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*As a note, I had a hundred beautiful photographs from this sushi-making adventure taken by my housemate and I. It seems, however, through the wonders of technology, that I lost all the photos between my computer and hers. It’s a wonderful thing. Please accept my apology for the lack of accompanying images.*

I am not a sushi eater.

I don’t eat fish or seafood due to a very ugly reaction which makes no one (including myself) wish to be in the same building.

However, three years ago I took my then-girlfriend out for her favorite food on a surprise birthday adventure: sushi. It was a really hard thing for me to do, as I was certain there would be nothing for me to eat at the Japanese restaurant.

I was wrong.

I had never eaten Japanese before, so I assumed it was all fish, raw fish, and fish sauce. I was not experienced in the wonders of hibachi chicken, tempura vegetables, or my suddenly new favorite: asparagus rolls.

Clean, fresh, with the full flavor of spring, asparagus rolls brought me to a new level of taste experience. I couldn’t get enough. I placed a second order. I ate them all and wouldn’t share. I even went back the next day and got another order, eating them in the sunshine on the bright green grass of the Capitol lawn. It was an incredible, incredible experience.

Since that June day, when the asparagus was crisp and the rice perfectly sticky, I have been hoping to make my own asparagus rolls during asparagus season. This year, I had the time, energy, and ambition to try the seemingly-scary sushi-making task, and pair the rolls with homemade tempura (also remarkably easy).

Asparagus Rolls:
* 1 cup brown sushi rice
* 1 1/2 cups water
* 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
* 2 Tablespoons agave syrup
* 4 pieces of nori sushi seaweed
* sliced asparagus spears, avocado and cucumber matchsticks, for filling
* a bowl of water, for dipping your fingers
* wasabi paste

For an excellent pictorial tutor on rolling sushi, check out Too Good To Be True.

Bring the rice and water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until the rice is cooked. Transfer the rice to a bowl and toss with the rice vinegar and agave. Let cool.

Place a piece of seaweed on a bamboo sushi mat. Wet your fingers with the water and place 1/4 of the rice on the bottom two-thirds of the seaweed and spread it, leaving one-third of the seaweed uncovered. Place the asparagus, avocado and cucumber in the center of the rice. Dip your finger in the wasabi and spread it across the top of the nori, using it to seal the sushi. Using the bamboo mat to keep it tight and a gentle rocking motion, roll the nori into a sushi roll. Place it onto a cutting board to wait for the sushi to be complete.

Using the remaining three wrappers, roll the remainder of your rice and fillings into sushi rolls. Cut the rolls into 3/4″ rounds using an incredibly sharp knife (a serrated knife will work well here).

Dipping Sauce:
In a small bowl, combine mirin (a rice vinegar), rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce (use a small amount of soy sauce) in a combination that you enjoy.

Homemade Tempura:
* 1 egg
* 1 cup ice water
* 1 cup flour
* Sliced and cut-up vegetables for frying (We used asparagus, cucumber, red pepper, mushrooms, onions, parsnip — the options are endless!)
* vegetable oil for frying

Pour the oil into a medium saucepan, enough to be 2″-2 1/2″ deep. Heat slowly over medium heat until the oil reaches 300-350 degrees. When you drop a small amount of water into the pan, it should dance — that’s when the oil is ready.

Beat the egg in a medium bowl. Mix in the ice water. Add flour and stir until just mixed (be careful to not over mix).

Using fingers, put your vegetables into the batter. Using a different pair of chopsticks, remove the coated vegetables and place them into the oil — DO NOT DROP THEM. You will splatter oil everywhere and someone WILL get burned. It is much better to be slow and safe then hurting and unable to enjoy your dinner.

The battered vegetables will begin to fry and turn golden brown. They should turn themselves in the pan, cooking evenly. If they do not, use a non-batter chopstick and rotate the vegetables to cook. Use the non-batter chopsticks to remove the vegetables once they are golden and place them on a plate covered in paper towels to drain. When all the tempura is cooked, place it onto a serving platter surrounding the sushi. Serve with dipping sauce and warm saki. Be careful with the saki — it’s delicious and deceptively intoxicating.