When I’m asked my favorite book, there are too many to choose from. Favorite movie? I struggle to remember any that I’ve seen. But about my favorite food there’s no question. Sushi, sushi, sushi. I could eat it all day and every day. When my mom would come to visit me all the different places I’ve lived and take me out for my special “mom’s paying” meal, it was always sushi.
Sushi makes me happy. I feel healthy and light after I finish a meal. It’s a perfect gluten-free food, and a perfect vegetarian food, as well. It’s got that umami-full nori wrapper and all kinds of surprises inside. It’s beautiful, flexible, and fun to make and eat.
But sushi, at least vegetarian sushi, is pretty labor intensive. You have to cook the rice and then fan it endlessly until it cools. You have to stir sugar and salt into warm rice vinegar until it dissolves and then gently toss the rice with it. And then, since you can’t just slap a piece of nice fatty tuna on it, you usually have to prep your veggies into properly sized strips and then cook them, ideally with each in a separate marinade. And don’t even get me started on tamago, that delicate sweetened egg cake that is cooked and assembled one thin layer at a time. Then you make your rolls carefully, a skill that isn’t difficult but takes some practice, and slice them with the right kind of knife, wiping the blade clean between slices.
So even though sushi is my favorite food in the whole entire world, even though I used to throw giant roll-your-own parties all the time, it hasn’t played a very big part in my current CFS-influenced world. I don’t really eat it much out in the world – there aren’t a lot of creative veggie options at most places, especially since a lot of them feature tempura’d veggies or tofu and I am severely allergic to shrimp, which they fry in the same oil. (Needless to say, tempura is also not at all gluten-free.) And for at-home cooking, the fewer steps the better for me these days.
But yesterday, all that changed. Duck came home the other night from dinner with friends to tell me about an amazing thing they did with rice and nori, and suddenly the sushi paradigm has been turned on its head. His friends just took sushi rice (unseasoned, unfanned, and still warm from the rice cooker), spread it on a nori wrapper, and sprinkled on soy sauce and flax seed oil. I know, right? Flax seed oil? Turns out it imparts the roll with this rich, savory flavor and mouthfeel. It transforms a piece of seaweed and some rice into a full-blown, belly-fillin’ meal. They ate them plain that night, but last night we made steamed asparagus with a little citrus dressing and broiled some portobella mushrooms with miso-balsamic glaze and stuffed them inside our rolls along with toasted sesame seeds. Everything was simple and quick – the whole thing took about 20 minutes – and unspeakably delicious.
With this new “fast and hot” version, it’s probably not technically sushi anymore, I acknowledge that, but it’s still got the umami goodness, the freshness, the healthiness (with an added health bonus – aren’t we all supposed to be eating our flaxseeds?), and the roll-your-own fun! Plus, the basic dish takes no more time than it takes to cook rice, which, if you have a rice cooker, is about 30 seconds of active work. I had it again for lunch today with brown sushi rice and found it equally delicious. I can tell this is going to be a favorite addition to our repertoire!
“Sloppy” Sushi Rolls
Warm, cooked sushi rice (white or brown)
Nori seaweed sheets
Soy sauce (make sure it is wheat-free if you are GF)
Flax seed oil
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Filling ideas (optional!):
Broiled portobella mushrooms
Steamed carrot strips
Sprouts, especially radish sprouts
Kale or other cooked greens
Put a piece of nori down on a dry plate or other flat surface with the “rough” side of the seaweed facing you and the lines on the nori going from side to side as you face it, not up and down. Spread a thin layer of rice over the nori. Sprinkle on soy sauce and flax seed oil, and toasted sesame seeds, if using. If you are using a filling, put some in a line going across the rice, from side to side. Then roll it up and devour! If you want to be fancy, and your roll isn’t too soggy, you can cut your roll into slices like sushi pieces, but the whole point is casual, sloppy sushi, so don’t stress on it. Just start eating before it all falls apart!