Spring Rolls and light summer time fare……

It’s been crazy hot and humid in NJ these past several days. I’ve been thinking of some light dinner and lunch options. First up, are fresh Spring Rolls. I made them using left over rotisserie chicken and arugula for a little peppery bite. I just took the chicken and shredded it into a bowl then added about 1 TBS of prepared hoisin sauce. The rice noodles, are soaked in warm water for about 15 minutes then drained and cooked in boiling water for 3 minutes. They are drained again then rinsed in cold water, drained and allowed to cool.

Shredded chicken, rice noodles, arugula, carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, chinese long pepper, basil leaves, and scallions all cut up and waiting to go into the spring rolls.

Shredded chicken, rice noodles, arugula, carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, chinese long pepper, basil leaves, and scallions all cut up and waiting to go into the spring rolls.

Spring rolls are fairly easy to make, you just cut up the ingredients that you want to use, then wrap them in Spring Roll Wrappers. I like to take a dinner plate and put about ½ cup of warm water on the bottom of the plate. I take a dried spring roll wrapper, dip the edge into the water then rotate the wrapper until the entire wrapper has been coated with water. I let the excess water drip off, then I’ll place the damp wrapper on a plate. Place my ingredients in a pile on the edge close to me. Then I’ll roll it once, then fold in the sides and roll to the end of the wrapper. I repeat this process until I”m out of ingredients.

You can also fry the spring roll wrappers. I minced about ¼ lbs of peeled and deveined shrimp, then placed it into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. I added a clove of garlic that was finely minced, a nickel sized, piece of peeled ginger, minced, the white and green of a scallion, 1 tsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of corn starch. I mixed all the ingredients together and refrigerated for about 30 minutes. Once the shrimp is chilled, wet the spring roll wrappers as above and then fill with 1 TBS of the shrimp filling. Fry at 350ºF in small batches until golden brown. Serve with lettuce leaves and herbs like cilantro, thai basil and mint. They’re also served with cold rice noodle salad.

Shrimp Spring Rolls frying.

Shrimp Spring Rolls frying.

Both types of Spring Rolls are traditionally served with Nuoc Cham.

Nuoc Cham
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves of garlic mashed
1 thai red chili
3 TBS of Vietnamese Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam)
½ cup water (I’ve also used coconut soda)
2 TBS of molasses or dark corn syrup

Mix all the ingredients together until the molasses dissolves. You can store this in a container in the fridge for up to 1 month.

And here are the finished spring rolls.

Spring Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls served in lettuce leaves with Nuoc Cham.

Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls served in lettuce leaves with Nuoc Cham.

Here is Rice Noodle Salad with bbq beef and fried shrimp spring rolls with Nuoc Cham Dressing. The rice noodle salad employs the prep once use twice method. The veggies, herbs and rice noodles were prepped for making the fresh Spring Rolls earlier in the day. The bbq beef is left over from the banh mi sandwiches that we had last night.

Chilled rice noodles are served with an assortment of chopped vegetables, lettuce, herbs, bbq beef, fried shrimp spring rolls  and garnished with dry roasted peanuts.

Chilled rice noodles are served with an assortment of chopped vegetables, lettuce, herbs, bbq beef, fried shrimp spring rolls
and garnished with dry roasted peanuts.


A recent photo essay on the Huffington Post placed Bibimbap 13th in a list of 25 Foods You Have to Eat Before You Die. Though I disagree with the position that Bibimbap came in. I think it should have been in the top 5, I whole-heartedly agree that you should try Korean cuisine’s answer to comfort food.



Bibimbap is basically a rice dish served with a variety of stir fried vegetables, grilled beef like bulgogi, sweet tangy chili sauce then topped off with raw egg. The western variation is usually served with a fried egg. This is a fantastic way to use up vegetables or extend leftovers and change them up into a different meal. Popular vegetables are, spinach or similar green, zucchini, fiddle heads, beans sprouts, julienned cucumbers. The version pictured above has spinach, julienned carrots, julienned yellow squash, julienned shitaki mushrooms, marinated skirt steak and cucumber kimchee.

The Bulgogi marinade can be used for any protein, its especially good on Kalbi (Short Ribs) and chicken.

