It’s already May. Jeremy sweetly remembers to wish me a happy “I’m Glad I Met You” Day the first of every month and it always brings a smile to my face. But the first of May tugs at this place deep in my chest because I can’t help but count how many years it has been since my sister passed away. Twelve. It’s been twelve years. And I wondered if I should bother posting a photo of the flowers I buy for her on this day. Does anyone care? I don’t talk about Kris much with anyone anymore except for Jeremy and my mom. My emotions will catch me off guard sometimes – triggered by a story, a song, a photograph, a memory. It doesn’t matter if anyone else cares. I still care. I still miss her. These flowers are for Kris, but they are really for me. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it. I guess I don’t feel that I have to.
for kris, for me
Spring sprouts forth down yonder in Boulder – a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors on the ground and in the trees. I feel as if I’m emerging from that long slumber filled with dreams painted in whites, greys, and shadows. All signs point to GO. The anticipation for summer is high at our house, because we have big adventures planned for the little pup. I’ve got a few pages in my pocket notebook filled with the names of mountains and trails… places to take Neva on hikes, trail runs, and backpacks. We are excited and I think she might be, too, even if she doesn’t know it yet.
double plum blossoms
our new backpacking tent is neva-approved
But winter isn’t letting go in the mountains. The recent storms of April have been slow-moving, leaving some good snow in their wake. Every week we have gotten at least one if not three storms passing through the neighborhood. This is what February should have been, but the difference is that we have less wind in the springtime, so our backcountry is currently skiing like silk. I am thrilled. Jeremy is thrilled (sort of – he’s also impatient to resume trail running). Neva is over the moon.
we know better than to put our skis away before june
jeremy carves a sinusoid in the fresh snow
well that was super fun
There’s more snow on tap for Mother’s Day weekend, which isn’t really abnormal around here. Most of the last 11 years we’ve been in Colorado have had snow fall in May. The bigger issue is where to ski it. Of course, once the ski is over, the number one priority is what to eat because we’re usually famished. Typical après ski calorie bombs include burgers, pizza, or chili, but our favorite is most definitely sushi. Back in the day, that required a half hour drive down a curvy canyon road to a sushi bar. Now, however, we are more likely to make sushi at home with our expanded repertoire. The one thing I hadn’t tried making until now is the ever popular spider roll. For the uninitiated, a spider roll is a tempura-fried soft-shell crab roll. The fried little legs stick out at the ends of the roll evoking spider imagery – or deliciousness, if you are a sushi lover.
soft-shell crabs, ice water, flour, egg, baking soda
I picked up the soft-shell crabs individually frozen at an Asian market (HMart, for the locals). I’ve also seen them on display at Whole Foods from time to time. If you live on the coast, then you probably have far more and fresher options available to you. Tempura frying is pretty easy, but I’ll warn you now that these guys make the loud scary splattering sputtering hot oil noises. Use a splatter screen, and if you don’t own one, get one. I fried mine one at a time because I was too scared to lower a second one in while the first one sounded and looked like it was erupting. You won’t use much of the tempura batter for four crabs, so if you have vegetables or other goodies to tempura fry, you might as well do it all in one sitting.
whisk the ice water and egg
stir the dry and wet ingredients together
coat the crab completely
draining and cooling the fried soft-shell crabs
My parents can sometimes find frozen panko-breaded soft-shell crabs, which can work just as nicely in a spider roll as the tempura-fried crabs. They just pop them into an oven to bake until crisp, which is way less mess and DANGER (or excitement – you decide) than frying. You can fry your soft-shell crabs ahead of time and reheat (re-crisp) them in an oven before assembly. Same goes for your rice which can be gently reheated in the microwave. We overwhelmingly prefer to make our sushi with seasoned sushi rice, which is detailed in the recipe. Do what you will, but I’m fairly certain you’ll find it far superior to regular steamed rice.
ready to roll: nori (seaweed), tempura crab, seasoned sushi rice, black sesame seeds, masago (capelin roe), mayonnaise, sriracha, cucumber, avocado, daikon radish sprouts, barbecue eel sauce (unagi sauce)
stir some sriracha into the mayonnaise
prep: slice the soft-shell crabs on a diagonal
You’ll want to cut each soft-shell crab in half. I tend to cut them on the diagonal making sure each half has a set of legs. I use one soft-shell crab per roll. When I arrange them on the seaweed, they are offset to give an even distribution of crab horizontally. If you care about the aesthetics of the roll, then orient the halves so that the legs barely dangle over each end of the roll, creating your “spider”. A super helpful tip when handling the rice: wet your hands with water. Also? Line your work surface with a sheet of plastic wrap. In this version, we put the rice and the fish roe on the outside of our roll, but you are more than welcome to put them on the inside of the roll with the other fillings (the crab, cucumber, avocado, and sprouts).
