Spring (or summer) Rolls

When I lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, there was a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant that introduced me to all kinds of new flavors. One of our favorites were their spring rolls! What a delicious concoction; meat, rice noodles and vegetables wrapped in a rice paper shell and deep fried. Oh so good. Generally a spring roll contains pork or shrimp and a summer roll (the unfried version of a spring roll) contains shrimp and no noodles but bean sprouts instead. Here I’ve substituted chicken but any meat (or meat substitute) would work. And they aren’t difficult to make as long as the steps are followed.

First cook whatever part of the filling needs cooking.

To a large pot of boiling, salted water add:

8 ounces pad Thai noodles (or linguini, gluten free of course!) [Optional but traditional]

Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside to add to the cooked vegetables later. In a medium 10″ skillet over medium heat, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add:

1/2 medium onion, sliced

1 cup of thinly sliced Chinese (or Napa) cabbage

Reduce heat to medium low and cook for several minutes until the onion and cabbage wilt. In a small bowl whisk:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Add to the skillet and stir to combine with the onion and cabbage. Add the pad Thai noodles if used. Remove the vegetables from the skillet. Either clean that skillet or using another, heat:

1 tablespoon olive oil

Add over medium heat:

16 ounces of chicken breast, julienned (thinly sliced)

Cook, turning frequently, for several minutes, 3-5, until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat.

Let the vegetables and chicken cool thoroughly. If the fillings aren’t cool enough, they will melt the rice paper wrapper. In the meantime, prepare the uncooked fillings, any or all of the following:

1 medium carrot, any color, julienned

1 English cucumber, peeled and julienned

1 cup zucchini noodles cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup pea pods

2-3 green scallions (green parts only), cut into 4 inch sections

1/2 cup Daikon radish (julienned)

Avocado (julienned)

2 tablespoons sesame seeds (white or black)

Fresh herbs can also be added such as mint or basil leaves

As you can see, pretty much any vegetable could work, even string beans! You’ll also need:

10-12 rice paper wrappers (found in most oriental or specialty stores (or Whole Foods)

When the fillings are all prepared and cooled, using a 12″ container (I used a large pie plate), fill with about 1″ of warm water, not hot, just lukewarm works best. One at a time, place a rice paper wrapper , into the warm water, making sure the wrapper is covered by the water. You don’t want to soak it, just wet it completely. You’ll notice when it’s wet enough because the marks on the wrapper will disappear. Place the wrapper on a clean tea towel (cotton rather than a synthetic or fleece towel) and dry. I picked up the wrapper at this point, carefully, so it didn’t stick as much to the towel after filling.

As you see from the photo, I broke one but it was still useable. Once dried, place some of the fillings in the middle of the wrapper, horizontally, then fold the bottom of the wrapper over the filling being sure it is tight at the top. Then fold in the sides of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom to the top. The top should stick to the rest of the roll. If it doesn’t, rub a tiny amount of water on it with your finger.

Now comes the choice – spring or summer rolls? The only difference is the frying. If spring rolls are chosen, cook all of them. I cooked half and left the others for the next day’s lunch and they totally disintegrated in the oil the next day, the rice paper didn’t hold up to being refrigerated.

If spring rolls are the choice, heat in a large, high sided skillet:

3 inches of olive and avocado oils

Heat to 350 degrees. Olive oil has a low smoke point so mixing it with the avocado (which has a higher smoke point) keeps the olive oil from burning during this process. Once the oil is to temperature, add the spring rolls being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry, turning once (tongs are best for this), until golden brown. Unlike most fried foods, do not place these on a paper towel as the rice wrapper will stick to it even after fried. Instead blot lightly with the paper towel after frying.

If, like me, several of your wrappers formed holes when wrapping them in the vegetables, DON’T FRY THEM! The oil will get into the roll and it will be very greasy. Use it as a summer roll instead.

Dipping sauce (or dressing) if desired. Traditionally spring rolls are served with a peanut sauce but the restaurant always served them with a spicy soy/ginger/garlic sauce. Here are several recipes for dipping sauces.

“Peanut” Dipping Sauce:

Combine in a small bowl:

1/2 cup tahini or other seed or nut butter

1 tablespoon soy substitute

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1-3 tablespoons hot water depending on the thickness desired

Whisk to combine all ingredients.

