Sunday Fun Day!

by kerryabdow

Yesterday my friend, Taryn, came over to Casa Welsh to do a little healthy cooking presentation for me and a group of my pals.  It was SO awesome!  Taryn, who owns Phyto Foods, is a busy mom and wife and believes that cooking plant-based meals should be both delicious and easy.  Easy?  Love it!  She is a wealth of information on healthy cooking and nutrition, and demonstrated three different dishes.  I’ll chat about that in my next post AND share her recipes!

Anyhoo… there were about 15 of us at the house, and we started the afternoon with some white wine and super yummy, healthy vegetarian snacks- including brown sugar tofu and mushroom spring rolls.  Oh emm gee.  Totally delicious!  I found the recipe on this great blog called 101 Cookbooks.  If you have a little time, check it out… it’s full of beautiful pictures and prose and lovely photos.  This recipe was a little labor-intensive, but it was toooootally worth it!

Wintery Spring Rolls

Ginger Onion Paste:

2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 red spring onions, finely sliced (or equiv. red onion / shallots)
3 tablespoons grated, peeled ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons sunflower oil

Brown Sugar Tofu & Mushrooms:

12 ounces extra firm tofu
3 medium cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
4 teaspoons natural cane sugar (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons sunflower oil

8 ounces mushrooms, brushed clean, sliced 1/4-inch thick

For spring roll assembly:

Ginger Onion Paste (above)
Brown Sugar Tofu & Mushrooms (above)
crisp, crunchy lettuce (baby gems / romaine)
1 small bunch fresh cilantro or other herbs, well washed / dried
~1 dozen rice paper wrappers

Make the ginger onion paste: Place the onions and ginger in a mortar and pestle.  *I didn’t have a mortar and pestle big enough, so I had to tap into my inner MacGyver… I put everything in a ziploc and smushed it all up with a rolling pin.  And it worked!

Sprinkle with the salt, and pound until the onions are quite bruised, but not paste-like. Heat the oil in a small saucepan until hot (hot enough that you could saute something in it). Add the onion mixture to the oil, remove from heat, and transfer to a jar to cool. I like to drain off (and save) most of the oil before using it here in the rolls, leaving just the paste.  *I was a little confused on how long to cook this mixture, so ended up sautéing it for about two minutes.

Make the tofu & mushrooms: Pat the tofu dry, and cut into six equal slabs before arranging in a single layer on a rimmed plate. Place the garlic in a mortar and pestle, sprinkle with the salt and sugar, and pound into a paste. Work the oil in, a bit at a time, until the ingredients are completely combined. Use your hands to slather and gently coat each piece of tofu, be quite thorough. Set aside, and leave the bowl dirty.

Cook the tofu in a single layer in a large skillet over medium-high heat until deeply golden on each side. I’ve found I don’t need any addition oil here. Remove from the pan, and when cool enough to handle, slice into pencil-thick pieces, and salt to taste.

In the meantime, toss the mushrooms gently (but well), in the residual marinade left in the tofu bowl. Once the tofu is done, you can use the same tofu skillet to cook the mushrooms. Use high heat, and cook until the mushrooms release their water and take on a nice, dark color. Transfer to a bowl or platter, and season appropriately.

Assemble the spring rolls: I use two large dinner plates – one with warm water and one for the softened wrappers ready for assembly.  Dip each rice paper wrapper for about ten seconds; resist over-soaking, because even if the paper is a bit stiff it will continue to absorb water as you assemble the wrap.  You will want to use two wrappers per roll.  Place the second wrapper so it’s a little offset.  I put the ingredients just to the left side of the center of the wrapper, leaving enough room to be able to tuck and roll.

Start with a generous smear of ginger onion paste. Then a lettuce leaf, tofu, a few mushrooms, cilantro. And then… tuck and roll, baby!  Think Chipotle and their burrito rolling technique!

I cut each roll into four bite-sized pieces for the party and made a little sauce out of tamari, honey and sriracha.  It wasn’t as thick as I wanted, but it was suuuuper yum!  Sweet, spicy AND salty.  Heck yeah!  I just put little drops on the plate by each roll.  Cute, right?  Perfect amount to enhance but not overwhelm.  Wheeeeeeee!

Another big hit was a mock chicken salad I made with Quorn Chicken Cutlets- I’ve talked about Quorn before, it’s a meat alternative.  And it’s goooooooood!

Looks kinda funky when it comes out of the package, but it worked great and it tastes fantastic!  I got the recipe from another cute blog called C’est La Vegan… so many vegans out there, people!  The cows must be SO happy!

“Chicken” Salad Sandwich

8 oz. chicken substitute
1 – 2 Tablespoons fresh taragon, minced
1 Cup toasted walnuts*, chopped
1 Cup grapes (red, green or both), halved if large
1/2 Cup Vegenaise (or other vegan mayonnaise)
1/2 Teaspoon sea salt
bread slices (I used gluten-free, use your favorite)
butter or bibb lettuce

Prepare your chicken substitute, let the pieces cool and then chop them.  In a large bowl, toss the “chicken” pieces with the tarragon, toasted walnuts, grapes and sea salt.  Add 1/4 cup of the vegenaise, and mix everything together.  If you prefer less mayo, add the additional 1/4 by tablespoon increments until it reaches your desired level of creaminess.

Chill the mixture and serve as a sandwich, or on bite-sized pieces of bread…

… or on little pieces of red leaf lettuce.  I tried to use romaine, too, but the red leaf worked much better and it was much prettier!

*To toast the walnuts, place them on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant, rotating the tray and stirring them halfway through the baking time.

Okaaaaaaaaaaaaay!  That’s enough for today, right?  As promised, I will post pictures and recipes from Taryn’s presentation soon.  Let me just give you a little hint about one thing – baked oatmeal.  Uh huh.  You know how Rachel Zoe always says “I.  Die.”?  That’s what you’ll say after a bite of it.  And if you’re wearing a faux fur vest and platforms while you’re eating… you just might get your own Bravo show!

And I’ll leave you with that.  🙂

Happy Monday and I’ll “see” you in the next day or so!

Cheers, Dears!