In my short stint as a raw foodist (very different from an “in-the-raw” foodist, which, for obvious reasons, I’d never do) I was determined to try out every variation of living foods imaginable. This meant foods I’d otherwise probably never eat, such as raw fennel (basically just don’t like it); raw cashews (okay, but too bland on their own for my taste); raw cacao nibs (not bad when ground up and incorporated into some form of dessert); and raw sushi.
What? Sushi is already raw, you say? Ah, but I’m not talking about fish. Rather, I’m talking about fish-y, or fish-like, sushi, composed of raw nuts and veggies. And waaaay better than slimy, slippery, dead tuna!
This recipe pairs almonds and sundried tomatoes for a magical synergy that results in a filling reminiscent of saltwater and salmon without actually being salmon (or John Malkovich, for that matter). You enjoy the essence of the sea without having to eat any fish! How cool is that?
I have to admit, however, that I might never have ventured to try this particular dish if not for my beloved, the carnivorous HH. In fact, before we met over a decade ago, nary a nibble of sushi in any form had passed my lips. I had steadfastly refused to join all my friends when, throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, sushi reigned supreme as the Favorite Form of Yuppie Sustenance (and I suspect that, even today, it would attain runner-up status, at least). You see, I’ve seen raw fish; my dad used to bring home a whole fish occasionally from his butcher shop, and my mom always refused to touch it. Me? Eat raw fish? No, thanks.
In Toronto, you can find a sushi bar on almost every corner of the downtown core, plus most streets in the suburbs (that’s almost as many sushi restaurants as there are donut shops!). For years, whenever I planned to meet a girlfriend for drinks after work, join colleagues for a quick bite after class, or share a dinner with my book club, mine would be the lone voice demurring across a vast sea of sushi.
And then, the HH invited me to lunch. Well, technically, he invited me to lunch, again. One of the more pleasant aspects of my particular work schedule is that I have the freedom to run errands, do laundry, or anything else during the afternoon and work all evening instead, if I choose. Once a week, I exercise that freedom to meet the HH for lunch. It’s our way of keeping the romance alive getting our 5 to 10 a day escaping the “kids” checking in and staying connected with each other.
One particular day, after much pleading and cajoling, he finally convinced me to join him at his favorite sushi restaurant.
“They’re bound to have vegetables, right?” he theorized. I had to agree. “And they’ve definitely got rice.” So far, so good. “Well, I’m sure they know how to roll it in a nori sheet, so I bet they can put together some vegetarian sushi for you.” How could I object?
I’ve been thanking him ever since. When I explained what I wanted to the shop’s petite hostess, she cocked her head, smiled and nodded, then returned a moment later proffering a platter of nori rolls, futo maki and hand rolls filled with various combinations of carrot, cucumber, umebosi plum, buttery avocado, and daikon. In addition to being visually impressive–each unique spiral mosaic of orange, green, and creamy white a testament to the chef’s culinary artistry–the rolls also served up that classic melding of sweet, salty and umami, which, when accompanied by pickled ginger and fiery hot wasabi, was enough to hook me for life. How, I wondered, had I ever allowed myself to miss out on such an indulgence before then?
I still love vegetarian sushi, and these days, the HH and I eat it exclusively at our weekly lunch date. Still, there are times when I’m snowed under with marking, or the HH has been summoned to an unexpected conference call, and we defer until the following week. On those occasions, I try to make this raw version instead. Completely grain-free, it nevertheless contains a similar satisfying blend of flavors and textures to the real thing. And the inclusion of ground nuts here actually renders this version almost as protein-packed as its fishy predecessor. Like all sea vegetables, the nori is replete with minerals, particularly iodine, necessary for proper thyroid functioning. It also provides Vitamin K, essential for healthy blood.
And, best of all, it’s completely fish free.
Raw Nori Rolls
I got this recipe from a raw foods class that I took a few years ago. The rolls require a little planning in order to prepare the nuts and sundried tomatoes, but once those iare ready, the remainder of the dish comes together quickly. These are best served soon after they’re made.
1-1/2 cups raw almonds, soaked in room-temperature water for 8-10 hours
1/3 sundried tomatoes, soaked 4-6 hours
1 Tbs. Mellow (or white) Miso
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1/4 tsp. black pepper
4 sheets nori (buy untoasted if you wish these to be entirely raw)
Vegetables for filling: carrot and cucumber matchsticks; grated daikon; thinly sliced green onions; thinly sliced avocado
pickled ginger, as needed
wasabi paste, as needed
Prepare the filling: in a food processor, whir together the drained almonds and drained tomatoes until you have what looks like a fine meal. Add the miso, lemon juice, tamari and pepper and process until the mixture forms a smooth paste (add reserved tomato water if more liquid is required).
Prepare the rolls (you can use a sushi mat, but it’s not necessary): spread about 1/4 of the paste onto each nori sheet, leaving 2-3 cm (1 inch) at the end farthest away from you.
Fill the end close to you with the strips of fresh vegetables.
Moisten the empty edge of the nori sheet with water. Roll the nori into a long cylinder over the veggies and toward the empty edge. Place on a plate or tray with the seam side down; let sit 5 minutes before cutting into 8 uniform pieces.
Serve with additional tamari, pickled ginger and wasabi as condiments. Serves 4.