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Week of March 24, 2007

How to Fold and Roll Spring Rolls

Spring roll wrappers (also known as rice paper, spring roll skin, edible rice paper, summer roll wrappers) are used in both Vietnamese and Thai cuisine for preparing fresh or fried spring rolls. The circular wrappers are thin, brittle, and opaque and marked with a cross-hatched pattern.

The main raw material used for rice paper production is white rice. White rice powder is mixed with tapioca flour to make the rice paper glutinous and smooth. The thin flour and water batter is spread evenly on conveyor belts, steamed, and then transferred onto long rectangular bamboo frames. The lengths of rice paper are then sun-dried and ventilated. Finally the rice paper is cut into circles, squares, or rectangles and packaged

Spring Roll or Rice Paper Wrappers can be found in most major grocery stores in the Asian food isle. A popular brand that is easy to use can be seen below.

Method 1:
To prepare, submerge the rice paper into a plate of shallow water a few seconds just to soften, one at a time. Do not oversoak or the rice paper will start to disintegrate.

Gently remove and place a moist wrapper on a clean damp kitchen towel. If you are quick and experienced, I find a clean wooden cutting board works fine too. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of your filling horizontally on your wrapper, just below the middle.

Fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling and gently press down.

Fold in both of the sides of the wrapper and gently press to seal.

Continue rolling the spring roll up towards the top of the wrapper. If your wrapper won’t seal closed, sprinkle the top with a bit of water or make a roux of one part water and one part cornstarch to use as a sealant.

Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy a delicious and healthy treat!

Method 2:
In method two, after placing your filling horizontally on the wrapper in the middle of the wrapper, you fold the right side, then the left side and gently pat.

Then fold the bottom of the wrapper up over the middle and roll two more times to complete the package and seal as before.

I find this second method works best if using more bulky fillings.

Week of March 18, 2007

Edamame - Great for Snacks, Soups, Stir-Fries

Edamame are green immature soybeans that are picked while still sweet. For a healthy snack, steam edamame in their pods, sprinkled with coarse salt and eat them right out of the pod.

Look for edamame in the freezer section of your grocery store and in farmers' markets in summer and fall. They are sold both whole (in their pods) and shelled.

Soybeans are as high in protein as eggs, milk, and meat. They are also a very good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins.

Shelled edamame are also good steamed and used in salads, stir-fries, or simmered in soups and stews.

Week of March 11, 2007

How to make a Panini Sandwich without a Panini Grill

Want to make your own grilled Panini sandwiches, but don't want to spend more money on another kitchen appliance? Enterprising home cooks can improvise, using everyday household items, to make excellent panini sandwiches, without the grand expense of a panini grill.

Panini grills cook sandwiches on both sides simutaneously, by weighing down the sandwich while grilling, then turning over and repeating the process on the other side, a close facsimile can be produced. The only difference is that the sandwich cooked in a frying pan will not have the distinctive panini grill marks.

While the traditional type of bread used for panini sandwiches is ciabatta bread, virtually any type of bread can be used. Stuffings can include poultry, meats, low fat cheeses, flavored low fat mayonnaises, herbs, roasted red peppers, artichokes, spinach . . . let your imagination go.

To prepare a panini sandwich without a panini grill, simply heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or nonstick spray in a frying pan or skillet, to medium high temperature. Add the assembled sandwich to the pan and place a clean brick wrapped in aluminum foil, or similar object on top. A cast iron skillet that will fit into the skillet you are using works great too.

Turn heat down to medium low and let sandwich cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove weight and check brownness of bottom side of sandwich. If browned, turn over and place brick back on top of sandwich. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, check for doneness. When cooked to desired temperature, remove panini sandwich from pan. Cut in half, carefully, because steam will probably arise from the center of the sandwich.

Week of March 04, 2007

How to Warm Flour Tortillas

Don't you just love those warm flour tortillas that you get in Mexican restaurants? Not only is the tortilla warm but it is soft with those little scorch marks on each side.

So what is the best way to heat up your flour tortillas and wraps?

If your tortillas are very fresh and soft, you can flash a tortilla across a hot dry pan for approximately six seconds on each side. Allow the tortilla to dwell until it begins to puff slightly. By then you'll have the perfect tortilla.

Tortillas can also be warmed in both conventional and microwave ovens (These are the best methods if your tortillas are a little stiff and not quite as fresh):

Microwave:

  • To warm in a microwave, sprinkle each tortilla with water, wrap them in waxed paper and microwave on high power for 45 seconds.
  • Or microwave between slightly damp paper towels or place on a plate and cover with a damp paper town. Microwave for 30 seconds to one minute, depending on the number of tortillas and the make of the microwave oven.

Conventional Oven:

  • Or, to warm in a conventional oven, preheat the oven to 300 degrees, sprinkle each tortilla with water, wrap the batch in aluminum foil, and heat for 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Or you may preheat oven to 250 degrees. Wrap a stack of tortillas in a damp distowel and place in a casserole dish of similar size. Cover with a lid or a piece of aluminum foil tightly on the dish. Place in oven for 20 minutes.

Once the tortillas are heated, transfer them to a tortilla warmer to keep them nice and hot. Or on a plate under a warm damp dishtowel.


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