Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Vegetarian Spring Rolls

I am a huge fan of rice wrappers. They are cheap. They are easy to handle once you get the hang of it. They are light and they look so cool! I used them instead of the traditional Mu Shu Pancakes last year in a class. Huge hit. I brought them back for another class this month in the form of vegetarian spring rolls. They are filled with lettuce, mint (though you could use basil if you prefer), a carrot-cucumber salad, and baked tofu. The tofu is baked in a peanut sauce which does double-duty as the dipping sauce. Delicious!

Whole lot of wrappers - you can wrap a lot of goodies with one package
There are a few tricks to using these.
  • Use warm water and don't leave the wrapper in the water too long. When they start to get pliable, take them out and lay them flat for filling. I like to put the water in a pie pan or cake pan that is big enough to hold the wrapper without any bending.
  • Don't overfill them. They do stretch but if you have pointy things sticking out, like stems of herbs or lettuce, they will rip. 
    This is about as much as you want to fill these.
  • Don't stack them or let them touch once you have rolled them. They will stick to each other, ripping the wrapper.

Vegetarian Spring Rolls
(makes 12 spring rolls)

1 pound firm tofu, sliced into 8 slices (see Note)

¾ cup creamy peanut butter
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar, natural or seasoned
3 Tablespoons Hoisin sauce
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup warm water, approximately
1 to 3 teaspoons Siracha sauce (adjust to your desired spice level)
juice of ½ lime

Carrot Salad
2 medium carrots
2 medium cucumbers
4 Tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 Tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt

12 rice spring roll wrappers
about 4 large lettuce leaves, washed and torn into pieces that will fit in the wrappers
24 large mint leaves

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a medium bowl, mix together peanut butter, garlic, rice wine vinegar, Hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and Siracha. Mix until smooth. In the beginning, the peanut butter will resist combining with the liquid ingredients, but keep at it. Add water to thin to a saucy consistency. You want it thin enough so you can dip but not so thin that it drips off the spoon. Place the tofu in a single layer in a baking dish (8"x4" or 9"x11"). Pour on about ⅓ the sauce and turn to coat the tofu. Bake for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

While the tofu is cooling, prep the carrot-cucumber salad. Peel and julienne (cut into thin strips) or shred the carrot. Peel, seed the cucumber. Cut them into 3" lengths and slice thinly the long way. (If you want more knife practice, you can julienne them too.) Combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the carrot and cucumber. Toss to coat. Let marinate for 15 minutes.

Slice the tofu into long, thin slices when cool enough to handle. Set everything out where you can reach it: all the ingredients, a pan with an inch of warm water for softening the rice wrappers, and a surface for rolling. Lay down a piece of lettuce, a couple of mint leaves, a little carrot salad, and a few tofu slices. Roll up like a burrito - fold in the sides, fold up the edge closest to you, then roll the whole thing up to the top.

Add the lime juice to the remaining sauce and stir. Serve with rolls.

Note: You can make this with tofu right out of the carton, but the texture is better if you freeze it first. Slice it into 8 pieces, put them on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and put it in the freezer. Freeze for an hour or longer. Thaw and blot dry before baking.

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