Let me first apologize to those sushi purists out there who object to anything rice-free being called sushi (which literally means “vinegared rice,” not “ground nut and vegetable thing”). I am sincerely sorry. Second, let me apologize to those raw purists for calling this dish “raw” even though the recipe calls for a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil and nori, which is lightly toasted as well. I thought I could sneak it past everyone, but in the interest of full disclosure, I thought I would just come out with it (any true raw purists out there who know whether either of these ingredients is actually forbidden? I would actually love to know). I have to confess as well that this was not my genius idea, but a treat I have enjoyed several times at the Living Zen Organics Cafe at the Detroit Zen Center — a place I’ve praised here before, and one I’ve included in my “Delectably Free Faves.” Being a frequent visitor of the cafe whenever I am back in Michigan, I have had the privilege of being able to study their raw sushi enough to pay homage to it with a version that is somewhat distinct in flavor and texture, but still quite good. In fact, Gennaro, my harshest taste-tester (by default, really, because he is the only person who samples all the meals I make before posting them here), gave this dish a “very good,” which translates to two thumbs up from him (I’ve learned to decode his comments after years of experience, being that he is un-critical by nature, which has proven to be both a blessing and a curse).
This dish also seems like an appropriate continuation of the holiday detox theme. This is a carb-free sushi that provides several health benefits from walnuts, which are high in fiber (a must for any successful detox), vitamin E (good for the brain and the immune system) and omega-3 fatty acids (also good for brain health and immune function, as well as well as beneficial for cardiovascular health). Sunflower seeds, as well, are a great source of vitamin E. They are also high in magnesium (good for bone health and for regulating nerves) and selenium, which contains cancer-fighting and detoxifying properties. Add vegetables and nori, which is rich in potassium and iron, and you have one delicious, super-healthy meal, appetizer or snack. This sushi is also a great way to get a picky eater to eat nuts, I might add, as they are ground up and seasoned, making them virtually unidentifiable in the dish.
Raw Vegan Sushi:
Yield: 4 rolls
4 sheets sushi nori
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup raw walnuts, soaked for 3 hours, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon reduced sodium wheat free tamari or coconut amino
3 scallions, chopped, white part only (use rest for garnish)
3 tablespoons – 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 large carrot, julienned
1/2 large cucumber, julienned
1 avocado, sliced
1 teaspoon wasabi paste, plus more for serving
1. In a blender, combine sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame oil, tamari, scallions, water and sea salt until fairly smooth, but with some texture remaining (but not large chunks). This process may take some coaxing with a spoon, and you may add more water as needed.
2. Spread about 1/4 of the nut mixture over 3/4 of the sheet of nori, leaving open space at the end of one side of the sheet. Using your fingers, spread about a 1/4 teaspoon of the wasabi paste about 1/4 inch away from the edge of the clean end, making a thin layer which will be used to seal the end of the nori after the sushi has been rolled. Place some julienned vegetables and sliced avocado on the end with the nut mixture, and, tucking the vegetables in with your fingers, tightly roll the sushi (special sushi tools, I’ve found, are handy for this but not necessary), pressing down on the nori as you go. When rolled, press the end of the nori down slightly with finger to seal.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with remaining nori, nuts and vegetables.
4. Cut sushi into equal-sized pieces using a sharp knife (serrated is best). Serve with additional wasabi, pickled ginger and wheat-free tamari sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.