Friday, November 27, 2009

A Taste of Sicily - Ricotta Cappuccino Cannoli

...An extraordinary Italian dessert composed of delicate, crisp, tube-shaped pastry shells infused with Marsala, filled with sweet, creamy ricotta cheese, embracing miniature chocolate morsels and candied orange peel, and dusted ever so softly with powdered sugar. Close your eyes, envision yourself at a picturesque Italian cafĂ©, and indulge your craving...

The November 2009 Daring Bakers' Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker, recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

Cannoli originated in Sicily and are an essential part of Sicilian cuisine. Cannoli were historically prepared as a treat during Carnevale season, possibly as a fertility symbol.  They consist of tube-shaped shells of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling usually containing ricotta cheese (or alternatively, but less traditionally, sweetened Mascarpone) blended with some combination of vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, Marsala wine, or other flavorings. Some chefs add chocolate chips. Sometimes, cannoli can be found with the shells dipped in chocolate, in addition to being stuffed with filling.

The following is the recipe Lisa Michele provided for the Challenge.

Cannoli Shells

2 cups (250 grams/16 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil (I used unsalted butter) 
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand (I used Marsala)

1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)

Garnish:  1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests; Confectioners' sugar for dusting over cannoli

Cannoli Filling

2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cups (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Directions for Shells:

1.  In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the refridgerator from 2 hours to overnight.

2.  Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3.  Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well oiled). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4.  In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5.  Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

6. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

7.  Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.

Directions for the Filling:

1.  Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, or food processor, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Add confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla, and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and fold in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm. The filling can be made up to 24 hours in advance.  Store the filling in a pastry bag, or in a covered bowl, in the refrigerator, until ready to fill the shells.

Assembling the Cannoli:

1.  Just prior to serving, fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side.

2.  Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or a drizzle of melted chocolate if desired.

I recommend watching Maria Batali's video series prior to making cannoli for the first time.  I've also made Mario's Cannoli de Ricotta recipe (posted here), with excellent recults.

Making Cannoli Dough, by Mario Batali
Forming and Frying Cannoli Shells, by Mario Batali
Filling Cannoli, by Mario Batali

I adapted Giada De Laurentiss' Ricotta Cappuccino recipe for my filling.  The texture is smooth and creamy and the hint of espresso is wonderful.

Ricotta Cappuccino
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 (12 oz) containers ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch cocoa powder

Place the sugar in a food processor. Cut the vanilla bean open lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and place them in the food processor with the sugar. Run the machine to make vanilla sugar.

Place the ricotta and espresso powder in the food processor. Blend for about 30 seconds. Stop the machine to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add cinnamon and cocoa powder.  Blend for another 30 seconds. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe into prepared cannoli shells.  Drizzle cannoli with melted chocolate (I melted a Dark Chocolate-Orange bar)

I'll leave you with this poem I came across...

How to eat a Cannoli
by Ray Brown

Cannoli won second place
for the dessert with the worst eating design
second only to a hot dipped, thin-coated,
chocolate covered soft vanilla ice cream cone
on an August summer’s day.

I understand why
they have to see through both ends of the shell
when filling it up -
but why would anyone design a dessert
which, when you bite on one end,
you lose 25% of the equivalent of the dessert out the other?

Now a Hot Dog.
There’s a functional cylindrical type food.
The dog tucked cozily in the bun.
When you chew on one end you do not loose
mustard, relish and onions out the other.
Compare that to a Big Mac.
Bite at any one point and you have drippings drama
around all of the edges.

The cannoli’s problem would be almost tolerable
if you were losing just mayonnaise, ketchup or mustard
or that messy combination of goo that
soothes your hamburger taste buds.
But cannoli filling is Italian health food
the whole cow’s milk ricotta cheese
dark milk chocolate chips
(and whatever else is in there)
the sweet nectar of life.

I ate dinner once with an American
who thought he’d solve the problem with a knife and a fork
attempting to daintily cut through the shell
in order to pick up pieces.
Cutting through a cannoli shell!
“gat outa here”!

If they wanted you to break the shells apart
they would have crushed them up for you
and sprinkled them on top of the filling
and served them to you with a plastic spoon
in one of those paper cups for pansies.

There is only one way to eat cannoli.
Bite on one end
and as far as the other end goes -

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Part V - Gingerbread City 2009: Fondant the Yellow Brick Road

Fondant the Yellow Brick Road...we've decided that will be the title of our entry for Gingerbread City 2009 - The Greatest Stories Ever Told! 

We're getting down to the wire!  We just received notice that we must deliver our structure to The Grand Del Mar, Ballroom loading dock, at 8:45 a.m. on November 30.  I hope we don't have far to walk, because this thing is starting to gain some serious sugar weight!

