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Guest Chef George Tarrosa

'Tis the season to depart from this feature’s usual format in order to present the preparation of a perfect holiday party appetizer in the detail that it deserves.
Image of Chef George Tarrosa
Melissa’s Stir Fry Veggie Roll was created exclusively for Melissa’s by Chef George Tarrosa, executive chef of Tsunami Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar in Huntington Beach, California.Chef George's sushi roll recipe is a relatively simple, non-intimidating introduction to the preparation of this traditional Japanese delicacy. We highly recommend this dish to the novice sushi roll maker – you will be amazed at the results!

The chef replaces two of the usual components associated with this cuisine that may have caused a few to shy away from this cuisine, raw fish and seaweed. Instead this inventive chef creates a stir-fry of fresh vegetables wrapped in soy paper that has been encrusted with tempura flakes. The roll itself is as elegant looking as it is tasty. In fact, if the culinary truth be known, this is one of those rare recipes that will produce an expertly finished look that appears much more difficult to accomplish than it actually is. A little secret that we shall keep in the kitchen!

While relatively simple to prepare, this is a recipe that does require a little organization. Chef George lays out clear preparation instructions for each component of his roll – sushi rice, tempura flakes, candied carrots and the stir-fry vegetable mixture. Allow plenty of time to cook and cool each. Sushi is the perfect party appetizer since it can be done several hours ahead of time, stored on trays in the refrigerator and then brought back to room temperature just before serving. Be sure to make plenty! The writer witnessed a platter (50) of these tasty rolls disappear in approximately eight minutes by a very small group of grazing guests!

The recipe may look complicated, but it is really just a series of very simply preparations of each component of the roll. Once done, it’s just a matter of staging them around a cutting board in the order each will be used for easy construction. Have an empty serving tray ready to fill as each slice of roll comes off your one-person assembly line. You will find that the roll assembly will go quite as you begin to master the use of the sushi mat. As usual the recipe text is provided at the end of this article; we also thought it would be helpful to review the major steps of the rolling making, shot while Chef George made them at a recent produce industry food show:

First, cover the soy paper with a layer of rice by kneading the sticky grain until it sticks to the entire surface of the square. Tip: wet your hands before handling the rice so it sticks to the soy paper and not your hands. In the center of this square of rice place a line of avocado slices, layered with a line of candied carrots and then layered again with the stir-fry vegetable mix.

Using the sushi mat as support, carefully roll this square of layered ingredients into itself and squeeze tightly to bond it into a seamless cylinder.

Roll each log in the tempura flakes, then cut into eight equal slices. Tip: wet the knife blade like you did your hands, to insure a clean slice so that the side cut of each component is clearly visible in the center of each roll.

For this writer, this was a whole new experience. So I found Chef George’s recipe to be both instructive as well as a whole lot of fun! If the recipe is followed carefully, stage-by-stage, the results will be a surprisingly professional-looking sushi platter that will seem so very simple to prepare in hindsight. And once you experience how easy sushi making really is, you will no doubt want to try combining other ingredients and sauces.

As one always looking for new ideas to try in my own kitchen, Chef George’s recipe perked my culinary curiosity and I tried my hand at several other classic sushi roll preparations. Armed with a sushi mat and quality short-grained sushi rice, I have discovered a new world of tasty apps ranging from spicy hot to refreshingly light that have only been around for thousands of years! The Japanese culture evolved this appetizer from a way of preserving fish into the art form it is today, focused on capturing maximum flavor in a single bite. So for that next holiday gathering, try Chef Georges version of this ancient cuisine that can still fill a modern party platter with artful elegance and flavors that have pleased guests for centuries.

Melissa’s Stir Fry Veggie Roll
By Chef George Tarrosa
Makes 8 rolls (64 pieces)
Image of Melissa’s Stir Fry Veggie Roll
8 sheets Soy Paper (Sesame seeds optional)
2 cups uncooked Sushi Rice (4 cups cooked):
½ cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 whole ripe, organic avocadoes, halved, sliced and peeled
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil for stir frying
2 onions, Maui Onions, julienne
2 med. organic green zucchini, julienne
1 organic red bell pepper, julienne
1 organic yellow bell pepper, julienne
1 organic green bell pepper, julienne
5 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, julienne
2 fresh King Oyster mushrooms, julienne (sub 5 white button mushrooms)
40 candied carrots:
40 each Melissa’s sweet baby carrots
½ cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, rough chopped
Fried tempera batter flakes (option: Panko crumbs)
Store bought box tempera mix Vegetable oil for frying

To Prepare Sushi Rice:
Rinse uncooked rice 3 times, place in bowl and cover with cold water about one inch above rice and let sit for 45 minutes. While the rice is soaking, mix ½ cup rice vinegar and 2 Tbsp. sugar together and stir till dissolved. Set aside. Drain excess water from rice, place in pot on stovetop or rice cooker, and add cold water about one-half inch above the rice. Stove top: Cook on low temp until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off heat, move pot off burner and let sit 10 minutes. Uncover, drizzle the vinegar mixture over cooked rice and fluff and fold gently, do not mix. Repeat until rice is room temperature. Rice Cooker: Cook according to instructions and drizzle the vinegar mixture over cooked rice and fluff and fold gently, do not mix. Repeat until rice is room temperature.

To Prepare Tempera Flakes:
Using a pre-made tempera mix, follow package directions. Slowly ladle batter into hot oil (375 degrees), in thin streams. Wait for batter to bubble about 20-30 seconds then turn over carefully; cook another 20-30 seconds then remove with slotted spoon. Place tempera on an absorbent paper towel, let cool and then crush into small flakes. Repeat until you have about 1 cup tempera flakes. (ready made substitute is Panko crumbs.)
Image of sushi roll assembly
To Prepare Candied Carrots:
Place baby sweet carrots into medium pot and add water to cover. Add ½ cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. rough chop fresh ginger, cook on medium heat until carrots are tender. Set aside and let cool. Remove excess liquid and ginger.
Image of sushi roll assembly
To prepare Stir Fry Vegetables:
Heat up large wok or skillet. Add 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil and toss all vegetables. Sauté until lightly brown. See aside and let cool slightly to touch.
Image of sushi roll assembly
To assemble roll:
Place soy paper flat on a sushi mat. Cover entire surface of soy paper with a thin layer of sushi rice. In middle of rice, place avocado slices end to end in a one inch row. Then layer the carrots on top of the avocado, about 4 pieces across, then top with stir fry veggies. Picking up the top end, bring the wrap over the vegetables, and tuck in, then finish rolling entire roll until completely wrapped. Remove from Sushi mat and place on cutting board. Sprinkle with tempera flakes... Cover with plastic wrap and press the flakes into the roll using the sushi mat. With plastic wrap still in place, cut roll into 8 even pieces. Remove plastic and place on serving dish. Top with teriyaki sauce. Optional garnish: Roasted sesame seeds.

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