Fresh Veggie Spring Rolls
I'm a recovering college student. I'm the first to admit that although I never had any need to scrounge together quarters to make it through school, I did somehow gain the mentality that I should always, always keep my nose open to free food. I mean, I have my limits, but when I go to an event and there's a huge basket of fresh produce just sitting there being ignored, my first instinct is to take it.
Last week my friend, Emma, and I went to Sweetgreen's Los Angeles block party opening. I'd gotten an invite from the Garden School Foundation since the restaurant and non-profit are friends/partners. We showed up and the party was off da hook. Now when I say that, this is coming from me never stepping foot in a We-Ho party on a Thursday night. Naive ole me was expecting a free veggie bowl. Maybe a coupon! But definitely not a private access party with free bar service, lumber jack sized security, and a live performance by some artist I've never heard of before. (Turned out I had heard her on the radio, but I didn't know Banks was famous, okay!?)
After seeing the Haim sisters, grabbing a beer, and spotting our spirit tote bags, I was a little sad we didn't actually get free food. We came a little too late, just late enough that I got to see some girl happily down some sort of Vietnamese-style bowl with tofu, carrots, and greens. As I longingly stared across the crowd planning a way to make friends with taunting-tofu-bowl girl so she'd let me have a taste, a guy and gal next to her were each noshing on a big ole carrot, with green tops and all. I walked over to investigate and discovered there was a ginormous crate of fresh veggies, just sitting there, dying to be eaten. People had been walking around it, shoving their way toward the stage, placing their mostly empty bottles on the ground next to it. But Emma and I saw its potential. There was cabbage, kale, carrots, corn - so many veggies that just wanted to be eaten - so we took our totes, filled them up, and left the party with a bounty! I walked right past taunting-tofu-bowl girl with my full tote full of fresh veggies and some inspiration of what to make with my carrots.
I wanted that Vietnamese-style food and I had a whole bunch of carrots. So I decided to make some fresh spring rolls with crispy tofu, pan-fried shiitakes, and healthy soba noodles.
Veggie Spring Rolls
Makes 6 plump rolls
5 shiitake mushrooms
1/2 block tofu
1 large cucumber
1 bunch cilantro
soba noodles (or rice noodles)
rice paper rolls
Slice tofu into long thin strips and pat dry with paper towel. Slice mushrooms lengthwise. Heat a pan with a dash of canola oil and add the mushrooms, cook for 2 minutes till brown, flipping when browned lightly and set aside. Then fry the tofu, but leave in the pan for 5 minutes on each side till tofu is crispy. You might need to add more oil to the pan to keep it sizzling. Once crisp, set aside.
Boil a small wide pot of water on the stove and add one bunch of soba noodles. Cook for 4-6 minutes till cooked but still chewy. Remove noodles from the pot with tongs into a colander and save the water for softening your rice paper rolls later.
Chop carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeño into long thin slices and set aside with your other prepared ingredients. Take one rice paper skin from the package and carefully dip into the warm water and rotate till the entire skin is submerged and wet, but don't letting it go! It should only be submerged for a second or two to get it wet. Then remove from the water and place it on a clean plate. It should soften and turn clear. Then add a few noodles, veggies, tofu and mushrooms to the center. Fold one end over and tuck the roll like a burrito, bringing both sides in, then roll the entire skin together. The skin should be sticky, so the spring roll will cling into place. Repeat for remaining rolls until your filling ingredients are gone!
I like to eat mine with a red chili pepper sauce that's sweet, spicy, and tangy! Or you could try a vinegar, soy sauce combo! Excited that I got to use my free carrot finds in these fresh veggie spring rolls.
NOTE: Test your jalapeños before you add them to your rolls. These were so hot they must've been grown in the fiery pits of hell! I couldn't handle the spice so I had to rip open a spring roll, extract the jalapeños, and eat the insides like a 7-year old that just wants the rice on the inside of a burrito. Oopsie. Lesson learned!