I dislike when bloggers and vloggers start a post with something akin to “I promise, I’m not dead!” whenever they create an entry after a hiatus, so I won’t begin that way. As it were, I’m writing from beyond the grave right now, and let me tell you, I have not found a decent bagel place around here yet…
Okay, that joke was sort of lame, but I am back after a break. I had multiple matters to attend to the last several weeks, but I’m back to posting regularly.
I was feeling particularly unadventurous the last several weeks, and most of my cooking reflected that. However, I had a bunch of quinoa that I had no idea how to use an needed a creative solution. Despite its grainy appearance, quinoa is actually a seed from a family of plants that include spinach and beets. It’s packed with protein, fiber, and calcium, and can be a good substitute for rice. I’ve seen quinoa used in a number of ways, from cold salad dishes to burrito fillings to morning grits. Chances are, if you know a vegan, this little seed has probably come up in conversation or made an appearance at a potluck. However, it comes with a word of precaution.
If you read environmental blogs or magazines that include pieces on agriculture and environmental issues, you might have noticed that quinoa had been in the news lately. Quinoa has become so popular is countries where it is not grown (the US, parts of Europe, and Japan, among others) farmers in parts of South America where quinoa is grown and harvested (Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador) have faced a hike in quinoa prices that adversely affect local food systems. Peruvian and Bolivian communities have had trouble affording a product that was once a dietary staple, and have begun to rely more on imported foods and meat. Some economists predict that the rise in prices has actually helped these countries bring in more money and reduce poverty, while others see this as negative by-products for global palettes changing and demanding more quinoa. Here is one report that diffuses some of the panic over the global quinoa trade.
My advice? Like meat and fish, enjoy quinoa from time to time, but not every day. Buy in bulk and through fair-trade whenever possible. And if you’re going to brag about something, don’t brag about eating quinoa.
So, after standing in my shower for a few minutes (it’s true, you can do some great thinking in there), I decided to try out making sushi. I never got really into sushi (something about raw fish bums me out, which is probably why I am still reluctant to try ceviche), but here’s an alternative that’s healthy, relatively easy to make, and won’t break the bank. The most expensive thing in here is the salmon, and I got that from the farmer’s market from a gentleman who sells at a fair price. You will need:
1 cup quinoa
1 tbs of white vinegar
2 salmon fillets
3-4 nori sheets
Makes 4 rolls (about 24 individual sushi, depending on how thickly you cut)
Cook the quinoa in 1 ¼ cup of water or vegetable broth, until all the liquid is gone and the quinoa is soft. Stir in the vinegar, mix well, and then let it cool enough to be handled. I put it in a bowl in the refrigerator for about 12 minutes.
While the quinoa is going, cook the salmon fillets. I brushed them with olive oil and put them in the (preheated) oven at 350 degrees for about ten minutes, flipping once halfway through. Feel free to lightly season them with some black pepper or other spice (hopefully nothing with a very overpowering flavor). Allow to cool to handling temperatures. Cut into strips.
Cut the avocado in half, and then cute each half into strips lengthwise. Remove the skin from the slices. Get a small bowl of water ready for the folding process.
Take a clean dishtowel and fold it in quarters, about the size of your nori sheet. I recommend doing this over a cutting board or a very clean surface. Lay the nori, smooth side down, onto the towel. Spoon out the quinoa over nori, between half of the sheet an two-thirds up. Spread the quinoa so it fully covers to the edges and is evenly spread (you shouldn’t pile it on, just a smooth layer). Put a few pieces of salmon and avocado at the edge of the nori roll atop the quinoa. Dampen the uncovered section with some water, and get ready to roll.
The important thing is to not roll the sushi loosely, otherwise it will come undone. My process was to roll the edge with the salmon and avocado very tightly first and make sure you have a good tuck. This makes rolling the rest of the way easier. When you are at the edge of the other quinoa side, wrap the remaining nori tightly and dab with some additional water if necessary to make sure it stays in place. If you haven’t done this before, I recommend going on YouTube to check out a video of someone rolling sushi; the visual aide might help.
(I feel like the captions should include a joke about rolling a joint. Again, trying to keep it family-friendly on this blog.)
Once you’re all rolled up (stop laughing), take a sharp knife and carefully cut the roll into pieces. The sharper the knife the better; none of the knives I own are particularly sharp, so I ended up piercing the roll with the tip and slowly sawing back and forth downwards. I ended up losing some of the quinoa out of the ends each time I did this, so either cut very slowly or make sure your blade is sharp. I would recommend using a katana, but that feels sort of offensive. Serve your sushi with soy sauce, some wasabi, or some chili sauce.
The end product has a light taste that absorbs the flavor of your condiment of choice. I liked these because they made for a quick dinner on the go the next day and left me feeling full without feeling overstuffed. Feel free to experiment with different fillings; try thinly sliced carrots, daikon radish or pickled vegetables, or mix the quinoa with brown rice for a different texture.
Until next time, keep eating….or you know, you’ll starve to death.
Next week: A report on pork, or, “Ham No Fear, Underhog is Here”