Pizza Party with Old (and New) Friends
[Sushi pizza, in its just-unmolded glory.]
You know, sometimes I wish I had a bunch of posts pre-scheduled for this site. You see, I’ve been afflicted with a weird kind of virus-flu-sinus-thingie for the past several days. Just when I thought I was better, the following day I could barely get out of bed and slept 14 hours. Fourteen hours!! Clearly, my body is telling me something (like, maybe, ”time to get those extra blog posts pre-scheduled.”). Since I feel pretty good today, I’m going to leap on the opportunity and tap out this post toute de suite. Luckily, the skies cleared temporarily last Saturday as well, just in time for a dinner party I had planned.
You’ve probably heard it before, but truly, there is nothing like having old friends. As my latest crush*, Irvin Yalom, says in his most recent tome, “You can’t make new old friends.” That’s why it’s worth nurturing old friendships no matter what. A huge benefit of long-term alliances is the shared history that helps to strengthen bonds in the present (or, when the present may be a little rocky, allows you to fall back on all that already-established goodwill).
For me, the “old friend” on whom I most rely is my pal Gemini I (and by “old,” I mean as in, “I’ve known her longer than I’ve known my younger sister.”). I mean, who else would drop everything at 11:42 PM to sit in a cheap coffee shop with me for three hours while I cried about how my (then) marriage had just broken up? Who else would force me to eat something while sitting for three hours in said coffee shop (almost the only time in my life I didn’t feel like eating because of stress)? Who else was there to double date with me when I (finally!) met my first boyfriend? Who else would cheer me on when I decided to leave my job for a spell and study nutrition? Who else would (literally) lend me the shirt off her back for a special date? Who else could sit with me and reminisce about events that happened when we were five years old?
I’ve often heard it said that you should never try new recipes on guests, but Gemini I’s status is more like family, so that old adage didn’t apply last weekend. Then again, the other guests at the soirée were my buddy PR Queen (a veritable neophyte in the “friends-with-Ricki department at only 8 years) and her hubby. But since PR Queen is my only other vegan friend, I reasoned that trying a new recipe would be acceptable in her case, too.
I decided to make this sushi pizza, combining the best of both Asian and Italian finger foods. Rather than roll up individual rolls as I usually do, I opted for a veganized/ACD revamp of a recipe I came across in Bonnie Stern’s Heart Smart: The Best of HeartSmart Cooking, which I’d checked out of the library. (Yes, I do have more than 200 cookbooks. And yes, for some bizarre reason, I still feel the need to look at yet more cookbooks from the library). Stern’s now-famous recipe deconstructs your standard nori rolls into their individual elements, layering them lasagna-style, then cutting them into little squares to serve as appetizers. The only problem with the original recipe was (a) its reliance on regular white sushi rice and rice vinegar (two no-no’s on the ACD); and (b) its inclusion of smoked salmon as one of the layers.
What to do? I immediately thought of using this recipe (which I’ve been eyeing for a while) in place of the salmon. But when I made up a tester batch, I found that even though the flavor was marvelous, it didn’t adhere quite as well as I would have liked. Instead, I added some liquid smoke to my own standard “salmon-like” sushi filling, and the resulting spread worked perfectly. I also used brown rice and apple cider vinegar (the only vinegar considered acceptable on the ACD) for the sushi rice (of course, you could substitute regular sushi rice if you are not following a special diet).
I’m glad to say that the “pizza” was a great success, and even the omnis in the group (that would be everyone except PR Queen and me) enjoyed it immensely–only three small squares (from an 8-inch/20 cm square pan) were left when we hauled ourselves up to go eat the actual dinner. After that it was on to the salad (baby spinach with grapefruit, kiwi and a tangy dijon dressing); crusty (non-GF) bread, courtesy of Gemini I; two types of stew (beef bourguignon for the omnis and a spectacular tempeh faux version for me and PR Queen–recipe anon) ladled over mashed potatoes, complemented by sautéed rapini with pine nuts and raisins (I picked out the raisins); accompanied by a great bottle of First Press Cabernet Sauvignon (courtesy of Gemini I and her hubby).
Around the time that dessert made an appearance (chocolate pumpkin pôts de crème, chocolate chip cookie dough truffles, and banana cake, courtesy of PR Queen), the HH brewed his signature coffee (since, after more than a dozen years without, I’ve forgotten how), we were already moaning about how full we were and staggered into the family room to spend the remainder of the evening digesting and, ultimately, reminiscing.
