Monday, March 31, 2008

Vegetarian Sushi Basics

Vegetarian sushi? Many people are perplexed by this idea. After all, most Westerners think that sushi means "raw fish" (confusing it with sashimi), so it's little surprise that vegetarian sushi seems like an anomaly.

But vegetarian sushi is not only possible, it's downright delicious! With a little creativity (and a little help from The Veggie Guy), you can create all sorts of variations of vegetarian sushi that will satisfy your palette and impress your friends.

In this post, though, we'll start with the basics. The idea of rolling your own sushi might seem daunting (ok, downright terrifying), but with the right tools, a little patience, and a generous supply of sake, it's really not that difficult.

This post will cover nori rolled sushi, which most Westerners are familiar with. Down the road, I'll get into some of the other types of sushis. When I think you're ready, that is.

(Okay, when I can do it myself without creating a huge mess. How's that for transparency?)

Now, fair warning: Although making sushi is not terribly labor intensive, it takes a long time. There's a lot of "do this, then set it aside for an hour and go take a jog" steps. So it damned sure doesn't make the coveted "under 30 minutes" category. No way.

But it's worth it.

So lets start with the supplies you'll need, and how to make a basic sushi roll.

What you'll need:

  • A bamboo rolling mat, or makisu
  • A bowl of water with a bit of rice vinegar
  • Roasted nori seaweed (comes in square or rectangular sheets)
  • 2 cups sushi rice or other short grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Preparing the sushi rice:

Rinse the rice in a medium bowl. Drain and set aside for 1 hour. This is very important, because the rice will be downright unruly later if you omit this step. (I'm serious. I tried to skip this step once and ended up inventing a few new expletives before all was said and done. Just don't do it.)

Cook rice in a rice cooker according to package directions. I pour 2 1/2 cups of water into the rice bowl, and 2 cups of water into the steamer.

Stir vinegar, salt, and sugar together in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave until the mixture begins to boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

When rice have finished cooking, let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large glass or wooden bowl. Mix gently with a wooden spoon to separate the grains.

Pour vinegar mixture over the rice and stir until all grains are coated. Use a newspaper or fan to cool the rice as you mix it. Let set for at least 1 hour at room temperature (don't refrigerate. Your rice will harden and your sushi will suck.)

What to do:

  • Lay the makisu flat on the counter.
  • Place a nori sheet shiny side down on the makisu.
  • Wet hands in water/vinegar. Spread a thin, even layer of rice over the nori sheet, leaving 1/4 inch along the edges uncovered.
  • Arrange vegetables we'll talk about this later) in the center of the rice layer.
  • Use the mat as a guide to roll the nori, rice, and vegetables into a tight roll. (Tip from the Idiot Veggie Guy - make sure the edge of the mat doesn't get rolled up in the sushi roll. It doesn't work out so well.)
  • I wet the nori on the far side of the roll so it will stick. Other people think this is weird. But it keeps my sushi from falling apart. That's just how I roll. (Get it? Roll... sushi... bwaha..ha ha.. *sigh* Eh.)
  • Press lightly onthe roll to compress the ingredients. Remove roll from bamboo mat.
  • Cut crosswise into 8 pieces.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Vegan Capellini Pomodoro

Sadly, I have no good story to go along with tonight's recipe. I wanted pasta, I was in a hurry, and Ragu just wasn't going to cut it. End of story.

So without further nonsense and/or fanfare, I give you: Vegan Capellini Pomodoro

1 lb. angel hair pasta (or penne regate, or farfalle, or whatever the hell shape of pasta strikes your fancy)
1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large roma tomatoes, diced
4 oz white or portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/4 large red bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, sliced and quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
6 oz vegetarian vegetable broth (we've been over this before, but it bears repeating: not all "vegetable broth" is vegetarian. Those sneaky bastids will add chicken stock to make processing easier.)
2 oz white cooking wine (mine says "chablis". Your mileage may vary.)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage


Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, run cool water over the pasta, and set aside.

Steam asparagus in a vegetable steamer or over a large pot of boiling water. Asparagus this time of year tends to be a bit tough (ok, you can fence with it) so give it a good 20-25 minutes of steaming time while you're going through the rest of the steps.

Sautee onion and garlic in olive oil in a medium saucepan for 1 minute. Add broth, white cooking wine, tomatoes, sage, oregano, and red bell pepper, cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms, cook for an additional 2 minutes. Turn heat to low and cover. Let simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Add steamed asparagus to vegetable/broth mixture, let simmer for 2-3 minutes to allow flavors to combine.

Serve veggies over pasta.

Note: This recipe doesn't quite make my coveted "under 30 minutes" collection. I clocked the prep time tonight at 34 minutes. This might have been because I was tired/disorganized/drinking cheap beer. If you can do it in under 30, email me, and I'll take your word for it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spinach wraps

Now, if you've read the previous post, you might have surmised that I had a batch of baby spinach to use up. You'd be right. Hey, we (I) here at The Veggie Guy don't believe in waste, or in having stuff turn into bags of runny brown goo at the back of the fridge.

So... I made spinach wraps tonight. Pretty easy stuff, and you can substitute pretty much whatever you don't like.

So here goes:

2 large whole wheat or sprouted grain tortillas
1 handful fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup roma tomatos, diced
1 avocado, mashed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chopped fresh basil or 1/4 tsp dried basil
4 oz white button mushrooms
1 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely diced
2 oz canned artichoke hearts (packed in water, not oil)

Heat oil in a medium pan. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute on medium heat. Add mushrooms and balsamic vinegar, cook for 3 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat.

Mix cayenne pepper and basil into mashed avocado.

Spread 1/2 avocado mixture on each tortilla. Add spinach, onion, tomatos, and artichoke hearts in layers on each tortilla. Place 1/2 mushroom/galrlic mixture on top. Roll tortillas into wraps.

Serve with fresh veggies or pita chips and hummus.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Quick Spinach Quesadillas

Those of you who have been watching the news probably know that we had a "blizzard" here in Ohio this weekend. I'm not sure I'd use the word "blizzard" - to me, it was just an inconvenient amount of driveway shoveling. But I guess if the media wants to make a big deal about it, so be it.

Anyway, some friends got snowed in on Saturday. Carnivores. Hard core. Anyway, rather than venture out in the snow, I opted to make these quick spinach quesadillas for everyone. I think some of the people were more than a little put off by the sight of something green and leafy, but hey... when you're in a vegetarian's home, you will eventually encounter food that isn't fried, loaded with fat, or meat-laden.

Anyway, I liked these things because they were quick to put together (about 15 minutes, give or take), and made from ingredients I already had on hand. So if you're running short on time, give these easy spinach quesadillas a try.

10 burrito sized flour tortillas
1 8 oz package shredded Veggie Shreds "cheese"
1 jar picante sauce or salsa
fresh baby spinach
4 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
low fat sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place one tortilla on cutting board, sprinkle thin layer of cheese on top. Add onions, baby spinach, muchrooms, and picante sauce. Sprinkle on another layer of cheese, and place another tortilla on top. Repeat with remainder of tortillas.

Place on baking sheet or directly on oven rack, bake for 6-7 minutes. Place quesadillas on cutting board, cut into quarters.

Serve with sour cream if desired.
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