Cucumber Sushi (Japanese Style)

Inspired by:

YIELDMakes 12 cucumber rolls


Sushi Zu:
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups sushi rice
3 cups water

1/2 sheet of seaweed (nori)
Sesame seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon prepared wasabi
3 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and sliced into long thin strips (matchstick size)


Sushi Zu Preparation:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Take off of the heat and allow to cool.

Rice Preparation:
Rice volume increases 2-2 1/2 times as it cooks. Almost all the short grain rice needs to be washed before cooking, because of the starch on the surface of each grain. If you cook rice without washing, starch makes the texture and taste less palatable. The following is the procedure to prepare rice:
Wash rice with care, putting rice in a big bowl and washing gently with cold running water for 10 minutes. Drain rice in a big colander and dry for 20-30 minutes. Place washed rice and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Allow to cook for 15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Place in a large bowl and pour over Sushi Zu mixture.

Sushi Preparation:
Place 1/2 sheet of seaweed (nori) lengthwise, shinny side down on a bamboo roller. Place approximately 3 ounces of sushi rice formed into a bar in the center of the seaweed, going lengthwise, spread rice evenly, covering entire nori except for about 1/2 inch at the top edge. Spread wasabi thinly in the center, on top of the rice, lengthwise from one and to the other. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top of rice, if desired. Then place a couple strips of cut cucumber in the center to fill the length of the roll.
Bring seaweed and rice toward you to the edge of the bamboo roller and holding the edge of the bamboo roller with one hand and, holding the cucumbers in place with the other hand, lift up the edge of the mat closest to you. Begin rolling mat away from you, rolling over the cucumber and connecting rice to rice. Then stop to make sure you still have a 1/2 inch strip of just nori left over at the top (this is what seals the roll). Lift the edge of bamboo roller slightly and roll another 1/2 inch away from you connecting the seaweed to seaweed and sealing the roll.
Gently squeeze both sides while pressing gently down on top with both index fingers. Cut roll in half, then turn one piece around so they are parallel to one another, line them up, then cut both pieces twice, to make 6 pieces. Cut remaining rolls and serve.


For the rice:
3 cups short-grain Japanese rice, rinsed
1/3 cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar

For the rolls:
10 nori sheets (dried seaweed), halved
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
1 cucumber
1 avocado
1 plum tomato, seeded
1 small red onion
20 asparagus spears, trimmed and blanched
Wasabi paste, for spreading and serving
1 romaine lettuce heart
Pickled ginger, for serving

Make the rice. Combine the rice and 3 1/4 cups water in a rice cooker and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions. A rice cooker is the best way to get perfect sticky-firm rice, but if you don’t have one, just use a saucepan. Fold in the vinegar. Combine the vinegar, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer the cooked rice to a large wooden bowl (traditionally, a wooden tub). Drizzle a quarter of the vinegar mixture over a wooden spoon or spatula onto the rice. Fold the rice gently with the spoon to cool it and break up any clumps; be careful not to smash the grains. Fold in the remaining vinegar mixture and let the rice sit 5 minutes. Spread the rice.

Cover a bamboo sushi mat with plastic wrap. Place a half nori sheet rough-side up on the mat. Moisten your hands and scoop a handful of rice, slightly larger than a lemon, onto the nori. Press the rice to spread it evenly up to the edges of the nori, moistening your fingers as you go. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Prepare the vegetables. Peel the cucumber and slice into matchsticks. (Morimoto cuts the entire cucumber into a paper-thin sheet, then quickly slices it into strips-but he’s had some practice.) Thinly slice the avocado, tomato and red onion; peel the tough ends of the asparagus. Add the filling. Carefully flip over the nori so it’s rice-side down on the mat with the short end facing you. Spread a bit of wasabi paste in a line about one-third of the way up the nori-it’s spicy, so use it sparingly. Arrange a few pieces each of lettuce, cucumber, avocado, tomato and onion in a tight pile in the lower third of the sheet. It’s OK if the vegetables hang over the edges of the nori. Roll the sushi. Roll the sushi away from you with your hands, tucking in the vegetables as you go. Remove the mat from under the roll and place it on top. Press the roll into a compact rectangular log, using the mat to help you. Slice the roll. Cut the sushi roll into 4 to 6 pieces. Repeat with the remaining nori, rice and vegetables. Serve with pickled ginger and more wasabi.

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