Pickled Okra Thick Roll
Four, 4×7-inch sheets nori or soy paper
3 cups prepared Traditional Sushi Rice (recipe below)
8 green beans, trimmed and blanched
1 4-inch long carrot, cut into matchstick strips
8 large pieces of pickled okra
1⁄4 of a small red bell pepper, cut into matchstick strips
4 tsp. cream cheese, softened
4 tsp. corn kernels, blanched
2 tsp. minced green onion, green parts only
2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
Place one sheet of nori on a bamboo rolling mat. Be sure that the short end is parallel to the bottom of the mat and that the rough side is facing upwards. Wet your fingertips and spread about 3⁄4 cup of the prepared sushi rice evenly over the bottom 3⁄4 of the nori. Arrange two green beans in the center of the rice. Top with 1⁄4 of the carrot matchsticks and two of the pickled okra pieces. Add 1⁄4 of the red bell pepper matchsticks. Smear 1 teaspoon of cream cheese across the rice. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of corn kernels, 1⁄2 teaspoon green onions and 1⁄2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds across the fillings.
Wet your fingertips again and slide your thumbs underneath the mat while grasping the fillings with all other fingertips. Roll the bottom of the mat just over the fillings and tuck the fillings snugly under the fold. Lift the edge of the mat and continue rolling until the roll is complete. (Keep the mat from getting stuck inside the fold during rolling.) Gently shape the roll by pressing your forefingers on the top of the mat while simultaneously pressing your thumbs and middle fingers into the sides.
Repeat steps with the remaining nori and fillings. Allow each roll to rest seam side down on a cutting board at least 2 minutes. To serve, use a sharp knife dipped lightly in water to cut each roll into five pieces. Serve immediately with soy sauce for dipping, if desired. Makes 4 rolls (20 pieces).
Traditional Sushi Rice
Note: Don’t be put off by the 1-1⁄2 hours needed to complete this version of sushi rice. Most of it is hands-off time. For your patience, you will be rewarded with perfectly flavored rice that spreads easily.
21⁄2 cups short grain rice
2 1⁄2 cups water, minus 3 Tbsp.
3⁄4 cup Sushi Rice Dressing (recipe below)
Cover the rice with cool water in a medium bowl. Gently swish the rice in a circular motion with your hand taking care not to break the grains apart. Pour the water off and repeat three times. Place the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse it with cool water. The run off water should begin to look clear. Allow the rice to drain in the strainer for 10 minutes.
Place the rice and measured water in a rice cooker. Once the rice cooker is started, cook for exactly 40 minutes. Most likely the cooker will indicate that the rice is done before 40 minutes have elapsed, but be patient. Do not lift the lid or stop the process before the time is up. While the rice cooks, place a wooden spoon or rice paddle in a shallow bowl of water to soak. This will prevent the cooked rice from sticking to the paddle while tossing with the Sushi Rice Dressing.
Dump the steamed rice onto a large, flat cutting board. With the soaked wooden spoon or paddle, gently “cut” the rice into pieces like a pie. Pour 1⁄4 cup of the dressing over the rice and toss well. Continue adding the dressing in 1⁄4 cup intervals to the rice, tossing well after each addition. Spread the rice into a thin layer and let it cool for 10 minutes. Gently flip the rice over with the soaked wooden spoon or paddle and let it cool for 5 minutes. Place the rice in a large, non-metal bowl or container and cover with a damp, lint-free dishcloth until ready for use. Use the rice within 4 hours. Makes about 6 cups.
Sushi Rice Dressing
3⁄4 cup rice vinegar
1⁄3 cup turbinado sugar (raw sugar), finely ground
3 tsp. sea salt
Mix together rice vinegar, turbinado sugar and sea salt in a small, non-metal bowl. Whisk dressing vigorously for about 2 minutes or until most of the turbinado sugar and sea salt has dissolved. Set aside until ready for use. (If doubling the batch to make extra or use for salad dressing, store remainder tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 6 weeks.) Allow mixture to reach room temperature before using. Makes about 1 cup.