Hidden vegetables is a huge, healthy trend that’s been floating around for a while. I’ve done posts before about using spaghetti squash and zucchini in place of pasta, but even more creative ways have started popping up. For example, veggie tots are becoming a big trend… essentially tater tots made from healthier options like broccoli or sweet potatoes.
What’s the point? Well, if you have kids, I don’t need to explain why sneaking extra vegetables into meals is important. But I am not a mom. I am just trying to get some better stuff inside my system, without compromising the things I like.
I started with cauliflower. It’s very popular right now to use in place of things like pizza crust to mashed potatoes to a multitude of rice dishes. Cauliflower is low in carbs, calories and it’s a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins. Sounds super to me, as long as it tastes good!
I decided making cauliflower rice would be a simple jumping off point for myself. I initially had the intention of making some kind of stir fry or couscous type dish, but the day I was going to, something caught my eye in my catch-all kitchen drawer: my rarely used sushi kit.
Lightbulb moment. One of the steps to using cauliflower in things like crusts or mashes is that you have to remove as much of the moisture as possible. Since sushi rice needs to be little sticky, I figured this would be a more fool-proof kitchen experiment.
And I was right. Here’s how to make the rice:
- Take a whole head of cauliflower and cut it into small florets, removing any thick stems.
- In batches, grind the cauliflower in a food processor until it looks like cooked rice.
- If you want to save some, you can bag it and freeze it at this point. (For example, I used about half of the “rice” I made, approx. 2 cups, and ended up with enough for about 2-3 sushi rolls.)
- Place the cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl or container. Cover it, but keep it vented so some steam can release. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
- When it’s cooked, drizzle the cauliflower with 1 Tbsp of rice vinegar or mirin per cup of rice. Stir and set aside to cool for at least 20 minutes.
Seriously, that’s it. It’s almost easier than making real rice. Now all you need are some nori sheets and your favorite sushi roll ingredients.
I went for a classic, the California roll, with imitation crab, avocado & cucumber and a shrimp tempura roll with avocado & mango. Save the shrimp, the prep is the same for all these ingredients. Slice them in long, matchstick style strips.
The shrimp was a slightly more ambitious venture:
- The batter starts with mixing 1 cup of sifted flour and 1 Tbsp of baking powder. Then add one large egg to a cup of water, whisking it together. The key here is super, super cold water. Slowly pour the water/egg mixture into the dry ingredients while whisking. You want the batter to be a little clumpy, so don’t over mix. Once the flour is absorbed, you are good to go. FYI, this made a nice amount batter, so get some vegetables and extra shrimp involved as a side dish if you want.
- Peel and devein the shrimp if you need to. You want them raw and clean but with tail still on. Sometimes you can find them that way, but my Whole Foods only had raw, uncleaned shrimp or cooked, cleaned shrimp. To make them easier to stretch out straight, make shallow cuts on the inner curve of them.
- Heat up 2-3 cups of vegetable oil in a small, deep pan. Once it hits 325 degrees, dunk the shrimp in the batter and then into the oil. Don’t over crowd the pot, so work in batches if you need too, removing any floating bits of batter between. The shrimp only need about 2 minutes to get golden and crispy.
- Let them drain and cool before using them in a sushi roll, because you don’t want excess oil mucking it all up.
So once you have all your components prepped and cooled, whatever they may be, all you have to do is roll the sushi. Having a bamboo mat helps greatly. I haven’t ever tried rolling sushi without it, so it’s worth the minor investment if you are a fan.
Place a sheet of nori on the mat and spread the cauliflower rice over about 60% of it, close to three edges. Pile on your fillings, as evenly and compactly as possible, and roll it tight like a cigar. Using a very sharp knife, slice the sushi into pieces, about an inch long.
And don’t forget the soy sauce for dipping. Because guess what, this idiot did. Sigh.
But honestly, it didn’t matter too much. I’m a very light “dipper” of foods. If I order fries, I don’t want a mouthful of ketchup, and if I order wings, I don’t want a mouthful of blue cheese. Just like I don’t saturate my sushi with soy sauce, only a little bit to get that extra salty kick.
I found some sweet chili sauce in my fridge just in case, but when I sat down to eat it, I tried the sushi naked first. It was great. Frankly, I was expecting to cringe a little, but the taste was spot on. The cauliflower rice texture was slightly more grainy than normal rice, but other than that, it’s on par with flavor. I don’t claim to be some sushi master, and my rolls could have been a little prettier, but I don’t mind if it’s yummy.
Even though one of my rolls had some fried shrimp in it (and let’s be honest, I ate the extras behind the scenes), I feel really good about this as a healthy veggie substitute worth adding to my repertoire. Not that sushi was unhealthy to being with, but 1 cup of cooked white rice has about 200 calories, 40+g of carbs, and 550+mg of sodium. 1 cup of cauliflower rice has about 45 calories, 3.5g of carbs and 20mg of sodium. So why not?
Have you tried using cauliflower rice or any other fun veggie trade-outs? I think this is one fad I’m going to really get behind.
I’ll see you guys again in two weeks! Happy cooking until then!