Avocado and Tofu Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

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I think it’s time to remind you how much I love food stuffed inside starches.  Dumplings, potstickers, empanadas, tacos, enchiladas, burritos, manicotti, stuffed shells, calzones, samosas, spring rolls, mochi, pies, turnovers and the list goes on.  All cultures seems to have a food like this.  Some serve them during holidays as good luck.  I just love the hands-on package they come in.  All wrapped up and ready to go.

It is also important to remember most of these lovely things come with sauces and dips.  And sometimes I think I love the sauce more.  The spicy peanut sauce may be one of them.  It is the perfect combination of spicy and sweet, especially when eaten with the light and airy spring roll.  Thankfully I have a recipe for these, so that you can make them at home.

You will need to venture into the Asian food aisle or, even better (and cheaper), your local Asian market, where you might become overwhelmed with soy sauce options, but will get better quality and selection, as well as cheaper options.

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Avocado and Tofu Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

sauce adapted from Love and Olive Oil

1 package tofu

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/3 pkg vermicelli rice noodles

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 cucumber, seeded and chopped into matchsticks

4 carrots, peeled and chopped into matchsticks or grated

2 avocados, sliced

juice of one lime

1 bunch of cilantro, leaves removed from stems

1 bunch of Thai basil, leaves removed from stems

16 spring roll wrappers (rice or tapioca paper)

Sauce

1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 small clove of garlic, mashed into a paste with salt or grated with a microplane grater

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon water

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha chili sauce, to taste

Spring Rolls

Drain the tofu and either squeeze out the excess liquid by putting it on a mesh splatter guard over a bowl and placing a plate and heavy object ( i.e. box of broth) over it.  Allow to drain for 15 minutes.  Wrap tofu in two layered and folded paper towels to squeeze until paper towel is dampened.*  Slice the tofu in half lengthwise.  In a non-stick skillet heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium-high heat and add the tofu halves.  Cook until golden brown on each side, about 5-7 minutes per side.  Remove from skillet and slice each half into 8 pieces.  Set on a plate with a paper towel to drain the excess oil and allow it to cool.

While the tofu is browning, place the vermicelli noodles in a large pot with a lid.  In a kettle or other pot bring about 4 cups of water to a boil.  Pour the hot water onto the noodles and put a lid over the pot.  Allow them to “steep” for 5 minutes or according to package directions.  Drain the noodles.  Place the noodles on a clean kitchen towel or several paper towels to pat dry.  In a medium bowl add sugar and rice vinegar and stir until most of the sugar is dissolved.  Add the noodles to the bowl and toss to coat.

Toss avocado with lime juice in a small bowl.

Fill a large bowl with warm-to-hot water from the kitchen sink.  Prepare your work station in order of use (herbs, noodles, carrots, cucumbers, avocados, tofu).  These next steps, must be done quickly.(Once the wrappers are dunked in the warm water, you must move quickly adding the ingredients.)  Dunk a spring roll wrapper in the warm water and submerge for only 2-3 seconds.  On a clean cutting board, lay the wet wrapper flat.  Place 3-4 Thai basil leaves and about 1-2 teaspoons of cilantro leaves on the upper center of the wrapper.  Next place a small bunch noodles (about the size of 2 tablespoons) on top of the herbs.  Now layer on about a tablespoon of grated or matchsticks carrots and cucumbers.  Place one to two slices of avocado on next.  Finally place a piece of tofu on top of the pile.  Carefully, fold the top of the wrapper over the pile and then the sides.  Now roll the spring rolls tightly.  Set aside and continue with the rest of the spring rolls.  For a more detailed tutorial go to White On Rice Couple.

Sauce

In a medium bowl combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, sesame oil, water and Sriracha and whisk together.  If the sauce is too thick add a little more water.

Serve the spring rolls with the spicy peanut sauce and enjoy.

*Instead of draining the tofu for 15 minutes you can wrap the tofu in paper towel and squeeze, repeating until fairly dry.  I dislike this method because it uses so many paper towels.

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Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

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I love Tex-Mex.  Black beans, pinto beans or veggies tossed is spicy chili powder, cumin, oregano and smoked paprika are just superb.  They are even better when you roll or stuff them into tortillas or tamales.  (If you haven’t noticed yet, I really like fillings stuffed inside of starches: dumplings, tacos, empanadas, potstickers, grilled sandwiches, etc.).  So when I stumbled upon a recipe for crispy black bean tacos that would use up my leftover cabbage (from potstickers) and use feta – another favorite of mine – I had to try it.