Last year, our Brownstones & Batali entry didn't really come together until the final days.  Poor Pammy, our good friend, was still frantically making flowers in the wee hours of the morning before we had to deliver our entry to the Torrey Pines Hilton.  Thankfully, she's offered to do the same this year and I may have to recruit a few more friends, considering the hundreds of poppies, trees, and grass we have yet to grow.

In my last update, Part IV - Gingerbread City, I left you with our Land of Oz, covered in snow.  The Tin Woodsman's Cabin needed some roofing, the Munchkinland roofs needed some houses underneath, Dorothy's house was still naked gingerbread, and the Witch's Castle and Emerald City were still in the very early stages of construction.  I felt guilty not being able to share more progress, and was compelled to supplment that post with a recipe and photos for Quick Apple Streusel Coffee Cake.  I do miss my regular blog posts, and hope to get back on schedule after December 1 with a few fabulous recipes for the holidays.

But, for now, our gingerbread noses are pressed to the grindstone and I'm still hoping for a spectactular result.

Here, the wood base is still covered with Rice Krispies Treats and Royal Icing.  You can see the Tin Woodsman's cabin, which now has some fondant roofing; a few tall spires for Emerald City, still in naked gingerbread; Dorothy's house, also still in naked gingerbread; and a little progress on the Munchkins' houses. 

Inspiration for the Tin Woodsman's Cabin....

Our Tin Woodsman's Cabin, so far....

Inspiration for Munchkinland...

After messing around for too long attempting round houses, and completely frustrating myself (and John) in the process, I opted for little hexagon-shaped houses. The sides are glued together with royal icing and I left three window openings for each house.

I wrapped the houses in rolled fondant, textured with a brick pattern (2 houses) and a stone pattern (the other two houses).  Here's the stone-pattern fondant press

I made fondant cut-outs for the windows and doors, which still need some details added.

So far, our edible, confectionary, ingredients consist of Rice Krispies Treats, Gingerbread, Royal Icing, Licorice, and Rolled Fondant.  Royal  Icing is the "glue" that holds all the gingerbread pieces together.  It is also used for attachng decorative fondant to the structures and making some of the flowers, trees, and grass.  I previously shared our Gingerbread recipe.  Here is the recipe we use for the Royal Icing "Glue."

Royal Icing (Double Batch)

8 cups (approximately 2 lbs) sifted Confectioners' sugar
6 tablespoons Meringue Powder (Just Whites is the brand we use)
10-12 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in large bowl and mix on low speed for about 7 minutes.  Store in covered container.

And here is the recipe we use for Rolled Fondant:

Rolled Fondant

1 Tablespoon unflavored Gelatin
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup Glucose (you can substitute light corn syrup)
1 Tablespoon Glycerin
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening, such as Crisco
2-3 drops of desired liquid food coloring
8 cups sifted Confectioners' sugar (approximately 2 lbs.)
2 tablespoons Gum-Tex
Cornstarch and extra Confectioners' sugar to dust surface for rolling

Combine gelatin and cold water.  Let stand until thick.  Place gelatin mixture in a double boiler and heat until dissolved.  Add glucose and glycerin and mix well.  Stir in shortening, and just before it is completely melted, removed from heat, and add color.  Mixture should cool until lukewarm.

Next, place the sifted confectioners' sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and briefly combine with the Gum-Tex (we added Gum-Tex last year and found it worked really well to keep the fondant more pliable and smooth).  Using the dough hook, and with the mixer on low, slowly add the lukewarm gelatin mixture and continue mixing on low until the fondant is thoroughly mixed.  The fondant should be smooth, pliable and not stick to your hands.  If it is too soft, add more sugar.  If too stiff, add more water, a drop at a time.  Use immediately or store in an air-tight container.  We make the fondant as needed and use right away for the best texture and results.

To roll fondant, first spray work surface and rolling pin with vegetable spray and dust with a mixture of confectioners' sugar and cornstarch.
Dorothy's House now has shingles, made of Sour Strawberry Licorice Belts.  We cut little notches along one edge and then glued them onto the roof, slightly overlapping, starting from the bottom edge of the roof and working up.  The roof is lopsided because the house was transported to the Land of Oz via tornado ;-)

For the siding on the house, we rolled out fondant and cut strips with the little fondant gadget you see below.  We let the fondant dry on a cornstarch/confectioners' sugar dusted baking sheet, so it would retain its shape, and then glued the strips onto the sides of the house.  Again, we started from the bottom and slightly overlapped the fondant strips.  Obviously, there's much more detail work ahead for Dorothy's Kansas farmhouse....

