17 May 2006

Spring Rolls & Vinaigrette Pasta

Let me first give myself an award for posting something different. And this time it's totally different, not just a variation of something I have previously made. This dinner took most of the late afternoon and evening to make, including internet searching. I decided that we haven't had any type of pasta besides couscous or rice noodles in a while, so I decided to make a pasta salad with vinegar. This pasta salad consists of spinach noodles (semolina and dried spinach), carrots, cucumber, olive oil, red wine vinegar, tamari, garlic, basil and dill. I just tossed everything together and let it hang out in the fridge for hours. Every so often I'd go in there and steal a bite to see how well the flavors have married and absorbed. I did have to keep adding soy and vinegar throughout the next few hours. It ended up tasting wonderful and very refreshing. Ray said it was "bold". That's a compliment to me!
I had the vinaigrette salad made and cooling in the fridge for a long time while I thought of what else to make with this meal (based on random ingredients in the house). I've been thinking of making spring rolls for a while (well, I've had the wrappers for 9 months now). This doesn't really go with the pasta salad theme, but I am quite random. I also kept going back and forth, and didn't really want anything super-heavy with the pasta.

As I was making these I was sort of unhappy with my choices of ingredients, but kept thinking that I needed some tofu in it. I used the last of the tofu for the quinoa stir-fry, which bummed me. My ideal spring rolls would consist of cabbage or lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, peppers, sprouts, tofu, and mung beans. I didn't have a few of those (most) ingredients, so I went with what I had.
Ingredients: rice paper, carrots, cucumber, avocado, red kale, basil and cashews.
As you can see, these aren't pretty. It was my first time rolling (spring rolls, at least) and it was very hard to keep the cashew pieces inside, plus they made the rice paper tear quite a bit. I think what made me not care for these was not the lack of ingredients, but the kale. It really wasn't good in this. I did make one roll all raw at first, and then I decided to saute the carrots and cucumber, but I regret not adding the kale to heat up and blend flavors. The kale was too pungent for me in the rolls.

I took Dori's (The Bakehouse) advice and sort-of followed her spring roll recipe (based on the ingredients I had on hand). It was quite a challenge at first to soak the rice papers and then carefully place it on the damp towel for rolling. I messed up a few times, but then sort-of got the hang of it. I came out with 5 rolls total. I am just glad that Ray ate most of these (I had almost one, but started pulling out the kale, I'm picky!), and that next time I know how to do the whole method, I will just change the ingredients around.

One great part about the spring rolls was this sauce. It is also Dori's recipe and it consisted of peanut butter, brown rice vinegar, tamari, chili flakes, sesame oil, and probably more stuff I'm forgetting. It was super-good but I will use a tad less peanut butter next time, as it was thicker than my desires even after whisking. This sauce was soooo good, I probably ate more plain with my fingers than with the spring rolls.
Verdict: The cold pasta vinaigrette was awesome. I have a few leftovers and I am liking the idea that they are already cold and it is supposed to be cold. How easy! I rate the pasta salad a 9.5 (nothing's perfect!). As for the spring rolls, I will rate my efforts and learning experience also a 9.5 (again, nothing's perfect!). I will rate the outcome and the taste just a 5. It was so-so and most likely based on my choices of fillings. As for the chili peanut sauce, that was an amazing 9, but to give it a few more decimal points, I will have to use less p.b. next time. This was a fun and different meal for me, and more of a learning experience, that's why I didn't get frustrated that I didn't care for the rolls. I am now more excited to see what I can really do with wanted-ingredients next time!


raising_kahne said...

This was a very creative meal! I have pondered several times on weather to try spring rolls or not, but always chose not to because it looked too difficult! I guess I will have to wait until I learn more on how to make them! haha The salad looks absolutely amazing! Id give the appearance a perfect 10!

Vicki said...

fun post, leslie. i think it'd be a blast to watch you cook! tossing, tasting & tweeking! (hey, that's catchy) and i'd be tasting right along with you. lol! :o)

i also made dori's spring rolls & pb dipping sauce a while back and it's funny how different the 3 versions are.

i think your dipping bowl is so pretty...& the colors even match your blog background color!

Twilight said...

i can never get my rolls to stay together - something always comes undone...any suggestions? thanks!

Dreena said...

Leslie, you are too great, "giving yourself an award"... so adorable... but so you should!!!

Everything looks beautiful! Plus, it is time consuming and sometimes a lot of work trying and experimenting with something new - esp something like rice wrappers or phyllo - can get frustrating.

That peanut sauce looks great, and I'm sure I would have been scraping out any clinging to the bowl! Pasta salads soak up so much of the sauce they are soaking in, don't they? - whether vinaigrette, or a mayonnaise-type dressing, they just sop it up. Anyway, lovely job and great pics!! :)

Dreena said...

Leslie, you are too great, "giving yourself an award"... so adorable... but so you should!!!

Everything looks beautiful! Plus, it is time consuming and sometimes a lot of work trying and experimenting with something new - esp something like rice wrappers or phyllo - can get frustrating.

That peanut sauce looks great, and I'm sure I would have been scraping out any clinging to the bowl! Pasta salads soak up so much of the sauce they are soaking in, don't they? - whether vinaigrette, or a mayonnaise-type dressing, they just sop it up. Anyway, lovely job and great pics!! :)

KaiVegan said...

