Tuesday, February 16, 2016

So Easy Summer Rolls/Fresh Spring Rolls

Jennifer & Allison in Hoi An - Viet Nam

My attempts fall short in the looks department - but the rolls still tasted yummy!

This fall, Allison and Jennifer traveled around Asia and had the time of their lives. They did it on the cheap by staying in hostels and avoiding fancy restaurants. Taking advantage of all the local culture had to offer, they visited lots of museums and explored each area they visited. One fun thing they did was partake in some cooking classes in Thailand and Vietnam. When they got home, we had a great time going to an Asian market and then cooking up some of dishes they had learned to make. One of them was what restaurants here call Summer Rolls - but their cooking school in Vietnam called them Fresh Spring Rolls. I was surprised that they were so easy to put together. I have had summer rolls in the States made of lettuce and rice noodles, and my Vietnamese friend Kim makes the absolutely best ones I have ever had with pork and pickled vegetables. I imagine this recipe could be used as a starting point and anything that sounds could good be put in a spring roll such as avocado or even cooked asparagus. It would be fun to let guests or kids assemble their own. Likewise, the dipping sauce here is great, but any number of different sauces could be used. Kim serves her's with a divine peanut sauce.

Ingredients and Procedure for Fresh Spring Rolls

Recipe from Gioan Restaurant & Family Cookery School in Hoi An - Viet Nam

5 pieces of hard rice paper (the first one might be unusable as part of learning curve)
1 cucumber grated into long strips (we ended up using a spiralizer)
1/2 carrot grated into long strips
5 tablespoons fresh mint
1 tablespoon white rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
5 teaspoons of onion flakes (optional but nice)
5 pinches of pepper
10 shrimp, cooked and peeled

Dipping Sauce

1 fresh chili, crushed
2 choves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoonlemon juice or lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soya sauce

Combine and mix well

*Side note - the recipe the girls were given says "serves four" but note all the "5s" 

Love the name!

Mix cucumber, carrot, salt, sugar, and vinegar in a bowl. Then put in a cloth and squeeze the liquid out.

Soften a piece of rice paper in cold water and put on a plate. (We turned it around so it got nice and wet every where. After it is on the plate it continues to soften.)

Place a heaping tablespoon vegetable mixture onto the edge of the rice paper.
Place pinch pepper, 1 tablespoon mint, l teaspoon onion flakes on top of vegetable mixture.
Fold both sides into the middle.
Roll twice.
Add 2 shrimps on top.
Roll up the rest of the way.

*Side note - as seen above, we didn't follow the directions exactly. It's forgiving!

Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Messy, Yummy Cuban Sandwich with Rice and Black Beans

The weather in January never seems to be very good - no matter where someone is. At the beginning of the month, Jenn and Allison left the Northern Hemisphere for another round of adventure, so Roy and I traveled down to the Florida Keys. I know I shouldn't complain, but I would say we saw a lot more rain that sunshine. The great thing was, since we couldn't hike or bike ride, we went out to lunch a lot. As a result, I got hooked on Cuban Sandwiches as well as Cuban Rice and Beans. Of course I had to try and make them myself and the recipes posted here are the culminations of my experiments. Some restaurants served the beans and rice separately in "Moros y Cristianos" (Moors and Christian) style, but my favorite was when the ingredients were combined together and perfectly spiced. I had a hard time getting the seasoning right until I finally added a teaspoon of Old Bay powder. It dawned on me that since I was eating the dish in places that served seafood, maybe the restaurant kitchens were adding it to the rice as well as their main dishes. Well, it seemed to do the trick and I finally got a nod of approval from Roy. Another couple things turned out to be key; I substituted beef broth for water and did not drain the liquid from the beans. That seemed to add flavor and gave the rice the color I was looking for. As for the sandwich - what a meal! It's a really delicious combination and a great use for leftover shredded pork and ham slices. 

Cuban Marinade Ingredients for a Two Pound Pork Shoulder:

1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems
4 gloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Directions for Cooking the Pork

Whirl all the marinade ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Set aside and refrigerate 1/3 cup of the marinade to use when serving. (It is especially good on a Cuban Sandwich!)  Pour the rest of the marinade over the pork. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Then, place the meat in an oven safe pan. Pour the liquid it was marinating around it. Bake covered in a preheated 324 degree oven for 4 hours. At the end of the cooking time, remove the meat from the pan and place on a serving platter. Shred the meat using two forks.   Enjoy the meat with a drizzle of the set aside 1/3 cup marinade. Use the left overs in a Cuban sandwich - see below.

Ingredients and Directions for Cuban Rice and Black Beans

1 cup uncooked white rice (I used Uncle Ben's)
1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, including the liquid
2 cups beef broth
1 large onion, skinned and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Saute the diced onion in the olive oil until tender. Add all the rest of the ingredients and cook according to the rice package instructions. When done, all the liquid will be absorbed and the rice will be tender. I have also cooked this in a crock pot for 2 1/2 hours on low and the result was perfect.

To Assemble a Cuban Sandwich:

For each sandwich slice open some kind of crusty bread that is soft inside such as Cuban bread, French bread, or a Mexican bolillo shown above. Slather on side with yellow mustard. On the other side, put a healthy amount of mayonnaise. Lay some sliced ham on the mustard side. The shredded pork goes on top of the ham. Drizzle some of reserved marinade over the pork.  The cheese goes right next to the mayonnaise. Put the sandwich together and brush both sides of the bread with olive oil. Grill each side so that a nice crust appears and the cheese melts. Serve with lettuce, tomato, and dill pickles.