While a sushi salad using Italian ingredients may sound a bit odd at first, hear me out before you pass judgement. Unlike rolled sushi, this style of sushi is called chirashi sushi in Japan. Traditionally chirashi sushi is a pile of vinegared sushi rice with seasoned vegetables mixed in, and toppings such as fish, vegetables and herbs scattered on top (“chirashi” means “scattered”).
It’s a colorful dish that’s perfect for bringing to a potluck, but you can only use it so many times before people start to get bored. That’s why I have a couple different variations in my repertoire that I switch between. This colorful take swaps rice wine vinegar for white balsamic and olive oil, to season the rice. A handful of fresh basil and fennel leaves gives the rice a marvelous fresh flavor, and the whole thing is topped with cherry tomatoes, flat-leaf parsley and prosciutto di Parma.
The best part of about this is its flexibility. If you don’t have basil and fennel, tarragon and sage is delicious. To make this vegan, simply omit the prosciutto. I also love having this salad with small pieces of fresh mozzarella. If you like something a little more intensely flavored, some thinly sliced red onion, or garlic chips (fried garlic) make some great toppings as well.
The most complicated part of the dish is making the sushi rice (which isn’t all that hard). I’ve included an abridged explanation in the recipe below but check out my full sushi rice tutorial for the detailed step-by-step process.
- 11.5 ounces (326 grams) Japanese short-grain rice
- 1 1/2 cups cold water
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
- 0.2 ounces (6 grams) basil, julienned
- 0.07 ounces (2 grams) fennel leaves, trimmed from stems
- 3.9 ounces (110 grams, or about 15) cherry tomatoes
- 0.07 ounces (2 grams) flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
- 2.1 ounces (60 grams) prosciutto di Parma
- Put the rice in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl and rinse with cold water until the water in the bowl is mostly clear. Drain the rice and add it to a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid along with 1 1/2 cups of cold water.
- Bring the water to a boil, lower the heat to low and cover with a lid. Set a timer for 15 minutes (do not open the lid during this time). When the timer goes off, turn off the heat and let the rice steam undisturbed for another 10 minutes.
- While you're waiting for the rice to cook, dissolve the salt in the white balsamic vinegar (you can heat it for a few second in the microwave to make this easier). Once the salt is dissolved, add the olive oil and whisk to combine.
- When the rice is done, dump it into a large bowl and pour the vinegar mixture over the rice. Use a spatula to fold the vinegar in without mashing the grains of rice. Use a fan to quickly cool the rice while you're mixing it. This is the key to getting sushi rice that is very shiny.
- When the rice is at room temperature, fold in the basil and fennel leaves.
- To plate, mound the rice on a large platter, and then top with the cherry tomatoes, parsley and prosciutto.
Yield: 4 servings
Marc Matsumoto is a culinary consultant and recipe repairman who shares his passion for good food through his website norecipes.com. For Marc, food is a life long journey of exploration, discovery and experimentation and he shares his escapades through his blog in the hopes that he inspires others to find their own culinary adventures. Marcs been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and has made multiple appearances on NPR and the Food Network.