Every job has its up and downs. Many people assume that I spend all my days creating tasty delights in the kitchen but, like most everyone, I often find myself struggling to keep up with the more mundane aspects of my job—mostly the computer work and inevitable technical glitches that come with running a website.
One of the definite perks, however, arrives via our friendly mail carrier. As a food writer and recipe developer, I’m frequently sent products that various food companies would like me to try.
When the products are offered to me in advance, I accept them if I think they will be used and enjoyed. (I don’t like to waste anything.) It’s also important that there are no strings attached–I don’t want to feel obligated to plug something that turns out to be ho-hum.
A few months ago, someone at Nuts.com asked me if I would like to sample some new-to-me products. I had actually ordered from this online purveyor of nuts, snack mixes, and related items before and had been impressed with the quality delivered by the third-generation family business. When given my choice of anything on the site, I gratefully took a few minutes to look beyond my favorite salted cashews and roasted ceci and fava beans. (The latter may sound strange, but they’re a deliciously crunchy alternative to a nut.)
For some time, I had been meaning to experiment with sushi recipes. Everyone in my family enjoys this artfully crafted fare for a special night out, and I figured a homemade version could be a fun challenge as well as a cost-saving endeavor.
When I happened upon an Asian foods section of the Nuts.com site, I figured this was the perfect opportunity to try. I added sushi rice (basically a short grain rice) and nori (the sheets of seaweed used to wrap the sushi rolls) to my virtual shopping cart.
While I was waiting for my package to arrive, I did my sushi research. Because I wanted this to be a meal that everyone would feel comfortable eating, I steered away from using raw fish. For those who prefer it, the substitution is an easy one.
Ultimately, I decided that mastering the technique of rolling sushi wasn’t essential. Realistically, how many of us are likely to do this at home on a regular basis? Instead the flavor of the traditional roll can be enjoyed in a heartier bowl form. Between the streamlined prep and the overwhelmingly positive response from my family, I’ve found myself returning to this meal often.
My family particularly enjoys a twist on the popular California roll, which is stuffed with imitation crabmeat, cucumber, and avocado. I typically use chopped shrimp in place of the crab. Lox is my second favorite and a worthy stand-in for raw salmon. The main point is that these bowls are easy to customize. Go heavy on the veggies or use Ahi tuna or even garbanzo beans as your protein. Create a bowl using the ingredients in your favorite restaurant sushi roll, be it a dragon roll, Philly roll, or surf and turf roll.
A side of steamed edamame in the shell offers an on-theme accompaniment, although we find the sushi bowls filling enough to be a stand-alone meal. For ease of preparation, mix the simple sauces up to a day or two in advance.
The speedy sauces require just two or three ingredients, can be mixed in advance, and lend exceptional flavor to these family-friendly sushi bowls.
Yield: 4 servings
- 3 cups cooked sushi rice* (may substitute short grain brown or white rice, cooked according to package directions)
- 1 cup diced cucumber
- 1 avocado, sliced or diced
- 1 carrot, grated (about 1/2 cup)
- 8 ounces cooked, peeled & chopped shrimp, salmon or tuna**
- Soy Drizzle & Spicy Mayo (recipes follow)
- Optional add-ins: 3-4 thinly sliced radishes; 2 sliced scallions; chopped pickled ginger (about 1 tablespoons per bowl); 1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, 1 sheet toasted and crumbled nori
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1-2 teaspoons sriracha (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Place 1/4 of the cooked rice (about 3/4 cup) in each of four bowls. Top with the cucumber, avocado, carrot, and seafood. Add any of the optional ingredients, and then drizzle the spicy mayo and soy mixture over top. Stir well before digging in with a fork—or chopsticks if you prefer a challenge and smaller bites!
- *The rice is best made fresh and can be served warm or at room temperature, according to preference. If it’s more convenient for you to make the rice the day before, transfer the cooled rice to an airtight container, and before covering, place a wet (but not dripping) paper towel directly on the rice. When ready to eat, place a freshly dampened paper towel over the rice and gently reheat in the microwave. This will prevent the rice from drying out and help maintain the fluffy, just-cooked texture.
- ** Our favorites are steamed shrimp and smoked salmon (like the lox used on bagels—its salty flavor works well in the sushi bowls plus it’s safer than raw salmon yet similar in texture. For a vegetarian option, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cooked, shelled edamame per bowl instead of the seafood. Alternatively, a chopped hard-boiled egg could be used. Imitation crabmeat is another good option and typical of California rolls. Check the label if gluten-free, however, as it often contains wheat products. For those who prefer raw tuna or salmon, make sure to purchase sushi grade fish and use promptly.
According to most packages, rice weighs in between 6 and 6 1/2 ounces per cup. I have found that this weight translates to a slightly scant cup. This may be why some people have trouble cooking rice: if you unwittingly measure too much rice, there won’t be enough water, and the rice will likely stick to the pot before it’s done cooking. If you don’t have a scale, I recommend filling the measuring cup just below the rim (a “scant” cup).
Cooked shrimp is a family favorite add-in, with lox a close second. The latter offers a convenient, great-tasting substitute to raw salmon. Lox is a variety of salt-cured or brined salmon that has a silky, rich texture and bit of translucency somewhat similar to raw, sushi grade salmon. Can’t decide? Use a mix of both.For rice with a sea-salty flavor, try adding nori to the cooked rice:
Toast the nori: In a large skillet over medium heat, warm a sheet of nori until it’s crisp enough to crumble easily, flipping halfway, about 5 minutes. It will turn a brighter shade of green. Alternatively, for a speedier toasting method, you may hold the sheet of nori with tongs and carefully heat it over a gas burner set to low.
Remove from heat and tear the nori sheet into quarters. Next, directly over the pot of rice and using your hands, crumble each quarter into very small pieces and drop them right into the pot (do this right after cooking, resting, and adding the seasoned vinegar to the rice). Stir the nori into the rice and set the rice aside to cool as directed. Toasted nori adds a subtle, briny flavor to the rice and can also be using as a topping or garnish on the sushi bowls.
If you’d like to purchase rice, nori, or any other goodies from Nuts.com, they are graciously offering 4 free product gifts (there are over 50 freebies to choose among) with a purchase of $25 or more to all FAK readers. If you like roasted garbanzos, I highly recommend the roasted and salted fava beans. ; ) Happy shopping!