I like free food, I like foraged food, and I like nice food. Lately, I've tried to combine all three, and have been inspired to make ultra frugal gourmet foods. You all probably know that I'm a big sushi fan, so when I heard of people making "foraged/wild sushi" I got inspired to do the same.
And then when I got some salmon skins for free (rescued) from the fish monger, I decided I'd make sushi also with foraged stuff and also with that salmon skin. Also for the cheapness, and also for the thrill of it. To be able to say "I did it".
And I certainly did.
Everything in my sushi and sauces, other than the rice and salt and honey in the rice was free, foraged or "rescued".
Even the "nori", "soy sauce", and "wasabi".
To start off, I'll tell you what I did with the salmon skin.
When I was a kid, I never ate the skin on any fish. I thought it was poisonous. Or at least that's what I was led to believe by my parents- that fish skin was full of mercury, and that its dangerous to eat. (Then again, I was also taught that flax seeds are poisonous, as they have cyanide in them... But I digress.) So I never really bothered doing anything with the skins.
And then I found out that there were not only people who ate skins with the fish, but sushi restaurants served salmon skin sushi- just the skin, not the rest of the fish! It can't be poisonous after all, can it?
Maybe it's even good for you...
Well, I don't have any specific links to show you what nutrition salmon skin has, but I do know that fish fats are very healthy for you and that salmon skins are very fatty, and hence full of those terrific omega 3 fatty acids... And I also know that chicken skin is a good source of protein, so I would assume that salmon skin is as well, but I don't know for certain.
But about the mercury- I recently read this post that totally reassured me that it absolutely isn't dangerous to eat fish skin, mercury or not.
So here's how I prepared the salmon skin, which can be used also for sushi, but also as a crunchy topping for salads or other dishes. I assume it can be done with skin from other fish as well, and not just salmon.
Take your salmon skin, lay it flat, and rub the back of a knife, or a non serrated knife along its length, going against the scales. They should all come off. Go over and over all over until no more scales flake off. Wash off the skin to get rid of any scales that are stuck on.
Cut the salmon skin into strips an inch or two wide and five to six inches long. Scissors are helpful for this.
Heat a non stick pan (I used my cast iron skillet) with a quarter inch of oil, and when the oil is hot, make sure to place the salmon skin strips, skin side down, into the oil. Make sure its skin side down otherwise the skin will stick to the bottom of the pan and your piece will get ruined... Trust me on this one. You'll immediately see the skin start shrinking and shriveling up a bit. That's fine.
If you're cooking it for sushi, just cook for a minute or two, then flip over for another minute, then remove when still soft.
Otherwise, cook for about 3 minutes, then flip over and cook for another minute or two to get a really crunchy salmon skin. Season with salt and spices, and use as you would bacon strips.
Now for the wild foraged sushi, I thought to use really large milk thistle greens (dethorned) in place of the nori. I originally thought it would be ok to use it raw, but it wasn't flexible enough. What worked for me was removing the stem and cutting off the thicker part of the spine that went down the milk thistle leaf, and then pouring boiling water over it, and letting it sit. The leaves softened enough. Because they aren't a perfect square, I layered a few pieces of leaf on top of each other until I had the right shape.
Make sure to dry the leaves off well, and then press rice down onto the leaves.
I made my rice with lemon juice from foraged lemons, and raw honey, and coconut sugar.
For a filling, I using sauted stinging nettles, stems from the milk thistle, home grown green onions, and the salmon skin.
Rolling it up was very difficult, even with the sushi mat. If you do this, make sure not to put the rice until all the way to the edge of the leaf- leave a nice margin of leaf to wrap around the edges, otherwise your sushi won't be completely surrounded by "nori".
If after rolling it, you see the leaf didn't go all the way around the edges, you can cut a strip of green and wrap it around after. (I did that with two of the sushis below. Can you tell which?)
P.S. I don't recommend milk thistle stem as a filling. It tastes too bitter, and was too chewy. I left it out of the next ones I made.
For condiments, I'd heard of people making wild "wasabi" out of wild mustard greens. Maybe my mustard greens are less spicy, or something else happened, because even though I chose greens that were spicy, when I blended them up to make into this "wasabi paste", it pretty much just tasted like I was dipping my sushi in spinach with a bit of an aftertaste... I didn't like it.
The "soy sauce", though, I was proud of. I was trying to figure out what I could use that was local, was salty, with a bit of sourness and umami/richness/depth. I went with salt cured black olives which I foraged about a month or two ago. (I pickled those olives with a method not written in the post. I cracked them open, then put them in a cloth bag with lots of coarse salt, hung it up, and let the bitter juices run out of it. Eventually they become shriveled like a raisin and less bitter, so then you wash them off and soak them in water to rehydrate.)
I just took the olives, pitted them, blended them up with some water and a little extra salt, strained them, and voila- an awesome soy sauce substitute, with a bit of a Mediterranean flair.
But I'll be honest- my kids weren't 100% thrilled with my wild foods sushi. They wanted real nori. And I was fed up rolling milk thistle leaves that weren't cooperating with me, so I made some nori rolls, filled with salmon skin, nettles, and scallions. They hit the spot, especially dipped into the "olive soy sauce".
I had so much fun trying out and creating this wild foods sushi!
And making that crispy salmon skin was fun too!
Ever eat salmon skin sushi? Eat salmon skin any other way? Do you avoid eating fish skin? Why or why not?
Ever make a wild foods sushi? How did you make it? What did you put in it and what condiments did you serve it with? Was it a hit?
Do you think you'd try out something like this ever?