down, add in your grated carrots and finely chopped white mushrooms. The water should be mostly evaporated by now -- add in your remaining rice vinegar and shut off the heat. Drizzle with more sesame seeds and tahini. Toss and serve.
Step 5: Plate everything up, and eat with chopsticks, pickled ginger, and a tiny cup of sake.
Do you like sushi? What's your favorite roll? Mine used to be a ginger makerel roll (surprise, surprise), but I also really enjoyed the tempeh-mushroom sushi roll combo that we made here.
Thanks to Amanda for the sushi recipe suggestion -- I hope you enjoy it!