John has been very absorbed with the Witch's Castle, and it's looking quite witchy.  Here's another inspiration photo:

The castle has made quite the transformation....

Gingerbread pieces glued together with Royal Icing

Rolled Fondant stones, individually shaped, textured and glued on with icing

Textured stone flooring between the first and second level

Close-up of the decorative whatchamacallit-support-thingamajigs

Fondant tool used with a baby square cutter to fashion the outer Castle wall.  The Stones at the top of the wall and at the top of the tower have notches cut into them. These are called crenelations and this is so the defenders of the castle could either fire arrows or hurl other projectiles at the attacking army while still remaining protected.. The height of the tower was important because they could look out on the surrounding lands and look along the length of the tower.  This has no significance in the Land of Oz, but is an interesting tidbit.

More decorate roof tiles made with the fondant tool

This is how it looks now, but John has much more detail and color enhancements in mind...

BTW, these details are all in his own mind and, apparently, I'm not privy to this classified information. This seems to be the unspoken solution to preventing us from tearing out each other's throats during this 2-month gingerbread ordeal. He has his assigned parts to complete, and I have mine. So far, he's only had to sleep on the couch one night ;-)

The Emerald City needs some attention, very soon.  This part makes me a little nervous.  Emerald City will be perched on a grassy knoll, surrounded by poppy fields, bringing the height of the structure to almost three feet.  Transporting this baby is going to be loads of fun.

Here's a pretty picture of the rock candy crystals which will soon adorn the Emerald City.

Tonight, we started applying the next layer to the board...colored pieces of underneath the Emerald City, forest green underneath the Tin Woodsman's Cabin, and brown underneath the corn fields and apple trees.  Most of this will be covered by landscaping, but we wanted a nice, smooth base layer and color underneath.

That's about all we have to share at this point.  The next two weekends will be very hectic, but I hope to get at least one more update posted prior to our delivery date.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Daring Cooks are Rolling in Raw Fish, and Lovin' It!

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

I LOVE sushi.  My first introduction to sushi was in my law school days, about 20 years ago...(ouch, that means I'm 40-something!).  Prior to this challenge, I attempted to make sushi once.  At least once a week, I crave the whole sushi bar experience - it's fun, it's social, and you can sit back with a glass of sake and be entertained by the Master Sushi Chef as he creates an incredible variety of nigiri and specialty rolls.

However, it's a good thing, attempting to make sushi at home.  It was enjoyable, educational, and expensive!  We could have dined at Mille Fleurs!

I shopped at Nijiya, a local Japanese market, and wandered through the aisles like a kid in a candy store.  After stocking up on some of the essentials, I stopped by Bistro d' Asia and sweet-talked Eric, my regular sushi chef, into selling me some small pieces of Tasmanian Salmon, Hamachi, and Searied Albacore - my three favs.  The Tasmanian Salmon is so buttery, melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.  I chatted with Eric about the Challenge and he gave me a few tips.  I previoulsy blogged about Eric, and Coronado's Bistro d'Asia, here.

There were four parts to this Challenge:  1)  Sushi Rice; 2) Nigiri; 3) Decorative Sushi Roll; and 4) Dragon Roll

PART I:  Sushi Rice

The ingredients for Sushi Rice consist of Short or Medium Grain Rice, Rice Vinegar, Sugar, and Salt.  Optional ingredients are Kombu and Sake.

The rice must be gently swirled around in a bowl of water and drained, 3-4 times, and then set in a strainer to drain again for 30 minutes

The Kombu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice.  According to the Kombu Seaweed Encyclopedia, the unique Umami (savory taste) of Japanese foods cannot be achieved without kombu seaweed, the "secret ingredient."

A small piece of dashi kombu is added to the rice while it soaks prior to cooking, remains with the rice while it cooks, and is then removed and discarded.  Sake is added just before cooking the rice.

Recipe for Sushi Rice
(7 cups of cooked sushi rice)
Preparation time: 1¾ hours, consisting of:  Rinsing and draining rice (35 minutes); Soaking rice (30 minutes, which includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing); Cooking and steaming time (25 minutes); Finishing the rice (15 minutes)


2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
2½ cups water (for superior results use equal volumes of rice and water)

Optional Ingredients
3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed), wiped with a damp cloth to remove white powder, and a few slits cut in the sides to help release its flavors; 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt


Rinsing and draining the rice:  Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, and repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice:  Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight). Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing:  Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pan and heat on low, stirring until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice:  After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice/Turning out the rice:  Lightly moisten a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.  Use the spatula to gently loosen the rice, and invert the rice pot over the bowl, causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl. Always work with the rice gently so the rice grains do not get damaged.

