Sunday, July 23, 2006

Seasonal Sushi

Today we discovered some succulent purslane growing wild about the yard, pressing its flat, fingernail-sized leaves in a starfish shape to the earth. Puslane is often given the bad rap as a weed, but it’s quite delicious, with a strong, juicy flavor and good dose of A and C vitamins. I often snack on it while gardening at the Botanical Gardens—a truly organic weeding method!

I’ve always been intimidated by sushi-making. It’s such a beautiful food, I thought it had to be difficult to make! I had picked up some beautiful rainbow carrots: purple and red, rich in antioxidants, and sweet, pale white and yellow Belgian varieties. The carrot root naturally grows in these beautiful colors, although like many other foods, have been commercially cultivated in familiar orange for marketing purposes. We were delighted to discover that the purple carrot, when diced, actually has an orange core, delivering us beautiful, purple-rimed coins with each slice.

In the end, the only ingredients I couldn’t skip and couldn’t find locally were dates, avocadoes and sesame seeds. Avocados are awesome. Native to Mexico, their buttery texture was the lure for large mammals to eat them, carrying the cumbersome pit in their bellies until deposited (the usual way food is, ahem) in fertile pats of manure. The Aztecs called them “ahuacatl” or testicle. Cortez (purposefully or not) heard it as “abogado,” and to this day, the Spanish call them peras de abogado, or lawyer’s pears. You can actually grow avocado plants on the East Coast simply by cleaning the pit of an avocado and sprouting it suspended with three toothpicks over water. Once the leaves are established, it is safe to pot it up in a good soil mix. As a New Yorker, it will take about three to five years to bear fruit, and even then temperamentally. In sushi, they make a filling substitute for rice if you want to stick strictly raw—and their delicious, fatty content is nutritionally far superior.

The rolls turned out beautifully. We packed them with the paste and avocado and thin strips of veggies and topped them with sprouts and amaranth so that the last roll cut had a beautiful bouffant of little leaves. They were sweet from the dates and plums, salty with seaweed and sesame, savory with avocado, and carrot-crunchy.