Archive for the ‘Sushi Week’ Category

This appetizer was inspired from a trip to Fish Market, one of my favorite sushi restaurants in Boston. The restaurant had just opened, and being one of its new patrons, I was rewarded with a complimentary appetizer. What was served to me was a ball made out of avocado with a salad of raw tuna inside. It was delicious.

Here I’ve taken the same idea and made an American summer BBQ version using the avocado ball to deliver a mango salad served alongside large grilled shrimp. By and large, grilling  is my favorite method of cooking shrimp as it leaves the skin crispy directly contrasting the delicate flesh inside. This is an appetizer that can be made a few hours in advance and serves as an impressive beginning to a midsummer night dinner party.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 tiger shrimp (Size 8 – 12)
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 mango, diced
1. Preheat the grill over medium high heat. Slice the avocado in half and scoop out the flesh onto a cutting board.
2. Using a very sharp knife, slice one half of the avocado as thin as possible. Use slow, deliberate strokes. There’s no rush.
3. Lay the avocado slices in a line over plastic wrap. Top the middle with 2 tbsp of the diced mango. Season with a little salt and olive oil.
4. Fold the plastic wrap over onto itself, folding the avocado in half. Then fold the plastic wrap back over the avocado as shown in the Step 5 picture.      
5. Twist one end of the plastic wrap so that it begins to smoosh the ends of the avocado together. Then repeat with the other side. If any mango begins to seep out, gently push it back it in, but be careful not to destroy the overlapping slices. Place the mango ball in the fridge to come together ensuring the twisted ends do not unravel.
6. Remove the shells from the shrimp except for the tails. Season with salt and pepper (I used some chili powder as well for additional heat).
7. Cook the shrimp on the grill until the tail has turned pink. Turn the shrimp over and finish cooking.
9. Assemble the plate by placing the avocado ball in the middle. Top with a slice of lemon and lean two shrimp on either side.

If you’ve never tried sushi, you probably think of raw fish and it gives you the willies. I can understand that. The first time I heard of sushi, I got creeped out at the idea of consuming raw fish. It just seemed so unnatural. So when faced with a potential social ostracizing at a 3am stop to a sushi bar in college, I ordered the only thing I knew had 0% raw fish: the California Roll.

Ingredients (makes 1 roll)

  • 1c cooked sushi rice
  • 1/2 sheet nori
  • 2 sticks imitation crab meat
  • 1 oz cucumber slices
  • 1 oz avocado slices
  • toasted sesame seeds

1. Wrap your sushi mat in plastic wrap. Set the nori sheet textured side up and spread sushi rice on top. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice.

2. Flip nori sheet over so the rice is face down on the plastic wrap. Place the cucumber, avocado, and crab meat down the center of the nori sheet.

3. Using the Sushi mat to help you, roll the top of the nori over the fillings. Use your fingers to keep the filling in place. Complete your roll and squeeze firmly.

4. Slice into six pieces and serve alongside wasabi and pickled ginger.

The spicy maki roll has always disappointed me at sushi restaurants. They are rarely spicy, and when they are, the balance is overwhelmingly bland. My version of the spicy salmon roll uses the Thai chili paste sriracha to bring whole mouth heat to the party. When you make this, use the chili paste sparingly as it packs one heck of a punch and you can always add more later if you so desire. If you prefer smaller rolls, cut the recipe in half and make your rolls on half sheets of nori.

Ingredients (makes 2 large rolls)

  • 1/2 lb sushi grade salmon
  • 3c cooked sushi rice
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp sriracha
  • 2 sheet nori
  • 1 small serrano pepper

1. On a cutting board, mince the salmon into small chunks. Mix the minced salmon with the mayonnaise and sriracha.


2. On a sushi mat, place the nori shiny side up. Spread the rice on the nori. Place the salmon mixture on the middle of the rice leaving a 1/2″ border from the edges. The salmon mixture will spread with you make the roll.

3. Roll the nori using your fingers to try to keep the salmon in place. It will want to come out the sides. It’s okay, you can stuff it back in later. Squeeze the roll with the mat.

4. Cut the roll into six pieces. Top with thin slices of Serrano peppers.

A Spider Roll is typically made by frying a soft shell crab, and then placing it in the roll so that the legs hang out the edges. The roll is usually cut so that the end pieces can be laid down leaving the legs to hang in the air. This version eliminates the frying and replaces the soft shell crab with lump meat. Therefore, I refer to it lovingly as the Fake Spider Roll.

Ingredients (makes 1 large roll)

  • 1 full sheet nori
  • 1 1/2c cooked sushi rice
  • 3oz crab meat
  • 2 oz cucumber slices
  • 2 oz avocado

1. Place the nori sheet, textured side down on the sushi mat. Place the cooked sushi rice on top in a single line.


2. With your hand, push the rice across the sheet leaving a 3/4″ border. Place the crab, cucumber, and avocado in the middle.


3. Using the sushi mat, lift the nori over the filling. Use your fingers to keep the filling in place. Complete the roll and squeeze the mat firmly. You should be left with a large roll. If the seam has broken, unroll the sushi, remove some of the filling, and try again.

4. Slice the roll into 10 coins. Serve with wasabi and pickled ginger.

My favorite neighborhood gem in New York was this little sushi place on W Houston St, Ushiwakamaru (Warning: not for the sushi beginner). It’s plainly decorated, and there is no attempt to create any kind of typical restaurant atmosphere, but the food is incredibly delicate and you can’t beat the service.

While eating a late dinner, the sushi chef told me that he spent an entire year learning how to sharpen his knives and slice vegetables. Only when he was able to cut a cucumber into a 10 foot tall paper thin sheet was he able to begin touching the fish. This isn’t bad considering he spent a year and a half before this making rice. This kind of disciplined training is common among sushi masters and something I revere. If you’ve never been to a sushi restaurant, I can tell you that the best seat in the house is not the one you have to tip to Maitre’D for, but it’s sitting right at the bar so you can watch the chefs at work.

With this is mind, today begins Sushi Week! Each day will feature a new roll or appetizer that I have come to know and love. However, I would never leave you stranded on Culinary Island, so in hopes of getting you started, below are two important but basic sushi techniques that you will need to know: making rice and rolling a maki roll.

Making Rice

Rolling a Maki Roll (You can tell this chef has been doing this forever).

Now that you’ve got a better idea of the basics, check out my easy to follow guides for a California Roll, Spicy Salmon Roll, an adaptation to a Spider Roll, and a beautiful Avocado Ball appetizer with grilled shrimp and tuna..