Dressing the rice with vinegar:  Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula in into the hot rice. Using the spatula, gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

Fanning and Tossing the rice:  Continue turning the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air, but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes.  Cooling the rice with this fanning method give it good flavor, texture and a high-gloss sheen. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended. Stop fanning when there is no more visible steam, all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed, and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

Keeping the rice moist:   Cover rice with a damp, lint free, cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi. Lleave on the counter covered at room temperature; do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator.  Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* TIP:  To prepare a differnt quantity of rice, for each cup of rice use:  1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary.

PART II:  Nigiri or Nigirizushi

Nigirizushi, hand-formed sushi, consists of an oblong mound of sushi rice that is pressed between the palms of the hands, usually with a bit of wasabi, and a topping draped over it. Toppings are typically fish such as salmon, tuna or seafood.

Here, I used Tasmanian Salmon, topped with a thin slice of lemon, and a sprinkling of green tea powder and Hawaiian Lava Salt.  Before eating, I picked up the lemon and rubbed it, tea/salt side down, over the top of the salmon, and then discarded the lemon slice.  You can also dip the nigiri in wasabi-soy sauce or Ponzu sauce.

Nigiri Sushi
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Yield: 14-16 pieces

2 cups prepared sushi rice
8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice
Optional garnish, such as pickled ginger


1.  When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands,  moisten your hands with vinegared water.

2.  Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.

3.  Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.

4.  Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't let sushi touch or they'll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.

5.  Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi.

6.  Garnish as desired and use strips of nori to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.

7.  It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.


Use ONLY sushi/sashimi grade fish, from a reputable market or your local sushi bar.  You can also use cooked shrimp, crab, meat or vegetables.

PART III:  Spiral Sushi Roll

(I made my Spiral Sushi Roll with spicy scallops, asparagus, roasted red pepper, burdock root, Tasmanian salmon and cucumber)

The Spiral Sushi Roll is the easiest 'decorative' sushi roll.
Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces


2½ cups prepared sushi rice
2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
Six assorted fillings (Use colorful fillings that complement each other)


1.  Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).

2.  Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.

3.  Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori.  The rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, but you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.

4.  Using your fingers, form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make each groove about a finger-width wide to hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling.  Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.

5.  Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.

6.  Roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you.  This will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.

7.  Slice the roll into 8 pieces with a very sharp, wet, knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.

8.  Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.


The dragon roll, often referred to as a caterpillar roll as well, is a uramaki roll, an outside thick roll of eel and cucumbers that are wrapped with thinly sliced avocado. The green layers of the avocado resemble the scales of a dragon. Grilled eel are sold in Japanese supermarkets in refrigerated or frozen packages.  You then broil the eel before using it in the roll.  Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eels.  Anago refers to saltwater eels.

My Slayed Dragon (headless) was filled with unagi, asparagus (instead of cucumber) and roasted red pepper, and topped with some Tobiko and Eel Sauce

Dragon Roll
Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)
Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls


1 sheet 7”x 8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
1/2 Japanese cucumber
2 cups of prepared sushi rice
Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
1 Avocado
Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)
Optional:  2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)


1.  Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.

2.  Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.

3.  Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.

4.  Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.

5.  Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.

6.  Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.

7.  Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.

8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.

9.  Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.

10.  Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.

11.  Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.

12.   Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.

13.  Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

GRAND FINALE:  Calamari & Seaweed Salad

As soon as Eric sees me walking through the door of Bistro d' Asia, he knows to start preparing this salad for me!  It is made with seaweed, fried calamari, red grapes, mango, cucumber, and pieces of various raw fish (usually albacore, yellowtail, salmon, or octopus), and tossed in a spicy Ponzu dressing.  This was very easy to duplicate at home, but Eric's orignial version is the best!  Sometimes, certain things just taste better when someone else prepares them.

Our version started out relatively healthy, with only a few pieces of fried calamari.  However, when John saw the deep-fryer and bowl of batter, he immediately started scrounging about for other things to dip in Alton Brown's Fish and Chips Batter.

Although we feasted on sushi throughout the weekend, I went a bit overboard on ingredients and fish for the two of us.  As I hinted at earlier, it was quite an expensive ordeal.  However, for a dinner party, I would attempt this again.  In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy the sushi bar experience, and Eric's creations, on a regular basis.

Thank you again, Rose and Audax, for this Challenge, and thank you to our Daring Kitchen founders, Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice.  Please visit The Daring Kitchen for a link to the complete recipes and links, and the Daring Cooks' blogroll, to peruse the fabulous array of sushi creations by some of our fabulous Daring Cooks' members.