Store-bought roasted red bell peppers can often have a briny taste. If you prefer a more neutral flavor, try roasting your own bell peppers. Generously oil a red bell pepper, then place it on a baking sheet. Roast it in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until the skin begins to turn black. Once it is cool, peel and deseed the pepper.
Rice Prep Time: Up to 1½ hours
Sushi Prep Time: 15 minutes
Makes 4 rolls (32 pieces)
1 Japanese eggplant or ½ small globe eggplant, cut into 4-in (10-cm) lengths
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Four 4 x 7-in (10 x 18-cm) nori sheets
3 cups (600 g) Traditional Sushi Rice or Brown Sushi Rice
8 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 roasted red pepper, deseeded, patted dry, and sliced into strips
1 green onion (scallion), thinly sliced
Heat an oven to 350°F (175°C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Toss the eggplant pieces with dark sesame oil and soy sauce. Roast eggplant for 8–10 minutes. Cool completely before using.
Place the nori directly on your cutting board, making sure the long end is parallel to the bottom of the board and that the rough side is facing upwards.
Wet your fingertips lightly in cool water and spread about ¾ cup (150 g) of sushi rice evenly over the entire surface of the nori.
Flip the nori over so that the rice is face down on the cutting board. Arrange ¼ of the eggplant pieces across the center of the nori. Top with ¼ of the shiitake slices.
Wet your fingertips again and slide your thumbs underneath the nori while grasping fillings with all other fingertips. Roll the bottom of the nori just over the fillings, making sure to tightly tuck the fillings under the fold.
Continue rolling and tucking until the roll is completed. With the bamboo rolling mat covered in plastic wrap, gently shape the roll by pressing forefingers on top of the mat while simultaneously pressing your thumbs and middle fingers into the sides.
Place the roll seam-side down on the cutting board. Repeat with remaining ingredients for 3 more rolls. (Do not cut yet!)
Lay the roasted pepper strips across the top of each roll. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on top of each roll. Dip the tip of a very sharp knife in water, and cut each roll into 8 pieces. Use the bamboo rolling mat to shape and press the roasted red pepper strips into each roll once more before removing plastic wrap.
Arrange pieces on a serving dish and garnish with green onion slices.