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Strawberry sushi

I’ve been entertaining the idea of this recipe in my head for ages. Long before berry season I dreamed of these little bite-sized treats and couldn’t wait for my favorite fruit to ripen so that I could make these over and over throughout the warmer months. Strawberries have been tasting sweet and ripe for a few weeks now, but for some reason I’ve had a really hard time getting myself to finally make this recipe that I so longed for all winter.

Strawberry Sushi

What it took was a visit from a far-flung friend. Hannah of Wayfaring Chocolate has been staying with me for the Atlanta leg of an epic travel adventure/ global slumber party that she’s about 10 months into now. It has been so much fun to spend time with someone that before only existed in pictures and writing. Blogging is so wonderful in that it has allowed me to create many such friendships with kindred spirits I might never have had the chance to meet in “real life” otherwise. And now that she’s in my house, I must look productive! Cook all the things!

Strawberry Sushi

We both enjoyed sampling these sweet little strawberry sushi. The rice is just lightly sweetened with sugar and zinged up with the subtle tartness of fresh lemon juice and zest. The texture of the thinly sliced strawberry on top is strangely but appropriately reminiscent of fresh sushi-grade fish – firm but giving way to softness and a burst of bright flavor.

Strawberry sushi

A simple to make sushi featuring fresh strawberries pressed into balls of lightly sweetened sushi rice.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Makes 12 to 14


  • 1/2 cup short grain rice (sushi rice)
  • the zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 5 or 6 medium-sized strawberries
  • black sesame seeds for garnish if desired

Cooking Directions

  1. Prepare the rice: Rinse rice under cool water until water runs clear. If using a rice cooker, follow the instructions for making one cup of rice using the provided measuring cup.
  2. For stovetop rice: Rinse 1/2 cup of rice and bring to a boil with 3/4 cup of water in a medium sauce pot. As soon as water boils, turn heat down to lowest setting and place the lid on the pot. Allow rice to cook on lowest setting for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to continue steaming for an additional 10 minutes. Do not remove lid at any time during cooking or steaming.
  3. Transfer rice to a dish and fluff it with a rice paddle or spatula using cutting and folding motions.
  4. Add zest, juice, and sugar and incorporate using the same cutting and folding motions.
  5. Slice strawberries into thin slices. Place a slice in the center of a sheet of plastic wrap and top with a small ball of rice. It helps to dip your hands in water before handling the rice to keep it from sticking as much.
  6. Pull the plastic wrap up around the ball of rice and twist to form a tightly packed ball. Repeat until all the rice is used.
  7. Brush the top of each strawberry with a lemon wedge and sprinkle over sesame seeds to garnish.

These sushi are extremely easy to make. They are made in the temari-zushi style where all the ingredients are compacted into a little ball shape that is meant to resemble an object of Japanese folk art. A temari is a toy ball covered in ornate patterns of colorful thread and sometimes scraps of luxurious kimono fabric. These days, this intricately crafted object is much more art than toy – a collectible piece made by talented artisans while the toy versions are mass produced out of less expensive materials.

Strawberry Sushi

I use the plastic wrap method to make them. Just lay down a square of plastic wrap, place a slice of strawberry (or whatever topping you’re in the mood for) in the center of the plastic, add a small handful of rice, and then twist the plastic wrap up around it to compact the whole thing together. You can use as much or as little rice as you prefer. It helps to keep them bite-sized so that you can pop the whole thing in your mouth in one bite and not have to worry about them falling apart upon biting into them. If you make it too big, just pinch off a bit of rice and twist the temari back together again.

Strawberry Sushi

Hannah and I both loved these, and I was inspired to try out another long-dreamed-about recipe with her yesterday which also turned out delicious but needs a bit of tweaking before I can debut it here. Her visit is coming to an end soon (sadness!) but we’ve managed to cram in tons of great food memories that I’ll share with you soon too. Making food with friends is so much more fun!

Have you ever made sushi at home?

What flavor dessert sushi would you make?



What we ate in Boulder: part 2

Whew! The wedding was this past weekend and now I can finally say that I’m done with cake decorating for a while (I have another one to do in September.) I’ll show you the week-long process I went through to make it next time, but for now let’s wrap up our Boulder vacation with more delicious food!

If you know me, you know that I love Japanese food. Every time we go on vacation I try to find the best sushi restaurant in the area for us to try. This time, I found two that I could not choose between, so we went to both!

First up was Amu Izakaya. An izakaya is a casual restaurant that focuses on sake and beer with an extensive menu of small dishes, few of them being what most people would consider sushi.

Amu Izakaya

We started off with a small bottle of sake which was served to us in this gorgeous earthenware pottery. Now I really want one of these for the house!

Sake at Amu

We ordered lots of small dishes to share, starting with a fluke sashimi and snapper carpaccio in yuzu cream with salmon roe. I’d never had fluke before but loved the clean lemony flavor. The snapper was soft and bright-tasting.

