Recently my 12-year-old son, Eli, picked up a lovely graphic memoir I'd been reading called Relish: My Life in the Kitchen. In it, author Lucy Knisley chronicles her childhood traveling the world with her chef mom and each chapter ends with an illustrated recipe. Eli flipped to a two-page spread with instructions for making huevos rancheros, studied it for a moment, then asked, "Can we make these?" I immediately said yes.
These days Eli is a busy middle schooler, so when he suggests something we can do together I jump at the chance. We made the huevos for dinner that night, and they were delicious. Eli felt really good about cooking a meal for the family — so good that he immediately wanted to try another recipe. He read even further in the book, and when he came to the recipe for vegetarian maki — "roll" in Japanese — he decided it would be our next project.
We don't do a lot of traveling as a family, but I like to think we're adventurous in other ways. Eating is one of them. All five of us are usually up for tasting new foods and flavors, so we couldn't wait to try the maki recipe. It uses rice, avocado, cucumber and carrot sticks and, to our delight, thin strips of batter-dipped, fried sweet potato, all wrapped in nori, or seaweed sheets. In preparation, we made a trip to Homeport to buy bamboo sushi-rolling mats and chopsticks.
At home, we assembled our ingredients, following the recipe to the letter. I prepped Eli by reminding him that this was a tricky process and that our first attempts might not come out perfect. While I painstakingly smoothed the sticky rice to the edges of my nori sheet, Eli studied the illustration, laid out his rice and vegetables, flipped up the edge of his mat, and rolled a nearly perfect sushi roll. "Boom!" he said, holding it out for me to inspect. We kept on rolling until we'd used up all the nori.
Everyone loved the maki, especially with the salty-sweet unagi sauce we prepared. And Eli and I had so much fun that we're already planning our next recipe adventure.
Makes about 10 sushi rolls, enough for 4-6 people
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