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🍣 Sushi Layer Cakes

I almost vomited the first time my tongue tasted "sushi".

Turn bank the hands of time to 1997, while visiting friends in Baltimore's Cross Street Market in the heart of Federal Hill, they "forced" me to try sushi.

I had no idea what to expect when my friends suggested we go for happy hour and get it. But I guess I was game. I wasn't about to be an outsider.

4 people ahead of us.

We waited in line at a local food hall, and watched an unsuspecting man mound some green paste like topping on one of the pieces of rice wrapped fish. I watched as he grabbed the roll with chopsticks, dipped the piece into soy sauce and then in one bit, directly into his mouth. He chomped down on the food, his eyes got wide, and I swear steam came out of his ears. Anita laughed in fear-- that green stuff-- fresh wasabi paste-- Japanese horseradish. He looked like he couldn't breathe. 30 seconds passed and Jim cringed. "Poor guy".

3 people ahead of us. I was starting to sweat. Am I ready for this?


Cross Street Market

Cross Street Market is a historic indoor market located in the Federal Hill neighborhood of

Baltimore, Maryland. The market was established in 1846 and has been a beloved institution in the city for over 175 years.

Originally, the market was an open-air affair, with vendors selling their goods from stalls set up along the street. In 1864, a permanent market building was constructed on the site, featuring a central hall with stalls on either side. Over the years, the market has undergone a number of renovations and changes, with additions such as a second floor and a rooftop deck.

Cross Street Market has always been a hub of activity and commerce in Baltimore, serving as a gathering place for locals to shop, eat, and socialize. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the market was a popular destination for immigrants who settled in the area, many of whom opened their own stalls selling goods from their home countries.

In the mid-20th century, however, the market began to decline, as suburbanization and the rise of supermarkets led to a decrease in foot traffic. By the 1980s, many of the stalls were vacant, and the market was in danger of closing for good.

In the 1990s, however, a group of local business owners and residents formed a nonprofit organization called the Cross Street Market Association, with the goal of revitalizing the market. The association worked with the city to secure funding for renovations, and in 1997, a major renovation project was undertaken. The market was modernized and updated, with new stalls and amenities added.

Today, Cross Street Market remains a vibrant and bustling center of commerce and community in Baltimore. The market is home to a diverse array of vendors, selling everything from fresh produce and seafood to craft beer and artisanal goods. It is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike and continues to be an important part of Baltimore's cultural and economic landscape.

The first place, besides Reading Terminal in Philadelphia where I've eaten that had food vendors all in one space. No Pittsburgh has these same "food halls" as well as every big city in every country across the globe.

The "sushi" vendor was one of them.



tuna and salmon nigiri, Gi-Jin, Pittsburgh PA

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, there is nothing more iconic than sushi. This bite-sized dish has become a beloved staple around the world, with its fresh fish and perfectly cooked rice wrapped in nori seaweed. But what is it about sushi that makes it so appealing to people of all cultures and backgrounds?

Sushi originated in Japan over 1,000 years ago, during a time when preserving fish was a necessity for survival. The fish would be salted and packed in rice to ferment, resulting in a sour taste and pungent aroma. Over time, this technique evolved into the sushi we know today, where the fish is no longer preserved but rather served fresh and raw.

The key to great sushi is the quality of the ingredients. The rice must be short-grain and sticky, and the fish must be incredibly fresh. The best sushi chefs in Japan will source their fish from the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, where the catch of the day is auctioned off to the highest bidder.

But sushi isn't just about the ingredients; it's also about the technique. The rice must be cooked to perfection, seasoned with a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and salt, and then cooled to the perfect temperature. The chef will then add a thin slice of fish, often with a small amount of wasabi between the rice and the fish, before rolling it all together in a sheet of nori seaweed.

Sushi is a popular Japanese dish that typically consists of vinegar-flavored rice combined with a variety of ingredients such as raw fish, vegetables, and seafood. Here are some of the different types of sushi:

  1. Nigiri sushi: This is the most common type of sushi, and it consists of a small mound of sushi rice topped with a piece of fish or seafood.

  2. Maki sushi: This is also known as sushi rolls, and it is made by rolling sushi rice and various ingredients inside a sheet of seaweed called nori.

  3. Temaki sushi: This is also known as hand-rolled sushi and it is a cone-shaped sushi roll that is made by wrapping a sheet of nori around sushi rice and ingredients.

  4. Uramaki sushi: This is a type of sushi roll where the sushi rice is on the outside of the roll, and the nori is on the inside. Uramaki is often coated with sesame seeds, tobiko (flying fish roe), or tempura flakes.

  5. Inari sushi: This type of sushi is made by filling a pouch made of fried tofu with sushi rice and other ingredients.

  6. Chirashi sushi: This is a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of raw fish and vegetables.

  7. Oshi sushi: This is a type of sushi that is pressed into a rectangular or square shape using a special wooden mold called an oshibako.

  8. Narezushi: This is a type of sushi that is made by fermenting fish and rice together for several months, resulting in a sour and pungent flavor.

Sushi is often served with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. The soy sauce is used sparingly to enhance the flavor of the fish, while the wasabi adds a subtle heat. The pickled ginger is used as a palate cleanser between bites, allowing the full flavor of each piece of sushi to be appreciated.

One of the unique things about sushi is the variety of flavors and textures it offers. From the delicate flavor of white fish to the richness of fatty tuna, each type of fish has its own unique taste and texture. Sushi chefs will often pair different types of fish together, creating a harmonious blend of flavors and textures in each bite.

Sushi has become incredibly popular around the world, with sushi restaurants popping up in almost every major city. But despite its global popularity, there is something special about enjoying sushi in Japan, where the tradition and technique are held in the highest regard.

