Anyone else tired of winter vegetables? I can’t look at another cauliflower and even my beloved brussels sprouts are getting the side eye. I miss my farmers’ foods. It must be March. Spring rolls to the rescue.
Yesterday, late afternoon at my not-fancy neighborhood grocery store, everything looked limp. The chard was sad, the kale was picked over. Big bunched broccoli was piled high, as was its cousin cauliflower. Fresh but I see I am not alone in the over-cruciferication of my dinner table. Looking around, no one else had broccoli or cauliflower in their cart.
I would have been happy with some bok choy but it was nowhere to be found. Of all the offerings, really, only the Napa cabbage looked appealing. Napa often leads to spring rolls, one of Dennis’ favorite dinners. And I do not miss the irony of “Spring” in their name.
Yes, I know. There is a lot of chopping involved. See it as an opportunity to sharpen those awesome knife skills. It’s a good little workout, right?
Do all the chopping in advance, not as you’re cooking. Don’t bother putting each in a little precious bowl – just use a baking sheet to organize your beautifully chopped veg in the order in which you will be adding them, from ingredients that need the longest cooking time to those that need the least. This layering of flavors keeps the filling sweet and complex.
Makes about 20 spring rolls
Active Time: 1-1/2 hours
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional)
1/4 cup grapeseed or canola oil
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger root
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/4 cup cilantro stems, chopped
1 medium Napa cabbage, cored, quartered and shredded
2 carrots, julienned
6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps slivered
1/3 pound snap peas, cut in two or three pieces
3 scallions, green and white part chopped fine
1/4 cup mirin
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 package egg roll wrappers
1/2 to 3/4 cup grapeseed, peanut or canola oil
Mix up the first five ingredients in a small bowl and set aside on the counter. By the time the spring rolls are ready it will have mellowed into a perfect dipping sauce.
You will want a very large saute pan with a cover. Add the oil to the pan and turn the heat to medium high. After a moment or two, start the cooking with the aromatic ginger and garlic. Sauté until fragrant, a minute or two, then stir in the cilantro stems (omit them if you hate cilantro).
Toss in the carrots, mushrooms, peas and scallions, stirring well and sprinkling each layer with a pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon). Cook each 2 to 3 minutes before adding the next. Add the cabbage which will want to over flow the pan, but in just a couple of minutes with a good stir or two, the shreds will relax and reduce and become much more manageable.
Pour in the mirin, tamari, sesame oil and stir well, then cover and cook 10 minutes before uncovering and cooking at a brisk simmer (medium heat) until all the liquid is gone. You want the filling to be on the dry side. Too wet and the spring roll will get soggy. Stir from time to time – the whole process could take as long as 25 minutes. Taste, it should be slightly salty. Add more tamari and ground pepper to your liking.
The filling will hold one day in the refrigerator. Fill the spring rolls just before frying.
Form the spring rolls (see photos) like a burrito, using no more than three tablespoons of filling for each one. Line up all the spring rolls on a sheet pan as you form them. (Note: There is no need to seal with water or egg – that adds to potential sogginess . When cooking, place the roll into the hot oil seam side down. )
Add oil to a wide, shallow sauté pan. I usually use my cast iron pan and about 1/2-inch of oil which translates to 1/2 cup. Your mileage may vary.
Heat the oil to 365°F, when a small piece of bread tossed into the oil sputters and rises to the surface immediately. Add the spring rolls and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side until brown and crisp, about 7 to 8 minutes total.
Place a rack on a baking sheet and line the rack with paper towels. Keep warm in a 275°F oven while frying the remaining spring rolls.
Make sure they are piping hot when served. Don’t forget the dipping sauce. This is one big crunchy mouthful of good for you vegetables.
Dreaming of asparagus,