I am so glad I did.  These tacos are simple, but the cabbage/avocado slaw is amazing.  Who would have thought of slaw as a star?  The crispy cabbage marries nicely with the tangy lime juice and creamy avocado.  And don’t worry about a spicy kick, that is where the Sriracha comes in.  Drizzle it on or slather it to your tastes.  These tacos are quick, delicious and different from your average taco.  Instead of saving that cabbage for an Italian stew or stir fry, turn it into a taco slaw.  You’ll thank me.

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Crispy Black Bean Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

adapted from bon appétit

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon cumin

5 tablespoons of olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)

1/2 head of cabbage (about 2 cups), shredded

1 ripe avocado, diced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

10-12 small corn tortillas

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese (for topping)

Sriracha (or other hot sauce)

salt to taste

Place black beans in medium bowl and mix together with cumin and a pinch of salt.  Partially mash the beans with a fork, potato masher or pastry blender.  In another bowl, whisk 2 teaspoons olive oil with lime juice and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add the cabbage, avocado and green onions and toss to coat.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in grill pan or large non-stick skillet.  Add 2 small tortillas (They should fit without overlapping; if they overlap do only one at a time.).  Heat until warmed through, about 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then flip them over.  Immediately add about 2-3 tablespoons of the bean mixture to the center of each tortilla.  Fold the tortilla in half over the mixture, pressing down slightly.  Cook until until golden brown the flip sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.  Continue with the rest of the tortillas and filling.

Once done with all tacos, fill with cabbage slaw and feta.  Then top the tacos with Sriracha to taste.  I like to drizzle just a bit in on them, but others prefer to burn their mouths.

Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

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Did you know you can cook lentils in a rice cooker?  I found out last week thanks to a lovely visit from my friend.  It never occurred to me to use anything other than rice in a rice cooker, which by the way are amazing and cheap even if you only use them for rice.  But now that I that I’ve found out I can cook lentils (and possibly other beans) in it, I have a newfound appreciate for the simple machine.

Before my discovery I would cook non-split lentils sparingly because they took 40 minutes to cook and I’m just not that patient sometimes (I say this after posting about ricotta and gnocchi).  Now I can still follow the recipe with regards to amounts but they cook in nearly half the time, but with plenty of flavor.  This lentil and chickpea dish is delicious, but took a little more time than I like for a “simple” salad.  Now I’m done in 30 minutes with a great spring salad or, even better, it can become a filling crostini topping.

This recipe also reminded me how much I like “quick pickled” red onions.  Tender with just a hint of tang, but not that raw onion taste that lingers in your mouth even after you brush your teeth.  Also apparently I really like feta.  I save the container for storage and I won’t say how many, but we have quite a few lying around here.

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Lentil and Chickpea Salad with Tahini Dressing

adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Lentils
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 large cloves of garlic, halved
2 fresh sage sprigs
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dressing and salad
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 large clove of garlic
salt to taste
2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2-3 lemons)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil (split)
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 a large red onion, thinly sliced 
a handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1/4 cup of feta 
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Lentils:  Rice Cooker

In a rice cooker add lentils, garlic, sage, olive oil, a pinch of salt (1/4 teaspoon) and 2 cups cold water.  Turn on rice cooker and allow to cook.  Mine took about 20 minutes, but timing will differ depending on the rice cooker you have.  The lentils should be tender, but not mushy.  Once done, unplug rice cooker and allow lentils to cool slightly.

Lentils:  Stove top

In a small pot add the lentils, garlic, sage, olive oil and 2 cups cold water.  Bring the water to a simmer then turn the heat to low and allow the lentils to cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add water as needed.  When tender, but not mushy, remove from heat, drain any excess water, and set aside to cool slightly.

Salad

Place onion slices in a medium bowl and break them up with your hands.  Sprinkle with two pinches of salt (about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon), two teaspoons of lemon juice, two teaspoons of olive oil and parsley. Toss together and then crumble in feta and gently toss.  Set aside and allow to marinate.

Mash the half garlic clove to a paste with salt using the back of your knife or grate the garlic with a microplane grater.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, tahini, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of water.  Whisk together and set aside.

In a large bowl toss the lentils and chickpeas.  Pour in the tahini dressing and toss to coat.  Gently stir in the onion and feta mixture.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serve with toasted bread and a side salad.  This salad is good on its own, but also makes a great crostini.  Enjoy!