Monday, April 18, 2011

Summer Rolls, Thai Hummus and Coconut Curry for a Party

Tofu Summer Roll
This year, we've begun hanging out more with our neighbors, and through them, meeting more people in the area. I think all of us are enjoying our little neighbor parties more and more. It's so easy to go up a few floors, or across the street, especially with the horrible cold and stormy weather we've been having for months.

Saturday, as we were hosting the neighbors, someone coined the phrase building "U.N." party. That's because another thing we all happen to have in common is that most of us, or one of our spouses, is not from this country. I think last night there were 3 of us born in the US and the other 7 grew up elsewhere.

One good thing about our U.N. party group is that pretty much everyone eats just about anything. Last night I decided to make a few Asian dishes. With all that, and what people contributed, we had more than enough food (and alcohol). Here's what I put on the menu:

Thai Peanut Pumpkin Hummus with Pita Chips & Carrots
The pumpkin hummus was easy - you just throw it all in the food processor. Except, peeling the chickpeas is no joke! It took like an extra 20 minutes to try to sqeeze 28oz of them out of their skins in a bowl of water. But it was smooth, spicy and delicious, and I hope I can freeze it because I made way too much.

Slow-Cooker Eggplant Coconut Curry with Jasmine Rice
The eggplant curry I've made before, and this time I doubled it. Again, way too much food! Everyone liked it though, when I served it at 11pm when it was finally done!

Shrimp Summer Rolls - still just as good the next day!
Fresh Summer Rolls with Seared Tofu or Seasoned Shrimp

I've eaten many summer rolls, both good and bad, and this was my first attempt at making them at home. I stopped at the Korean grocery on 32nd street after work one night to grab the rice vinegar, rice paper wrappers and rice vermicelli. It was a lot like making sushi, which I used to do often - kinda fun. But just a very time consuming process with marinating the tofu and seasoning and cooking the shrimp. I started the process around 1pm and finished by 6:30 - including marinade time.

Only three things, and many common ingredients - but it was so much work!

The rolls turned out great though, because I made sure each ingredient was flavored and that I used plenty of fresh herbs that are the key to a good summer roll. It's a mish-mosh of recipe sources, but here's how it goes:

Fresh Summer Rolls
*Tip: if making both tofu and shrimp, do all the tofu first, replenish ingredients and then continue with shrimp. This way you will not contaminate the ingredients for the vegetarians. Plus, learning to roll with the tofu strips is easier than shrimp.
 
Thai Seared Tofu (VEGAN version) (follow recipe for tofu prep and cooking, but I only used 1 package)
Boston Lettuce, washed and leaves torn into big pieces
Rice Vermicelli, cooked and drizzled with rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt mixture
Roasted Peanuts, chopped
Julienned Carrot
Julienned Cucumber (seedless)
Fresh Mint, washed and leaves removed from stems
Cilantro, washed and broken into leafy stems
Basil, washed whole leaves
Rice Paper Wrappers

Emeril's Spring Roll Dipping Sauce (I skipped the fish sauce, carrot and cilantro)

Start early to marinate and sear the tofu, and cook the shrimp. Assemble a work station with a tray large enough to hold the rice wrappers, a clean work surface like a cutting board, and bowls of ingredients in the order to be used. 

Summer Roll Work Station
Assemble the spring rolls one at a time by submerging the wrapper in the tray of warm water and holding it down for almost a minute. You'll feel the wrapper change texture from stiff to pliable, and remove it as soon as you feel it loosen up. 

Layer ingredients across bottom of wrapper
Place the wrapper carefully on the work surface holding it from the top and laying it down bottom to top, very carefully. Layer ingredients on the bottom/closest side of wrapper as follows:

1. Lettuce - about half of a leaf
2. Vermicelli noodles
3. Peanuts
4. Cucumber and Carrot (lightly salted with sea salt)
5. 2 strips of Tofu (cut into french fry sized strips)
OR 4 Shrimp halves (medium or large, each sliced in half)
6. 4 small leaves of mint
7. 2 medium basil leaves
8. Sprigs of cilantro (leave the stems, they add crunch)

Peel the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling with thumb and two fingers, while using the other fingers to hold the filling in place. Press the wrapper over filling and squeeze to tighten the roll - poke any filling that protrudes out the side back into the center. Fold the sides up and continue to roll like a burrito, very gently. 

Cut in half and store in a container in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Place a damp paper towel in the container to keep moist. Serve with dipping sauce.


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