Wrap and Roll [Soy & Sesame Marinated Spring Rolls]

It’s Thursday! Which means tomorrow is Friday! Which means the weekend is so close I can taste it. And it tastes good.  

We all have our own hacks for getting through the mundanish Monday-Friday. I’ve always maintained that if I can make it to Wednesday morning, the week is over. Wednesday is always a good day. Thursday I tell myself that it may as well be Friday, and Friday is.. well… Friday. My best friend claims that May is ‘almost over’. Which is funny because it’s certainly not (not even halfway, Amanda…FIVE DAYS IN!), but because there is so much going on this month and weekends are all but overflowing with things to do, both fun and not so fun, it feels like it’s already June. Last time I stopped to look, and according to the calendar on my desk, it’s still March.

I started panicking today that the summer was almost over and I’d all but sat here and watched it pass by. I know. It’s May. EARLY May. But there are always so many things, usually little ones, that I tell myself I’ll do before the warm weather gets here. And more often than not, by the time I have a second to stop and take record of what still needs to be done, I am face-to-face with a yards-length of to-dos that have all but been touched, save for the multiple times I brushed it onto the floor and picked it up again. Summers around here and quick and dirty. If you don’t pay attention, you’re back in April complaining endlessly about the rain.

One of the to-dos on that list was to make some fresh spring rolls. Shockingly, I have never made them at home before. I have this absurd perception that Asian foods are always complicated and lengthy in process. As usual, I have been proven wrong. They were easy. And when I say easy, I mean my cheeks turned crimson having thought they were somehow complicated. Vegetables, rice paper wrappers and herbs. They are effortless in every sense of the word.

Aside from being easy, they are inexplicably delicious. How a few herbs, vegetables, fruit and a rice wrap can come together and result in something so wonderful and full of flavour, colour and texture… well, its beyond me. But I am not one to argue perfection. Unless you consider adding a wee bit of marinated tofu to be an argument, but if you do, I’m willing to accept any punishment you see fit because it was worth it.

Whether as an appetizer, lunch or dinner, these are refreshing, fun and easily adaptable to whatever produce you have on hand. Dip them into a sweet chili or peanut satay sauce to bump the flavour up a little more.

Soy & Sesame Marinate Tofu Spring Rolls
makes about 8 rolls

1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp Sriracha
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
juice from one lime

Whisk all ingredients together. Set aside.

250g extra firm tofu, sliced thin
2oz rice vermicelli noodles
8-10 rice wrappers
half cucumber, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1 mango, julienned
handful Thai basil (regular is also fine)
handful mint leaves
handful chives

1 1/2 cups favourite dipping sauce. (I suggest a peanut satay or a sweet chili sauce)

In a large bowl, combine the tofu and marinade. Let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour, up to 3-4 hours. At this point, you can use the tofu raw, or pan sear it. I like both, but searing gives it a little extra flavour.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add vermicelli. Cook for one minute. Reserve 2 cups of cooking water. Strain and set aside.

Add cooking water to a large bowl and let cool for 10 minutes. One at a time, add rice paper wraps to the hot water for 5 seconds. Remove from water and place onto your work surface. As the water absorbs, the rice wrap will become more pliable.

On one side of the wrap, add a few herb leaves, 1-2 pieces of cucumber, carrot and mango, about an inch of vermicelli, and a strip of marinated tofu. Grabbing the wrap from the end where the filling is, start to roll up the wrap, tucking the filling in as you go.

With a very sharp knife (dull knives will just squish them), slice wraps in half on a diagonal.

(mind my dirty, saucy [not good saucy], nail… I apparently missed the sink after I was done assembling. As usual, no shame here..)

Serve with dipping sauce.

 I should also mention, that whatever was not used up in the wraps was turned into a yummy tofu, veggie, vermicelli salad. Perfect for leftover lunches!


For the Love of Leftovers

There is something to be said for a warm homecooked lunch while you’re plugging away at work, isn’t there?

I find my love for the business district lunch-options dwindling with every soup and sandwich. It’s not that they aren’t good. In fact, they are great. Two of my favs being Lunch, and the newly opened Bowich. But sometimes I just want something from home. A big bowl of stew, a leftover slab of roasted vegetable lasagna, or in the most recent case, a spicy, coconutty curry.

Curry can do wonders for me in the middle of a bad day. Something about it, and I know this isn’t the first time I’ve said it, feels like a big hug from a close friend. A close friend who doesn’t leave you feeling too full to function or unsatisfied and bloatey from a greasy burger. A good friend wouldn’t do that to you. So make a lot, because I have on good authority that this sunny-coloured dish will, in fact, brighten your afternoon.

This curry is quick and easy to make, and easily adaptable to what you have on hand. Use whatever lentils you have (red, yellow split, green, brown etc etc). If you do use all red lentils, keep in mind they tend to breakdown and thicken the curry broth. The other lentils will give some texture and bite to the mix.

I added tofu for a bit of protein and some texture. Feel free to substitute for chicken, tempeh or omit it all together for a smooth curry.

Lentil Tofu Curry
I use a lot of curry paste/powder in this. I like things really spicy and hot. If you prefer something milder, cut the curry quantities.

2 cups lentils of your choice
7 cups water

2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tbsp red curry paste
1 tbsp hot curry powder
2 tbsp butter or ghee
5 scallions, sliced thin
1 package extra firm tofu, cut into 2” cubes
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
a few pinches fine grain sea salt

a few handfuls cilantro, rough chopped

Rinse the lentils under cold water until the runoff water is no longer murky.

Add them to a large pot with the 7 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until lentils are soft. About 30 minutes.

While the lentils cook, add the butter to a heavy bottom sauce pan and let it melt. Add the tofu, half the green onions and the ginger and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the curry paste and powder and cook for another few minutes.

Once the lentils are cooked through, add the tofu curry mixture to the lentils along with the can of coconut milk and a pinch or two of salt to taste. Bring to a simmer and let cook until your desired consistency is reached. I like mine with a little broth but if you like yours thicker, let it cook a little longer.

Garnish with the rest of the scallions and cilantro.