Introduction: Valentine Sushi - a Vegan Sushi Meal or Bento Addition.

About: My hands are never empty. No matter where I am - home, work, bar, show, bus, anywhere - I am always working on something. It's like I don't know how to flip off the power switch to my hands, but socially awkwa…

Indulge in this healthy and "heart"y Valentine meal for two! This easy-to-make sushi dish is vegan, and while delicious on its own would also be a great addition to a Valentine-themed bento box.

You will need the following ingredients:

For the carrots:
+ 2 large carrots
+ 1 tbs miso paste (yellow, white, or red is fine - whichever you prefer)
+ 1 tsp ginger powder
+ 1 tbs rice vinegar

For the rice:
+ 1 cup short grain rice (white or brown, see notes in rice-cooking section)
+ 1 cup water
+ 1 tbs rice vinegar
+ 1 tbs white sugar
+ 1 tsp salt
+ 2 sheets nori (roasted seaweed sheets)
+ 1 tsp beet root powder
+ sprig of parsley, to garnish

Step 1: Prepping the Carrots:

To begin, take two large carrots and peel them. Cut a v-shaped notch lengthwise in each carrot, and then use the peeler to shape the carrot into a long heart. Next, steam your heart carrots lightly (either in the microwave or on the stovetop) so that they are slightly softer but still retain a good crunch in the center. This will make it easier for the carrots to accept the marinade.
     Scoop 1 tbs of good quality miso paste into a plastic sandwich bag. Add 1 tbs rice vinegar and 1 tsp ginger powder to the miso paste. Seal and “smush” until mixed thoroughly. Add the steamed carrots to the mixture, seal tightly, and mush the marinade around so that it covers the carrots evenly. Place in the refrigerator, we’ll get back to those when the rice is done.

Step 2: Making the Sushi Rice:

Measure out 1 cup of short-grain rice and 1 cup of water (NOTE: most sushi is made with white rice. I prefer to use brown rice, which requires an extra half cup of water and 15-20 minutes longer cook time as well. Keep this in mind as you choose your rice). Add to a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil uncovered. Once a boil has been achieved, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cover. Let it cook at this heat for 15 minutes (longer for brown rice, taste a few grains after 15 min and determine how much longer to cook it, rice should be soft and slightly gummy). After this time is up, remove rice from heat and leave it to stand, still covered, for 10 additional minutes. Prepare your rice seasoning during this time.
     Mix 1 tbs rice vinegar, 1 tbs white sugar, and 1 tsp salt in a small sauce-pot or microwave safe bowl. Heat and stir until salt and sugar dissolve. Pour atop still-hot rice and stir thoroughly so that every grain is covered. Rice must now cool fully before it can be used to make sushi, so pop it into the fridge, or if you’re as impatient as I am then you’ll have popped it into the freezer instead (stir often if you do this).

Step 3: Rolling the Sushi:

     Once your seasoned rice is thoroughly cooled, get ready to roll out your sushi. Place a sheet of nori (seaweed) on a clean rolling surface and use the back of a spoon to press the rice onto the seaweed in a smooth, flat, even layer. You’ll want to leave an inch or so of space at one end of the sheet, this will be the end you roll towards. Remove your carrots from the marinade (save the marinade for a dipping sauce if you like! Add some soy sauce to it and you’re good to go). Brush off excess miso paste if you want a cleaner look. I chose to brush some of the marinade onto the rice to add some more flavor. Lay your heart carrot at the opposite end of the rice and nori sheet and begin rolling.
     Picture that you’re rolling a very fragile sleeping bag, you want to roll to be as tight as possible without ripping the nori. (Mind you, I don’t use a sushi rolling mat, so this is a slightly less "pro" method. If you have a rolling mat a quick youtube search will give you loads of simple tutorials for rolling). Use a bit of water to seal the tab at the end of the roll if it isn’t sticking. Repeat this process with the second roll, and set aside the remaining rice. Use a very sharp knife to cut your roll into bite-sized pieces. A tip: the faster you slice the cleaner the piece will come out, slow sawing slices tend to rip the roll apart. Admire your beautiful heart sushi! If you have any pickled ginger handy it tastes divine with the carrots, so add that to your plate too.

Step 4: Plating the Sushi and Making the Rice Heart.

     You're almost ready to indulge in your creation! Arrange your now neatly sliced sushi rolls on a plate and leave plenty of space in the center. Add 1 tsp of beet root powder to your remaining rice, stir thoroughly. This will not alter the rice's flavor but will lend a beautiful pink hue to your rice while adding vitamins, much better than artificial food coloring!
     Place a heart shaped cookie cutter in the center of the plate (you may notice that my cookie cutter is made from a tin can, I'll put up a tutorial for that project soon too). Use a spoon to press the pink rice into the cookie cutter, and smooth the surface before gently lifting the mold away. Embellish with a sprig of fresh parsley, and admire what you've made!

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