Monday, July 16, 2018

Rosie Makes Shrimp Summer Rolls.

I'm making summer rolls today.
To be specific, shrimp summer rolls.
And you must be asking me,
"Rosie, what's a summer roll?
And how is it different from, say,
an egg roll, or a spring roll?"
I'll try to explain as best I can.

An egg roll is usually a savory wheat flour roll (made with egg) filled with shredded cabbage, pork, and other fillings (including thin strips of cooked shredded egg), and fried in hot oil.  The egg roll wrapper is a thick wrapper and is heartier than a spring roll.  Here's my egg roll recipe, in case you're interested.  It's worth a click on the link.

A spring roll is made of rice paper filled with vegetables and meat, rolled into a cylinder, and fried.
Spring rolls have a thin, almost translucent wrapper.

A summer roll is a fresh spring roll, kind of like a salad roll, unfried, and wrapped in parchment-thin rice paper.

At least, those are my definitions, but what do I know?

Then I read this:

Thi H. Nguyen:
I grew up eating spring/summer rolls, and many other kinds of rolls as well.

I know Vietnamese food best, so this answer will be specific to Vietnamese style spring/summer rolls although I believe the answer applies across the board. Most other types of similar rolls are a derivation of the Vietnamese originals anyway if I’m not mistaken.

The terms spring/summer roll are just random translations of a food item that in Vietnamese does not contain the words summer or spring at all. Therefore, what is a spring roll at one Vietnamese restaurant will be known as a summer roll at another or an imperial roll at yet another restaurant. None of these translations is right and none of them is wrong either. Others are saying that a spring roll is fried and a summer roll isn’t. This is false as far as I’m concerned. It’s like trying to translate the word “taco” into English. There is no equivalent. There is no good name for a taco in English other than taco and if there was an attempt at translation, who would be the authority on such translations anyway?
The reality is that someone just decided that “summer roll” would be a good translation of the Vietnamese translucent roll (not fried), the most well-known one being gỏi cuốn in the Vietnamese language. Someone else decided they liked “spring roll” better. Yet someone else went with “imperial roll.” For me the best translation of the original Vietnamese term would be “salad roll,” but this translation is used only rarely as it doesn’t sound quite as appetizing (at least not to me). The fried roll is known as either chả giò or nem rán depending on where you’re from in Vietnam. I’ve also seen these randomly translated as spring, summer, or imperial rolls. Sometimes, they clarify by calling them (deep-) fried spring/summer/imperial rolls. Again, none of these is right and none of these is wrong. Neither of the Vietnamese terms for the fried roll contains the words spring/summer/imperial or even the word roll for that matter. We’re talking about using very loose descriptive terms to translate otherwise untranslatable terms. If you’re in a restaurant and you need clarification on a menu item, the best thing for you to do is ask or read the description. I myself just default to the Vietnamese terms, so there is never any confusion.
Btw, another answer stated that the translucent kind usually don’t come with meat. This is false too. Traditionally, gỏi cuốn, the most well-known translucent rolls, do always come with sliced pork in addition to chilled shrimp. In fact, some (very popular) translucent rolls if not most versions come with meat only, no shrimp.

  And this from Andrea Nguyen, the doyenne of Vietnamese cooking:

I eat lots of goi cuon (unfried rice paper rolls that are often translated as salad or summer rolls) cha gio (fried rice paper rolls often referred to as Vietnamese spring rolls)

All righty then.

Just so there's no confusion, I'll be making Rosie Rolls.  It is summer and they have shrimp in them, so I think I'm making Shrimp Summer Rolls.  Whatever you want to call them, they're light, they're fresh, they're refreshing, and they're just plain good.

 As I said, one might call these "salad" rolls.  Because they're filled with salad fixin's.
My salad fixin's include:
julienned carrots, cucumbers, red peppers, scallions, mint, and basil.
Not shown:  my assorted greens from the garden - a tender, young, leafy mixture of salad/mesclun greens.  If you don't grow your own greens, use a soft lettuce leaf like bibb, butterhead, arugula, oak leaf, or spinach.
Not shown: cooked shrimp, sliced.

Other fillings you might consider: assorted sprouts, radishes, avocado, rice noodles, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, tofu, cilantro, crab meat, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts.
It's up to you!

 You also need some sushi rice.  And some sushi vinegar.
Sushi rice is a short grain white rice containing a high percentage of starch which makes the grains sticky and perfect for sushi rolls.  Regular white rice has been milled and processed, so it doesn't become as sticky when cooked. 

Which brings me to sushi and sashimi.  What's the difference?  Sushi is made up of a combination of ingredients, most notably nori, or seaweed, with the common thread being rice dressed with vinegar.  Sushi always has rice.  Sashimi is thinly sliced raw seafood that's often used in sushi rolls.

