When the temperature soars above 90 degrees, as it did this weekend here in Rhode Island, I don't want to cook, but I still want to eat. Welcome to Vegetable Sushi Week, Day One: the rice.
My local Asian supermarket is the second-most-dangerous place on Earth.
At the Super 88 Market, whole aisles are devoted to dried noodles, dishes and chopsticks, spicy condiments, fresh greens like choi sum and long beans and chive blossoms, tofu, soy sauce, curry pastes, rice, frozen potstickers -- and cookware.
I cannot resist the piles of woks, spatulas, skimmers and spiders (not the creepy-crawly kind, but the ones you use to remove food from a fryer), spice toasters, clay pots, dumpling rollers, bamboo steamers, cleavers, chopping blocks, sushi mats and ladles. I have had all of these in my pantry at one time or another, along with three -- yes, three -- rice cookers, each slightly different, that begged to come home with me.
And because I love my rice cookers, I always have Nishiki rice on hand to feed them.
Nishiki, a California-grown brand of medium-grain rice (technically, it's a longer-than-average short-grain rice), is processed using a new milling technology called musenmai. The musenmai process blends heated tapioca with the rice kernels; when moisturized, the tapioca and bran stick to each other, rise to the surface, and both are removed, leaving behind a bright, fresh-tasting, cleaned rice which does not need to be rinsed again before cooking. Water-saving rice... what's not to love?
Nishiki rice comes in white or brown varieties; the white rice is available in the Asian foods aisle in my local grocery store, but the brown rice is a bit harder to find. At the Asian grocery, a five-pound bag of white rice costs $4.59.
Compared to long-grain rice, which takes two cups of water for every one cup of rice, Nishiki rice takes two cups of water for 1.5 cups of rice. In a rice cooker or on the stovetop, if left to steam (with the lid on) for 15 minutes after the cooking is complete, the rice becomes slightly sticky, which is ideal for maki, temaki, and inarizushi, but also perfect for serving with stir-fry dishes, because it's easy to pick up with chopsticks.
Oh, you're probably wondering ... what's the most dangerous place on Earth? A bookstore, of course.
If you don't have a rice cooker (and you should -- you can buy one for under $15, and it will change your life!), prepare rice on the stovetop according to package directions. Makes 6 cups of cooked rice.
3 cups Nishiki or other medium-grain white rice
1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar (Marukan brand is widely available)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
Pour rice into a sieve, and rinse under cold tap water, gently swishing the rice around with your fingers until the water is almost clear, 1 minute. (Do not overrinse, as you need to retain some starch in the rice.) To dry, spread the rice up and around the sides of the sieve, exposing as much of it as possible to the air. Let sit for about 30 minutes, until the rice is completely dry.
Place the rice and 4 cups water in a rice cooker, and set to Cook.
While the rice is steaming, make the dressing: In a small saucepan over low heat, stir the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. (or, you can microwave on High for 60 seconds). Do not let the mixture boil. Set aside to cool. If you’re making this ahead, pour into a screw-top jar and refrigerate.
When the rice is cooked, remove it to a sushi-oke or a large shallow wooden bowl, like a salad bowl, or large glass baking dish. Set the rice cooker insert aside -- you’ll be putting the rice back into it.
Spread out the hot rice with the edge of a paddle, evenly over the bottom of the bowl, in a slashing motion. Holding the paddle perpendicular to the rice, drizzle the dressing over the back of the paddle evenly over the rice surface. With the paddle, slice and fold the dressing through the rice until the grains are coated and glossy.
Place the dressed sushi rice back in the rice cooker and cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel to keep in the moisture. Click the cooker button on Warm. Sushi rice is easier to handle when it’s warm. It doesn’t have to be warm when you serve it, just when you’re forming the rolls.
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