Monday, September 6, 2010

Baked Egg Rolls with Napa Cabbage Slaw

Post Update 1/16/11: I've made these egg rolls quite a few times since this original post and they are still a favorite with my husband, family and friends. They truly aren't too much work once you get the hang of the rolling process. I've continued to tweak the recipe and love the final product I've landed on. I've edited the recipe below to reflect changes and added some new photos to reflect my improving photo skills.

Original Post: I entered into this recipe with a lot of doubt. Crispy, crunchy egg rolls with no egg and no oil? No frying? Really?? No way. I had to try it anyway though. On the slight chance that this recipe would work, I just had to give it a shot.

About a year ago, I perfected a recipe for delicious vegan spring rolls-those are the ones wrapped in thin rice paper and filled with fresh veggies, herbs etc. They are really really good (and I'm sure will make an appearance on this blog sooner or later) and they made sense to me. A light, fresh dish with lots of crispy vegetables sounds like the kind of thing a vegan would prepare. The evil brother of the spring roll is that tempting little fried guy filled with a rich, hot filling and drenched in grease and oil. J has a specific love for these little devils, so I knew that if I could find a way to prepare them at home, he would be a very happy man. Once again, my friend at Fat Free Vegan showed me the way it could be done, although I ended up changing the recipe quite a bit in the end. This recipe is very simple, especially because you don't even have to pre-cook the filling. Just mix together the raw ingredients, wrap, and bake. The recipe is below:

1/2 head napa cabbage, chopped into fine strips
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
2-3 scallions (white and green parts), chopped
2 tsp. sambal oelek (that red chili-garlic paste on the table at Chinese restaurants and for sale at Asian stores. You could use 1 tsp. Sriracha and 1 tsp. brown sugar instead if you can't find this in your stores)
6 oz. baked teriyaki style tofu, cut into small cubes
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
16 frozen spring roll wrappers (also at the Asian grocery near you)

These frozen spring roll wrappers are amazing. Keep them frozen until about 30 minutes before you begin to prepare your meal. Allow them to defrost at room temperature for an hour, still inside the packaging. Take them out of the wrapping and cover with a damp kitchen towel. This keeps them from drying out and will make them much easier to work with. After you mixed all filling ingredients, take one wrapper and place it on a flat surface with one corner facing you. Place about 2 heaping Tbsp. of filling in the bottom area of the wrapper and fold the bottom corner up over it. Roll the wrapper up one time, them fold each side corner tightly over the center. Roll the remaining way up and seal the top corner with a bit of water. The key is to try to roll as tightly as possible. After you make the first couple rolls, it will become very easy.

Place the assembled rolls on a lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. Flip them over and bake another 8 minutes until golden brown. Yes, they do get golden brown. Even without the oil. These egg rolls literally blew my mind. They were so good I called my mom right away and convinced her to try them out the very next day (she and my dad loved them too). They were so good that even though I have a feeling they would freeze very well for later, J and I devoured every single one (no I'm not ashamed). These egg rolls are so good that because I didn't have time to blog about them for about a week after I first made them, I'm actually writing this as my second batch cooks in the oven! You must try this recipe!!

You can dip these egg rolls in soy sauce or any duck sauce or hot & sour sauce of your liking. I make a generic Asian dipping sauce consisting of soy sauce, water, sugar and rice wine vinegar. Whatever suits your taste.

To pair with this dish, I wanted something light and crunchy. I still had half a napa cabbage, so I decided to make a slaw that we've been making in my family for a very long time, but to substitute the napa cabbage for the regular cabbage I normally use. Mix together:

1/2 napa cabbage, cut into fine strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into small strips
2 small carrots, cut into matchsticks or shredded
2 scallions, chopped
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
black pepper and hot pepper flakes to taste

Mix everything thoroughly and put it in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat. About an hour in the fridge helps to meld all the flavors together.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Collard Greens Stuffed with Red Beans and Rice

Now, I am not a Southern belle. Anyone who knows me even a little bit understands that this statement is true. But I am a lot closer to one now than I have ever been. In the past several years, I have: 1) Married a good Southern boy, 2) Spent a year living in Charleston, South Carolina, 3) Worked for a few months at a Southern cooking store and cooking school, and 4) Spent a number of major holidays with my Southern in-laws. Not a Southern belle yet, but I can officially hold my own preparing a few traditional Southern dishes...Well traditional except for the lack of bacon, lard and all things pig-related.

One thing that J and I really love is a good dish of collard greens. It gives us a break from kale (our favorite food and the subject of a blog post coming soon), and is incredibly healthy, hearty and inexpensive. This dish is nearly identical to the recipe I originally found on my beloved Fat Free Vegan blog. I changed a few spices and flavors to give it a more Southern flavor. A complete list of ingredients is below:

1 cup cooked brown rice
1 1/2 cups cooked small red beans
1 large onion, diced
1 green or yellow pepper, chopped
2-3 ribs celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed
1 15-oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. Tapatio or other hot sauce of your choice
1 Tbps. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. liquid smoke
salt and pepper to taste
12 large collard leaves

First prepare the collard leaves. Buy one large bunch and then select the biggest and best 12 leaves. A bunch will usually have about 15 leaves or so but some will be small or deformed. Don't throw those ones away, just use them in your next stir fry or whatever. You can even chop them and eat them raw in a salad. You want to clean up each leaf so that it will be the perfect little wrap for your rice and bean mixture.

Wash the leaves in cold water and cut off the bottom of the leaves so that the shape is a fairly uniform circle or oval or whatever it may be. Then use a sharp, thin knife to slice out the tough part of the stem. You are basically 'de-boning' the collard. While you are cleaning up the collards, boil a large pot of salted water. In two batches of 6, blanch the leaves in the boiling water for about 2 minutes. Rinse the leaves in cold water, and set aside stacked on a flat surface.

This recipe is a great example of why I never make a little bit of rice or beans. If I'm going to spend the 45 minutes or more cooking up rice or boiling beans, I make a lot of it and try to use them in a couple dishes. Somehow they always manage to get used up. In this case you need 1 cup of cooked rice and 1 1/2 cup of cooked red beans. I guess you could use canned beans, but I think kidney beans are a little too big for this and I don't often see these little red beans in cans. It's really easy to make dry beans and I'm trying to do it more often. It's also way cheaper than the canned ones.

Heat a large skillet and saute the onion with a pinch of salt. When the onion begins to brown, add the bell pepper, celery and garlic and cook until all vegetables are tender but not done. Take about 3/4 cup of the veggie mixture and mix it with the can of fire roasted tomatoes. I put these in a blender for a little mix, but you could use it chunky if you wanted to. Set the tomato mixture aside.

Add the rice and beans to the skillet with the remaining veggies and add in the seasonings, hot sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke and about 1/4 cup of vegetable broth or water. Reduce the heat and cook on low for about 10 minutes. Remove the mixture from heat and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To assemble the little rolls, spoon half of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a long casserole dish. Put the first collard in front of you with the trimmed side up and the stem closest to you. Place about 3 Tbsp. of the rice/bean mixture about a quarter of the way from the bottom. Roll the bottom up once, then fold the sides over each edge. Tightly roll up the rest of the way and place into the casserole dish. Repeat 11 more times.

Once you are done, spoon the rest of the tomato mixture over the top and cover with foil. Bake the dish for about 40 minutes and you're done!

I have to admit that I love these little rolls because of how cute they are. It takes a little time to assemble them all, but once you get the hang of it, it's not a big deal. It really serves up elegantly and is another great twist on traditional beans and rice-a vegan's best friends!