A Break from Grilled Meats: Fresh Rainbow Vegetable Maki

By the end of the Memorial Day weekend, too many Americans will have consumed too much grilled meats.  Once we are tired of the requisite brats and burgers—or even taking a mini-break in between these same meals of brats and burgers—something like a fresh Vegetable Maki will start sounding pretty darn yummy.

For those who grew up with Japanese maki rolls or Korean kim bop, making these will be almost second nature to you.  I wasn’t an adult before I was rolling kim bop filled with my favorite meats and marinated veggies and pickled daikon.  (I promise I will later devote a post to filling, rolling, and cutting traditional kim bop!)  In case vegetable makis are not as familiar to you as apple pie, here is a recipe from Martha Stewart that is easy to follow: http://www.wholeliving.com/130360/vegetable-handrolls

You can print out Martha Stewart’s recipe and follow along with me as I suggest variations:

1) Don’t sweat the details about which veggies you will include.

Martha Stewart’s recipe itself calls for asparagus, daikon, cucumber, scallions (and you can spot red pepper strips as well in the picture).  Really, use whatever you have around which you find harmonious to eat together.  My veggies (above) include cucumber, scallions, asparagus, and julienned carrots.  At the last minute, I discovered that I had an avocado, so I added that later too (which, by the way, was a great addition).  Just make sure that you slice your veggies such that they form long thin strips.  And make sure they are colorful and pretty.  Part of the allure of Japanese cuisine is the presentation, so you want to honor that.

2) Do include eggs.

I’ve seen non-Asian children dragged to Japanese restaurants ordering a whole plate of tamago “sushi,” and I can understand the appeal of a sweet omelet over white rice as the tastiest—certainly, the “safest”—option for those who are a bit leery of eating raw fish.  Egg dishes like tamago are very popular in Asia: another is a dish called om-rice which is essentially fried rice covered with a thin omelet and a gravy of some sort, or just ketchup in many instances.  In any case, while my vegetarian makis and meat-filled kim bops might vary in all sorts of ways, the one constant is the inclusion of strips of thin omelet (mine is savory rather than sweet like tamago). 

Just scramble two eggs with a bit of salt, pour it into a hot large saut√© pan with a bit of oil in it, and watch it bubble away.  Flip to slightly brown the other side and then take off the heat.  Wait until it is cool enough to handle, and then cut into half-inch wide strips.  All done.   You get a little extra protein in your vegetarian maki, and your tastebuds will thank you.

3) There are variations on rice for maki/sushi.

Sushi rice has its own countless recipes.  Many involve soaking rice before steaming, and some include boiling rice vinegar with salt and sugar and then pouring the mixture over the cooked rice.  You might skip boiling the vinegar if you are short on time and patience.  Instead, you can dump the steamed rice into a (small-holed) colander or a sieve and then drizzle a mixture of rice vinegar with fine sugar and sea salt.  (Not using kosher salt allows you to skip the step of cooking the mixture to dissolve the coarse salt.)  Let cool a bit—but do not refrigerate your rice!—and then continue with the rolling of your own makis.

Constructing these handrolls is not exactly rocket-science.  Take half-sheets of nori, mound some cooled sushi rice in the center, place strips of vegetables and cooked egg.

Roll any way that is most comfortable for you to eat—log or cone shaped, whatever.

Dip into a bit of soy sauce with wasabi.  Eat.  Enjoy!


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