Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cucumber and Avocado Sushi Roll

 It was a midsummer dream: thanks to two Japanese arts, origami and sushi making, a whole afternoon taking care of four boys went fast paced and relatively peaceful. Maybe the secret was to keep their hands busy...

First they were all folding magazine pages to make paper boats. And after testing them on the water table, they were rolling roasted seaweed to make avocado and cucumber sushi.
The original idea was to prepare California rolls, but they were not enthusiastic about real crab. The result was simple and elegant: just rolls filled with cucumber and avocado, or just avocado.

After folding paper to make boats, it sounded as easy as it could be. Tiny hands are delicate enough to use the wood rolling mat and the wood paddle. To make the whole process fast and relaxing  I asked them to spread the rice on the roasted seaweed, as if they were painting a canvas. Then they chose what ingredients they would like to put inside the roll, and after I sealed the ends of the seaweed they helped me to roll. I put a parchment paper layer in between the mat and seaweed to make sure we wouldn't get sticky rice all over the place. It worked.

Simple Maki (Cucumber and Avocado Sushi Roll)

You could use one of Darienne's egg thin omelette inside, or just have a few ingredients available so to play with them as the children (or grownups) want. I used the Yamamotoyama brand of the roasted seaweed, easily found in grocery stores.

6 cups cal rose rice, cooked as directed or with this recipe for sushi rice
cucumber sticks
Haas avocado, sliced
soy sauce
wasabi (optional)

Most packages of roasted seaweed have instructions on how to roll a sushi roll. Stretch the cooked rice over the seaweed paper, draw a line with the fillings, moisten the seams with water using your fingertips, and roll it and slice. Once you do it right, you will do it right forever. Like folding paper or riding a bike. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Make-your-own fruit tart bar, with masquerade mascarpone

A make-it-yourself bar is one of my favorite ways to coax even the most reluctant kids to help out with preparing food and try new flavors. And in summer, it's an especially fun way to relax, laugh, and play at the table together. We've been gorging on summer fruit, and I craved something special. Like a pie or tart... but the boys and I all wanted to showcase different fruit. So we used all of them!

I baked tart shells and cut up fresh fruit. I had almost everything we wanted, except mascarpone. I waffled: Run out to the store? Push this back a day and make fresh mascarpone? I settled on a third way: Make some Masquerade Mascarpone out of light cream cheese and Greek yogurt, a more-than-decent stand-in for the real thing.

I set it all out on the table and the let the kids go to work. They built beautiful small-scale masterpieces and then happily devoured them.

It had been a while since we'd enjoyed a make-it-yourself treat. It was a good reminder that food is best enjoyed with good company and good fun. For more ideas, check out how we've done build-it-yourself bars for homemade pizza grilled cheese, fall fruit salad, mini fruit tartelettes, and chocolates

Make-Your-Own Fruit Tarts

tart shells (homemade or store-bought)
filling: mascarpone (you can substitute Masquerade Mascarpone, below, or make your own), creme fraiche, jam
fresh fruit, such as berries, mango, kiwi, grapes, pineapple, apple

Set out tart shells, filling options, and fruit and invite everyone build their perfect fruit tart.

Masquerade Mascarpone

Mascarpone is simple to make, but you need 24 hours’ lead time and tartaric acid, which admittedly is not a pantry staple. This quick alternative is a great stand-in — and much lighter than the real thing.

8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
4 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients and blend well. Refrigerate a few hours, if possible, for deeper flavor. Store in the refrigerator for a week or two.


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