[My mom and me at my wedding to the Starter Husband.]
I ran upstairs and grabbed an old photo album from my undergraduate days. Here’s another great thing about old friends: they remind you of all the details you’ve forgotten from your twenties. I’d completely forgotten about those deep turquoise walls in Gemini I’s old place! And how about that papasan chair that I so loved in my first apartment after the Starter Husband and I split up! We squealed at the hilarity of our younger, 1980s selves in geometric hairstyles and Amazonian shoulder pads; murmured at the photo of me with the puppy I shared with the Starter Husband; tsk-tsk’d at the image of old friends who have since fallen ill; and (well, I did, anyway) teared up at the photo of my beaming mother and me at my wedding to the Starter Husband (sadly, she never met the HH).
All in all, it was a great evening, reaffirming old friendships and forging new(er) ones. Unfortunately, the only photos I took that evening were of the food. No matter: if I ever need a reminder, I can call up my pals and know they’ll have their own accounts of the dinner–each one served up with a square of sushi pizza.
“Smoked Salmon” Sushi Pizza (suitable for ACD Phase II and beyond)
adapted from Bonnie Stern, Heart Smart
Diet, Dessert and Dogs (http://dietdessertndogs.com)
I served this cut into squares as an hors d’oeuvre, but you could easily cut the pizza into larger pieces as a first course. If you’re not a fan of the raw “salmon” spread, you can use vegan cheese or even hummus instead.
1 recipe “salmon” spread from here, with 1/2-1 tsp (2.5-5 ml) liquid smoke added
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) dry brown rice (I used long grain, but any kind will do)
3 cups (720 ml) water
3 Tbsp (45 ml) apple cider vinegar (or use rice vinegar if you can eat it)
one recipe Spicy Ginger-Miso Mayonnaise, below
25-35 thin slices of English cucumber
1 sheet toasted nori (about 8 x 7 inches or 20 x 18 cm)
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped green onion or chives
2 Tbsp (30 ml) black or beige sesame seeds
A day before you wish to serve the pizza: Begin to prepare the “salmon” by soaking the nuts.
On the day you wish to serve the pizza: Prepare the “salmon” and set aside. Line an 8-inch (20 cm) square pan with plastic wrap and set aside.
Next, prepare the rice: In a medium pot, combine the rice and water; bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and boil for 25 minutes, uncovering and stirring every 10 minutes or so (I did this to ensure that the rice would be sticky as a base for the pizza). Continue to simmer and stir until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is almost dry, but still sticky.
Transfer the hot rice to a large bowl and toss with the vinegar. Set aside to cool.
While the rice is simmering, prepare the mayonnaise: blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor (I used a mini processor) until perfectly smooth.
Assemble the pizza: Arrange the cucumber slices across the bottom of pan in layers, overlapping the slices slightly, until the bottom of the pan is covered. Dollop the salmon spread evenly over the cucumber, then use your fingers to gently spread it evenly over the pan without disturbing the slices. Spread the mayonnaise evenly over the salmon layer.
Using half of the rice, place mounds of rice evenly over the mayonnaise, then gently spread it out to completely cover the surface. Top with the slice of nori. Using the same method for the rice, gently spread the last half over the nori to cover it completely. Cover with plastic wrap.
Place heavy cans or weights over the pizza (I used a smaller square pan that fit into the sushi pan and then placed the cans on that for even weighting) and allow to chill for about half an hour or longer, up to several hours.
To serve, unwrap and invert onto a serving plate. Sprinkle with green onion and sesame seeds. Using a very sharp knife, carefully cut the pizza into 9 or 12 squares. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 appetizer servings.
Spicy Ginger-Miso Mayonnaise:
3 Tbsp (45 ml) firm silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu)
1 Tbsp (15 ml) white miso
1 tsp (5 ml) toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
2 tsp (10 ml) freshly grated ginger
2 tsp (10 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) dijon mustard
1/8 tsp (.5 ml) cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in a blender or small food processor until perfectly smooth.
Last Year at this Time: All About Stevia
Two Years Ago: Chinese Scallion Pancakes (not GF: ACD maintenance only)
Three Years Ago: Lucky Comestible I (5): Sweet Potato Pancakes (not GF; ACD maintenance only)