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November 14, 2006

Out to Lunch—November 14, 2006

Although I can proudly say that I have never owned a Confederate flag and that all of my belt buckles are of a reasonable size, I will admit that I am in many ways a typical Texan. I use “y’all” constantly, and there is a small, slightly deaf part of my heart that belongs to the musical genius of George Strait.

Although I have trained my food tastes reach beyond the confines of the Texas beef-based diet, the Texan in me shines through in my thorough distaste for sashimi (raw fish). I find nothing less appealing than the bright red and pink rectangles of salmon and tuna that occupy the Hutch refrigerators. It thoroughly offends my Texan sensibility to eat an animal that has not been roasted, grilled, or deep-fried, especially if it’s an animal you don’t shoot.

So in a small tribute to my Lone Star roots as the cold weather makes me long for home, I offer my fellow sashimi fearers this recipe for completely fish-free California rolls. The recipe is actually fairly easy, and the directions are long only because rolling the sushi can be a little tricky. I definitely botched a couple rolls before getting the hang of it.

California rolls can include any number and combination of ingredients, and I personally prefer dried shredded pork as the main ingredient, which can be found at Chinatown Market. It has a rich taste that punches up the recipe without the pain of wasabi.

Shrimp would be a great substitute for, or addition to, the imitation crab meat, as would more vegetables. The combination of ingredients below can be particularly appealing because it makes the end product extremely colorful and festive.

Resplendent California Rolls

The Ingredients

1 package sushi seaweed

1 cucumber, peeled and de-seeded

1 carrot, peeled

7 spears of asparagus, ends trimmed

1 package imitation crabmeat, torn or cut into shreds

1 package dried shredded pork

3-4 eggs, beaten

3 cups rice

rice vinegar

sugar

mayonnaise

vegetable oil

sushi roller (looks like a bunch of thin chopsticks)

roasted sesame seeds (optional)

The Directions

1. Cook the rice according to the directions. You want it to be a little moist and sticky, so make sure you put in enough water. When the rice is done, add small amounts of sugar and rice vinegar. These ingredients are added entirely to taste, so make the rice as sour or as sweet as you wish.

2. Boil the carrot and asparagus in a pot until they are softer but still a little crunchy. Set aside the asparagus. Cut the carrot lengthwise into spears about the width of the asparagus. Cut the cucumber in the same way.

3. Heat about two or three teaspoons of oil in a medium-sized pan. Add enough of the egg to cover the bottom of the pan. Cook the egg thoroughly, and make sure to flip the whole thing over so that both sides get just a tiny bit brown. Repeat this step until there is no more egg left or until you reach the desired amount. Cut the sheets of egg into bands that are one inch square.

4. Place a sheet of seaweed on the sushi roller. Use a spatula to spread about 3/4 cups of rice in a three-inch band on the sushi. There should be one to two inches of the seaweed without rice on the side closest to you and about three to four inches of empty seaweed on the side furthest from you.

5. Spread a little mayonnaise on the rice. Place a band of the egg in the middle of the rice and press it down so that it sits firmly in the rice. Similarly, add pieces of the cucumber, asparagus, and carrots on the sides of the egg. Put either a small handful of the shredded beef or a handful of the shredded imitation crabmeat on top of the band of egg. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds and use the spatula to press all of the ingredients into the rice.

6. Take one grain of the cooked rice and, using your thumb, spread it across the edge of the seaweed that is furthest from you. This may take more than one grain of rice. This will help the roll stay stuck together, so make sure the entire length of the seaweed is covered in a thin, sticky layer of the grain of rice.

7. Position the edge of the seaweed closest to you in line with the edge of the sushi roller. Swiftly pull the sushi roller and seaweed (the side closest to you) over the filling. The edge of the seaweed and sushi roller that was closest to you will now be right next to the edge of the rice that was furthest from you. Squeeze the sushi roller so that the roll is tight. Continue to roll the California roll until you reach the end of the seaweed. Squeeze the roll firmly so that it stays stuck together.

8. Cut the roll into cross sections of about 3/4 inches in width.

9. Repeat steps 4 through 6 until you run out of rice or seaweed wrappers.