I like to eat sushi. But pregnant women cannot eat sushi. So to compromise, I cooked it.
By no means am I an expert on sushi. But from what I understand, sushi is a blanket term that encompasses three types: maki (rolls), nirigi (fish on beds of rice), and sashimi (just the raw fish). Since I was going to place my cooked ingredients on top of shaped rice, I suppose this makes this most like nigiri.
On this particular evening, I wanted to eat zucchini. There’s a Korean dish that my mom would make frequently towards the end of summertime, when zucchini is in abundance. You take a zucchini, slice it up, dip it in egg wash, fry it, dip it in soy sauce, and eat it. It’s wonderfully simple. This zucchini “nigiri” is inspired by that.
I also wanted my wife and I to eat fish on this particular night. I continue to be confounded by which fish are safe or not-safe for a pregnant woman to eat. After consulting several websites on my wife’s iPhone while at Trader Joe’s, we decided on salmon.
Zucchini “Nigiri” Recipe:
1. Rice it: sushi needs rice. I don’t know how to make sushi rice. Apparently, it’s something that aspiring sushi chefs do exclusively for the first few years of their apprenticeships. I, on the other hand, just used my rice cooker.
2. slice it: slice the zucchini into 1/4-1/2″ slices. I cut it on the bias so that the zucchini slice would be about the same size as the rice ball they were going to sit on.
3. Wash it: dip the zucchini slices in egg wash (1 egg and a little bit of water).
4. Fry it: Add about 1/4C canola or other light flavor oil (we use smart balance) and heat it on medium in a 10″ skillet. You’re really just looking to get some color on them. The egg wash helps with browning. So when it gets brown, flip it over. And then remove to a cooling rack over a baking sheet to drain.
5. Ball it: now that the zucchini is done, it’s time to top it on some rice. When sushi chefs make rice, they add some sugar and rice wine vinegar and other stuff while they toss it to cool to room temperature. Then, they use their hands to form the pillows of rice that slices of fish will lay upon. I don’t really know how to do any of that. I took the rice from my rice cooker, added a little bit of rice wine vinegar, and fluffed the rice. Then, I tried to pick it up to shape it. All this did was leave me with two hands covered in rice. I don’t know how they get it to not-stick to their fingers.
Instead, I used two teaspoons to make rice quenelles. It seemed to work. They were a little smaller than most nigiri that I’ve seen at sushi shops. But I think the nigiri they serve up in the U.S. it typically way too big anyway. I set up a total of six on a plate. They looked decent-ish. Not great, but they were going to be covered with other food.
6. Top it: I took a slice of the egg battered zucchini and squished it slightly on top of the sushi rice.
7. Eat it: I dipped the zucchini nigiri into some reserved soy marinade I had made. It was pretty delicious. Because the rice was so amateurishly formed, however, it fell apart the moment a chopstick got anywhere near it. You really had to eat it with your hands, but that is what sushi was originally meant to be anyway, finger food.
Salmon “Nigiri” recipe:
1. Slice it: I took a hunk of salmon that we bought at Trader Joe’s, thawed it in the fridge over night, and then split it into two hunks. Then, I sliced each hunk into 1/4″ slices of fish. I laid these out onto a quarter baking tray lined with foil and cooking spray.
2. Brush it: I wanted to make a soy marinade for the salmon, but I was too afraid that marinating might make the fish fall apart. So I decide I would brush the marinade on instead. I guess that makes this more of a glaze. I used a 1/4C soy, 2T rice wine vinegar, 1T toasted sesame oil, and 1T brown sugar. I put all this into a small sauce pot and let it cook down on low to medium heat to thicken. I mixed this up and then brushed it on the salmon slices. Before you put your brush in the sauce, however, make sure to set some aside for dipping later.
3. Bake it: although I ate some of this raw, and although that was really really good, I needed to cook this so that my pregnant wife could eat it too. I put it in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes. It’s not a lot of heat and not a lot of time. But the fish is really thin.
4. Top it: once out of the oven, I topped the fish on the rice quenelles that I had made earlier. I squished them down gently, and I was more careful with the fish than with the zucchini, as cooked fish tends to want to flake apart.
5. Eat it: the salmon was really tasty, even if it was cooked and not raw. And just as with the zucchini, the rice wanted to fall apart, so you had to eat it with your hands and was kind of annoying, albeit quite delicious.
After we finished the 6 zucchini nigiri and the 6 salmon nigiri that I had made, we still were hungry. Plus, we still had a ton of salmon slices and zucchini slices left. So, I dished these up sashimi style with a side of rice. No molding, no forming, no delicate plating. It was really good that way. We dipped the zucchini and salmon directly into the soy glaze, and it was really good. Everything tasted really fresh and summery. By the end of the meal, although we didn’t eat a large total volume of food, we were quite satisfied and full.