Cucumber and watermelon must be the two most refreshing foods on the planet and together they make one of the best warm-weather picnics imaginable. This picnic combination is best eaten on a steamy hot day when eating warm food is just not appealing. While cucumber sushi rolls and watermelon are not super filling, they are perfect for a light, refreshing meal. I’m also including the recipe for Iced Green Tea with Orange and Mint. This tea has the perfect amount of sweetness with no added sugar or sweetener and the mint gives it a soothing freshness. Just the thing to quench your thirst a hot summer day!
This is an easy picnic to pack; all that is needed are a container for the sushi and a small jar for dipping sauce. A small, personal size watermelon can be carried along whole and cut up once you get to your picnic destination. Some napkins and perhaps a set of chopsticks for each person are also a good idea. Sushi rolls may seem like a difficult culinary task to tackle, but I promise they are actually much easier than they look. Preparing the rice is the most time-consuming aspect of this recipe, but it is really not difficult at all. The only special equipment you really need is a rolling mat for the sushi and these can be purchased for a few dollars in the asian foods section at almost any grocery store (I bought mine at King Sooper’s). A wooden rice paddle is nice for mixing the seasoning into the rice, but any wooden spoon will do.
- 1 1/2 cups sushi rice
- 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 sheets nori seaweed wraps
- 1/2 English cucumber
- 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Pour the rice into a fine-mesh colander and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear; this will take several minutes. Put the rice in a medium pan with 1 1/2 cups cold water and cover with a tight fitting lid. If the pan does not have a tight fitting lid, wrap a thin kitchen towel around the lid, tying it up on top to keep it away from the flames. Bring to a boil over medium heat then turn heat down to low and simmer until all the water is absorbed and rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- While the rice cooks, cut the cucumber half in half horizontally and remove all the seeds with a spoon. Cut the cucumber into very thin strips. (English cucumbers are long and thin and usually come wrapped in plastic. If you can only find a regular cucumber, use the whole cucumber and remove the peel before cutting up.)
- Once the rice is cooked, pour it into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour the vinegar mixture over the rice and, using a wooden spoon, gently stir the vinegar into the rice until it is all absorbed. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or wax paper and spread the rice out on the pan. Using a fan or large piece of paper (I usually use a convenient envelope from the stack of mail on my counter!), fan the rice until it is cooled to room temperature. Fanning the rice is not absolutely necessary, but it gives the rice a nice, shiny sheen and only takes a few minutes.
- To assemble cucumber rolls: Lay out a bamboo sushi mat on the counter with a long side facing you. Place a sheet of nori on the mat with the rougher side facing up. Spoon 1/4 of the rice onto the nori spread it out, leaving a 1-inch space uncovered on the side farthest from you. Place 1/4 of the cucumber strips in the middle of the rice. Using the sushi mat, roll up the seaweed roll until the rice covers the cucumber. Lightly dampen the uncovered strip of nori with water and press it firmly against the roll to seal. Using a sharp, serrated knife, cut the roll into 8 even slices.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil and vinegar. Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
Although I find cucumber to be the most refreshing filling for these rolls, I sometimes add other vegetables, especially if I happen to have a bunch of vegetables that I need to use up. Bell pepper, carrots and green onions are all good additions. Just julienne any vegetables you want to use and add them in with the cucumber.
- 4 green tea bags
- 5 large, fresh mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 6 cups boiling water
- Juice from 2 oranges
- Put the tea bags and mint in a heat-proof pitcher. Pour in the boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags and mint using a slotted spoon and discard.
- Fill the pitcher up with ice and chill in the refrigerator until the tea is cold, about 2 hours. Once the tea is cooled, add the orange juice. Garnish with extra mint leaves and thin slices of orange, if desired.
If this tea is not sweet enough for your tastes, you could always stir some sugar or honey into the tea while it is still hot.