Monday, January 20, 2014

Vegetable Spring Rolls

Vegetable Spring Rolls, originally uploaded by michele wynne.
Kohlrabi showed up in the market a few weeks ago, about the same time as I was feeling the need to redirect my little kitchen exploits away from cookies and pizza, just for a little while-quite the challenge since Christmas gifted me with a glorious fire engine red Kitchen Aid stand mixer and these gorgeous cookery books, thanks to my super cool sister and my lovely nieces respectively.
This little blog here was born from a self imposed challenge to not only bring fruits and vegetables into the kitchen, but to transform my little kitchen from a space with a microwave, a collection of rarely used cookbooks and a showcase of kitchen collectables, into a highly functioning creative space with the end goal of saving money and eating better.
Fate and fortitude have led me to a place where my work day is spent surrounded by amazing food and passionate foodies. I look at produce all day that constantly changes and there is something new and often unusual to examine, taste and explore.
Making it's first appearance in the little kitchen is...
Kohlrabi...It's a relative of cabbage. Its name literally translates from German to cabbage turnip. The asteroid looking bulb, once peeled of its tough stringy exterior, can be thinly sliced and eaten in a salad or shredded into a slaw. It tastes like a cabbage heart or a broccoli stem but milder, sweeter and juicier. The greens can be used the same as kale or collards, sautéed or cooked into my favorite gratin.
Anyhoo, my Googling of things to do with kohlrabi landed me at this New York Times recipe for Vegetable Spring Rolls with Shredded Kohlrabi.
It intrigued me on a couple of levels...first, the recipe looked super healthy and the photo of the spring rolls was so beautiful. Second, was the challenge of making spring rolls. I've never done that and thirdly: tofu. I can't really explain why I feel compelled to make tofu my friend. I've never liked it...the texture turns me off and the flavor? totally flavorless. I have no desire to ever go vegetarian, so it's not like I need to like it. This was only the second time I've used tofu in a recipe and I hafta say I'm coming around. I got this brand at work. HodoSoy is a local company out of Oakland that makes a good, firm, organic tofu that makes the perfect sponge for this marinade. I'm not a big stickler on organic products, but it seems that next to corn, soy is a huge GMO crop.
Notes on navigating the Asian market: I've been shopping at New May Wah market for 10+ years I still get confused shopping for new ingredients.  I made a few mistakes. Rice sticks...these are noodles and come in a range of thickness's just like Italian pasta. Get the thinest size. I bought ones that were too fat-after soaking them in boiling water for 20 minutes they still weren't anywhere near cooked. I boiled them. They got rubbery when the spring rolls were refrigerated and eaten later. The thin ones apparently will just soften if you pour boiling water over them and let them sit for 20 minutes. I also bought the wrong wrappers the first time, buying the frozen wheat flour based kind. Those are for cooked spring rolls. The rice wrappers are in dry goods and look like sheets of rice paper. They soak in warm water and get all rubbery. They're hard to work with first time out because the sheet folds over on itself and sticks and just gets worse and worse and they'll rip if they soak too long. Don't fight it...toss it and start again. There are 25 sheets in a package so just give into the learning curve.
It's definitely worth the struggle in the end. The dipping sauce is just peanut butter stirred into the marinade. Brilliant!
These are the perfect vessel for transporting all manner of raw vegetables into your mouth.

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