I like the bold pasta colors.

The sauce looks really good and that bowl looks like the perfect container for it.

If you grind the cashews up a bit, it should make a lot of difference.

EatPeacePlease said...

I will comment individually later. I am going to find out the verdict on my treat samples. I want to tell everyone that I was wondering why I had no comments all day. Then the idea struck me to go to Blogger and click the tab which I have never done before. There were comments from March! I am so upset at myself and sorry to all of you for me never responding to many of these. Those who left me your emails, I have them written and not published to the world. I will get to you (vicki, jacki, catherine, Julie) all soon, I promise! And such nice comments too, so thank you all for your comments today and all the way since I started. I love hearing feedback and when lurkers and new people chime in. Overall, I can't believe that email comment moderation is such crap and I apologize to anyone who has never heard back from me. I have this under control now!

EatPeacePlease said...

Oh, and if any of you out there want me to link you on the sidebar with all my others, please let me know. I am ready to update my links, but would like people to volunteer and give me a heads up.

Vicki said...

you sure are sweet. :o)

EatPeacePlease said...

Raising K, the spring rolls probably take just one practice round. It all depends how you cut up the veggies (very thin) and how you roll. I found that warm/hot water soaks the rice paper best. Good luck and keep us posted on your attempts!

Vicki, I remember you making Dori's rolls. Thanks for your nice comments, but I think it may be very funny/embarassing to watch me in the kitchen. I'm messy, all over the place, making a billion things at once, but still yet pull it together and clean up as I go. It's quite the process, but we all do it!

Twilight, I am going to try a few different rice papers. I have one other kind in my pantry that I haven't tried. Make sure they are moist/wet enough from soaking and soak them for at least 10 seconds in warm/hot water. Maybe you could press them and sort of press the rice paper to the other side. More suggestions for Twilight appreciated!

Dreena, thanks for your nice comments. Maybe next time you can come by and bring your bent spoon(s) and we can dig in together! I plan on working with phylo, have some in the freezer, but don't want to use the oven. Any suggestions? I would love samosas on the stove top, but is that phylo? Anything like that is amazing to me. Thanks for your kind comments, as always!

Kai, great idea about grinding the cashews. I must warn you that I love grinding cashews into powder and mixing in treats! I think it's almost time for new bowls, can't you see all the cracks? They're our special "huge" bowls and we have used them a lot now.

Vicki, thanks! How's the beach house?

Dreena said...

Leslie, we really should post our spoon pics some day!! :) I have made samosas with phyllo, and really enjoyed them, but never on the stovetop. I guess you could prepare the filling, then wrap and pan-fry them, but I've never done it. Still haven't used the oven yet??

Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

Leslie - looks good - I have to try making spring rolls sometime soon.

So, what's the story with your oven? Now I'm curious...it's like unsolved mysteries :)

I made these great potstickers with kale - had to chop it up pretty finely, but it was good in those. Plus, it gets steamed a bit, so that helps.


Crystal & Ryan - Café Cyan said...

P.S. - I'd love to be added to your links. Not sure if you've had a chance to check out my blog since it was started just this week. We do a lot of vegan and vegetarian dishes, but do use animal products from time to time. Sloppy Lenties are on the menu again soon, so you'll see those on there prob. next week.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Wow I'm impressed with your spring rolls. I think I'm adventurous enough to try those new things, but I'm just too afraid of failure. Well for now you've inspired me to try and not worry so much if I mess up the first time. The rest of your meal looks great too. Good luck with the phyllo dough.


EatPeacePlease said...

Dreena, yep, still no oven. I'm at the point where I am starting to not care anymore!

Hi Crystal. The story with my oven is (I think) under the February archive and under a quinoa post. Just keep scrolling and you'll see it. It's the story with the smaller font. I'll check your site and add you to my links. Thanks for your comments.

Teresa, I do encourage you to try the rolls (or something new and challenging). This was actually fun for me, even when the rice paper kept tearing. If you don't try, you never know what you'll get, right?!?

Megan the Vegan said...

Hi Leslie - nice lookin' spring rolls! One trick I've found - if you want to add raw spinach or lettuce to the roll, you can lay it flat on the rice paper and then put the other ingredients inside the lettuce. Then when you roll it up, the lettuce helps to prevent the veggies (or nuts) from breaking through the rice paper.
PS - if you'd like to add me to your links, that'd be cool!
PPS - whenever I click on your blog it takes an unusually long time to load. I don't understand why. Do you know if other people have experienced this problem?

EatPeacePlease said...

Hi Megan, the problem with my page was only temporarily solved. I saw people complaining in the Post Punk Kitchen forum and someone mentioned my photo sizes... they're HUGE! Shawn was kind enough to show me how to make my photos smaller and I have been for the last few weeks, but all the rest of my gagillion photos are large sizes. I don't know how to change them all (quickly and/or non-tediously) and I am sorry for everyone who is frustrated.

Thanks for the lettuce advice, as I planned on doing that next time. I made dolmas only one time because the ripping with the rolling was driving me crazy!

I'll add you when I add everyone else, thanks!