Fluke sashimi at AmuRed snapper carpaccio at Amu

We had two kinds of Pacific oysters, one was Kumamoto but I can’t remember the name of the other. Both were excellent and still chilly on their bed of ice. We also shared some grilled eel with the skin still on. It was fatty and soft and delicious.

Oysters at AmuGrilled eel at Amu

Then our favorites of the night, gindara misoyaki and a green tea soba with duck soup for dipping. Gindara (black cod) is my very favorite fish but I can rarely find it anywhere to prepare at home, so it’s become a treat I just have to have anytime we see it on the menu. This one was fall-apart perfect with it’s little ribbon of crispy skin and thin salty miso glaze.

The duck soup was out of this world with big chunks of duck floating in the rich broth. The soba were cold and springy, chewy and sweet. Easily the best soba dish I’ve ever had.

Black cod misoyaki at AmuDuck soba at Amu

Finally, dessert. I’ve had mochi ice cream once before and didn’t care for it. Apparently I just had a bad one, because these little mochi ice creams were so addictingly good! There was only a thin skin of mochi incasing the creamy, not-too-cold ice cream in flavors of green tea, red bean, and pistachio. The pistachio was the clear winner for both of us.

green tea, sakura blossom, and pistachio mochi ice creams

Amu is the kind of authentic izakaya experience I wish we had in Atlanta. There are a few very good ones in Atlanta, but none as classy and traditional as Amu. Definitely check this one out if you have the chance.

Before I show you yet more Japanese food, here’s a few shots of one of the best lunches we had on the trip at a Latin restaurant called Aji.

duck taquitos, ceviche, and pork empanadas

We decided to share a bunch stuff because there were too many yummy things on the menu to choose from. We had a snapper ceviche with pickled red onions, a pork empanada with a corn masa crust, and duck taquitos with a spicy slaw. All of these were excellent and we had a hard time deciding wether to order something else or just get more of these!

We did eventually decide to split the enchiladas though, and it was definitely the right choice. They were filled with crisp grilled vegetables and topped with the freshest guacamole, salsa, and thin tomatoey enchilada sauce. I could have eaten ten of these if I weren’t so stuffed.

Enchiladas at Aji

And onward to our sushi dinner! We hit up Sushi Tora after reading many reviews claiming that it’s the best sushi in Boulder

We started with the tempura mushrooms that were amazing. There were shiitakes, oyster, and a few enoki mushrooms, all lightly fried and served with bitter green tea for dipping. I could not stop eating them. Usually mushrooms soak up too much oil when fried, but these were still fresh and springy with a deep earthy flavor.

Mushroom tempura with green tea at Tora

We got two snapper nigiri in a yuzu pepper vinaigrette that were outstanding. And any time monkfish liver (ankimo) is on the menu we have to have some. This was a particularly good bit of it too, firm but creamy with a slight peanut butter flavor.

snapper with yuzu at ToraMonkfish liver at Sushi Tora

Various maki rolls that were all really tasty and cut to the correct size. I have a pet peeve about sushi that is prepared too large to be eaten in one bite. Very happy to be able to inhale these as intended. 😉

Maki rolls and yellowtail nigiri at Tora

Jeff got an uni gunkan. I can’t stand the stuff. I used to try it every time we went out for sushi hoping that I just hadn’t had the good stuff yet, but it always makes me gag. Tastes like ice cold runny peanut butter and fish flavored snot if you ask me.

Uni at Tora

And because why not, more mochi ice creams! This time we got blueberry and salted cherry blossom. The blueberry was crazy good, and the cherry blossom tasted mostly like vanilla but with a faint almost rose-like aroma in the back of the throat.

Blueberry and sakura blossom mochi ice creams

Sushi Tora definitely lived up to the hype. So glad we were able to find two excellent Japanese restaurants in Boulder.

Well that wraps up the trip. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves a ton and really liked Boulder, but we didn’t quite fall in love with it the way we did with the Pacific Northwest. I happen to love rainy gloomy weather, so a city like Seattle is actually a good match for me. It’s kinda funny to say that I would miss the rain in such a sunny and beautiful place as Boulder, but that’s just what I like.

Ok! I cannot wait to show you the wedding cake process from last week. I’m still editing the photos from the wedding, but I should be able to show it all to you soon.

If you had to pack up your life and move to another city of your choosing, where would you go?


Honeymoon part 3: Kyoto food

It’s undeniable that Kyoto is beautiful, but we didn’t just sit around staring at mountains all day, we actually enjoyed some really great food and fun! In fact, I’d say Kyoto had the best food of the whole trip, even better than Osaka which is known for it’s food culture.

You wouldn’t know it by this weird breakfast though…

That was the first thing we ate in Kyoto and thankfully it wasn’t indicative of the food to come. We went to a little breakfast place near our rental home and couldn’t read a word on the menu so we just ordered the first thing on it. What we got was a hollowed out piece of toast filled with a salad on top of mashed potatoes! It was good but a very strange thing to have for breakfast.

