Thursday, October 20, 2011

Serendipity


Serendipity n. [ser-uhn-dip-i-tee] an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

I won't claim an aptitude here, but sometimes inspiration comes at the darnedest times. I, for one, would not have anticipated much culinary inspiration occurring yesterday while standing at the preK bake sale table (shout out for La Venta!). Typical offerings lay before me, cada por un dolar: tubes of squeezable yogurt, cookies, slices of blueberry bread, granola bars, and the like. This time a health-conscious mom (undoubtedly dealing with a seasonal, perhaps unmanageable, influx of kale like myself) had made baggies of kale chips to sell.

It wasn't exactly the baggies of kale chips that were serendipitous. It was the mistake several children at the school made. Moments after purchasing and tearing excitedly into their bag of olive oiled and salted greens, they returned them to me with upturned noses, requesting a refund. They thought the kale chips were NORI wafers. Perhaps toasted nori chips are not a widespread phenomenon, but here they're a healthy, popular snack- a vitamin-charged seaweed chip enjoyed by adults & kids of all cultures. I thought that the kale/nori confusion was interesting (sea -versus- land greens!) and apparently the dichotomy just sat there in my subconscious...

Fast forward 24 hours.

I had tofu in my fridge. I've been working on some new takes on tofu, none ready to be aired quite yet. And the vague plan for a tofu dinner somehow collided with the kale-vs-seaweed confusion during my dinner musings this afternoon to yield a glorious, serendipitous "sushi" dinner. One I'm more than a little proud of because, as far as I know, I've invented something entirely without outside influence or inspiration. I have yet to do my research on this idea however, so please do enlighten me as to where you may have enjoyed something of this sort already!

note: this is not a sushi knife, but it was my sharpest blade!

For lack of a more descriptive name, I'll call them... fall harvest "sushi" rolls. Tofu with soy marinade and vinegar-seasoned sushi rice are true to Japanese cuisine and (I think) allow me to claim the sushi roll category. But the other flavors are all fall- apple, beet, kale, and leeks. And it works. We will be eating variations on this again! (Confession- the inclusion of beets yielded whines from the short ones here, but otherwise clean plates.)

The prep does take some effort, but each step is straight-forward and rapid-fire. This recipe should be quite easily customizable- add/subtract veggies as you wish, even local seafood in season (Dungeness crab, anyone?). Aim for a variety of textures and flavors for the best results. And if you're a more talented sushi-roller than I, well, your rolls will be more precise and beautiful!



Harvest "Sushi" Rolls
serves 4 to 6

6 oz firm tofu
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 1/2 c sushi rice
2 c water (or per bag instructions)
1/3 c apple cider vinegar
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp salt

8 large kale leaves (I had dino kale, others should work)
pot of salted water

2 leeks, white and light green portions thinly sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 Granny Smith apple
2 small roasted beets

Wrap tofu in a towel and press out excess moisture for at least 20min. Slice tofu. Whisk soy sauce and mustard together and toss tofu in this marinade. Pour 1 Tbsp of olive oil into a skillet over medium-high heat. Fry tofu until golden brown, then remove from heat, reserving pan.

Boil/steam rice according to package instructions. Meanwhile prep other ingredients.
For sushi rice flavoring, bring vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring to dissolve. Once rice is completely cooked and has been off the heat for 5min, stir in the vinegar with a rice paddle to incorporate, then cover.

Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, remove the majority of (the thickest portions of) kale stems and rinse leaves. Boil leaves for 3-4min until tender and bright green. Gently remove kale from hot water and press in a towel to remove excess moisture.

Using same skillet above, add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add thinly sliced leeks and 1 tsp salt. Fry until dark golden brown and crisp. Remove from heat and set aside.

Thinly slice roasted beet and raw apple into slightly bigger than matchstick strips, setting each ingredient aside separately.

Prepare a rolling work area with each ingredient ready, a clean work surface, a cutting board, a sharp knife, a small bowl of water (to dip fingers in), a towel and a sushi-rolling mat.

Place 1 kale leaf across rolling mat, intact/top end to the right. Overlap and/or fold split thinner ends of kale toward the center. Scoop 2-3 Tbsp of seasoned rice onto right border and center of the kale leaf and press flat with wet fingers. Lay tofu, apple & beet strips, and a sprinkling of fried leeks on top of the rice. Gently, but snugly roll the leaf and contents to the left, squeezing with the rolling mat to compress the sushi roll. Use the knife to slice 1" pieces of the roll, wetting and wiping the knife clean as needed.

Repeat process with remaining ingredients, cleaning knife frequently. Serve at room temperature.

If desired, a dipping sauce can be made by reducing 1/3 c apple cider vinegar with 1 Tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt to approximately 1/4 c total volume. Serve in small dipping dishes alongside the sushi rolls.





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