Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Rolls for Spring

This was one of those recipes that evolved slowly from inception to realization. Carley made these beautiful spring rolls for our trip to the river, and ever since, I’ve been thinking about making some of my own.

That idea was spurred along after O2 watched Food, Inc. in class and decided that her already lagging meat appreciation had just dwindled to practically nil. Her and her sister were never ones for having large chunks of meat put before them, anyway.

In trying to accommodate her horror over the condition of feedlots and slaughterhouses, I thought I’d pick up some shrimp for dinner. And since those spring rolls were still fresh on my mind, I thought I’d play around with some fillings.

To accompany the rolls, I put together a quinoa with a little dried mango and spices to mirror the filling in the rolls. I also offered up a store-bought sweet chile sauce as well as a quickly concocted peanut sauce… Which turned out to be not so great. The problem was using jarred peanut butter. You know, one of the big name brands that contain stabilizers and what-not. They melt just fine, but when you add the liquids to them, they turn into paste.

And it turns out, this really wasn’t the right accompaniment for these, anyway. The chile sauce, however, was just the perfect thing.

The quinoa, although (I think) a success, was also a little heavy-handed for the spring rolls. The quinoa itself was feather-light, but the spices made this a more appropriate accompaniment to a more substantial main course. Ah, well. You live and learn.

That said, O2 scarfed down the spring rolls, globbed on the peanut sauce, wolfed down a substantial portion of the quinoa and declared the meal ‘awesome’.

Take that, McDonald’s.

Ok, so bear with me. There are a lot of parts here, but once everything was put together, they went together very quickly. And the quinoa is 20 minutes start to finish.

Sesame Rice Noodles

½ package rice noodles
1 tsp sesame oil
½ tsp black sesame seeds

Cook the noodles according to package directions (mine took 10 minutes). Drain and return to pan. Add the sesame oil and seeds, mix well and set aside.

Garlic Shrimp

¾ lb medium-sized raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tsp Ponzu sauce (optional)
2 tsp soy sauce
¼ tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp sesame oil
1 - 2 tsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed

Add all ingredients to a shallow dish and allow to marinate for about 10 minutes. Heat a skillet, wok or grill pan to medium-high. Add the marinated shrimp and flash fry just until cooked through. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside to cool.

Shrimp and Mango Spring Rolls

Garlic Shrimp (see above)
Sesame Rice Noodles (see above)
1 small red bell pepper (or orange, or yellow, or a combination), cut into matchstick pieces
1 mango, peeled and sliced
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
About 6 large basil leaves, cut into a chiffonade
1 package rice paper wrappers

A shallow dish filled with hot water

Prepare and assemble all of your filling ingredients.

To prepare the rice paper wrappers, plunge one sheet into the hot water and allow to soften for about 30 seconds. Remove from the water, spread out on a work surface and fill (I prepared one at a time because they’re a bit sticky, and you won’t be able to stack them).

Arrange the filling ingredients across the lower edge of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space. If you want your fillings to ‘show through’ more, put the noodles in the middle and start and end your stack with the more colorful ingredients.

Fold bottom edge over the filling, pulling it back towards you to make it more compact, then fold over the two sides and continue to roll forward until the entire sheet has been rolled. Repeat (I think I made about 8 rolls).

Mango Quinoa

2 tsp canola oil
1 clove garlic, smashed
½ stick cinnamon
3 cardamom pods, seeds removed and smashed
1 cup quinoa
1 ¾ cup water
3 pieces of dried mango, cut into small cubes
2 leaves fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade

In a medium saucepan, bring the oil to temperature over medium heat. Add the garlic, cinnamon and cardamom and sauté for about a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the quinoa and continue to sauté another minute or so until the quinoa begins to toast. Pour in the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit another 2 minutes. Using a fork, fluff the quinoa and then carefully stir in the dried mango and basil.

Note: As you can see from the picture, there was NO BASIL in my quinoa because, well, I was hungry, and it was all I could do to snap a quick photo, much less remember to put everything into the dish that I intended to.

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