To prepare the rice, I followed the directions on the container.  I rinsed 1 cup rice in a strainer until the water ran clear, drained it, then put it in a pot with 1 1/4 cups water.  I brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat, covered, and simmered for 15-20 minutes.  Ended up with about 3 cups cooked rice. Removed it from the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.  Then I stirred in 3-4 tablespoons of the rice vinegar.
 Dipping sauces are a must.
Here are just two to get you started:

Sauce #1 (left):
juice of 1 lime
1 TB soy sauce
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB honey
1 TB finely chopped cucumber
1 TB chopped toasted peanuts
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TB sliced scallions
Mix all together.

Sauce #2 (right):
 juice from 1-inch cube of ginger
(I buy fresh ginger, cut it into 1-inch cubes, and freeze it.  When I need ginger juice, I nuke a cube for about 20-25 seconds and put it through a garlic press.  It's extremely hard to get juice from fresh ginger.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 TB rice vinegar
1 tsp hoisin sauce
1 TB Thai chili sauce
1 TB soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
1 TB sliced scallions
Mix all together.

 For my wrappers, I use this rice paper.

From Andrea Nguyen, who KNOWS:
Rice paper used for Vietnamese food is traditionally made from just rice, water, and salt. They are one of the unique aspects of Vietnamese cooking and dining, and food wrapped up in sheaths of translucent rice paper is utterly charming. Aside from looking pretty and holding a bunch of goodies together, they contribute chewy texture and a slight tang to whatever they encase.
Basically, rice paper is a thin steamed rice crepe (or sheet, as some people call them) that has been dried. Traditionally, rice paper gets dried on bamboo mats or stretchers of sorts, which explains why they have a woven, rattanlike pattern. Rice paper is a great way to store rice for a long time and it is convenient too. Right before using, it is rehydrated and softened in warm or hot water. Vietnamese rice paper is a cooked ingredient and once rehydrated, it can be eaten as is or fried. It is not for baking so don't think it can be used like phyllo pastry!

 See how thin it is?

Now, let's start rolling.
Pour some warm water in a plate
and set one sheet of rice paper in the water.
Rice paper, as you can see, is very delicate.
It doesn't need long in the water to soften, maybe 20-30 seconds.
Long enough to make it pliable.
Any longer, it will break down,
 you'll have a gelatinous mess,
and  won't be able to roll it at all.

First, I put down some of the tender greens,
Then I added a layer of sticky, vinegared, sushi rice.
And then a layer of sliced, cooked shrimp.

Now, add on your julienned vegetables.

And your julienned herbs.
I used mint and basil.

Working quickly, roll up the paper.
It doesn't have to be perfect.

And serve.

I like to slice the rolls on the diagonal.
For mouth-sized bites.

Dip away!

I also made a third sauce.
Very simple.
Equal amounts honey and rice vinegar,
then add in some sliced scallions,
finely chopped cucumbers,
chopped toasted peanuts,
and red pepper flakes.
All to taste.


And just give me some time to practice.
I'll be creating kaleidoscopic visions in no time!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Rosie Makes "The BEST" Blueberry Muffins.

Do you want to make The BEST Blueberry Muffins?
Then keep reading.

These overstuffed muffins have a delightful, cake-like texture
 bursting with plump blueberries
and a sugary, crunchy, crumble topping.

Youngest Hawthorne said they were the "BEST."
So they must be.
He doesn't give out superlatives easily.

Blueberry Muffins
 2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 pint fresh blueberries, stemmed, rinsed, and dried

Crumb Topping
4 TB unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
zest of one lemon
With a fork or pastry blender,
combine all ingredients until crumbly.
I  used lemon zest since lemons and blueberries
seem to be made for each other,
but you could use orange zest
or a combination thereof.
Either one.
I like the citrus spark.

For the muffins:
Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add vanilla.
Add flour mixture alternatively with buttermilk,
starting and ending with dry ingredients
beating until well-combined.
Fold in blueberries.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners
and fill each evenly with batter.
Top with crumb mixture.
Bake in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes,
or until tester comes out clean.
Remove from pan and let cool about 30 minutes.

Here's the crumby mixture for the topping.
Fork it up until you have ... crumbles.

I saved just a bit of the flour mixture
to sprinkle over the berries.
Toss the berries with the flour.
Supposedly this helps keep the berries
from sinking to the bottom.
It works.

Fold in the berries at the end.

Pour batter evenly into cups.
Sprinkle topping mixture over each muffin.
Remove from tin 
and let cool a bit on wire rack.

Now that's a muffin!

Dig in!


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Rosie Makes Blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos. With Coleslaw. And Rice. And Pineapple.

 Care to guess what this is?
Besides a mouthful of delicioso?

Here's a hint:

Step back and take in the whole picture.

