Make-At-Home Maki Sushi
2 cups sushi rice (see note)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6 full sheets nori (seaweed), cut in half parallel to lines, or 12 half-sheets (available in Asian markets)
2-3 teaspoons sesame seeds
3 ounces sliced, smoked salmon (for 4 to 5 rolls)
¼ pound raw salmon or tuna (for 4 rolls)
4 pieces "crab stick" (each cut in half lengthwise)
1-2 ounces cream cheese, in thin strips
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
4-6 spears thin asparagus, bottom third peeled, then blanched
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and julienned
½ small avocado, thinly sliced
Rinse sushi rice until water runs clear; drain. In a 2-quart sauce pan, bring rice and 2½ cups water to boil, cover and simmer 20 minutes. Take off heat, let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.
Heat vinegar in small saucepan over medium-low heat; stir in sugar and salt and stir until dissolved; remove from heat.
Scoop rice into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. While fanning vigorously with one hand, pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and "slice" in with a rice paddle or stiff rubber spatula. Avoid smashing the rice. Continue cutting until rice is cooled almost to room temperature. Cover with a damp towel.
To prepare rolls: Cover a bamboo sushi rolling mat with plastic wrap. Place the mat on a cutting board with the lines running horizontal. Place one-half sheet of nori, rough side up, with the short side parallel with the rolling mat. Moisten hands with cold water, grab a handful of rice and gently spread in a line ½ inch from top edge of nori sheet. Spread rice toward you to cover the rest of the sheet. You want an even layer out to the side edges that is not smashed down.
Sprinkle with sesame seeds, gently flip nori rice-side down with the bare strip toward you. Spread a dab of wasabi across middle of nori, from side to side. Place your choice of ingredients in lines next to each other down the middle of the nori.
Examples: raw salmon with asparagus;, smoked salmon with cream cheese and scallions; crab stick with cucumber and avocado.
Lift the near edge of the rolling mat and using fingers to hold the ingredients in place, roll the bare edge of nori across front of ingredients. Continue lifting the mat forward until the sealed edge rolls forward to the bottom. Gently squeeze roll to seal, then unroll and set on separate cutting board. Continue forming more rolls, using any combination of ingredients.
To cut: Dip a very sharp, thin-bladed knife in lemon water. Turn cut-side up to serve. Serve with wasabi, ginger and soy sauce.
Cook's note: Sushi rice does not keep so you cannot make it ahead.