Q: I love sushi, but at $4 a mouthful, I can't afford my frequent cravings. Is it possible to prepare it at home?
A: Sushi doesn't have to be a special-occasion dish. With some instruction -- and fresh ingredients -- you'll no longer have to depend so heavily on Nobu Matsuhisa. The New School (100 Greenwich Avenue; 212-255-4141) offers two three-hour classes, each costing $75 plus a $22 materials fee. The first, "The Cooking of Asia: Introduction to Sushi," teaches the basics, from preparing sticky rice to selecting and slicing sushi-grade fish. Students are told where to find Japanese markets in the New York area and learn that sushi in Japanese refers not to raw fish but to flavored rice. Class enrollment is limited, which leaves instructor Pat Kinney ample time to help each student perfect the maki-rolling technique. The second class, "Beyond Sushi: From Soup to Sukiyaki," covers the preparation of dishes such as miso soup that complement basic sashimi and sushi rolls. Peter Kump's New York Cooking School (50 West 23rd Street; 212-847-0700) provides similar East-meets-West opportunities: "The Art of Sushi 1" ($95) focuses on choosing and preparing ingredients found in California rolls and other popular maki, while "The Art of Sushi 2" ($95) includes the proper combination of classics such as battera-zushi (layered sushi prepared in a wooden box) and nigiri sushi (raw fish atop balls of rice) with sake and green tea. Finally, the Kump school's "Maki Party" ($90) is a great way to cover the basics and quickly learn to prepare several unique dishes -- including sake shrimp maki and vegetable nabe -- that will impress even your most sushi-savvy friends.