sushi rice salad or California rolls in a bowl

Last night Greg, Kelly and I made a sushi run to Sakura on Keystone and, as usual, it was fabulous. Greg worked for a Japanese corporation for 15 years and the four of us lived in downtown Tokyo in 1994. Greg is an excellent sushi/sashimi tour guide if you ever need another couple (you can't just take Greg, sorry) to join you on a dining adventure!

I did not grow up eating fish so last night's sushi rolls for me were softshell crab, shrimp tempura and the dragon roll. That last one is a long roll covered by barbecued eel. Kelly's favorite and a stretch for me (I did like it). It was cute too with octopus suckers for eyes and cucumber dragon horns.

Anyway, today I'm sharing my famous recipe for Sushi Rice Salad or as it should be named, California Rolls in a Bowl. Not your typical tailgate food! Sushi rice is easy to find now, there was a bit of a shortage last year. I'm a big fan of Nishiki rice. If you don't already own seasoned rice vinegar, you should. It makes an excellent salad dressing with a little olive oil and maybe salt and pepper among many other fine contributions it can make to your cooking. You will need a tube of wasabi paste so don't forget it when you are in the Japanese section at the grocery. You can find the sheets of nori (seaweed paper/sushi roll wrappers) usually right by the sushi rice. One package will last you forever. Have to say I haven't thought of any other way to use nori. It's rather job specific. When I am feeling particularly flush, I buy real lump crab meat and add it to the salad. Of course the imitation crab is also a good addition, but you don't really need either one. Shrimp would also be tasty, but you would need to make sure it was rinsed and patted dry.

Okay, those are the notes for the day, class. Make this and take it to a potluck to amaze your friends and family.

Sushi Rice Salad or California Rolls in a Bowl

1 1/2 C short-grain sushi rice
1 3/4 C plus 1 1/2 T water
1/4 C seasoned rice vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 C shredded carrot (splurge, buy the matchstick carrots at the store)
1 tsp (or more) wasabi paste
1/2 large seedless cucumber, diced small
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 T sesame seeds, toasted (white or black if you're feeling exotic)
1 firm, but ripe avocado
1 sheet of nori, cut into very thin strips with scissors
optional: pickled ginger and soy sauce
optional: 1 C lump crab or salad shrimp

Rinse rice in a bowl with a few changes of cold water until water is almost clear and drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Really, you need to do that or your rice will be too mushy.
Bring rice and 1 3/4 C water to a boil in a heavy saucepan, lower heat to a simmer and cover, cook for 2 minutes. Do not lift the lid! Turn off heat and let stand 10 minutes (keep that lid on and keep your family away because they always lift lids to see what's cooking).
While rice is standing, bring vinegar, sugar and salt just to a boil in a little saucepan while stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar. Cool for a couple of minutes.
Spread cooked rice in a 9 x 13 x 2 glass/ceramic dish. Sprinkle vinegar mixture over rice and toss. Whisk together wasabi, remaining 1 1/2 T water and oil in a bowl (this is where I usually add one Tablespoon of soy sauce too, but it will make the dish a little brown). Add it to the rice along with the carrot, cucumber, scallions and sesame seeds (add your crab and or your pickled ginger if using here too) and toss gently. Halve, pit and slice avocado in skin before hallowing it out. Arrange on top of the rice mixture and sprinkle with the nori. If you are making this ahead put the sliced/diced avocado in a separate little bowl and seal plastic wrap tightly right on the avocado. Put the nori in a bag or bowl and add those two ingredients just before serving.


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