There are plenty of reasons for me to stay away from sushi:
1. Dave is allergic to fish. Yes, I know that most Japanese joints also serve other food, but asking someone with a fish allergy to go to a sushi restaurant is like expecting a vegetarian to dine at the Salt Lick BBQ because the menu includes cole slaw and vegetarian pinto beans. It’s just not cool.
2. Soy sauce is a big no-no. Besides all the grouchy paleo concerns (naughty legumes!), I have thyroid issues so soy is, like, doubly no good.
3. Do I have to say it? OK, I will. Rice! Boo! Hiss! Steamed white rice is pretty useless in the nutrition department and if one listens to Whole9 Life (which, really, one should), rice is worse than useless: for some people, it’s a digestive nightmare.
4. My favorite is the California roll which always makes me feel sort of lame. It’s not raw. It’s not exotic. Is it even real sushi?!
Here’s the thing: I really like the flavor and texture mélange (mélange!) of the cool, sweet seafood with creamy avocado, salty soy sauce, and the bite of wasabi. The up-the-nose rush!
If we solve the problems, there’s plenty to recommend California rolls: seafood and fish are excellent protein sources. Avocado is a great way to get delicious fat. Sushi is fun to eat, and we dino-chow aficionados don’t get many opportunities to eat “fun” food.
The question is, then, not “How do I live the rest of my life without a California roll?” but “How can I make something that’s a close enough approximation to taste great AND provide adequate nutrition?”
To find the answer, I first had to ditch the rice. And while I was fixing the rice problem, I decided to tackle the other annoyances, too, namely, in a traditional California roll, (1) the avocado is always in a hunk, so if you bite the piece of sushi in half (I know! I’m not supposed to, but I do…), all of the avocado is in that one mouthful, instead of equally distributed across bites; and (2) there are never enough vegetables.
If you follow my instructions below, you will never suffer these sushi injustices again. Don’t you feel ever so much better?! (No sushi mat? Don’t fret! Just follow the instructions below and use a piece of construction paper in place of the bamboo rolling mat.)
Paleo California Rolls
This makes enough for one person for a meal or two snacks – if you’re around my size. If you’re a big, CrossFit dude, this is probably just a snack or half a snack for you. Adjust as necessary. I’ve included two versions below: Mango-Shrimp Roll and Avocado-Salmon Roll to get you started.
1 medium avocado
1/2 medium mango
1 medium red bell pepper
2-3 scallions, green tops only
1 medium cucumber
1/4 jicama (about 1/4 pound)
4 ounces shrimp, steamed and chilled (I used wild, cold-water salad shrimp.)
4 ounces smoked salmon
4 sheets nori
wasabi powder, coconut aminos or homemade substitute
Prep your ingredients.
Avocado: Cut in half and remove the pit. Use a spoon to remove the fruit from the skin and slice the avocado lengthwise into thin slivers.
Mango: Peel the mango, remove the pit, and cut half of it into strips lengthwise. Reserve the other half for dessert!
Red pepper: Cut in half, remove stem and ribs, then slice into very thin strips lengthwise.
Scallions: Cut in half to separate the dark green tops from the white, then cut the dark green tops into strips lengthwise.
Cucumber: Peel, cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds with a spoon, then cut into matchsticks.
Jicama: Cut in half, peel, then cut a slice into matchsticks.
Wasabi: If using, mix wasabi with water, following the package instructions, and set aside.
Lay a piece of nori on a rolling mat, shiny side down. With about 1/4 of the avocado, form a single layer of slices on the nori. Leave a naked 1-inch strip on the side closest to you. Use the back of a spoon to spread the avocado across the surface of the nori. It doesn’t need to cover it completely — just enough to help seal the roll and soften the nori. Repeat with all four nori sheets.
We’ll start with Mango-Shrimp. Place half the shrimp on the bare strip of nori closest to you and top them with a few of the scallion greens. Place a parallel stripe of mango on the far side front of the shrimp, and add a few strips of red pepper on top of the mango.
Time to roll. Starting at the end closest to you, take a deep breath and roll the sushi, using the mat to help you tuck the ingredients into the roll. When you get to the end, give it a gentle squeeze to help the avocado do its job. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and another sheet of nori.
Now the Avocado-Salmon. Place half the salmon on the bare strip of nori closest to you and top it with a few of the scallion greens. Place a parallel strip of jicama in front of the salmon, and add a few matchsticks of cucumber on top of the jicama. Roll, starting with the end closest to you, then repeat with the remaining salmon and remaining sheet of nori.
Slice and serve. Run a sharp knife under water and shake to remove the excess. Slice the roll crosswise into rounds about 1 inch thick and arrange on a plate, along with the remaining vegetables to eat on the side. If you’re dipping, add some coconut aminos to your wasabi and dig in.
I’ve made these with other seafood, and they were equally delicious…
faux crabsticks (faux crab often contains wheat; use the real stuff!) real crab meat, tuna mixed with some homemade mayo and slapped that into a roll. It was delicious! Next time, I think I might try spicy mayo with the shrimp. Or some lobster! How will you customize?
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