Bulgogi Marinade
1/2 cup soy sauce or tamari
1TBS Sesame oil
1 bunch of scallions chopped
¼ cup natural style apple sauce or 1 grated Asian Pear
2 cloves of garlic finely minced or grated
1″ finger of ginger. Peeled and grated
1tsp toasted sesame seeds
1tsp chili powder (ghochutgaru) or sriracchia
¼ cup honey or agave syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a zip top bag. Add the meat and marinade in the fridge up to 3 days.

The veggies are prepared the following way…
Julienne then sauté in a very hot wok in 1TBS of sesame oil, along with some minced garlic and ginger and a dash of soy.

To assemble, put a large scoop of steamed rice in a warm bowl. Place the fried egg in the center and then the chili paste. Arrange the meat and veggies around the egg.

There’s also a variation called dolsot bibimbap. Which is served in a heated clay or steal bowl. The heat from the bowl fries the bottom of the rice to give it a wonderfully nutty flavor and crunchy texture. You can simulate that texture and nuttiness by frying the steamed rice for a few minutes in some sesame oil.

Feeling chilly? Warm up with some football and some chili.


I look forward to Fall, not because I’m a big fan of Halloween or the trees changing colors. I like Fall because I feel like I now have the permission of the Weather/Season gods to stop eating salads and light grilled fare and can now eat heartier comfort foods like soups, stews, and roasts.

Chili is hearty, comforting, easy crowd-pleasing dish for entertaining because you can make it ahead or cook it in a slow cooker. It doesn’t require a lot of attention. Also, you can easily extend it to feed a good number of people by adding beans or serving with some kind of bread or chip.

I’ve found that chili is a good gateway to introduce folks to vegetarian food. I will typically use a combination of different beans in my chili as well as TVP (textured vegetable protein). You can buy TVP at health food stores and I know in my area both Wegman’s and Whole Foods have the powdered form in their bulk food section. I prefer to use MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ . Check for it in your grocery store’s freezer section or in their health food section.

The crumbles look like and are texturally similar to ground beef, this will lend a little familiarity and comfort to folks that are leery of vegetarian and meat-free dishes or have had a bad experience with tofu and tempeh. The crumbles come frozen and don’t require defrosting before cooking. They just need to be heated through. With the relatively short prep and cooking time, you can easily get a hearty meal on the table with minimal planning and effort.

Augment the “meat” with a couple of different types of beans and vegetables. I’m not a big fan of kidney beans so for something like a chili I’ll use a combination of different types like pinto, red beans, black beans or garbanzos. Each bean has its own unique texture and flavor. I like the contrast of texture that each bean lends to the chili. Use what you have on hand and your family likes. In addition to the usual chili ingredients like onions, garlic and peppers, I’ll also add vegetables like corn, red bell peppers, or zucchini, again its whatever you have and like. The version pictured above has corn, garbanzo beans and black beans.

I buy the small cans of beans, even though they are more expensive. I have less waste with a smaller can especially if I’m going to be using more than one kind. Canned beans tend to have quite a bit of sodium, so I’ll pour them into a strainer and rinse them in cold water before using. I also used canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Chipotles are fire roasted jalapeños. The roasted flavor from the chilies as well as the spicy adobo sauce lend a rich smokiness to the chili that typically would come from grilled meat. They can be fairly hot so use in moderation. I haven’t figured out how to make small amounts of chili, so this stores really well in the freezer it also makes for a great topping for nachos.

1 Yellow Onion Diced
1 Bell Pepper Diced
4 Garlic Cloves Crushed
1 Cup Frozen or Fresh Corn Kernals
2 cups of what ever type of beans you like
16 oz of Low Sodium Vegetable Stock/Broth
2 Chipotles chilies and 2 TBS of the Adobo sauce that they are canned with (optional) Add more chipotle if you like things really hot.
2 cups of MorningStar Farms® Meal Starters Grillers® Recipe Crumbles™ (optional)
1 15oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 TBS Cracked Black Pepper
2 TBS Ground Cumin
2 TBS Chili Powder
Salt to taste
2 TBS Olive Oil

Heat the 2 TBS of oil in a large stock pot or dutch over over medium high heat. Add the onions, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the onions soften. Add the pepper, cumin and chili powder for about a minute then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat down to medium and cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the the remainder of the ingredients except the salt and cover and simmer until every thing is heated through.

Garnish with shredded cheese and green onions and serve with corn bread or corn chips.

Next up…a wonton three-way or rather, wontons three different ways.