Friday, March 6, 2009

This is How I Roll...

Last Friday, MMA sprung his Lent intent on me last minute. No beer and no meat on Fridays until Easter.


I might have balked a little bit...I can't remember. Shopping was done for the week and did not include the bare necessities to make a proper meatless happy hour.

But I love how Superstar rises to a challenge. (And on reevaluation, decides to use her domestic powers of influence for good and not evil.)

Sushi came to mind. Hello, Chirashi. Just gimme a bowl of perfectly sticky rice topped with an assortment of sashimi, maybe a little pink ginger flower on the side. That's my kind of sacrifice!

Alas, we live in a suburb that is home to nineteen Mexican restaurants in spitting distance, but no safe-to-eat-raw-fish. And I wasn't about to drive 20 miles to Central Market with a feverish preschooler last Friday.

So I thought I'd surprise MMA with with (more doable) shrimp and California rolls. I've been doing test batches of sushi rice lately and decided to take my newly-honed skills to the next level and build something.

I give you, Superstar Sushi Rice
(This size batch makes enough for 4 nice-size rolls)

1 cup sushi (short grain) rice

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1 and 1/3 cups water

First, rinse the sushi rice until the water runs clear. Then drain the rice in a colander for 30 minutes to an hour. Next, add the water, sugar and rice to a pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once it boils, turn it way down and simmer, covered, for 14 minutes. No peeking. After that, remove it from the heat, put a towel under the lid and let it sit for more 20 minutes. This helps it reach the proper stickiness. After 20 minutes, transfer it to a bowl and fold in the vinegar.

I made our California rolls while the rice was warm and I found the nori to be easy to handle that way. There are lots of rolling techniques online, but there is nothing difficult about it. You just spread the rice, line up your fillings, roll it up and enjoy. I have two minor tips: I wrapped my bamboo mat in plastic wrap to keep it clean (but I think you can easily make do without a mat.) And, a little bowl of water to wet your hands keeps the rice from sticking to you.

My fillings included shrimp, crab (actually it was "krab" but like I said) avocado, julienne carrots and cucumber, and of course, wasabi. Oh, I also toasted up sesame seeds to sprinkle on top. My rolls were so big and fat, two were a meal! (And MMA now finally realizes the extent to which he married up.)

My mind is bubbling over with promise of so many combinations. Like Panko fried calamari and sweet potato. Or veggie rolls with plum sauce. Or spicy fried tofu, cucumber and green onion. What about a Greek inspired roll with humus and olives? I'm still thinking locally available ingredients, mind you.

I should have attempted rolls much sooner. The most complicated thing was getting the rice right and now you have my test-kitchen method. Happy Friday!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Demolition Day

Today we are actually getting started on a remodeling job that has been in the pipeline for five years; since the day we bought our house! We are busting down walls and creating an upstairs game room out of an extra bedroom. (And by "we" I mean Javier and his work crew pictured below.)

There are four bedrooms in this house. There is also downstairs office with a proper closet and a full bath. That's too many places to sleep and not enough places to flop around and watch TV or spread out toys. Although Only Child doesn't like to be by himself in the downstairs office, (now serving as the playroom and the first thing you see when you walk into our house) we imagine one day he will want a place of his own to entertain while the grown ups occupy the downstairs.

The new game room was originally used by MMA as a workout room. He put huge mirrors on all the walls, equipped the room with free weights and machines and installed a nice stereo. Even I thought it was pretty sweet. Sadly, all that was too noisy after the baby came along, so the man cave had to move to the garage. Where, he moans, the Christmas decorations are edging him out for space. (Don't feel too bad for him, he's got big plans for the garage BUT, one project at a time.)

Did I mention that we are not DIYers? We're not. He doesn't like to spend his weekends doing home improvement projects...I don't like house work. We'd rather pay someone to do these "chores." (Hence, this project was a dream for five years...and the house can always use a good once over.)

What catalyst put this project into motion, you wonder? I'm glad you asked.

Hurricane Ike caved in a ceiling in an unused bedroom and the carpet was trashed. Next door, Only Child's bedroom had water damage and the carpet needs to be replaced. We've spent the last several months getting the roof, then the interior damage repaired and finally we're ready to replace carpet. We decided to replace all the upstairs carpet. But we didn't want to replace the carpet knowing that we'd have to replace or patch it once the game room was build out. So, we decided to do the game room before the carpet.

Then, my uncle emailed that he would like to pay us a visit from France. This is my father's brother. When I was fourteen, I spent a month with my Uncle and his wife traveling from from his home in Grenoble, France to Budapest, Hungary where my father was from. It was an adventure I will never forget, and during that trip, he promised to be there on the day I got married. Well, he kept that promise and gave me away at my wedding; Dad had died a of cancer a few years before.

Can't-very-well have an honored guest staying in a guest room with
no carpet...So, it was the perfect storm to push this career procrastinator (two of us) to FINALLY pull the trigger.

I'm so glad it worked out this way. Talk about Win-Win And now
you're privy to more than you ever cared to know about our family and how we live and the house that we are slowly growing into.

Note: During demolition Javier discovered a gas line running down the former closet about where the guy's knee is. So they had to rip into the sub floor to reroute it back through the wall. And, all that junk is still sitting there from when the last construction crew had to get into the attic and replace the insulation that got wet. I'm torn between putting the junk back in the attic and putting it on the curb. (Huge Christmas tree up for grabs.)