By Sandy Hu
While sushi at its most sophisticated is undeniably haute cuisine, at its simplest, sushi is just vinegared rice. It’s easy to make a simple sushi. You just heat a vinegar sauce, cook some rice and toss together. Then prep a few no-cook fillings and toast the nori sheets for wrappers. Arrange everything in bowls and platters and let everyone assemble their own sushi.
Vary the filling ingredients according to your taste and budget. To keep costs down, limit fillings to vegetables and imitation crab. For a splurge, add jumbo cooked shrimp, crab legs and sushi-grade raw fish.
For the vinegar sauce
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
For the sushi
3 cups uncooked short grain rice (traditional measuring cup; not electric rice cup measure)
About 16 sheets of nori (roasted seaweed sheets)
Naturally brewed Japanese soy sauce for dipping
Wasabi paste (optional)
For the filling
1 package (5 ounces) pre-washed spinach
2 large carrots, cut into 3 ½-inch lengths, then cut into thin strips
1 large English cucumber, cut into 3 ½-inch lengths, then cut into thin strips
1 package (7 ounces) enoki mushrooms, trimmed
1 ripe avocado, peeled, sliced and dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning
1 package (8 ounces) sliced cold smoked salmon
2 ounces salmon roe (optional)
To make the vinegar sauce, in a small non-reactive saucepan combine the vinegar, sugar and salt and heat low until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, put spinach in a bowl and pour boiling water over. When spinach wilts, drain and rinse in cold water. Gently squeeze dry. Arrange all filling ingredients attractively on a serving platter. Toast nori sheets by passing sheet over low heat on a gas or electric burner. Be careful not to burn yourself or the nori. Use kitchen shears to cut each nori sheet into quarters.
When the rice is cooked, remove from rice cooker to a flat, wide glass or ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle with vinegar sauce and toss gently to combine. Use a fan or a piece of cardboard to fan the mixture as you toss, to cool rice down quickly.
To assemble sushi, provide each diner with a dinner plate, chopsticks and a little bowl for soy sauce. Each diner takes a nori square, adds a bit of rice and fillings of their choice and folds the nori over to encase the filling. Provide soy sauce and wasabi to combine for a dipping sauce.
Makes about 6 servings.
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