Sushi Jewels

27Sep09

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I had an urge to make something pretty today, a rehearsal for a Christmas buffet perhaps, and as always, I scrounged around my refrigerator and pantry to see what I had at hand. This is what I came up with. You could say that it’s my take on a dish called Temari Zushi, which I’ll explain later. Remember, this is just what I happened to have at hand, and you can substitute just about anything for the topping and decoration as long as you consider color and taste balance. I meant to make a green “jewel” and had set out some shiso leaves for that purpose, but when I had finished using up the rice, I realized I’d forgotten to use the shiso! (lol)

main ingredients:

(A) Cooked rice, seasoned as for sushi (with vinegar, sugar, and salt)

(B) toppings:
thin sliced beef (as for shabu shabu), or buy thin sliced roast beef from a deli
eggs, two
red bell pepper
fresh sashimi salmon or smoked salmon, sliced thin
shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
canned garbanzo beans, drained

(C) decoration
black sesame seeds
pink sesame seeds (that’s white sesame coated with pickled plum powder)
salmon roe
black olives, sliced into thin rings
capers

Prep:

I grilled the red pepper and shiitake mushrooms on a wire net placed over a gas burner. I was satisfied with the mushrooms when they got soft and had some appetizing burn marks from the net I was grilling them on. I took the mushrooms off the stove and laid them in a bowl with a little bit of ponzu (a mixture of soy sauce and citrus juice) while they cooled.

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I was satisfied with the red bell pepper when it was pretty much black all over. Then I put it in a small paper bag while it cooled. When it was no longer hot, I peeled off the black layer of skin, slit the pepper so it lay flat on the cutting board, and scraped out the seeds. Then I cut the flattened bell pepper into equal pieces about 1.5 inches square (or as close to it as the shape of the pepper allowed). My pepper gave me 6 such squares.

The eggs, I whipped with a fork, added 1/2 teaspoon of mirin and pinch of granular dashi (chicken soup granules is fine), and poured this into a hot, lightly greased skillet so that it spread into a thin smooth layer over the whole bottom of the skillet. When the bottom of the omelet was set and the edges were beginning to turn brown, I turned off the heat and covered the skillet. I did *not* turn the omelet over, as I wanted to keep the top from browning. When the eggs seem heated through, but before the top looks completely dry, take omelet gently out of pan and lay on a plate to cool.

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The thin-sliced beef, I cooked shabu-shabu style, by swishing it around in hot stock (I used fish-based, but any stock is fine) for a few seconds until the raw red color has changed to brown. Do *not* overcook!!! Then I laid the beef pieces on a plate, salt and peppered them, and let them cool.

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Use a cookie cutter (I used a jar lid) to cut 1.5 ~2 inch circles from the cooled omelet and the cooled beef slices. The omelet rounds will hug the rice ball better if you cut a small cross in the center of each one.

If the salmon is not already sliced, slice it into thin rectangles as close to 1.5 ~2 inches square as you can.

Put drained garbanzo beans in a bowl with a bit of grated garlic, sesame paste, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Mash coarsely with a fork and mix all the ingredients together well.

That takes care of the topping prep. Set the decoration ingredients out in small bowls for easy access.

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Your sushi rice should be at room temperature when you start forming it into balls. Take some plastic wrap and place a blob of rice in the middle. Gently twist the wrap so that the rice gets pressed into a firm ball about 1 inch in diameter. The ball should hold its shape when you remove the wrap, but the individual rice kernels should not be mashed or broken. Make a bunch of these balls.

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Now, take clean plastic wrap and place your choice of topping in the middle. Place a rice ball on top of that. Twist this up in wrap again and let it sit for a while that way. (In the case of the garbanzo mixture, put a nice circular blob of it on the wrap and place a ball of rice gently on top of that. As you are twisting the plastic wrapped ball, you can use pressure to help the garbanzo mixture spread evenly over half of the rice ball.) The rice balls can stay twisted in the wrap until you are ready to serve them.

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Decorate the “jewels” when you are ready to serve them. Do it however way you want, but try to make the color contrast striking and attractive.

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I mentioned that this is my take on Temari Zushi (literally: sushi made to look like a child’s toy ball). The “toy ball” in this case is a gorgeous work of hand-crafted art made from thread, mainly for the wealthier classes, in ancient Japan.

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I lived on the border between Kyoto and Osaka for eight years and became quite familiar with the so-called geisha culture. The “maiko” or young women in training to be geisha, are often elaborately attired and heavily made-up when they stop off at local eateries for their boxed lunches. I was told that the “toy ball” sushi was conceived as a way for these women to eat their rice without having to open their mouths wide and mess up their make-up.

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3 Responses to “Sushi Jewels”

  1. Dear Friend!
    Greetings from Shizuoka!
    thank you so much for visiting and commenting on my blog!
    Te-mari zushi are little marvels, aren’t they?
    I personally think that your idea is great! It does not matter what you use for the topping as long as it is beautiful and tasty like yours certainly looks!
    Looking forward to visiting you again!
    Cheers,
    Robert-Gilles

    http://shizuokagourmet.wordpress.com/

    (that is unless you would like to be directed to my fantasy navel blog!)

  2. Beautiful! Fun and colorful little gems!


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