Monday, September 9, 2013

It's the Little Things in Life...Like Sushi

     There's something to be said for enjoying the little things in life.  Sometimes I get so caught up in planning for the future, in trying to stay on top of things, and on attempting to not miss out on anything that I end up doing exactly that, missing out.   I've noticed that I want so badly to control everything in my life that most of the time the things in my life start to control me.  This past week I challenged myself to simply let go of the minor things.  I let the dishes pile up; I let the laundry go a bit, and I focused on loving my family and enjoying the things I like to do.  You know what happened?  I had an excellent week!  The chores I was so worried about got done without me, thanks to my husband and daughter.  I started on my first quilt.  My family went for runs together; my husband coached me on boxing as our daughter cheered me on.  Monkey and I went exploring one night, and we were chased by the "Big Bad Mouse".  He almost got me, but Monkey stopped him with her Cyclops powers.  Yesterday we pulled a date from our date jar, and followed the instructions that said, "drive until we see something new, and we can only talk about how much we love each other".  Of course, we had a great family outing, and we found a pretty campsite about an hour away.  Yesterday we topped it off with a great morning at church and homemade sushi for dinner.

     It's amazing to see how many wonderful things we miss out on because we get so "busy" with distractions.  Yes, the house needs to be cleaned, but I need to remember the dishes can be in the sink until morning.  Yes, I need to keep up with my homework, but I can take my daughter to the park and let her run around while I study.  Yes, I enjoy vegging out in front of Facebook, but when I turn off the computer and look around, there are so many more beautiful things to see.  It was a humbling week, and it was a good reminder to stop taking things for granted.  Everything God gave me is precious, and I need to cherish it more.  

     This may shock some of you, but I even took a break from cooking this week.  Okay, that's not entirely true.  I took a break from trying any new recipes, and I stuck to a few of my favorite foods that can be prepared quickly. That is, except for the sushi last night, but I made the exception for Monkey who loves it.  So that's what I want to share with y'all: my sushi rice recipe, and a few tips and tricks on how to make your own.  (I learned using this kit and this book, and I recommend both.)

Making the rice may seem tedious, but it's important to pay attention to the little detailed instructions, so your rice comes out just right.  I suggest you read through the instructions first before attempting.  But don't worry, it's not hard!  It merely requires some attention to detail.

Sushi Rice
2 cups Nishiki rice
2 cups plus 6 tsp cold water
cold water for washing rice
1/2 cup rice vinegar (I use Nakano Original)

You'll also need:
-medium-sized bowl and large strainer
-medium-sized heavy saucepan or electric rice cooker
-clean towel
-large, non-metal platter or dish for cooling rice(I use a glass, 2-quart casserole dish)

First wash your rice by soaking in a bowl of cold water.  Stir rice around in the bowl with your hands.  After the water becomes cloudy, pour the rice into the large strainer.  Once all the water has been strained out, pour the rice back into the bowl.  Add fresh cold water, and repeat the washing process.  Keep washing the rice until the water is no longer cloudy (this usually takes about 5 minutes).  Finally, leave the washed rice in the strainer and let it sit, draining for 30-60 minutes.

Next you cook the rice.  If you have a rice cooker, simply follow the directions that came with your cooker for this step.  If you don't have a rice cooker, you get to do it the fun way :-)  Place the washed rice into a heavy medium-sized pot.  Add the water.  Cover tightly with lid.  DO NOT lift the lid at any point until the rice is finished cooking, or steam will escape and it will not cook properly.  Place over medium heat until the rice steams (about 8-10 minutes).  Turn the heat to high, and cook 2 minutes.  You may notice white foam around the lid and the lid jiggling up and down.  Next, reduce heat to medium and cook another 5 minutes, until the foam stops and you hear a crackling sound.  Turn off heat, and let stand, covered, another 15 minutes.  Next, remove cover and fluff the rice using a bamboo paddle.  Then wrap the cover in a cloth towel, and return the cover to the pot.  Let stand another 15 minutes.

