It was shortly after returning home from California a few weeks back that I received the invitation to host the most excellent little event at this rad little bike shop here in Boulder; its a food + libation series meant to showcase the culinary artists in our community and I just about fell out of my chair, overwhelmed; with joy, flattery, and excitement.
I had a crazy idea; I wanted to whip up a series of treats that would fit as easily in the pocket of a cycling jersey as they would on a cheese platter or appetizer plate at a dinner party, AND I wanted to pair each dish with wine, beer + booze. I crossed my fingers (and my toes) as I presented the idea to Will of Cured (who would help me with the pairings,) bracing myself to be shut down. “Eff yes!” he declared. We were off and running.
It was surprisingly easy to pair back the list of some 40-odd recipes that would fit this bill once we got thinking about flavors and pairings; there was an aged peach brandy that had to go on the list (especially with dates + pecans and figs), I have a great gougére recipe that had to be presented, and of course this Kabocha Pumpkin + Olive Oil Cake I’ve been nailing down. These spring rolls were an easy choice because they’re fresh, flavorful, and unexpected when it comes to being a packable treat to be enjoyed on a bike ride. Just the kind of jersey pocket meal that makes a stop along your ride like a special kind of picnic – a snack to look forward to. In that regard, for the night, they were perfect.
If you’ve never made spring rolls before, fear not; while the rice paper wrappers appear delicate and disastrous, they’re more forgiving than you think. Keep them moist (but not too moist!) and they’ll wrap up just fine. If you’re going to be putting them in a jersey pocket, I suggest wrapping them independently in plastic wrap and then taking them along. This will keep them from drying out in addition to keeping them from sticking together! My best advice is to practice rolling these and you’ll have perfected the process in no time.
A couple of other notes here: don’t like tofu? No worries – you can fill and roll these up with any fresh and yummy ingredients that you like. The spring rolls are also great on long flights and travel days; just keep the skins from touching if you can so they don’t stick together!
One last thing – I suggest using enoki mushrooms here because they’re small, cute little mushrooms that don’t require you to chop or sauté them. There are lots of delicate little mushrooms similar to this and any of them would work. AND, if you don’t find dainty mushrooms, any good old mushroom will be delicious!
Thanks again for having me, Pro Peloton, and to all of you who came out to the event – it was a pleasure to meet, eat, sip, and chat about bikes and cuisine with you! Let’s do it again soon!
- || FOR THE GINGER ONION PASTE ||
- 2 green onions, sliced thinly
- 3 medium shallots, finely sliced
- 3 tablespoons ginger, peeled and grated finely
- 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
- 6 tablespoons | 90 ml unrefined sunflower oil
- || FOR THE BROWN SUGAR TOFU + MUSHROOMS ||
- 12 oz | 340 g extra firm tofu, drained
- 3 medium cloves of garlic
- 1/2 tsp fine-grain sea salt
- 4 tsp natural brown sugar or turbinado
- 2 Tbsp sunflower oil, plus more if needed
- 8 oz | 225 g mushroooms brushed clean, trimmed and sliced thinly (if not using enoki)
- || TO ASSEMBLE THE SPRING ROLLS ||
- roughly 1 dozen rice paper wrappers
- 1 head of crispy lettuce, such as Bibb or Butter
- 1 small bunch of cilantro or other fresh herbs
- Ginger Onion Paste + Brown Sugar Tofu w/Mushrooms
- Place the onions, shallowts and ginger in a mortar and sprinkle w/salt. Pound with the pestle until the onions are bruised, but not paste-like. (Alternatively, you can do this in a food processor -- its very quick this way!) Warm the oil in a small saucepan until its warm enough that you could sauté something in it, then add it to the onion mixture and transfer it all to a jar to cool. Before using it to assemble the spring rolls, drain off (and save) the extra oil for another purpose.
- Pat the tofu dry and cut into 6 slabs lengthwise. Then arrange in a single layer on a rimmed plate or sheet pan. Place the garlic in the mortar + pestle, sprinkle with salt and sugar and pound into a paste. (This can also be done in a food processor if you're pressed for time.) Work the oil in a bit at a time, continuing to work (or mascerate) the ingredients until they come together. Then, slather the tofu slices evenly with the past with your hands (I use rubber gloves here,) making sure to coat as much of the tofu as possible. Place the tofu in a single layer in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat and cook until deeply golden on each side, roughly 5 minutes. You likely won't need any additional oil, but if you do, add it just a tablespoon or two at a time. Remove the tofu from the pan and set aside to cool, slicing it into very thin slices when it's cool enough to handle. While the tofu is cooking, toss the mushrooms in the residual garlic paste from the pan. Once the tofu is done, use the same skillet to cook the mushrooms over high heat, stirring a couple of times until the mushrooms release and evaporate their water and take on a nice dark color. Transfer the mushrooms to a bowl or platter; keep them separate and allow to cool before assembling the spring rolls.
- Bring together all of the ingredients for rolling, and fill a large, broad bowl. Fill with hot water. Wet a cloth napkin or dish towel and wring out the extra moisture. Lay the towel over your flat workspace - you'll put the rolls together on the towel. To assemble, dip a rice paper wrapper into a bowl of hot water for just a few seconds. (I like to count to 3 or 4 then remove.) Even if the rice paper is a little bit stiff, it will continue to absorb water as you work. Place the round wrapper on your damp napkin work surface. You're going to want to keep all of your ingredients confined to the first third of the wrapper. First, put down a nice little smear of onion paste, then place a piece of lettuce (with any hard stems or veins removed.) Next, add a few pieces of tofu, some mushrooms and a few sprigs of herbs. Then tuck the top and bottom ends of the wrapper over the filling. Lastly, roll from right to left (or left to right) tucking as you go to seal the roll. This may take a bit of practice, but its worth it!