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.

Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts and Fried Eggplant

It’s the middle of summer and my farmers’ market box is overflowing with eggplant, summer squash and zucchini.  Therefore I have been cooking a plethora of eggplant, summer squash and zucchini dishes.  Why haven’t I shared more with you?  The answer is writer’s block, vacation and research.  Also, I blame Netflix, specifically Friday Night Lights, Weeds and various BBC series.  Finally, I admit that there have been multiple times that I have started taking pictures of a dish, and then only remembered to take a final shot after I’d eaten it (yeah, I mean you, peach crisp and peach jam).  Therefore, along with the recipe below I’m giving a short list of cookbooks, websites and blogs to help you find recipes, while I’m caught up watching Coach Taylor and Mrs. Coach help Dillon, Tex.; analyzing stacks of data; and trying to get more sun before summer ends.

So where do I find my vegetable recipes and ideas?  Smitten Kitchen, Love and Olive Oil, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (index) and Plenty do a great job of organizing recipes by vegetables.  Joy the Baker, Simply Recipes and Epicurious are other treasure troves of great recipes.  There are others, but these are my go-to spots.  The recipe below is from Bon Appetit by way of Epicurious and Love and Olive Oil.  Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts and Fried Eggplant

adapted from Bon Appetit
 
4 tablespoon of canola oil, divided
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Sriracha
6-12 sliced green onions (depending on preference)
1/3 lb thin rice noodles
1/2 cup coarsely chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup sliced fresh Thai basil leaves
3-4 Japanese eggplant, sliced
salt
 

Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the ginger and garlic.  Saute for 1 minute then transfer to a large bowl.  Whisk in the sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, Sriracha and green onions.

Cook rice noodles according to package directions.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Allow to dry slightly by placing noodles on a clean dish towel and gently patting down.  Add to bowl and toss to coat.  Set aside.

Wipe out the medium skillet, add 3 tablespoons of canola oil and increase the heat to medium high.  Carefully add enough eggplant slices to fill the pan without crowding it.  Cook the eggplant on both sides until golden brown, 2-3 minutes per side.  Move the cooked eggplant to a draining tray or plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Continue to cook the rest of the eggplants slices in batches.

Add the sliced Thai basil to the noodles and stir to combine.  Place the eggplant on top of the noodles and serve.

Tofu Pho

The first time I had pho was with a co-worker.  He was someone who had taught me so much in the lab and would soon be returning to South Korea.  He suggested a little Vietnamese restaurant and I happily agreed.  I asked him what he recommended and he pointed to the menu full of different kinds of pho.  Unsure what pho was and what all the beef options were, I chose chicken (this was prior to the quasi-vegetarianism).  It was delicious.

I couldn’t believe I had been missing out on pho for so long.  Since then I always suggest it as a lunch spot.  Apparently, though, everyone else also thinks it’s an amazing lunch because it’s always packed.  The same goes for dinner.  Also, it’s closed on Sundays, which for some reason is always the day I think about going there for dinner.  I’m sure there are other pho places in the area, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Recently an Asian Market opened up just down the street from me, which has allowed me to create many different Asian and Asian-inspired recipes.  Tofu Pho is among these new dishes.  My recipe is not authentic, so please don’t judge it as such.  However, it’s a decent approximation and it fills my desire for pho at home.

One side note:  If you haven’t brought Hoisin or Srirachi yet, you will need them for this recipe because adding the sauces are half the fun of pho.  Also, they are great in other dishes.

Tofu Pho

This is not an authentic version.
 
1 quart vegetable broth
1 ½ teaspoon Chinese Five spice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 package tofu
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ package thin rice noodles
1 cups bean sprouts
½ cup Thai basil leaves
1 lime, cut into wedges
Hoisin
Sriracha
 

Drain tofu by wrapping it in paper towels and placing it on top of a flat strainer, with a plate upside down on top and a heavy can on the plate.  If you don’t have a flat strainer, you can wrap it in extra paper towels and place it between two plates with a heavy can on top.  Allow tofu to drain for at least 30 minutes.

In a large pot, add the broth, Chinese Five Spice and soy sauce.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low to keep warm while preparing other ingredients.

Heat oil in a non-stick pan or wok over medium high heat.  Cut tofu into ½ inch cubes and carefully add to pan.  Brown all or most of the sides of the tofu, 8-10 minutes.  Remove to a plate with a paper towel to drain.

Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to package directions.

In a large soup bowl, place a handful of the noodles into the bottom.  Place another handful of bean sprouts and tofu on top of the noodles.  Add 5-6 basil leaves and a squeeze of a lime wedge.  Ladle over enough broth to cover the noodles, bean sprouts and tofu.  Continue with other bowls.

Serve hot with Sriracha and Hoisin at the discretion of the diner.