Now we need to season the rice.  With the rice paddle, gently spread out the hot rice in a shallow, large-bottomed, non-metallic bowl or platter-the large surface is necessary so that the rice can cool quickly and the material must not be metal because the vinegar will react with it, creating a bad taste.  As the steam is escaping, sprinkle the rice vinegar over the rice, and with quick, horizontal motions, scooping back and forth along the bottom, toss the rice with the rice vinegar.

Immediately start to fan the rice to cool it.  A piece of cardboard or a paper fan can be used.  The cooling process should last about 2 minutes.  Cover the rice loosely with a clean, wet towel and let stand for about 15 minutes, or until the rice is at room temperature.  Keep the rice covered with the damp towel if it is not to be used immediately.

 Now to make your first rolls you'll need:

Nori (toasted seaweed sheets)
Bamboo rolling mat
Gallon-sized ziploc bags (to cover your mat for quick clean-up)
A very sharp knife
Your chosen fillings/toppings, some of my favorites are:
-cream cheese
-julienned cucumbers
-tempura shrimp (found in the frozen foods)
-imitation crab meat
-Crab Salad (recipe below)
-oyster sauce (can be found in the oriental foods section)
-smoked salmon (can be found at Wal-mart)
-sashimi-grade tuna (for special occasions, I splurge and get this from the local seafood market)

Start by having your fillings/topping ready.  I like to slice up all my ingredients and lay them out while the rice is standing for the last 15 minutes.  Have a clean cutting board by your work area with your sharp knife for cutting your rolls into pieces.  Also, have either a bowl of warm water nearby, or work next to your sink and run the tap, so you can rinse the rice off your fingers (this stuff sticks like you won't believe).  It also helps to have a wet kitchen towel on hand to wipe your finger off.  Cover your bamboo mat with the ziploc to save on clean up later, it is especially helpful if you're making inside out rolls.

For regular rolls, where the seaweed is on the outside:

Take a sheet of nori, and cut it to about 3/4 it's original size.  Lay it on the bamboo mat in front of you, with one edge lined up with the mat's edge closest to you, shiny side down.  Cover nori with rice, starting with the edge closest to you, and leaving about 1/4 of it uncovered.  This should be the long side that's farthest from you.  Add you filling to the middle of the rice.  Keep in mind that you will be rolling in a minute, so don't overfill or they'll pop out the sides.  This may take some practice, but you'll soon see about how much you can fit in there.  Now, grasp the mat in both hands, thumbs underneath, and, pressing lightly on the fillings with the index finger of both hands, lift the mat so the edge of the nori closest to you meets the edge of the rice-free margin of nori at the far end.  Press straight down on the sides of the mat, not on the top of the roll.  Lift mat slightly, and finish rolling the roll, so that the rice free edge of nori adheres to the roll.  Press gently alone tops and sides to square the roll a little.  Carefully remove mat.

Carefully move the roll to your cutting board, and use your sharp knife to slice the roll into 6-8 pieces.  You may need to wipe your knife with the wet towel if too much rice sticks to it.

For inside-out rolls, where the rice is on the outside:
Cut the nori as you did before, and lay it on the mat.  This time cover the entire sheet with rice, and then flip it over, so the side with rice is facing down, and the nori is facing up.  Place your ingredients in the middle, and roll as before.

To make Crab Salad, you'll need:
Imitation crab stick
Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Peel the crab stick into strings, (like you would string cheese).  Place in a bowl.  Add a bit of mayo, and a squirt of hot sauce until you get it to the desired heat.

     One of the things I love about sushi is how much you can customize it.  No two rolls have to be the same.  I've tried other ingredients besides the ones listed above, such as chicken, carrots, etc. but these are the things I find work best and taste the most "authentic".  Feel free to experiment.  I hope the instructions helped.  Next time I make it, I'll come back and add pictures to help clarify.

     Oh, and one more thing before you go.  I think it's fair to warn you that by the time you're finished, your kitchen will look something like this:


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