Today is a good day. It’s spring time (although you wouldn’t know it from the weather recently), I’m finally settled in the city, and the farmers’ market season is nearly in full swing. Speaking of which, last Thursday afternoon I took a short subway ride up to North Toronto and checked out the AppleTree Market at Eglinton Park. They had some cool stuff, including one vendor whose farm had dried and smoked their jalapeños from last season and were selling the chipotles in little paper bags! It was especially cool, because it was the only time I had ever seen chipotle peppers in their whole form and not canned, stewed in adobo sauce. However, my first priority that afternoon was to pick up my share of the first wave of this season’s asparagus! It’s definitely one of my favourite vegetables, which is why I held out the entire winter without grabbing any Peruvian asparagus from my local supermarket and waited until now for the local stuff. It tastes better that way.
I had wanted to make quinoa sushi for a long time and after thinking about how beautiful the flowery asparagus tips would look sprouting from the cut sushi roll, I figured this was the perfect opportunity. Asparagus loves lemon and this dipping sauce is a great sweet and sour compliment to the roll; I think it really made the dish. I ran into one problem while making this recipe though… I don’t have a camera, since I had been using my parents’ digital camera in my previous posts while I was living with them. However, lucky for me, I live with two professional photographers! Big ups to Landon for taking the awesome photo above.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
½ cup onion, diced (I used a vidalia onion because of their sweetness)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1½ cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
Sea salt, pinch
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 tablepoon sugar
1 tablespoon tahini
10 asparagus spears, tough stems removed
½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ avocado, sliced
3 sheets nori seaweed
1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger and onion. Sauté, stirring frequently, for about 4 or 5 minutes until fragrant and the onion is beginning to soften.
2. Add the quinoa and sauté for another 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the vegetable broth (or water) and a pinch of salt. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling immediately turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Remove from heat and let sit, still covered, for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let quinoa cool to room temperature (spread out the grain on a large plate to quicken the cooling process).
3. While the quinoa is cooling, fill a large bowl with cold water and ice and then bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Remove the woody stems from the asparagus and throw the spears into the boiling water. Blanch for 30 seconds, remove from water with tongs, and immediately immerse them into the ice water. Let them sit in there cooling for now.
4. In a small bowl whisk together the rice vinegar and sugar with a fork until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vinegar and sugar mixture, along with the tahini, to the cooled quinoa and stir well.
5. Place a sheet of nori onto your bamboo sushi rolling mat* with the shiny side face down. Cover the bottom half with quinoa (about 6 or 7 tablespoons worth) like in the picture below, and then arrange the asparagus, red pepper, and avocado in a line in the middle of the quinoa. Here’s a YouTube video explaining how to roll sushi using bamboo mat. Repeat with remaining nori sheets and the rest of the vegetables.
For the Lemon-Ginger Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ heaping teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
1. In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves.
*If you don’t have a bamboo mat… you should buy one, because they’re really, really cheap. Just go to any kitchen supply store or even a dollar store to pick one up. Some grocery store might even carry them. Alternatively, you could use plastic wrap, but you won’t get a very tight roll.