Today is Food Allergy Awareness Day on TasteSpotting, sponsored by the Food Allergy Initiative (FAI). All week, we’ve been learning about the challenges of cooking for food-allergic family and friends, and today we’re posting recipes that address one or more of the eight most common food allergies (our Vegetable Sushi is for people with Fish and/or Shellfish allergies). Take a peek at FAI’s site for more detailed info on food allergies, then come back here to cook!
Whenever I suggest “sushi” for lunch or dinner and the reply is “Oh, I don’t eat raw fish,” I get some strange thrill at the prospect of retorting, “Oh, ye of utter ignorance, ‘sushi’ is not raw fish. ‘Sushi’ is the rice!” …
But I hold myself back.
And we go somewhere to get sandwiches instead.
Yes, “sushi” refers to the slightly sweet, vinegary rice that is formed into balls and rolled up with seaweed, which means that someone who has a fish and/or shellfish allergy can actually eat “sushi” as long as the sushi is topped (or filled) with other things.
Grilled chicken? Sure.
Seared slices of steak? Absolutely.
Gorgeous, glittering vegetables in every color of the rainbow?
That’s what we did.
We roasted asparagus, beets, red peppers and sweet potatoes. We sauteed shiitake mushrooms. And we left a few things like avocado, cucumber and kale in their fresh, raw form. Together, they all made for sushi that might have been even more beautiful than a plate of more traditional sushi with fish (if we do say so ourselves).
We have a couple of quick notes on Fish and Shellfish allergies that we learned along the way. First, we made this sushi at home, which means that the utensils, equipment, and surfaces were probably free and clear of cross-contamination from fish and shellfish. A sushi restaurant situation will be very different.
Also, we wondered about the safety of nori, the sheets of roasted seaweed used for rolls, for fish and/or shellfish allergies since they all come from the ocean. Based on some research though, it seems like nori itself is okay. (** Please see footnote below).
This is a recipe for the sushi rice made with brown rice (rather than the usual white rice), plus a loose set of guidelines on how to form and roll the sushi. All of the various “toppings” and “fillings” for rolls are just basic roasted or sauteed vegetables, which means you can pretty much use anything that is in season.
sushi nori sheets
For the Brown Rice:
1 cup brown rice
1 cup water
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
For the Toppings and Fillings:
asparagus spears, roasted
avocado, peeled and sliced
cucumber, sliced lengthwise into strips about ¼-insh around
daikon, pickled (the Korean version of this is called dahn moo-jee)
kale, sliced into very fine shreds
roasted red pepper
roasted sweet potato
tomato, sliced into super thin wedges
for garnish: sesame seeds, lemon and/or lime zest, grated fresh ginger, sliced scallions, sliced jalapeño
for serving: soy sauce, pickled ginger, flaky sea salt
You will also need a bamboo sushi rolling mat
Cook the Rice
Rinse brown rice until water runs clear, then cook in rice cooker. When done, keep warm while preparing the fillings.
Put cooked brown rice in large bowl. Sprinkle with brown rice vinegar and salt (usually there is sugar in the rice seasoning, but I left it out just because…I felt like it). Gently mix the rice with a wide, flat spoon to mix and cool. when the rice is cool enough to the touch for you to handle, you’re ready to roll! (*groan*)Place bamboo sushi mat on cutting board. Place 1 sheet nori on mat. The nori is a rectangle, so make sure the sheet is lined up wide, rather than tall.
Make Sushi Rolls: Asparagus + Kale Roll, Cucumber Roll
Spoon about ½ cup brown rice onto nori, gently spreading it out into a thin layer all the way to the edges except the far end. Leave about 2 inches of nori “open” on the far side.
For Asparagus + Kale Roll: Place about a half handful of shredded kale across the rice horizontally in an even strip. Lay stalks of asparagus down in a single line (you may use 1 stalk, or 1 plus a cut piece of a second stalk).
Using the mat to hold things together, roll the nori over the asparagus and kale into a sushi roll. You might not get it right the first time. Nor the second time. That’s okay. Just eat those yourself before anyone sees those hot, lopsided messes.
Place perfect sushi rolls seam side down on cutting board and cut into pieces. Use a very sharp, clean knife. Wipe the blade with a wet paper towel after every cut.
For Cucumber Roll, do the same thing, using pieces of cucumber.
Grab a small handful of rice (about 1½ tablespoons) and form into an oval with your hands. This will take time as the rice, weirdly, falls apart and is sticky at the same time. You will need to press together pretty firmly; don’t worry if you feel like you are smashing the rice too much. You probably are, but that’s okay.
Place the formed rice on the serving plate. It is easier to make all the rice balls at once and then top them later, so make all the rice balls first.
Top the rice balls with different vegetables, and garnish according to your taste. This is what we did:
- roasted red pepper with roasted sesame seeds
- roasted sweet potatoes with fresh grated ginger (very strong. you have to really like ginger to do this)
- avocado with jalapeno, lime zest, scallions
- roasted beet with lemon zest
For some of the vegetables, you may want to “strap” them down with a thin strip of nori wrapped around the vegetable and rice together. We did this for the fresh tomato and one version of shiitake mushroom (4-5 thin slices of shiitake, as opposed to the entire shiitake cap).
The traditional accompaniments to sushi are soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Soy sauce was a little strong for some of the vegetables, so we opted instead for a few flakes of sea salt.
** Please note that this recipe and post have not been reviewed by FAI or medical experts. Avoidance is the only accepted course of treatment for food allergy. Always verify ingredients or food products by checking with the manufacturer and/or your physician to ensure that any foods are safe for your unique allergy issues.