Phil's International Flair

Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

By request, this month I am presenting some interesting and unusual sushi ideas. Many people equate sushi with raw fish. Nothing could be further from the truth! I think of sushi as editable art. Yes, raw fish is often used to make sushi, but this isn't always the case as you will soon learn.

You can make sushi with whatever fresh ingredients you happen to have on hand. Sushi can be vegetarian, or cater to meat eaters as well. I'll present a few ideas here for readers to try, but don't be afraid to use your imagination to try something new and unique.

Here's the recipe! Be well, and good eating!

American Sushi

The first item you will need to make sushi is short grain white rice. Calrose is a good variety to choose. The rice should be prepared ahead of time, as you will need the rice to be cool enough to work with using your hands. To make sushi rice, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add about 1 Tbsp. of mirin and 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar to the water. Now add 2 cups of rice and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 20 minutes and then remove from heat without removing the lid. Allow the rice to cool. Once cooled, sprinkle about two tablespoons of rice vinegar to the rice and mix well.

Next, you will need nori (seaweed wrappers). Nori comes in sheets and the price varies between grades. The cheapest grades will cost a little over $1.25 for 10 sheets. Most oriental markets will carry nori, and many supermarkets carry it as well. With your rice an nori ready, you can begin making sushi.

Kitchen Tip: To peel the avocado, first halve and then quarter the avocado lengthwise. Then pick up one quarter, grab the peeling on one end and peel it back firmly leaving the flesh in tact. You may then slice the peeled sections for use.

I slice all of the ingredients just prior to making the sushi. This assures that the freshest ingredients are used.

  • 3 large peeled shrimp or prawns, steamed
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienne sliced
  • 1 ripe avocado, quartered, then peeled and sliced
  • 4 oz. salmon fillet or smoked salmon
  • 3 oz. tobiko (flying fish roe)
  • 7 oz. unagi fillet (grilled and vacuum packaged), heated in a broiler
  • 1 green onion, slivered
  • 5 oz. fillet mignon (beef tenderloin)
  • 3 oz. imitation crab meat
  • 4 oz. pickled ginger
  • Wasabi powder or paste
  • Low sodium soy sauce
Kitchen Tip: When making sushi, keep your hands wet when working with the rice to prevent sticking. A bowl of water with a little vinegar added will be very handy and also help to retard bacterial growth.
A very popular form of sushi in the US is the California roll. The primary ingredients are imitation crab meat (or real crab if you can afford it), avocado and cucumber. Often in restaurants, the California roll is served as an "inside out" roll. This simply means that the rice is on the outside of the roll instead of the inside. Begin by placing a sheet of nori on a flat surface and spread rice over 1/2 to 2/3 of the surface, pressing the rice firmly down with the fingers. It may help to place the sheet of nori on plastic wrap to make turning easier.
Next, sprinkle some tobiko over the rice for color. If you don't like the idea of eating fish eggs, you can omit the tobiko. Black caviar may also be used. Another substitute is caeplin eggs that are also small and orange in color.
Now flip the nori with rice attached over so that the rice is faced down.
Arrange the slices of cucumber, avocado and imitation crab lengthwise over the end that has no rice underneath. Finally, roll the rice free end of the nori over the ingredients, following through until the rice becomes exposed and a cylinder shape is formed. Squeeze the roll firmly to compact the ingredients and slice with a sharp wet knife into 7 or 8 pieces.

Kitchen tip: When slicing sushi rolls, wet the knife after each slice or two to keep the nori from tearing.

Next, we will make an unagi roll with avocado. Place rice on the nori and press firmly with wet fingers so that the rice will remain in place. Place slices of heated unagi on top of the rice and arrange slices of avocado over the unagi. Add a few slivers of green onion if you like. Roll the ingredients by lifting one end of the rice covered nori and gently fold it over the fillings. Press and roll the ingredients into a cylinder shape and then press firmly to compact the fillings. Slice with a sharp wet knife and top each slice with a dab of tobiko for color.
Don't like fish? Then don't use fish, use meat instead. I prepared a filet in a skillet with a little teriyaki sauce until cooked medium rare. I then sliced the steak into pieces about 1/8 inch thick and placed these on finger sized pieces of rice to serve nigiri style. This is an excellent alternative for those who are adverse to eating fish. The steak may also be grilled for more flavor.
I then used the odd shaped trimmings and pieces to make another roll. This is a great way to make that expensive cut of meat go a long way.
One of my favorites is salmon. I prefer the salmon meat from the stomach area as it is much richer in oil. However, you may use any type of salmon fillet providing that any pin bones are removed. By slicing the salmon into neat thin rectangles, you can serve these nigiri style on top of finger sized pieces of rice. In addition, you can take the trimmings and any extra pieces of salmon to make a roll. Add green onion slivers and avocado to the salmon and roll as you would any other sushi roll.
As with other types of rolls, slice with a wet sharp knife into bite sized pieces and top with tobiko. Garnish the plate with green onion slivers and serve. A smoked salmon roll can also be made with a cream cheese filling. Simply slice the cream cheese into strips and line up inside of the roll with some of the smoked salmon.
If you or your guests might prefer a vegetarian selection, place only cucumber into the rice prepared nori. Or, use avocado and cucumber combined with a few slivers of green onion. The variations are endless. For color, you might consider using slivers of red or yellow peppers in a roll. Or, top vegetarian sushi with a pinch of grated carrot. Radish sprouts are a great addition to a sushi roll. Their peppery flavor adds a unique accent to a sushi roll. I like to arrange the sprouts so that they look like they are growing out the end of the roll as this makes for a nice presentation when served. Blanched asparagus spears are also very attractive "growing out the ends" of a sushi roll.

And, let's not forget shrimp or prawns! You can use steamed shrimp that have been sliced in half lengthwise, or you can use tempura fried shrimp inside of a roll. Add cucumber, green onions or small asparagus spears with the shrimp before rolling. Leaving the tail on the shrimp is a good idea as the bright red color will accentuate the appearance of the presentation. Arrange the shrimp so that the tail is at the end pieces of the roll. This also helps to identify the nature of the dish.

Sushi is generally served with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi paste. If you use powdered wasabi, simply mix it with a little water to form a paste. Warning: Don't let your guests think that this paste is guacamole! I've seen people eat a mouthful of wasabi thinking it was avocado dip and they lived to regret it!

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour