... a dish as
refreshingly pretty as summer itself
by Linda Gabris
Its time to file away all those
cherished recipe cards for winter soups and hearty stews and
begin digging up some exciting new ideas for lighter, cooler
fare. With the return of longer days and warmer weather, theres
nothing I look forward to more than rounding up family and
friends for impromptu gatherings in my backyard flower gardens.
The secret to success of Al fresco parties
is keeping food fun and easy. When it comes to patio entertaining,
a favourite dishand one that gets the biggest raveis
delicious Japanese Rice Rolls.
This eye-pleasing recipe is adapted from
the California Roll I discovered with friends in a Vancouver
sushi bar, a healthy dining alternative growing in popularity.
Japanese Rice Rolls are very similar in
appearance to maki, where fillings are rolled inside seaweed.
The great news is these rolls are delicious, economical and
easy to make.
Japanese Rice Rolls are low in cholesterol
and rich in minerals. Vitamins come from vegetables, carbohydrates
from rice, and iodine and iron from seaweed. They are as versatile
as you want and once rolling, youll find
they are an easy way to wrap up your dining in cool, elegant
Go for an authentic Japanese look by draping
the table in a square of brightly patterned Oriental silk
or other Far East fabric from your linen closet.
Fold paper napkins into little fans and, using rubber bands,
attach each one to a pair of chopsticks for flair and fun
eating! When entertaining outdoors, this is an attractive
way to keep napkins from drifting off in the wind while setting
Dry white wine complements the rolls very
nicely, but if you want your guests to leave with a lasting
impression, serve little porcelain cups or small glasses of
sakefragrant Japanese rice wine. When the weathers
hot, youll want a tall pitcher of something frosty on
the table. For this occasion I cant think of anything
better suited than thirst-quenching iced green tea.
Paper thin, silvery-green sheets of dried or toasted seaweed
sheets, known as nori in Japanese, are used as wrappers. The
brand I buy comes in packages of 10 sheets and costs about
Use any sticky rice but the best choice is medium grain. Some
brands marketed as sushi rice work exceptionally
well for this purpose.
To flavour and condition the rice, add suJapanese rice
vinegar. Fragrant rice vinegar is inexpensive and available
in most supermarkets.
If you cant cut the heat, go easy on wasabi. This Japanese
horseradish is extremely hot, but in small doses offers a
unique flavour and lovely spring-green colour. Buy it ready-made
in tubes or as powder you mix with water. Both are reasonably
priced and relatively easy to find in larger supermarkets.
A good substitute is prepared, mild or hot, white horseradish.
Nothing refreshes or enlivens the taste of these rolls better
than pretty and pink, pickled gingerknown as gari in
Japanese. Pickled ginger is in most supermarkets or you can
make your own. Just peel ginger root, slice thinly and steep
for five minutes in a weak, honey-sweetened, vinegar solution.
Pour into sterilized jar and let mellow for a day or two before
This common sauce is nice drizzled on the rolls before devouring.
Known as kappa in Japanese, the colourful green skin of English
cucumber can be left on for great colour. In season, fresh
garden cukes are perfect.
SPEARS: This is usually the most expensive item in
Japanese Rice Rolls. Since only one spear per roll is needed,
buy unbundled, if possible, to keep the cost down when not
in season. Steam for two minutes before using. Pickled asparagus
spears work great as well.
You need 2 cups of cooked, well-drained black beans. Canned
black beans can speed up preparation time.
Great for sprinkling onto the rolls.
RICE: Put 2 1/ 2 cups well-washed, medium-grain rice
in saucepan. Add 3 cups of water. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes or until
rice has absorbed water. Remove from heat. Let stand, covered
for 15 minutes. Combine 1/4 cup of rice vinegar with 1 tablespoon
honey and pinch of salt. Heat until it dissolves. Pour mixture
over rice and cut through with a wooden spoon, working until
rice turns glossy. Set aside until rice cools.
BLACK BEANS: Using blender, puree cooked and drained
black beans with 1 clove of garlic until a thick paste. Set
TO ROLL: Add 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar and 1 cup
of water to a bowl to use as a hand wash. Place a sheet of
seaweed onto table or little bamboo mat. You can buy special
mats precut to fit nori sheets for less than a dollar at specialty
or dollar stores. Wet hands in vinegar solution. Take a handful
of rice and pat it uniformly onto the seaweed sheet, working
to the edge.
Spread very thin line of wasabi down middle of sheet. On one
side of wasabi, lay an asparagus spear cut to length of sheet.
Using hands, form bean paste into a oblong about an inch thick
and run it uniformly along the other side of the wasabi. Now
lift end of mat and carefully roll up in jellyroll fashion,
using hands to guide and gently compact the roll. Transfer
roll to fridge.
For variation substitute a cucumber strip.
Set rolls in the fridge to mellow for at least one hour before
serving. To serve, use a very sharp knife to cut rolls into
3 /4-inch slices. Arrange on platter. Leftover rolls wrapped
in plastic keep nicely for two days in the fridge.
Surround rolls with little bowls of toppings:
wasabi, soy sauce, pickled ginger and toasted sesame seeds.
Allow guests to spoon on toppings of choice. I like a little
dab of each on mine.
Japanese Rice Rolls are perfect for packing
into a picnic basketa wonderful change from sandwiches
but can still be eaten by hand. The secret to perfection is
not cutting the rolls until serving time, so remember to take
along a sharp knife. Toppings can be toted in little jars.
The whole fun of making Japanese Rice
Rolls is being creative. Its virtually impossible to
go wrong. My motto is: If itll roll, itll work!
In place of asparagus spears and cucumber strips, try lightly
steamed carrot for a healthy and exceptionally pretty dish.
Avocado is delicious as are leek bottoms, steamed broccoli
stalks or turnip sticks. Dont be shy to mix and match.
Try chick peas, kidney beans, pintos or any other tasty filling
This is an original story,
first published in The Country Connection Magazine,
Issue 46, Summer 2004. Copyright Linda Gabris.
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