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The Vegetarian

Vegetable Sushi for the Holiday Dieter

December 17, 1987|DIANA SHAW | Shaw is free-lance writer in Los Angeles.

It takes more than a few hearty holiday meals to spoil my appetite. But that's about all it takes to ruin the effect of the clothes I bought to wear to the season's social events. So, between feasts, I'm stuck trying to satisfy my hunger without stressing my seams.

Enter vegetable sushi: crunchy carrots and cucumbers with creamy avocado and tofu, nestled in pungent rice, rolled in crispy-sea-salty nori, and dipped in a tangy sauce. It's one "diet" dish that doesn't smack of deprivation. And it compensates for vitamins displaced by other holiday treats.

Sushi-making is time consuming, especially on the first try, so set aside at least an hour and a half for it. A lightly dressed spinach salad and a clear vegetable broth garnished with green onions, thinly sliced mushrooms and tiny tofu cubes make good companion dishes.

VEGETABLE SUSHI

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups hot, cooked short grain rice

3 sheets toasted nori

1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder diluted with water according to package directions, optional

3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

3 green onions, diced

8 ounces firm or nigari tofu, sliced into thin strips

1/2 ripe avocado, thinly sliced

1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

Dipping Sauce

Combine rice vinegar and sugar in large bowl. Using wooden spoon, transfer rice into bowl 1 large spoonful at time. Using 1 hand, stir each rice spoonful to coat with vinegar dressing, while using other hand to fan rice with wooden paddle, paper bag or fan. Continue to transfer, stir and fan, until all rice has been blended and cooled.

Place 1 sheet nori on larger sheet wax paper. Place 1/3 rice in center of nori (wetting hands first will facilitate handling) and spread evenly over surface, leaving margin at top. Sprinkle surface with 1/3 sesame seeds and 1/3 green onions.

About 1 inch above lower edge, use pastry brush to spread stripe of wasabi width of nori. Place tofu strips over wasabi stripe, running width of nori. Lay strips of avocado on top of tofu. Next to avocado and tofu, place strips of carrot, topped with strips of cucumber.

Begin rolling sheet of wax paper tightly, using paper to bind ingredients inside nori, while making sure paper does not get caught in roll. When roll is finished, set on cutting board. (If roll hasn't sealed properly, wet finger and run along open edge, then press closed). Seal side down, use a dampened knife to trim off ends, then slice into 6 equal parts.

Repeat procedure with remaining 2/3 ingredients. Serve sushi with Dipping Sauce. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Note: Nori is seaweed, available at most Asian markets and many gourmet and health food stores. Wasabi, fiery horseradish mustard, is available at Asian markets, specialty and health food stores. Nigari tofu is an extra-firm tofu available at most health foods stores

Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sugar

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 inch ginger root, grated

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Combine soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, ginger root and sesame seeds. Let stand, refrigerated, at least 1 hour.

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