press rice on the top three-fifths of the seaweed
spread the fish roe over the rice
sprinkle black sesame seeds
For the inverted effect (with the rice on the outside), once you have spread the rice, fish roe, and sesame seeds on the seaweed, flip the sheet over so that you are staring at a clean side of seaweed. This is where that sheet of plastic wrap comes in handy as it prevents your rice from sticking to your work surface. Distribute your filling ingredients an inch or two from the non-rice edge of the seaweed, then carefully roll the non-rice edge up and over the filling. Avoid the temptation to overfill your roll. Continue rolling tightly, but not so tightly that everything squeezes out the sides. While rolling, when you get to the rice, pull the plastic wrap over the rice so you can manipulate the roll without having the rice stick to your hands. As you tuck the roll in on itself, pull the plastic wrap out so that it is always on the outside of the roll – never inside.
flip the seaweed and arrange the fillings
roll the seaweed up from the non-rice end
you can use a bamboo mat to make a tidy roll
When your roll has a (more or less) cylindrical shape, remove the bamboo mat (if using), but leave the plastic wrap in place. Dip your sharpest knife in water and cut the roll into 6 or 8 pieces through the plastic. You might have to dip and even wipe the knife between each slice as the rice is sticky. When you are done, pull the plastic away. It should come off as one sheet with several strips cut in the middle.
dip your knife in water before cutting
make even slices
pull the plastic away
Arrange your maki on a serving dish. I like to drizzle Sriracha mayonnaise and a sweet Japanese barbecue eel sauce over the pieces before serving, but feel free to omit one or both depending on your preferences. And there you have your spider roll! Ours tasted as good as what we get in most sushi bars, so we’re declaring victory.
the legs are the best part
almost too pretty to eat… almost
4 soft-shell crabs, raw (thawed if frozen)
tempura batter (recipe below)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Sriracha to taste
4 sheets nori (toasted seaweed sheets)
4 cups cooked seasoned sushi rice (recipe below)
1/2 cup tobiko or masago (flying fish roe or capelin roe)
toasted black or white sesame seeds
1 rip avocado, pitted, peeled, cut into 12 slices
1 Persian cucumber, cut into strips
1/2 cup daikon radish sprouts
barbecue eel sauce (unagi sauce), optional
seasoned sushi rice
2 cups sushi rice (uncooked)
2 cups water
3 tbsps rice vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsps sugar
from Sushi Day
1 cup ice cold water
1 large egg
1 cup flour
1/8 tsp baking soda
Cook the rice: Combine the water and rice and cook per the instructions on your rice cooker (I use a Zojirushi rice cooker). If you don’t have a rice cooker: wash, drain, and soak the rice in water for at least 30 minutes, then drain. Combine the rice and measured water in a saucepan and cover. Place the pan over moderately high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the rice to steam undisturbed for at least 10 minutes (don’t remove the lid or you’ll release all the steam).
Make the dressing: Combine the vinegar, salt, and sugar in a bowl and stir until salt and sugar are dissolved.
Prepare the seasoned sushi rice: Heap the cooked rice in the center of a large bowl. Allow rice to cool in the tub for 10 minutes. Pour the dressing over the rice and mix the dressing evenly with a large spoon or rice paddle. While mixing, fan the rice to cool it. The rice is ready to use when it reaches body temperature.
Make the tempura batter: In a bowl, mix the water and the egg together. In another bowl, mix the flour and baking soda together. Stir dry mix into the wet mix until combined – lumps are okay. Place the batter in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Tempura fry the crab: Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil to about 350°F (a drop of batter should sizzle and float to the top right away). Pat each soft-shell crab dry. Dip a crab in the batter, coating completely, and then carefully lower it into the oil to fry until one side is golden brown and flip. Fry until golden and remove to paper towel or cooling rack to drain. The crab will splatter during frying, so I highly recommend using a splatter screen. Slice the cooled tempura-fried soft-shell crabs in half on the diagonal so that each piece has a set of legs.
Mix the sriracha mayonnaise: Stir the mayonnaise and a little Sriracha together until you achieve the flavor you want.
Assemble the spider roll: On a square sheet of plastic wrap, set down one sheet of nori. If you want eight pieces, work with a long edge of the nori closest to you. If you want six large pieces, then work with a short edge of the nori closest to you. With wet hands, grab a handful of sushi rice and evenly spread it across the top 3/5 of the nori sheet, pressing the rice down to ensure it sticks to the seaweed. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the fish roe evenly over the rice, then sprinkle sesame seeds over the rice/eggs. Flip the nori over so that the rice faces down onto the plastic wrap. At the non-rice end of the nori, lay out two halves of a crab, avocado, cucumber, and daikon sprouts, arranging the legs at each end. Take care not to overfill the roll as the ingredients will squeeze out toward the ends when you roll it.
Roll the fillings up from the non-rice end of the nori (like a carpet) and continue to roll tightly, but not too tightly until the rice encompasses the entire outer part of the roll. Use the plastic wrap to help maintain shape without letting the roll stick to you. Use a bamboo mat to firm up the shape and compact the roll. Remove the bamboo mat, but leave the plastic wrap on the roll. Dip a sharp knife in water and slice through the plastic wrap to cut the roll in half. Clean the knife, dip it in water, and continue to cut until you have 6 or 8 even pieces (depending on how you rolled the seaweed). Peel the plastic from the roll. Arrange the pieces on a plate and drizzle with Sriracha mayonnaise and barbecue eel sauce. Makes 4 cut spider rolls.
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