Subscribe Now!
Listen to TK on Shuffler.fm

Quinoa Sushi, A Return

July 12th, 2012

Talk about a switching of gears. Like all vacations, short or long, mine came to an abrupt end following a luscious Sunday roast enjoyed in East London — my last stop before SFO. I have a terrible habit of counting down to the end of vacation, much like I do in anticipation of it. Four days before our trip was to come to a close, I had already begun to sing my sad song. Everything good seemed behind me, and I was already nostalgic for the shores of Scopello, the castle in Erice, and the streets of Siracusa. Even Palermo, which at first felt dirty and unkempt, made me swoon over its outdoor tables and music and buzzing scooters on a Saturday night.

Matt always says, “We’ve got plenty of trips ahead of us!” and I know he is right. But a small part of me knows that this is my last time in this place and I must cherish it with all of my being. I rarely return to places I’ve been. The world feels too big to go back for seconds. It’s been my mantra in life to always be moving forward. I’ve never returned to an old home, never gone back to an old job.

Sad as I was to see the trip I’d been dreaming of for months come to a close, I also hesitantly accepted that home isn’t such a terrible place. In fact, I stubbornly admitted to myself that there are actually a few things I like about going home, jetlag and all.

You might think that eating pasta and gelato twice a day might be Heaven on Earth. I won’t dissuade you, it is. But as much as I look forward to the food of vacation, I start looking forward to the food of home. My home. Where one street might be lined with any number of Japanese, French, Indian, Italian, American, and vegetarian restaurants. Much like Northern Italy, where I spent several months living and studying in college, Sicily is not a place to explore ethnic cuisine. The token Chinese restaurant in every large city is often the only ‘different’ choice outside of the traditional selection of trattorias, osterias, and pizzerias. And so, it’s no surprise that the foods I’ve been craving most the past few days are those of my country. A country whose very fabric is made of spices and herbs from distant lands all over the world.

When I first spotted Sarah’s quinoa sushi, I couldn’t stop looking at it. I wondered if the quinoa would take on the consistency of rice? If the rolls would fall apart? If the lack of raw fish would make this recipe a flop? Shortly before we headed off on vacation, we spent an evening with our hands. Mixing and rolling, tucking and dipping. The result, I might add, was nothing short of fantastic. The quinoa adds a new dimension to the traditional roll, the fresh veggies are refreshing, and it’s a perfectly filling meal.

Needless to say, I’ve missed this place. I’ve missed you guys! I’m excited to get back to writing, and I’m really, really looking forward to revisiting my trip and sharing photos and thoughts about Sicily with you. I don’t doubt that in months to come, you’ll see a lot of recipes here inspired by this jaunt.

Lastly, just a quick reminder that the July Pairings Box is available for sale until July 14th, after which you’ll no longer be able to purchase it. This one is close to my heart. The musical selection is fantastic (as is the mix). The recipes, as you’ll see, are pretty fitting. And the Premium ingredient is made by a husband-and-wife team at Just Cook, a fantastic spice company based in San Francisco. Their rubs are really, really great. Turntable Kitchen readers can claim a 20% discount on their Try All Six Pack by simply entering the code Turntable Kitchen upon checkout (the code is valid through August 30th, 2012). See you soon, friends!

Quinoa Sushi
*makes approximately 8 rolls
adapted from My New Roots

Note: If you’re new to making sushi, I’d recommend doing a quick Google search for how to roll sushi. There are lots of videos and step-by-step instructions that you might find helpful before you get started. 

For the quinoa dressing (Tezu):

2 tablespoons of brown rice vinegar
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of sea salt

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until you are ready to dress your quinoa.