Spicy Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

4 tablespoons soy substitute

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

slices of red chili pepper (optional)

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce:

In a small bowl combine:

1 tablespoon soy substitute

1 tablespoon minced ginger

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup date sugar (or syrup)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

“Cheesy” Crackers

One of my favorite lunches used to be tomato soup with Cheezits. That cheese cracker with the tomato soup tasted so good. This cracker isn’t a cheezit but they taste very good and have a cheese taste from the nutritional yeast. And they are very easy to make in the food processor.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the food processor add:

1 cup gluten-free all purpose flour

2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon turmeric

Pulse to combine before adding:

1 tablespoon vegan butter or margarine

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Pulse until mixture is crumbly then add, 1 at a time:

5-6 tablespoons water (I needed to add all 6)

Pulse after each addition. Mixture should come together but not be sticky. This may require removing from the processor and working manually (with your hands) until combined. Place onto a sheet of parchment paper. Put a second sheet of parchment paper on top and flatten the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to 1/8″ thickness or as thin as you can get it, the thinner the better! Mine was thicker in the middle than around the outside which meant I had to remove the outer pieces and continue baking the thicker middle so try to get the dough the same thickness.

Remove the top parchment paper and place the dough, lifting carefully by the bottom paper, onto a large cookie sheet. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into small 1″ squares. The outside pieces can be removed and rerolled and recut to form squares.

If you prefer a saltier cracker, sprinkle some fine sea salt on top sparsely before baking. Make some holes with a fork in each square and bake for 16-18 minutes. As I previous mentioned, if necessary remove outer pieces that are thinner and continue baking the thicker squares for another 5-7 minutes. Cool on sheet before moving to a cooling rack. When completely cooled, store in airtight container.

Zoodle Salad

I do love zucchini noodles. I remember when I first discovered Whole Foods in western Massachusetts, they had grated zucchini on their salad bar and I used to love adding it to a salad. Like many recipes I blog, this one is totally adjustable for your family’s taste. Here’s the vegetables I used.

In a medium size bowl, combine:

3 cups zucchini noodles

1 cup grated carrot

1/2 cup green onion slices

2 tablespoons sliced jalapeno peppers (seeds removed)

In a small bowl mix the dressing:

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy substitute (see recipe under sauces)

2 tablespoons date sugar (or syrup)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic

Whisk together until smooth. Pour over the vegetables and mix well. Chill before serving. Makes 6 servings.

TIP: To make this a main dish, add 1 cup of diced cooked chicken or sautéed tofu (or tempeh).

TIP: Jicama or water chestnuts would add some crunch to this salad or even some diced cucumber.

Pan Fried Breaded Pork Chop

Since chicken and pork are my primary proteins, along with the occasional fish dish, I’m always looking for tasty recipes to give me more variety. The problem I’ve always had with pork is it gets so dry. This is a way of holding in that moisture while at the same time having a really crispy, fried chicken like, coating on the outside. The original recipe called for crushed corn flakes but many of us have problems with corn so I’ve revised it to seasoned flour but feel free to use crushed corn flakes if desired. Serves 2.

In a gallon food storage bag combine:

2 tablespoons arrowroot with

2, 1″ thick pork chops with most of the fat trimmed (make shallow cuts in the pork chops in a diamond pattern roughly 1/2″ apart to allow the arrowroot to be absorbed into the pork. By shallow I mean not more than 1/16 of an inch. This will help the coating stick as well as tenderize the pork.)

Shake to make sure that the arrowroot covers all the pork and let sit in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes. In a shallow dish, place:

1/4 to 1/3 cup aquafaba depending on how large the chops are

In another shallow dish combine:

2 tablespoons all purpose gluten free flour

1 tablespoon tapioca or cassava flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

When the pork chops are ready, remove from bag (over the sink is a good place to do this) being sure to rub any loose arrowroot from the chops. Coat each in the aquafaba and then in the seasoned flour. In a 10″ skillet, heat:

1/4 cup olive oil

When shimmering, add the pork chops being careful to place the side nearest you into the pan first. Reduce heat to medium and fry until golden brown on each side (don’t forget the narrow edges), this should take about 7 minutes. Reduce to medium low and cover for approximately 5 minutes or until the internal temperature of the pork is 145 degrees. (If you don’t have a meat thermometer, they aren’t expensive and are very useful in determining if meat is at temperature.) If you don’t have a thermometer, touch the meat with a utensil or your finger. If it has a lot of give, it’s not cooked. It should not be totally firm but close to it, just a little give to the meat will produce a juicy chop. If the coating has gotten soggy while covered, increase the heat back to medium and cook on each side for 30 seconds to one minute to crisp it back up. Remove from heat and blot on paper towels before serving – DON’T LET THE CHOPS SIT ON THE TOWELS TOO LONG OR THE OUTSIDE WILL GET SOGGY. Be sure to salt them as soon as they come out of the oil.