Simple sushi stacks
Article and photos by Lisa Crockett
Food that looks beautiful is somehow extra satisfying, a feast for the senses that starts even before I open my mouth. Sushi is at the top of my list of beautiful foods, especially sushi rolls, bordered in perfect rice and framed with seaweed. There is something so lovely and calming about a perfect California roll. The perfect combinations of flavors, the vibrant colors, and the excellent balance of being able to pop the whole thing into my mouth at once are all reasons to eat this kind of sushi on the regular. A fancy lunch at a Japanese restaurant is always a favorite, but in a pinch I’ll snag a package of grocery store sushi. I’m sure some purists are cringing, but honestly? It is pretty tasty and so easy to get.
Given that ease of access, I haven’t too deeply waded into the world of sushi making. Sushi making is a job I’ve outsourced, like a select few other foods that I won’t make at home (French fries and doughnuts are on the list of not-at-home foods, but that’s mostly an issue with cleaning up the resulting mess. I did once try making sushi with a friend, and my sushi rolls were lumpy and uneven, resulting in pieces of sushi that were also lumpy and uneven. Moreover, raw fish seems like a food to be respected and handled by an expert.
Then a few weeks ago, I found myself in possession of an abundance of leftover white rice. Longtime readers will know that this is a problem I’ve had before, and my usual go-to is fried rice, but I was in a mood and decided to see if I could come up with something new. I just took all my favorite ingredients and stacked them up on a rice base. What I created was rich, decadent, satisfying and so, so easy to make. I have no idea if any of the things I’ve done here are in any way authentic. I just thought about the flavors I like in a California roll, went to the supermarket, and came back home to putter in my kitchen. The result was, in my opinion, awesome, but your mileage may vary – if you like something that’s not included here (the major omission I can think of is the salty seaweed wrapper of a regular sushi roll) go ahead and add it.
I’ve often had avocado in sushi, and using it here serves a dual purpose. First, it’s delicious and silky tasting owing to all the yummy fat it contains. Second, it helps sort of “glue” things together in much the same way guacamole does for a seven-layer dip. Make sure you have a perfectly ripe avocado for this dish, which may require prior planning, since it is the star of this show.
I also recommend using imitation “krab” meat here. Much like many California rolls, that’s what I used. I’m sure sushi-grade salmon would be amazing, but as I already mentioned, raw fish might not be something I’m ready to use in my cooking. Krab has kind of a “bouncy” texture, which can be a little jarring, so I’ve broken it up here and stirred it with a Sriracha-mayo blend that gives it a creamy, smoky, spicy tang. Wasabi, which is traditionally served alongside sushi is always a bit too much heat for my liking, but wasabi mayo would also fit the bill nicely if that’s what you like. If you can get your hands on some Japanese Kewpie mayo, by all means use it, as the added richness will only enhance the dish. The krab also gives this stack some protein so you can easily make a full meal out of this tastiness.
You can use leftover rice as I did, or you can cook the rice from scratch, but if you do so be sure to chill it in the fridge until it’s completely cold so it gets good and sticky. In order to keep my “slices” of the stack cohesive, I toasted my rice in a skillet drizzled with olive oil, but that step is purely optional. If you skip the toasting, just be prepared for a slightly less tidy dish. It’s okay though; unlike a sushi roll, this free-form method stacks up to something really yummy, even if it’s not perfectly balanced.