About 6 or 7 years ago, Scott and I made reservations at a fancy-schmancy restaurant in Milford (near where we were living at the time), and were sorely disappointed. "We can do better than this!" we thought.
So we did.
We started making our own specialty dishes for Valentine's Day. We'd do surf and turf, Chicken Cacciatore (the first meal Scott ever cooked for me in college), rack of lamb, and all sorts of cool stuff - none of which was disappointing because we researched and cooked each dish with care.
Some years ago, Food Network did a bunch of specials on how to make one's own sushi! We were especially enamored with Alton Brown's lessons - all of which were downloadable to watch and re-watch. Scott got even more instructional DVDs for us, and I got him an expensive sushi knife for the prior Christmas.
Sushi requires a lot of care and precision balanced with creativity and love of all aspects of food: the appearance, taste, smell, texture, and even sound.
It was the perfect way to celebrate our own love. :)
Since then, it's been our Valentine's Day tradition to spend hours making sushi together. We make our own sticky rice (occasionally with mixed results, but still sushi-useable), we select a few sashimi*-grade cuts a few days before, a bunch of vegetables, and make sure we have enough nori (the black wrapper part that's really algae, not "seaweed" like most people say), and enough Asian condiments (usually not a problem in our house).
This year we got tuna (ok, we always get tuna because it's Scott's favorite, and I love it - and he makes a DAMNED good spicy tuna mix!) and salmon, which I recently discovered to be one of my favorite sashimi fish.
The rice takes 45 minutes in the rice cooker, which is when we prepare the fish and vegetables. Scott removed all of the uneven ends of the tuna and salmon so we had perfect rectangles to cut from.
Then he chopped both and made a spicy tuna mix (YUM!!) and a sesame-teriyaki salmon mix (YUM!!).
Then he mandolined or sliced the vegetables as appropriate.
(I take sous chef position on sushi-making because he's rather protective of his sushi knife… and me when it comes to the mandolin. I stirred, retrieved stuff, and moved stuff to plates. I also made tea and miso soup.)
After that, the rice needs to be cooled and mixed with vinegar, mirin, and other stuff to make it extra sticky. (I'm not going into a lot of detail on this because we really just play around - and there are now plenty of other great resources on how to properly make sushi on the Internet.)
Once everything is ready to go, we start putting stuff together. Since I wanted pictures for the blog, Scott put together some step by step photos of making nigiri - the simplest kind of sushi: a cut of fish on a "finger" of sticky rice with some wasabi between.
The other kinds of sushi we make are maki, which is the roll-up inside the nori. We also do hand-rolls, where you make a cone of sushi. And, once we are too tired and too full to make more, we do "scattered" sushi, which is "wipe out your miso soup bowls, throw in the rest of the rice, veggies, and chopped up fish; eat with chopsticks while watching television (Castle and Supernatural this year) and drinking wine. (Normally sake, but dry Prosecco is also a good match for sushi, and we had leftover from breakfast's bellinis.)
And, of course, any sushi day would be incomplete without cute pix of Nylis begging for fish.
Even with - nay, because of - all the steps, sushi-making is a great date. You work together and share each other's creations… with a lot of laughter. Do a little research and try a sushi date, yourself! Maybe you'll find a new Valentine's Day tradition you both can enjoy.
* For non-foodie readers, "sashimi" is Japanese for the raw fish that can be eaten by itself or as part of sushi. Sushi is the item of food mixing raw (and occasionally cooked) fish with raw (and occasionally steamed) vegetables and sticky rice.