*Toppings of your choice such as: toasted sesame seeds; nori (toasted seaweed), cut out with a hole punch or cut into shapes; carrot, zucchini or cucumber ribbons; cooked fresh pumpkin; corn; sliced black olives; tofu, cut into animal shapes with small cookie cutters; leftover chicken, salmon or scrambled eggs; edible flowers; or thinly sliced deli meats like turkey or ham For a sweet option, add cinnamon sugar to the rice and top with thinly sliced apples.
TO PREPARE PERFECT SUSHI RICE:
Do not follow the directions on the bag of rice! Rinse the rice only 3–4 times— the water does NOT have to run clear as it will instruct on the bag. Allow rice to drain thoroughly—45 minutes in winter, 30 minutes in the summer. (Trust me here.)
While rice is draining, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Add the rice and water to a pan and bring quickly to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat, keeping the lid CLOSED. Abso- lutely no stirring or sneaking a peek!
Let rice rest for 10 minutes, then remove the cover.
Spread the rice in a wide glass or ceramic dish to cool and lightly fan the rice while adding the vinegar mixture. Mix rice gently, being careful not to break or mash it.
Cook’s note: If you have a rice cooker, follow the directions for “sushi rice” and add the vinegar and other seasonings after cooking.
Yields 4 cups of rice.
TO PREPARE HAND BALL SUSHI:
Tear or cut a dozen 4- by 4-inch squares of plastic wrap and set aside on a clean, dry work surface. (Note: If you lay them down with half extending over the edge of the counter it makes them easy to grab when you need them.) Place a small amount of your chosen ingredient on a sheet of the plastic wrap. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons of room-temperature sushi rice on top of your ingredient of choice. If it is sticky, dampen your hands with a bit of water.
Gather the plastic wrap up around the rice ball, then twist the plastic wrap tightly, firmly pressing the rice into a ball shape. Continue with new ingredients until you have used up all the rice. Wait at least 15 minutes to unwrap the balls and serve. If you make these ahead of time, leave in the wrap and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to serve. For lunch boxes, leave them wrapped for safekeeping and your child will have fun unwrapping them at lunchtime.