The coffee was pretty good though. Love the teeny tiny cream pitcher!

We had a really amazing lunch in the Gion district. We passed a restaurant that smelled like toasted rice and couldn’t resist. This place specialized in cooking rice in donabe pots and serving with various accompaniments.

Jeff got ochazuke, which is rice with fish and tea poured over.

I had a creamy dish of tofu and wheat gluten with tempura vegetables on top. Meals are almost always served with various pickled and salted things to put on top.

We had amazing ramen in a bar in an alley along the river. Jeff got a pepperd one with chicken dumplings.

Mine was pretty standard pork ramen. I can’t express enough how delicious the eggs you get in a bowl of ramen are. The yolk is really salty, soft, and gelatinized. Tastes extremely chickeny.

Jeff had to try the raw egg rice bowl with salted kombu. He fell absolutely in love with it and I make it for him for breakfast sometimes.

Of course we had sushi. We got caught in the pouring rain and ducked into a sushi restaurant for a few hours while we waited for it to pass. Not a bad way to pass the time! And yes, you really can tell the difference in quality. Even the cheap sushi we had at chain restaurants in Japan was light years better than even the most expensive stuff in the states.

Speaking of sushi, it’s hard to decide what the best meal we had in Kyoto was, but the traditional Kyoto-style sushi at Izuju was definitely one of them.

There was sake, of course….

And hot, grassy green tea.

We ordered a combination of three Kyoto classics: inarizushi (rice wrapped in fried tofu skin), sabazushi (vinegared mackerel sushi wrapped in kombu), and the jewel bako (multi-colored box-pressed sushi.) Kyoto-style sushi is very distinct from sushi you typically think of. It usually has more rice, more vinegar, and these tightly molded shapes are very common.

This was the best bite, eel and tamago! I love the fluffy souffle-style tamago like this. I definitely prefer Kyoto-style sushi. Oishii!

The next contender for best meal was the sukiyaki we had in a restaurant on Pontocho. Pontocho runs along the river with the backs of all the restaurants lining the water and all the entrances facing a narrow lantern-lit alleyway full of energy.

We didn’t know what we wanted for dinner one night and being exhausted we just stumbled into the first restaurant we saw. We were led upstairs to a tatami room with low tables and pillows to sit on.

We started with a few appetizers. This one is tsukune, a grilled chicken skewer that you dip in raw egg. I didn’t really feel like the egg added anything, but I went with it.

We also had a bundle of tempura leeks with vinegar dipping sauce and seasoned salt that was spectacular.

The main course was beef sukiyaki. Raw beef slices, tofu, wheat gluten, vegetables, scallions and sauces are added to the tabletop stove and it cooks in less than 5 minutes!

I really don’t know how to put into words how good this was. And if that wasn’t enough, after we had eaten much of the sukiyaki, we were given some cooked udon noodles to soak up the rest of the delicious sauce!

We were forcing ourselves to keep eating this past fullness because it was just so incredible. While we were slurping up noodles, a pair of exquisite geisha entered the room to entertain a table of high-rollers. An agent caught me staring at the beautiful geisha and offered to let us meet them and have our picture taken!

We were very lucky to meet Ayano and Momiyuki, who are famous in Pontocho. We also got to meet the client they were entertaining, a famous shamisen player!

I will remember that night forever. We almost didn’t even go in that restaurant and if we hadn’t we would have missed out on that wonderful memory.

One thing I will never forget about Japan is the sweets. You couldn’t walk 10 steps in any direction without bumping into a bakery or sweet shop. I especially loved the delicate and expertly crafted little confections known as wagashi. This sweet red bean and flaky pastry wagashi was one of my favorites.

And I bought this box of soft mochi filled with sweet red bean and dusted with cinnamon on the way back down from Kiyomizu-dera with the intent of bringing some home. They barely lasted two days!

One thing I noticed about eating in Japan is that where a restaurant is located says almost nothing about the quality you’ll find there. We had some the best meals of the trip in subways!

This amazing lunch was had in the Kyoto subway station on our arrival and it was amazing. I had box-pressed sushi, noodles, tempura, and seaweed salad. The soba-cha, or buckwheat tea we were served was the most delicious tea I’ve ever encountered. I still dream about it.

Jeff got this huge tower of soba noodles with toppings and tempura and boiled vegetables. He actually ate all of it!

Upon leaving Kyoto to head back to Tokyo for the last few days of our trip, we stopped in another subway restaurant that we had heard a ton of buzz about: Tetsu.

Tetsu is a ramen joint but they do things a little differently. The noodles are served separate from the broth and you dip the noodles in it and slurp them up! There was a funny sign on the wall explaining just how to do it.

This was the richest, porkiest, most amazing ramen ever! There were huge chunks of pork belly in it and the noodles were topped with crunchy caramelized garlic. We made a mess slurping up all that porky goodness and washed it down with lots of beer.

OMG looking at all this again is making me drool. I still find myself daydreaming about some of this food from time to time.

Next up: Tokyo and the end of our trip!