That would be a seasoned tortilla, somewhere between crisp and semi-flexible.
Some confetti jasmine rice -  chopped red peppers and minced green jalapeños and lime zest.
My special coleslaw - with buttermilk dressing.
Blackened fresh pineapple spears.
And seasoned and blackened mahi mahi chunks.

Now for the story that goes along with the meal:
I have three Hawthornelets.  One's a vegan.  Another's a vegan wannabe, but still a vegetarian.  (I know!  I know!  You're thinking, "Where did Rosie go wrong?!!?"  Believe me, I've asked myself the same question.)  And the third has vegan/vegetarian leanings, but at least will eat fish.  So a pescatarian.  There's still hope for that one.  He will eat eggs, but doesn't want dairy products, though I will throw in butter in his grits, and he will eat pizzas with cheese, although he complains about that, and the fridge has several cartons of almond "milk," which I substitute for the real thing in lots of recipes lots of times with no ill effects.

So back to my pescatarian.  He came home the other day with a restaurant takeout - a blackened fish taco.  Mahi mahi.  He wanted me to try it.   And could I reproduce it for him?   Answer:  Yes,  I could...  But, NO, I won't.  However, I will make something much better.

No.  I'm not announcing the name of the restaurant.  Not really fair for me to do that.  I only had a bite of one thing that they make and I'm not judging anybody on that.  I just know I can do better.
It didn't help that the one chunk of mahi mahi I picked apparently had the bloodline running through it.  I immediately spit it out and couldn't eat anymore.  Didn't want to eat anymore.  It's like getting a bad oyster.  You won't want oysters for a while.  Trust me on that and hope it never happens to you.

Sooooo....  I bemoaned the fact that $12-$13 was shelled out for something I couldn't even eat, then I moved on.  I moved on to Billy's Seafood and bought mahi mahi for $13.95/pound and came home and made my own blackened fish tacos.  Except it was more of a seasoned, molded tortilla, than a taco.

Follow along with Rosie for a delicious meal.
One step at a time.

 First, I made the coleslaw.
Because all the flavors need to have time to get to know everybody.  It's a meet and greet.

I'm just making enough for 2-3 servings.  Don't want any leftovers.

Rosie's Coleslaw
1 cup chopped/shredded green cabbage
1 TB shredded carrot
1 TB chopped red pepper
1 tsp minced jalapeño
1 TB chopped red onion
1/2 tsp lime zest
Mix all ingredients.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp buttermilk
pinch kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper
Whisk all together.
Pour over coleslaw ingredients and toss to coat.
Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour for all the flavors to get happy.

And we have coleslaw.

I also made some Confetti Rice to go along with my dish. No pics though.
Simply cook jasmine rice according to package directions.
At the end, drop in some chopped red pepper, some minced jalapeño, and lime zest.  All to taste.
Make it pretty!

Now, for the "tacos."

For the tacos, I had flour tortillas.
I brushed the tortillas with melted butter and lightly sprinkled some togarashi seasoning over them along with some cumin.  Togarashi is a Japanese condiment comprised of a spicy powdered assortment of chili peppers, black and white sesame seeds, nori (seaweed), and orange and lemon zest.  Lacking togarashi, you could simply use a sprinkling of cumin, cayenne, and freshly ground pepper.  Next, I folded the tortillas into taco shapes, propping them up and separating them with Reynold's wrap.  Bake in a slow (300°) oven until they can hold their own shape (20-30 minutes), but not so long that they get so crisp that they crumble when you bite them.  (Youngest Hawthorne was very specific about this.  He likes a soft tortilla, not a crumbly taco that disintegrates when you bite into it.  You can see that Rosie walks a tightrope with that one.)

   I had a lovely fresh pineapple, which I cut into spears.

I sprinkled a bit of sugar all over the spears, heated my iron skillet (high heat) with a sheen of peanut oil to about 400°, threw in a pat of unsalted butter, and placed the spears in the hot oil.  Brown on all sides.  Just takes a minute or two. The sugar helps to caramelize. 

Pineapple spears ready.

Next, the blackening seasoning.

Rosie's Blackening Seasoning for Mahi Mahi
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Mix all ingredients until well combined.

I cut the mahi mahi fillet into approximately 1-inch cubes.
Toss the cubes in the seasoning, coating evenly.

In an iron skillet, heat a film of peanut oil to 425°-450° over high heat.
Working in batches, place a few mahi mahi cubes in at a time, so as not to lower the temperature of the oil.  Sear/blacken for about 2 minutes, turning cubes to get all sides.
Drain on paper towels.

And plate!
Tuck some confetti rice inside the tacos.  Place some blackened mahi mahi in there.  Add some coleslaw to brighten it all up.  Throw in a pineapple spear and squeeze on a wedge of lime.

Now, THAT's a fish taco!

Gotta give it some lime lovin'!

Those fish bites were perfect - blackened and spicy on the outside, sweet and succulent and flaky on the inside.