For the quinoa sushi:

1 1/2 cups of quinoa (we used a combination of black and white quinoa)
3 cups of water
1 avocado
2-3 cucumbers
handful of radishes
lettuce leaves
Black and white sesame seeds, toasted
nori sheets

pickled ginger
soy sauce

1. Combine the quinoa and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil, then dial down the heat and simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes (or until all of the water has absorbed). When done, transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.
2. Slice all of your vegetables: slice the cucumber into very thin strips. Use a sharp knife or a mandoline to thinly slice the radishes. Slice the avocado. Lay out all of your vegetables on a cutting board near where you’ll be rolling the sushi.
3. Add the tezu to the slightly cooled quinoa and gently toss to coat. Then, let cool completely.
4. Once the quinoa has cooled, prepare your workspace: place a small bowl of water near your station; you’ll want to dip your hands in there as you work. Place the bowl of quinoa and vegetables next to you and prepare a cutting board on which you’ll roll the sushi.
5. Next, place a sushi mat on your cutting board. Top with a sheet of nori (shiny side down) almost to the edge of the mat that’s closest to you.
6. Dip your hands in the bowl of water and use them to take some quinoa from the bowl and evenly spread it over the nori. Leave a small border along the edge that is furthest from you.
7. Arrange the vegetables in a thin line running through the center of the mat. Place a leaf or two of lettuce over the quinoa first, then add a few slices of cucumber, radish, and avocado. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Be careful to not overfill, otherwise your roll will burst.
7. Holding the edge of the mat with your thumbs, lift it along with the filling and roll away from you. Hold the filling as you roll and gently pull the mat as you continue rolling. Once you have a neat roll, fold your hands over the mat to tighten the roll. Moisten the edge of the nori with water to seal.
8. Slide the roll off of the mat and use a very sharp to cut it into individual pieces.
9. Serve sushi alongside pickled ginger and soy sauce.

Musical Pairings: Peaking Lights – Lucifer + Quinoa Sushi

More on the Turntable.


  • http://londonbakes.blogspot.com Kathryn

    Welcome home, I can’t wait to hear more about your trip and see some of the no doubt beautiful images. One thing I always miss about London is the variety of food on offer – pretty much the first thing I do when I come back from being away is have a good Indian so I can completely understand the logic of this dish.

  • http://cookieandkate.com/ Cookie and Kate

    Welcome back! Home always seems a little sweeter after time away. I’m totally intrigued by quinoa sushi, sounds great!

  • Jeanine

    ha, sushi is the first thing I always eat when I come back from Italy.

    I countdown just like you do – It’s kind of a bummer but I can’t help myself. To not get sad in those last few days, I start talking about where we’re going to go to next. It drives my husband insane…

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    I also start talking about where we’re going next while I’m still on vacation! How funny. Life is sad without sushi ;)

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, lady! I remember you felt that way after NYC – it makes you appreciate the little things a little more. And the sushi is really, surprisingly good.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, friend! Big thanks to you (again) for the Indian food recs in London! We had so much fun exploring Shoreditch even though it was brief. We had some very good food there indeed!

  • kelsey

    Welcome home, lovely!

  • kelsey

    Welcome home, lovely!

  • Nicole

    Beautiful sushi! I made California rolls with my aunt once and it’s such fun to make. The quinoa twist is fantastic. Can’t wait to hear all about your trip!

  • kickpleat

    These rolls look amazing! I’ve never tried rolling my own sushi, but why not? I’ll totally give it a go. As for returning home, we just came back from a 3 week road trip through the states and I can tell you that as much as I loved our trip, coming home felt pretty great.

  • sarah kieffer

    I really liked this post. I am the opposite, so nostalgic, always wanting to go places twice, read things twice, live things twice. I want to take your approach on things, but it’s hard for me to let go! I appreciate people like you. ;)
    And I’m glad your trip was lovely. Can’t wait to see pictures! And hear stories.
    [and the rolls look incredible!]

  • sara

    welcome home. hoping to see pics! the sushi is so beautiful! Sushi has always seemed like a bit of a project but you make it look worth it

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, darling! It’s good to be back :)

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Love California rolls – but I’m kind of particular (I only eat them if they’re real crab!) Guess we’re spoiled in California :) The quinoa is surprisingly similar in texture to sushi rice, and so much more nutritious! I’m very slowly thinking about how I will share the trip :) xo

