Sunday, July 15, 2012

Appetizer - Spring Rolls

Eating lunch out with the guys at work has introduced a lot of new flavors to my palette. Our office is situated on the outskirts of downtown Salt Lake City, and we are in the epicenter of two enclaves-- little "southeast Asia" and little Mexico. This means that most ethnic restaurants near the office are either Thai, Vietnamese or Mexican. These spring rolls are a favorite of mine, and when I first had them, I wondered if they forgot to cook them. Using thin rice paper, the rolls have no shame-- they show off their insides like a politician trying to win votes, except their only hidden secret is good taste.

If you're in SLC, some of the best restaurants for Vietnamese are: La Cai Noodle House, South China House, and Cafe Trang. Some great Thai places are: Thai Siam, Thai Basil, and Thai Delight. 

large sheet pan
something to weigh it down
9" pie or cake pan
tea towel, damp


1 pkg round rice paper
1 head green leaf lettuce
3 green onions, cut on the bias
1 cucumber, julienned
5 oz thin rice noodles
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 carrot, grated
3/4 cup thai basil or mint, chopped
3/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained

Tofu marinade:
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sugar


Drain the tofu, wrap in paper towels and press using a sheet pan, weighted with a large fruit can or something similar. Let press for 1 hour. Slice tofu into 1/2 inch sections and marinate 15 minutes per side. Slice into 1/2 inch sticks and flash fry in an oiled pan. Set aside to cool. Soak rice noodles in warm water for 10 minutes to soften, then boil in water and season with 1/4 cup soy sauce. Once cooked tender, drain, rinse and let cool. Mix green onions, cucumber, carrots, and herbs in a mixing bowl.

To assemble: Soak rice paper in hot water in pie or cake pan for 10 seconds. Evacuate to a plate and place a small tender leaf of lettuce, followed by a 1/4 cup of rice noodles, followed by a 1/4 cup of vegetable mix, and top with 2 pieces of Tofu. Roll burrito style, ensuring a taut fit. This can be accomplished by applying back pressure when rolling forward. Place on the sheet pan and cover with a moist tea towel. Serve immediately.

Yield: 16 rolls, 4-8 servings

Back Porch Gourmet | Live Right. Eat Well.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

2012 West Jordan Stampede Cookoff

Yesterday I was invited to judge the Stampede Cookoff! It was a great honor and a lot of fun. Having never judged a food contest, I was really nervous. I wanted to be fair and unbiased but it is very difficult to decide which food is best, when they are as diverse as chimichangas to smoked turkey breast. Having competed before, I know what it is like on the other side of the judging table-- waiting in anticipation with your stomach in knots hoping and praying that you do well. I can tell you on the judging side, your stomach is in knots and you are hoping and praying that you make the right decision. You are assigned to literally tear apart the dish, ensuring that it cooked evenly, has a pleasant aroma, is visually stunning, and most importantly, tastes delicious. If I were to offer advice for competitors it would be this: avoid foods that cause common allergies like nuts and shrimp, shy away from foods that are not widely liked (not everyone loves mushrooms), make your presentation visually stunning, stay away from meats that dry out easily (pork roasts and poultry breast) unless you can ensure they will stay moist, and have fun cooking!

Alright, now to explain to my loyal reader why I haven't posted since April. Life's been very busy doing a remodel in preparation for our third child. I am tapping away on my smartphone waiting in the hospital hoping she will come soon. And yes, the remodel is nearly done-- as soon as the carpet guy comes on Monday. I think we'll see some posts coming soon, I've still got to deconstruct a PB&J and now a Hamburger.

Live Right | Eat Well.