Monday, October 29, 2007


Sushi is the one thing I never minded if my kids liked it or not. You don't want your maki? That's okay, sweetie, Mommy will take care of it. Naturally, they figured out they were missing out on something delicious, and now they love maki rolls filled with avocado or cucumber.

Since I am already a sushi addict, this is a bit much. I can barely afford to feed my own sushi habit. Now I'm supposed to feed theirs, too? The only option was to start making sushi at home. But since I am not Martha Stewart, I don't have the time or patience to roll up the one thousand makis my whole family would require.

Last year a Japanese mom was a guest teacher in my cooking class, and she taught me how to make hand rolls. They are the deal, and they work perfectly for the Mothership Meals method: a main vehicle (the nori), plus lots of stuff to put on it, and then you just roll it up. It's a perfect family meal, because it is infinitely flexible, and especially because most of the work can be done ahead of time.

If you are on the ball, you will pickle your vegetables (if you are using them) and make (or buy) your sushi vinegar early in the day. You can make extra pickles, too, and keep them in the fridge for small snacks and meals of your own.

(If you are pickle-type of person, as I am, you will find it utterly fascinating that in Japan a traditional breakfast is a bowl of rice and a few pickled vegetables. Every time you read about this your mouth will water, and eventually you will try it and love it. If any of your children are pickly-types of people, they will find this breakfast fascinating as well, and you may find yourself, as I did, sending your three-year-old to preschool with a macro-biotic lunch of brown rice and pickled daikon radish. This is a really cute thing and almost makes up for the following year in which the same child may only want plain salami and pink yogurt, every day, for lunch.)

Another thing: brown rice is great in sushi. The only challenge is making it sticky. I use short-grain brown rice, and soak it for an hour beforehand. Then I cook it in my rice cooker as usual, and toss it with the sushi vinegar. (You can also make the rolls without the rice -- not because you are anti-carb, please, but because you already scarfed down all the rice and still have fillings left, as we did when taking the picture above.)

Remember, you don't have to force your kids to do it your way. If they want to just eat rice and cucumbers, that's their business, just like it's your business if you want to spike your soy sauce with so much wasabi that each bite is an exercise in pain endurance. To each her own. It's the mothership way.

1 cup short-grain brown rice, soaked in water for one hour.
Sushi vinegar: 1/3 cup brown rice vinegar, 3 tbs sugar, 1 tsp salt, heated gently to dissolve, and cooled
Many sheets of nori, cut into halves
1/4 lb smoked salmon, sliced into strips (or seasoned tofu, seared shrimp, grilled chicken, or any other kind of protein)
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/4" strips
1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4" strips
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/4" strips

Optional: Pickled Vegetables
1 carrot, cut into 1/4" strips
1/2 daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch strips
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
2 tsps sugar (preferably less processed, such as palm, turbinado, demarra, etc)
2 tsps sea salt

Soy sauce and wasabi

1. Put rice on to cook.
2. Make pickled vegetables: Mix vinegar, sugar and salt in a small sauce pan until sugar and salt are dissolved. Cut vegetables for quick-pickling. Combine in a bowl with the pickling mixture and let sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or longer. (This can be done ahead of time, or done in larger quantities and kept in the fridge for a week, either in the pickling solution for a more heavily pickled vegetables, or drained; it's purely a matter of pickle preference.)
3. When rice is cooked, turn out into a wide plate. Sprinkle with sushi vinegar and fan to cool, as you turn the rice over to mix in the vinegar.
4. Lay out all the ingredients. Each diner takes a piece of nori in hand. Add a spoonful of rice and smooth out. Make a groove into the rice to make room for the filling. Lay a piece of salmon and a piece of cucumber (or whatever combination strikes your fancy) onto the rice, and roll up into a tube or into a cone shape. Dip into soy sauce and enjoy.

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