The Food Column: Sushi making a tricky, sticky art

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Two upcoming cooking classes promise culinary adventures -- one with a fish theme, in keeping with all the fishy stories in this week's section, and a second for the meat eaters among us.

Sushi making: Chef Gaynor Grant demonstrates several types of sushi, including California, tuna sashimi and shrimp avocado rolls, plus dumpling soup, spring rolls with rice paper and fried egg rolls.

"It's very much a basic class" for the novice sushi maker, Ms. Grant said.

"They say it takes 15 years to make an expert sushi maker," she added. "We won't get people that far in four hours, but at least we'll whet your appetite."

Part of the reason sushi is so tricky, she said, is because you have to get the rice "not too sticky but sticky enough."

The class will discuss why you must use short-grain sushi rice, how to use nori sheets, how various types of sushi evolved from a historical perspective, and other topics. See one of Ms. Grant's sushi recipes at the end of this column.

The class will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at Gaynor's School of Cooking on the South Side. Cost is $95. Registrations will be accepted through tomorrow at gaynorsschoolofcooking.com (assuming the class has not yet reached its maximum capacity of 12 students). For information: 412-325-2703.

Whole Hog Dinner: You'd better not be squeamish if you sign up for this dinner. Marty's Market is repeating an event first held a couple months ago -- a combination butchering demo and five-course dinner.

Steve Beachy, butcher at Marty's, will start out with a hog that has been scalded and split in half; from there, he'll demonstrate the remainder of the butchering process. Oliver Griswold, owner of North Woods Ranch (nwoodsranch.com) in Marshall, will speak about the hogs he raises -- including the hog for this dinner -- in pesticide-free, synthetics-free range conditions.

Marty's staff will complement the meat with side dishes.

The dinner, which is BYOB, will be held 4 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at Marty's Market in the Strip District. Cost is $85. Registration is required at martysmarket.com.

Classes/demos

Meanwhile, here are a couple more cooking classes and demos:

Wexford Event: Demos of mac 'n' cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches using Wexford, a storied Irish cheese. Two shows: 7 p.m. tonight at McGinnis Sisters Monroeville with an appearance by Adrian Hurrell of Ireland's Coombe Castle Creamers, the cheesemaker; free admission. Also 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 13, at McGinnis Sisters Mars with cheese samples and beer pairings; $15 admission. Reservations for March 13: 724-779-1212 ext. 209.

Syrian cooking: Chef Leila Khalil prepares traditional Syrian fare in demos at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. Free with museum admission, but registration is required by calling 412-454-6373 or by e-mailing serooney@heinzhistorycenter.org with your name, phone number and the time of the session you would like to attend.

Charitable

Soup Take Out: Wedding soup, ham and bean soup, and New England clam chowder for $5 per quart. Place orders by today; then pick them up from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Sisters of St. Francis, 3603 McRoberts Road, Whitehall.

On the air

"Cookspeak": Chef Tom Totin hosts a weekly Sunday podcast from Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip District. This Sunday from 11 a.m. to noon, he features Pittsburgh native Casey Barber, author of a new cookbook, "Classic Snacks Made from Scratch." She'll also sign copies of her book that morning at the Market. The podcast can be found at talkshoe.com.

Selling out

Restaurant liquidation: Equipment and furniture from Elements Contemporary Cuisine in Gateway Center, Downtown, will be sold at auction at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 9, at the site of the former restaurant. For inventory list, photos and information: fhfall.com.

Share a kitchen

La Dorita in Sharpsburg offers a kitchen-share program for those starting artisanal food businesses. The licensed kitchen has a six-burner range with standard oven, convection oven, refrigerator, freezer, stainless steel work tables and a prep sink. Kitchen rental rates are $20 per hour for between one and 10 hours per month, or cheaper if you book more hours per month. Information: 412-307-3052.

Contests

Cookbook writing: You've always wanted to write a cookbook? This could be your chance. The Lisa Ekus Group, a culinary agency, is seeking new talent through a Twitter contest. Pitch your best culinary nonfiction ideas to @SallyEkus via 140-character (or fewer) tweets to #SignMeSal between Monday and Wednesday, March 11-13. Next Thursday, March 14, finalists will be chosen to participate in the "playoffs," and entries will be whittled from there in a March Madness-type format. The last two finalists will join a March 25 Twitter chat with a literary agent to determine the winner, who will be announced on March 27. For rules: lisaekus.com.

Biscuit Bake Off: Before April 22, send in your best biscuit recipe for a chance to compete in the International Biscuit Festival's Bake Off on May 18 in Knoxville, Tenn. Categories: sweet, savory, special and student (ages 18 and younger). Applications are available at biscuitfest.com.



Smoked salmon roll

  • 2 cups Japanese sushi rice

  • 2 cups water

  • 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

  • 6 sheets nori (dry seaweed)

  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced

  • 1 cucumber, peeled and sliced

  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, cut into long strips

  • 2 tablespoons wasabi paste

Cook rice in water. Immediately after rice is cooked, mix rice vinegar into the hot rice. Spread rice on a plate until completely cool.

Place 1 sheet of seaweed on bamboo mat; press a thin layer of cool rice on the seaweed. Leave at least 1/2-inch top and bottom edges of the seaweed uncovered. This is for easier sealing later.

Dot some wasabi on the rice. Arrange cucumber, avocado and smoked salmon on the rice, positioning about 1 inch away from the bottom edge of the seaweed. Slightly wet the top edge of the seaweed. Roll tightly from the bottom to the top edge with the help of the bamboo mat.

Cut roll into 8 equal pieces and serve. Repeat for remaining rolls. Makes 8 rolls.

-- Gaynor's School of Cooking

recipes - foodcolumn

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


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