A spell of early summer days has hit Queenstown and with it happy times and a need for cool, soothing, quick and simple meals. My photography today definitely doesn’t do justice to how delicious and easy these were to eat. You need to check for Ed’s tips on lettuce preparation and enjoy these yourself while the summer days last. There is plenty of scope here to ad-lib and to add all of the good bits you want a little more of in your traditional sushi.
Sushi salads have long been popular at home and at work, but this week sushi salad randomly collided with a plan to make Prawn San Choy Bau for the blog. The sushi salad was to be for our evening meal and the Prawns for San Choy Bau blog post, that will have to be another day! It all came together by happy chance as dinner for family, and Marko, my hard working Cultural Exchange helper. It was declared delicious and definitely blog worthy in its own right – so here we are! The prawns, although providing another delicious crunch element, could easily be replaced with any other seafood – fish fillets, crab, calamari – or tofu, or as you see in the pictures – some slices of avocado, cucumber, snow peas etc. (The snow pea sprouts unless chopped are not such a good idea in my mind – why do they always seem to end up hanging out the side of my mouth – is that just me?)
At the last minute ,when taking the photos, I mixed some coconut yoghurt and wasabi for a creamy mayonnaise alternative – it was delicious!
Iceburg lettuce is one of those very unfashionable foods that I keep rediscovering and deciding I enjoy very much. None of the delicious pepperiness of the beloved rocket, or the creaminess of spinach….it is juicy ,crunchy, fresh summer goodness and works like magic as a vessel for conveniently wrapping and serving individual portions. While struggling to get the leaves apart it was Ed who said to take the core out and let the cold tap run gently into the lettuce, it goes between the layers and separates them so you can gently pull them apart. Genius from the man who has decided he would prefer not to cook thank you very much! All that water also helps to keep the leaves fresh and crisp.
The rice I used was brown rice the first time and black rice the second, both add a delicious if unconventional chewy goodness to the salad, but use what ever you have or prefer. The sushi seasoning takes it to Japan and gives it the base flavour you are wanting. In reading a little about rice it seems (not really unsurprisingly) that it benefits from soaking in the same way as seeds and nuts do. The soaking not only breaks down the phytic acid in the same way as it does for seeds but also washes away a lot of the nasties that it seems are used in growing it – arsenic… (- who knew?) Recommended time seems to be a minimum of a couple of hours to preferably overnight followed by rinsing well before cooking. My reading says though that if you can’t soak the rice rinse it well before cooking. Life is short and sometimes (mostly) dinner needs to be cooked promptly, but for those perfect days…..?
COOLING SUMMER SUSHI LETTUCE CUPS
THE RICE – dinner portions
- 1/3 – 1/2 a cup of rice per person – soaked and rinsed if possible (quinoa or other grains could be substituted here)
- Approximately 1 Tablespoon sushi seasoning per serve of rice (to taste but not so much as to leave rice soggy)
- Scrape of fresh ginger – I used my microplane
- Couple of drops of sesame oil
- Approximately 1 teaspoon of toasted black or white sesame seeds per serve.
THE SALAD – optional ingredients according to taste and what is in the pantry, think about what you like or would like to find in your traditional sushi
- Nori (cut at the last moment so as not to go soft) cut in slivers.
- Spring onion
- Peas or edamame
- Japanese Mayonaise
- Japanese soy sauce or tamari etc
- Coconut yogurt with wasabi stirred through
- Optional prawns, fish fillets, salmon, calamari, tuna, tofu,egg…..
Start with your rice and, whether you soaked it or not, give it a thorough rinse before cooking. My preferred method for cooking this kind of brown/black rice, is in a large pot of lightly salted water, rapidly it boiling until I am happy it is cooked, and then turning it all in to a strainer to drain. Everyone has their favourite method, so go with what suits you! I know rice scares some people, but although it takes longer to cook, brown and black rice are hard to spoil. You want the rice to be thoroughly cooked as it does dry out a little as it cools.
Once the rice is drained and while it is still warm – tip it in to a large shallow bowl and add the sushi seasoning, a scrape of fresh ginger, sesame seeds and a few drops of sesame oil, stir it through and push the rice out in a thin even layer to cool quickly. It only needs to come to room temperature before adding the rest of the ingredients.
While all this is going on, gather your other ingredients and cook the prawns/fish/egg/tofu ready to assemble. Fresh raw sashimi grade tuna would be amazing on these!
Toss your salad vegetables gently through the salad, leaving some avocado and nori aside to garnish as you make them. Put the salad aside until you are ready to eat.
Prepare your lettuce, (I cut the large outer leaves into smaller pieces and left the smaller central ones whole.) I like the idea of being able to make several of these and perfect the ingredient ratio to my taste as I go. I also think these would also make great pre dinner snacks or tapas size canapés for summer entertaining either pre made or make your own in the moment.
All of this can be prepared earlier and presented at the last minute. The salad also tastes good at room temperature if you do make and serve it all at once.
I set the rice salad, lettuce leaves, prawns and condiments out on the table, with plenty of napkins and (unnecessary) forks for straggling salad morsels, and let everyone assemble their own to there own tastes.