This is one of those "it's about time" posts, meaning I've had good intentions of posting about these yummy sushi snacks for some time. But doing so required me making them and taking a photograph while the sun was shining, so...here I am, months later, addressing the topic at last.
But perhaps the procrastination paid off, because this post works well as the launch of a week of lunch posts (lunch launch?) to get the "new year" off to a delicious start.
I cam up with these last January, fusing about 4 different recipes into one. The inspiration came from my sister-in-law's cousin's wife, Momo, who is a stellar Japanese cook. We were over at their house in the bay area for a New Year's Day celebration and she gave me a quick tutorial on rolling sushi. I'm still working on my technique, but the balls are a snap. (I'll get to variations on sushi rolls in future posts; I'd like less lumpy rolls before I whip out the camera).
The key to getting the ball shape, with the fillings secure inside, is plastic wrap. You pat the rice into a relatively thin circle on top of a sheet of plastic wrap, spoon some filling in the center, then, using the plastic wrap, lift and press the circle up and over itself to form a ball. Twist the wrap, pressing to form the ball.
It's really quite fun, and less than perfect balls are, ahem, still delicious (heavens, what a statement...on Sunday, no less. And rolling in sesame seeds adds flavor and crunch, but also disguises any imperfections.
California Roll Sushi Balls
2 cups sushi rice
6 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 of a small California avocado, peeled, pitted
1/2 carrot, finely shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
2 ounces sliced smoked salmon, chopped
3/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted
soy sauce, for serving
Cook rice in rice cooker. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan bring the vinegar to a boil with sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved; remove from heat.
Transfer rice to a large bowl and stir in vinegar mixture. Using a fork, gently fold through rice. Spread rice mixture over a large cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Set aside for 1 hour or until rice has cooled.
Mash avocado and lemon juice together in a bowl. Using damp hands, divide rice into 16 equal portions. Place one portion on a large square of plastic wrap. Using fingertips, press each rice portion into a 1/4-inch-thick round.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of avocado mixture in the centre of the round. Top with 2 teaspoons each of carrot, cucumber and salmon. Using plastic wrap, lift and fold rice mixture around filling to form a ball (twist the top of the plastic wrap around ball and pull tight; it’s fun and goes by quickly!). Repeat with remaining ingredients.
Roll balls in sesame seeds. Place on a cookie sheet. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve with soy sauce. Makes 16 sushi balls.
For an added flavor, you can spread the rice rounds with a little wasabi paste and top the salmon with a slice of pickled ginger before rolling into a ball.
You can also vary the fillings and the sesame coating in any way you like, or according to what you've got on hand.
Simple leave out the salmon and replace with chopped smoked tofu, a few shelled edamame, or a few more vegetables.
The balls keep well in airtight containers, refrigerated, up to three days.