I haven’t always liked sushi. The first time I tried it, I was so overwhelmed by the smell that I really didn’t try it at all. Probably a good idea at the time. The second time I tried it, I actually bit it. I had smelled it first and there was no smell, ok, maybe the hint of a smell of an ocean breeze, but nothing like the pungent aroma that singed my nose on first attempt.
It was love at first bite. This stuff was the stuff dreams were made of. I had to have it. When asked where to go for dinner on nights out I always suggested Fuji’s Japanese Steak House because their sushi was the best. Yeah, we had to drive to Nashville, but that’s such a small sacrifice for the pleasure sushi brought me.
After a few times, my love turned to obsession. I had to have it. It was so bad that one day I made a trip to Nashville for sticky rice, sushi vinegar, mats, nori, Tobiko, and pickled ginger, bound and determined to have sushi as close as my kitchen. I don’t like driving to, through, or in Nashville, so this was a big event.
My first attempts at DIY sushi were not very pretty. With a lot of practice you get better at rolling and you also get a little larger from edible mistakes. March of 2011 was the last big sushi “hurrah”. It was my mom’s birthday and she wanted sushi, so we threw her a sushi party.
When I decided to take control of my of my blood sugar by not eating the things that made it high, I was sad because I thought I could never have sushi again. I gave away my sticky rice, but I kept everything else. I had been told time and again that “It’s not sushi without the rice”, since I couldn’t have rice I was destined to go sushi-free for the rest of my days.
After months of seeing those packs of nori sheets lying unused in the pantry, I decided that I didn’t care if it wasn’t sushi without the rice, I was going to make my sushi and eat it too. First I tried replacing the rice. You can look all over the internet and find recipes for faux rice using cauliflower. I tried it raw, I tried it cooked, it was ok, but it wasn’t the same. Finally it hit me that I didn’t need a replacement for rice, while rice may be important to sushi lovers everywhere, it was not important to me. The smartest thing I did was just leave it out. Without the rice there is more room for the good stuff anyways.
The first few times making rice free Maki rolls, I used raw salmon and raw ahi tuna. My daughter May only agreed to eat if I used cooked salmon, so we cooked some salmon.
Take one thawed wild caught fillet of salmon and place it onto a buttered baking dish. Brush 1 t of hoisin sauce on the top and sprinkle lightly with black sesame seeds. I like it baked at 350° for 15 minutes, you may not like that, so check it at 15 and cook to your desired doneness.
Once your salmon is out of the oven, put it on a paper towel and in the fridge to cool. Yeah, you can help save a tree by just letting it cool in the dish it was cooked in, but the hot dish will only hinder the cooling progress.
While your salmon is cooling, gather the rest of your ingredients. While I used salmon, avocado, cream cheese, and dill pickles, feel free to use what ever is tempting your taste buds. The beauty of nori is that nori does not care one iota about what you wrap it around.
While most recipes involving cream cheese request you let it soften, this one does not. Cream cheese tends to slice better when it is chilled. Like always, place a damp towel under your cutting board for stability.
Just a tip: when cutting fruits or vegetable and meats or cheeses, cut the fruits and vegetables first if you only have one cutting board. It will help prevent cross contamination and that is a good thing.
Try to cut your fillings as close to shape and size as possible. It’s no big deal if they aren’t all the same, it’s no easy task shaping avocado slices to look exactly like cream cheese, so just do the best you can.
Once you have all your fillings sliced, it’s time to get to rolling. Starting about an inch from the bottom, neatly line up your fillings. Place them as close as possible and try to keep your line straight.
In this photo I have my cream cheese and salmon on the bottom because they are more uniform in shape than the pickles and avocado. I find it easier for me to just do it that way. If you have an easier way, feel free to do it your way and make sure to let me know so I can try it too.
If you’ve never rolled sushi before, check out all the cool videos on YouTube. It’s easier rolling sushi with rice, but it’s not impossible to get some nice rolls without the rice.
When making rice free Maki rolls, I keep a finger bowl of water on my work station. About an inch and a half from the top, I moisten the nori. This helps the nori to stick to itself and that makes cutting much easier. (When making more than one, I wrap each roll in a paper towel or plastic wrap and place them in the fridge until time to cut.)
If you pulled it tight while rolling, you may end up with something like the photo on the left. If not, don’t worry, eat your rice free sushi. Once you taste it, you will realize that you will have more opportunity to hone in on your rolling skills.
When slicing sushi with or without rice, it is important to use a sharp knife. After a few times I realized that it is also important that the blade be serrated.
I hope that you enjoy your rice free maki rolls as much as we do. Remember you can roll up anything your taste buds desire. It makes no difference to the nori, the nori is just happy to once again be out the pantry!
I leave you today with my first rice free attempt if only to show you how the nori doesn’t care, as long as you don’t ignore it.