When I was in college, at UCLA, Fridays were an extra-special day. Not because we broke for classes for the weekend; not because there was a football game (and tailgating) to look forward to the next day; not even because we would, in a few short hours, play Super Smash Bros. and then amble down to Westwood for late-night cheese wowshis from our beloved Bella Pita. Fridays were great because of the dining hall's weekly dinner specialty: the sushi bowl.
Sushi bowls represented resourcefulness at its finest, an artful assembling of leftovers greater than the sum of its parts (Thursdays were sushi night, as you might have guessed). Think: sticky rice doused with seasoned rice vinegar, salt, and a little sugar; steamed edamame; shredded carrot and cucumber; ribbons of pickled daikon; slivers of crunchy nori and a dusting of toasted sesame seeds; and—if you got there early—sliced avocado. It was all covered in spicy mayo and served with a sweet soy dipping sauce.
And though I'm not one to willingly eat rice (give me something bready or noodly any day), I've dreamt about that sushi bowl since the moment I graduated those hallowed halls. No matter how hard I try, I haven't been able to recreate the dish, with its impossibly delicious combo of crunchy, chewy, spicy, pickle-y, and fresh elements.
But I recently came very close, with a dish from Hetty McKinnon's beautiful new cookbook, Family: New Vegetarian Comfort Food to Nourish Every Day. The aptly named "Sushi Salad" (coined by McKinnon's kids, who are clearly on the same wavelength as me) has many of the same flavors and textures I love most about UCLA's dining-hall delicacy: the edamame, the toasty nori, the roasted sesame seeds, even the cucumbers and avocados, all on a bed of fluffy rice, with a super-creamy and funky miso dressing to top things off. Best part is, once the rice is cooked (and this can be done in advance, deeming this the ideal make-ahead meal), the whole dish takes about 10 minutes to put together. It's almost like I'm back at Rieber Hall.
And until I can make it back there, Sushi Salad is going to (happily!) take sushi bowl's place in my regular recipe lineup. Scroll down for Hetty McKinnon's brilliant recipe, along with 8 other tasty rice bowls you'll want to whip up each Friday—and every other day of the week.