This is How We Roll


Sushi is a powerful food. It is memorable for most home cooks, not just because it involves an expansive amount of prep work but because it is so often done in the company of friends. Roommates, sisters, husbands, girlfriends–everyone has a story, whether it’s a tempura disaster, exploding rolls, a particularly exquisite fillet of tuna, or hysterical laughter around the table as someone puts a little too much wasabi in her mouth. Some of my best college memories revolve around the process of making it or eating it: that night we thought five rolls wouldn’t be enough for two, so we made a sixth; the New Year’s a significant other and I nearly burned down the house trying to make tempura; weeknights at the hole-in-the-wall on Telegraph Ave.

The best thing about sushi is that it’s fundamentally uncomplicated, but it can be as complex as you want. A clean strip of salmon lain with care over a pocket of rice is enough, but the interplay among sweet and umami and savory can be explored further with tender unagi, creamy avocado, egg, carrot, green onion, and any manner of other things. The satisfaction of slicing ingredients neatly and assembling the rolls with their sticky, sweet rice filling is an important factor as well; neatly arranged veggies, fruit, and fish fulfill a deep appreciation for order and beauty.

Our sushi was crafted by expert (hers) and inexpert hands (mine), maguro and salmon alternating with cool cucumber and fatty avocado. We experimented with composition – alternating fish and vegetables, trying a layer of rice on the outside – while making lewd jokes about tobiko, admiring the lovely slices of meat, and contemplating the feast to come. Your standard sushi experience, basically. Just as good as the sushi, in fact, were the accompanying sides. The salad dressing was a well-crafted recipe from a friend of ours (thanks, Rachel – you’re a wizard!) that replicates the creamy miso tang of a Japanese restaurant’s iceberg-heavy starter. The consistency and flavor were spot on, a perfect balance of savory roundness and plummy acidity. The edamame mirrored the tangy salad but with a punch of ginger, interlacing the butteriness with a satisfying bite.

In the end, the best part of the meal was the opportunity to build a tiny compartmentalized plate – a practice which always delights me and speaks to a childhood habit of playing with my food. We constructed our plates with care and then sat down together to destroy the delicately prepared meal. Another memory in the making, we savored the flavors and textures between sips of sake and animated conversation.

Green Salad with Rachel’s Miso Dressing
We used a bag a mixed green lettuce and a japanese cucumber cut into star shapes as the base of our salad.  The salad served about 4.

For the Miso Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp White Miso Paste
  • 2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 1 Tsp Honey
  • A dash of Ume Plum Vinegar
  • A dash of Sesame Oil

Whisk together! Our friend Rachel provided this great recipe. She recommends playing with these ingredients to get the consistency and flavor that you desire and also suggested using a bit of tahini if you wanted a creamier dressing.

Ginger Soy Glazed Edamame

  • 4 Cups frozen Edamame with shell
  • 6 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 8 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 8 Tbsp Water
  • 4 Tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Ginger, grated
  • 1 Tsp Fresh Garlic, grated

Cook the edamame according to the package directions, then pat dry with a towel and set aside. Whisk the brown sugar, soy sauce and water in a small bowl and set aside. Heat the sesame oil, ginger, and garlic in a medium saucepan until sizzling then add the brown sugar,soy sauce and water mixture to the pan. Cook on medium to medium-to-low heat until bubbly. Cook until the sauce thickens and reduces to about 8 Tbsp, this takes about 10 minutes.

Once sauce has thickened, add the edamame and toss to coat. Serve warm!

First We Eat’s “How we Roll” Sushi Rolls
Makes 6 Sushi Rolls

For the Sushi Rice

  • 2 Cups White Rice (should be the short grain variety that gets somewhat sticky when it cooks)
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar (white granulated)
  • 1 Tbsp Salt

Rinse your two cups of rice before cooking. Add two cups rinsed rice plus two cups of water to a medium pot and heat on high until water is bubbling. Once it’s bubbling, cover the pot and turn heat to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Transfer cooked rice to a bowl to cool. In the meantime, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt into a small bowl and microwave for about 20 seconds and stir to combine.

Slowly add the vinegar mixture to the rice and stir. If you have one handy, have a friend fan the rice as you stir. This gives the sushi rice it’s beautiful shine as the vinegar mixture dries quickly on the rice.

Sushi Ingredients

  • Sheets of Nori (for rolling the sushi)
  • 1/4 lb sashimi grade salmon
  • 1/4 lb sashimi grade tuna
  • 1 Japanese Cucumber, sliced into long, thin pieces
  • 1 Avocado, sliced thin
  • Tobiko (if you’re going to try the inside out roll)
  • Pickled Ginger, Wasabi, and Soy Sauce for serving

Once your sushi rice has cooled and all your ingredients have been prepped, it’s time to get out your sushi mat to roll your sushi. I like to wrap my sushi mat in plastic wrap to keep the rice from sticking and keep a bowl of cold water handy to keep the rice from sticking to my hands as I roll.

For regular sushi rolls (seaweed on the outside), place your Nori on the mat and a handful of the sushi rice and press the rice over the nori until it’s covered with a thin layer. About 2 inches into the roll, start placing your ingredients. Once all the ingredients for your roll have been included, start rolling. The first part of the roll should completely cover your ingredients all the way around. Use your fingers and the mat to press this initial roll together firmly, then continue rolling until the rest of the Nori is rolled. You’ve made sushi! When you’re ready to eat, with a very sharp knife, cut the rolls into bite-sized pieces.

For rice on the outside rolls, take your handful of rice and place directly onto the sushi mat (this is where the plastic wrap really comes in handy. Once you have a Nori sized layer of rice on your mat, place the nori on top and press well to make sure they stick. Again, add your ingredients about 2 inches away from the edge of your roll then start rolling. Roll slowly to ensure that the rice is rolling properly and not sticking to the plastic wrap. Roll finished wrap in tobiko and cut. Enjoy!

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