In conclusion, sushi is much more than just raw fish and rice; it's a culinary art form that requires skill, precision, and attention to detail. Whether you're a sushi aficionado or a newcomer to the cuisine, there is something special about taking a bite of Japan and experiencing the delicate flavors and textures of this beloved dish.


Two to go- I wasn't sure what to think. My mouth wasn't ready. Rice, green seaweed and raw fish all wrapped up with hot green horseradish. Can I open my mouth that wide?

One to go- oh shit, can't turn back. I'll look like a wimp. Jim ordered... I had no idea what to expect.

Ok. Here's goes nothing. . No I can't. Yes you can. Every other person ate the sushi without dying. Damn, I could've even get the chop sticks to hold the piece of maki roll the right way. Open Wide!!

Yuck! The hot rice and the cold fish with soy sauce drenching it. The teeny, tiniest dab of wasabi was too much. I didn't know what to do except close my eyes and chew. Swallow. Oh dear lord. Never again. I couldn't get past the juxtaposition of warm rice and cold fish. My palette was so unsophisticated at this point.

Until the next day- something happened. Almost like when Spider-Man gets the spider bite and nothing happens, until the next day- then- It was 💥 POW! I think I want to try it again.

And once I was ready for the textures, I began a love affair with Japanese cuisine that must mean in a former life, I may have been Japanese.

I got everyone in my family to try- sisters, newphews, kids. All the same first reaction; and all the same second reaction. An expensive love affair with Japanese cuisine.

Birthday dinners are normally at sushi restaurants. Rationing maki and nigiri until everyone has their fill.

So, you see, if you are reading this and never tried sushi, I implore you to give it a try. Just once... well really twice. Once to be grossed out, the second to fall in love.

Let's get cooking!

Cooking Class with Carol

Things to Consider

Because I am not a restaurateur, and I am not privy to the first selections of the finest, freshest fish in Pittsburgh, I tend to make all of my sushi dishes "ceviche" style. I don't trust myself to serve "raw" fish to my family. I don't know how to determine the minute the fish is "turning" and it's too expensive to ruin. Or worse, make someone sick with the food I make.


Ceviche is a popular dish from Latin America that typically consists of raw fish or seafood that is marinated in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, along with spices, vegetables, and herbs. The acid in the citrus juice helps to "cook" the fish, making it safe to eat while also giving it a unique flavor and texture.

Ceviche can be made with a variety of seafood, including shrimp, scallops, octopus, and white fish, among others. The seafood is typically cut into small pieces and mixed with diced onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and other seasonings, then marinated in the citrus juice for a period of time ranging from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the recipe.

Ceviche is often served as an appetizer or a light meal and is popular in countries like Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America. It is typically served cold and can be accompanied by chips, crackers, or other light fare. Ceviche is a refreshing and healthy dish that is perfect for warm weather or any time you want to enjoy the flavors of the sea. That is to say I marinate the raw fish in acidic liquids.

I implore you to not consume raw fish unless you are comfortable with the purveyor with which you are purchasing the fish. There are many food born illnesses that can be contributed to consuming raw or undercooked fish.

With all of this information above, again, the quality of the ingredients is of the utmost importance. Buying the best quality sometimes means buying frozen. It is flash frozen at the peak of freshness. It may not have the same flavor as the fresh fish, but it will take some of the risk out of it.

There are different grades of fish just like there are different grades of beef. Sushi grade is the best quality of fish and should be used when cooking this style. Others may be ok, but it's not worth the risk, again, to eat bad quality fish.

As your fish monger, or local grocery store clerk to smell the fish. It is not that odd a request. If the fish smells fishy, its bad. It can smell briny, like salty water, but it should never have rancid smell to it. If it smells like lemons or other scents, like bleach, it has been washed to keep the freshness, or mask the smell. DON'T buy it.


Sushi Layer Cakes



1/2 -1-pound sushi grade Ahi Tuna

1/2 -1-pound Faroe Island Salmon (or your favorite)

2 T. red chili paste

2 T. soy sauce

4 T. sesame oil

2 t. fish sauce

juice of 3 lemons

1/2 c. scallions, finely chopped

2 serrano peppers, finely chopped and seeded

salt and pepper to taste


4 cups short grain rice

4 T. sushi vinegar

1 T. black sesame seeds

thinly sliced cucumber

2 avocados, pitted and thinly sliced


extra scallions

wasabi sauce

siracha sauce

soy sauce

What to Do

  1. Clean the rice-measure rice and put into a strainer. Under fresh cold water, clean the rice of the starch buy flushing under cold water, rinsing and repeating until the water runs clear. This should take 3-4 times.

2. cook rice according to the package directions, usually 1 1/2 cups water for every 1 cup of rice, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cooking 15-20 minutes or until rice is soft and liquid has been absorbed.

3. Once rice is cooked, place in a large mixing bowl and add sushi vinegar. Mix well incorporating all of the vinegar into the rice. Add salt if needed. Add black sesame seed.mix well. Place on parchment lined 1/2 sheet pan and allow to cool. This will make the rice set into a cake like texture.

4. mix together chili paste, oil, soy and fish sauce and lime juice. Mix well.

5. Rinse and pat dry fish. Remove skin if needed, chop finely. Add to marinade bowl.

6. Combine well and allow to marinate 15-20 minutes. This will "cook" the fish to ceviche style. After marinating time, add peppers and scallions.

7. Thinly slice cucumbers and avocado. (I used a mandolin to thinly slice the cucumbers).

8. Assemble in layers, rice, fish, veggies, fish rice. Garnish with cilantro, siracha Mayo, wasabi sauce and soy sauce. Serve immediately.

Sushi Layer Cakes


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