There was a time, not that long ago, when I was not a foodie. I did not bake, I did not cook, and I certainly didn't have the enthusiasm necessary to blog about food!
So what transpired to change a woman who was quite satisfied with a boring fried egg or turkey sandwich to long to try curry, quiche, or sushi? Quite simply, I fell in love.
While dating and falling in love with the man who is now my husband, many of our date nights were spent in the kitchen collaboratively cooking, trying out exotic produce or new recipes. Cooking became a way to show him my love, to express my care for him, through the dishes I lovingly made with him by my side. It has brought us so much enjoyment and closeness in daily life. Cooking is a way of saying that we care for each other, and because we care about each other, we want only the best on each others' plates.
As my friend Andrea Lazarus at Classy Local phrased it, preparing a meal for someone is just a "wonderful gesture. It's a gift of time, food, thoughtfulness, and love."
So this year for my birthday, my fella showed the ultimate gesture of love by personally making the delicious high-class meal of sushi, bringing five-star cuisine into our home kitchen.
Think that meal is far too challenging to prepare at home? Read on for a few tips on getting started with sushi.
Pretty much all we know about sushi can be summarized eloquently by the Mr. Wizard of culinary shows, Alton Brown, in the episode "Wake Up Little Sushi".
We are still beginners in the art of creating sushi, so I won't offer a full tutorial just yet. However, I want to encourage all who love sushi to be fearless and try making it at home. It is just so easy and it's certainly a great way to impress your sweetheart.
Here are a few important tips that we've learned so far.
1. Fresh fish! So much of the flavor comes from the quality of fish, so unless you want a slimy hose consistency, get the good stuff. Not to mention, certain health considerations. In lieu of a "fish monger", ordering flash-frozen fish is the safest option according to Alton Brown.
If you'd rather buy locally, find a good quality seafood department, preferably one that sells pre-made sushi so you know that they have the good stuff. Call ahead, tell them what you're planning, and see if they are specifically allowed to sell their fish for sushi. We've gone to the sushi department at our local Wegmans, and they have supplied our shashimi (fish), wasabi, and other supplies like cucumber and ginger. Keep the fish ice cold on the drive home and prepare your meal on the same day.
2. Rice-eroni! In my opinion, the most labor-intensive part of making sushi is making the sushi-meshi -- as in the actual rice. It is the only cooking involved in the process, so it takes the most time. The key is having a little patience while combining the cooked rice with the vinegar-sugar mixture, since you literally fan it cool as if the rice were a Caesar and you, its lowly servant. But if you have the patience to let your rice treat you like a minion for five to ten minutes, then you've gotten through the most important step.
3. Choose the form! Sushi comes in many forms and varieties, the most common being nigiri, temaki, and the California roll. For first-timers, nigiri is one of the easiest forms. Nigiri (shown above) is simply fish placed on top of rice. Loosely ball the rice in the palm of your hand, add wasabi if you like, lightly press the fish on top, and serve.
The temaki and California rolls involve rolling nori (dried algae), which does take a bit of practice. You can see in the top photo that we overstuffed our rolls just a bit. But practice makes perfect and I don't mind eating the rejects.
4. Supplies! While so much attention is given to the fish, there are a few other supplies to gather up. When considering which type rice to use, we have tried regular long grain rice and sushi short grain rice. Trust me, it is so much easier to eat nigiri made of sushi short grain rice that won't fall apart on its way to your mouth. So buy short grain for sushi every time.
If you wish to try temaki or California rolls, you will need to purchase nori and bamboo mats for rolling. If you want to make California rolls, you'll need cucumber, avocado, or other additional goodies to stuff inside. Wasabi, pickled ginger (gari), and soy sauce are great for any kind of sushi to add flavor. Or wasabi and ginger can be used as palate cleansers. Edamame and miso soup are great side dishes to complete your Japanese meal.
If your grocery store has a half decent international aisle, then most of these products will be easily available. For all you locals, Sonnewalds is a great place to get started since they sell sushi rice in bulk and they sell nori, miso soup, and other items from Japanese cuisine.
*You don't have to use the brands I linked to when picking up your supplies, I'm just sharing them as examples of what's on the market.
5. Go small. Most recipes tell you to make palm-sized lumps of rice. Depending on your jaw size or your ability to unhinge your jaw, you will probably prefer to go smaller than your hungry eyes tell you. Also you don't want to over-stuff your temaki or California rolls, since the nori needs to overlap to seal closed. Each nigiri or temaki roll is meant to be bite-sized, so err on the side of small.
Ready to give it a try? Be fearless and enjoy!
What's the bravest, strangest dish that you've ever tried to make at home?
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