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    A big welcome home to you! I’m looking forward to catching up on your road trip and seeing what’s been cooking over on your blog. Sushi is so fun to make at home! We’ve gone the more traditional route (raw fish + rice) but it’s fun to step out of the comfort zone, too. Either way, it’s worth a try and it’s a great group activity, too.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    It’s funny how we all get set in our ways. I think there’s something really nice about knowing that someplace familiar will always make you happy, but I think I’m so much of a routine person at home, I like the adventure when it comes to travel. Maybe I should try your way sometime ;) I can’t wait to share!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, lovely! It’s somewhat of a project, but a fun one! One time we actually had a double date night making sushi and drinking sake – it was so fun, and totally worth the effort. xo

  • heather @ chiknpastry.com

    i agree 100% on the “moving forward”. we follow the same “belief”. – never want to go somewhere twice, never move back to a city we lived in before, blah blah. we decided we’d make 1 exception for italy, since we haven’t been since we met (and weren’t together at that point), but it’ll be a few years before we get to squeeze it back in.

    on another note, this sushi looks awesome, and i love the idea of quinoa in it. we will have to give this a try soon. can’t wait for july’s pairing box!

  • http://www.aidamollenkamp.com Aida Mollenkamp

    I too am really guilty of prematurely lamenting a vacation’s end but I agree that Italy can be seriously lacking in ethnic cuisine options! Definitely adding these rolls to the “to make” list.

  • http://www.kitchenkonfidence.com Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    LOVE this!!!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, Brandon!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    I’m always amazed to come home and discover just how many more food options we have here in California. It’s hard to impress when you come from a land of fresh produce, good seafood, and delicious wine!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    I think there’s always room for exceptions and I think when you find your happy place, you should absolutely make a point to return. :) While I’d never been to Sicily before, I’ve spent a lot of time in Italy. Something tells me, one day, I’ll be back there, despite my rules ;) I’m excited to hear what you think of the July Pairings Box! I’m really smitten with it.

  • Pingback: Today’s Dose of Lovely | The Spotted Fox

  • Pingback: Weekend Round-up!! « FreidaFroo

  • WithStyleGrace

    what a great idea!

  • Jess

    Welcome home! Just stopping by to get caught up. So much here had me
    nodding my head. I often think to myself when I’m traveling that I
    can’t wait to return to wherever I am — and then I find myself
    wondering, like you, if I will. The world is, well, a whole world, and
    so many corners of it call. It is nice, isn’t it, to imagine ourselves
    home in any number of places, if only for a little while? xo.

  • Rhiby

    I would eat sushi everyday if it was always made this way. Soo much better!

  • http://www.facebook.com/aunatureldesign Michaela Elizabeth

    GENIUS. Can’t wait to try these.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Wow, thank you Rhiby! I agree, this is much healthier.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, Lisa! Credit does go to Sarah, who came up with the fabulous twist!

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    Thanks, lovely! Whenever I visit new cities, I always spend some time imagining what it would be like to live there. I’ve been to a handful in the last few years that I really do think I could live in – at least for a while (Seattle, Portland, Lisbon, London come to mind). But, I take some satisfaction in also knowing there’s something special in leaving them behind. Hope you are having a grand summer! xo

  • Diana

    Such a fantastic take on sushi! I totally hear you about missing food from home when on vacation. There is so much great food all over Europe; but the diversity of food in places like NY and SF, where you can name any country and find its food in a few block radius, is what makes these cities feel like home. (I may not *need* Burmese/Afghan/Cuban/etc. on a regular basis, but knowing it’s just around the corner is comforting.) :)

  • http://www.xobreakfast.com noelle

    This has California summer written all over it. Coming home to that is not bad at all. ;) Welcome back!

  • Sarah Kenney

    I just made this quinoa sushi for my son. We all loved it. I couldn’t believe how much we didn’t miss the white rice. I was proud of him too for being open minded and moving away from the white rice. Welcome home. I love to travel. My feet hit the ground when we return and it’s not long before they want to be back on a plane again!

  • Lauren

    Technically this can’t be called sushi, as the term sushi refers to the vinegared rice.

  • Staci

    Made these tonight using sushi grade ahi tuna and Krab meat. They turned out wonderful! loved using quinoa in place of the rice. thanks for a great recipe…this will be made often! :)