One summer in college I shared an apartment with my boyfriend and several of his friends. Living with 3 college-aged men was not as challenging or disgusting (minus a very contained experiment in the bathroom I will not go in to) as one might anticipate. For the most part they were all fairly neat, everyone paid their bills on time and all were oddly domestic. Everyone took turns cooking dinner. And the dinners were affairs. We cooked dinner. It took several hours, it involved numerous courses. Thanks to my roommate Luke’s discovery, often we would crawl up a chute, out a window and enjoy those dinners on the roof of our 4-plex over-looking downtown North Bennington, Vermont, which if you have ever travelled to North B know consists of an intersection with a stop sign. But it is quaint and it looks like Vermont.
Dinner became pretty multi-cultural affairs in that apartment; J.P. grew up in Belguim, Andy’s dad was from Greece, Luke’s parents were from Japan, and then there was me. Luke, of course, made the most interesting dinners. It wasn’t sushi and it certainly wasn’t on the menu at Bennihanna. He made dishes his mother made which I’ll dare to call Japanese comfort food by way of the many other influences of Flushing, Queens, where he grew up. Luke could cook. And we became those people, the ones that buy the kitty litter sized bag of rice so large you cannot put it on a shelf; you must stack it in a corner like a piece of furniture. Luke even took a trip to New York specifically to get the rice and a few other staples. Oddly he seemed surprised that he missed these things. I can’t speak for Luke but I know his relationship with his parents was strained at the time. I suspect that by simply cooking, he was finding that perhaps they had more in common than he thought and actually missed them. You could see it in his face and you could hear it when he described what we were going to eat. He wasn’t just cooking dinner.
One weekend Andy, Luke and I decided to take a road trip to Burlington to visit Andy’s sister. Prior to leaving Luke surprise packed us some snacks for the road. We started our trip up Route 7. I remember this trip well. I drove; Andy entertained us with Bible tales from the perspective of a young man who would eventually get a PhD in folklore. It was fascinating and Luke passed out snacks from the back seat; onigiri (or rice balls). Luke’s were a little smaller than a tennis ball and they were fully covered in nori and perfectly shaped. Luke explained that this is what his mother would pack for road trips; the insides are a surprise but were usually filled with fairly common ingredients, like tuna fish or vegetables with soy sauce. I don’t think Andy or I had ever been so charmed by a snack. We ate them all almost immediately, curious to find out what was in the center.
You can put whatever you like in the center and take them on your next road trip.
Avocado Onigiri - makes about 10
4 cups cooked sushi rice
1/2 of an avocado, sliced in to 1/2” pieces, run under cold water and patted dry
2 sheets of toasted nori, cut in to 1/2” strips
2 tablespoons Kewpie mayo
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
Stir the ginger into the mayonnaise. Prepare a wide bowl full of salted water, this is for your hands so the rice doesn’t stick to them. Place a 12” x 12” piece of cling wrap in the center of a small bowl with it. Sprinkle in some sesame seeds. Grab a golf ball sized amount of rice, shape it in to a ball and flatten it and place it in the bowl. Put two 1/2” avocado slices in the center and a small dot of the mayonnaise. Grab a tablespoon amount of the rice and put it on top of the filling. Pull up the sides of the cling wrap and shape the contents into a ball. Remove. Get your fingers wet in the water and drip a little on to the nori strip then make a belt around the rice ball with the nori. Repeat.