Crispy Tofu Spring Rolls for Summer!

We love getting feedback from all our clients but, I must admit, I get most excited when it comes from our clients’ kids. I love hearing when their kids devoured our roasted salmon or actually finished their plate of veggies. So this month’s video is for the kiddos. There’s one thing that I’m pretty sure most parents can agree on and that’s how frustrating it can be to feed kids. I know from my own experience as a nanny that kids are very strong-willed when it comes to food and if they don’t want to eat it, they will find any excuse not to (feeding their peas to the dog when you’re not looking, chucking their apple slices in a bush on the way to school, etc.).

 

A big part of our job as private chefs involves accommodating these tenacious mini-clients. At WWE, we encourage our clients to use their imaginations and play with their food, especially the littles. We’re always trying to come up with kid-friendly, hands-on snacks that we can add to the rotation. These spring rolls are among our most successful. They also make for a great afterschool activity. Although it’s technically no longer spring, I’m pretty confident that these spring rolls are actually the perfect summer snack. The tangy peanut sauce is a classic and pairs perfectly with the delicate flavors wrapped up in these rolls. Keep these rice papers on hand and fill them with whatever’s lingering in your fridge or whatever veggies your kids are into.

This video also serves double duty by demonstrating another one of our client faves, kids and grownups alike: crispy pan-fried tofu.

For crispy pan-fried tofu:

  • I like to use extra firm tofu because it’s less likely to fall apart when you’re slicing or break mid-flip in the pan.
  • Drain as much of the tofu liquid as possible by placing the tofu between absorbent paper towels or a clean dishcloth and weigh it downs with anything you have laying around that’s kind of heavy (an extra cast-iron or heavy plate work great). The dryer the tofu, the better the crunch.
  • Slice the tofu as thinly as possible in one fluid stroke. Avoid sawing at the tofu as it tends to crumble if you fuss with it too much.
  • Next heat a skillet on high with a nice layer of high-heat oil (grape seed oil, canola oil, safflower oil…) to avoid too much smoke.
  • Season both sides of each slice of tofu generously with salt and pepper.
  • Working in batches, sear the tofu until a golden crust forms. They should be fairly stiff without much wiggle. This can be difficult to judge. For me, if it feels slimy and slippery when I’m trying to flip it, it’s not ready.
  • Once they’re crispy, drain the excess oil by placing the tofu on a plate covered in paper towel.
  • Serve in a salad, grain bowl, sesame noodle dish or spring roll. You name it.

Spring roll fillings:

  • Tofu
  • Avocado
  • Julienned or grated carrots
  • Julienned or thinly sliced cucumber
  • Julienned or thinly sliced radish
  • Thinly sliced mango
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • These are just what we had on hand but you can use anything as long as it’s small or thin enough to fit neatly inside.

Spring roll wrappers:

  • You can find these at most health foods stores or Asian food markets.
  • Fill a shallow bowl (we used a pie dish) with cold water.
  • Dip each sheet separately into the water and let sit for 1-2 minutes until the wrapper is pliable.
  • Lay the wrapper flat on a cutting board or clean work surface and allow your little ones to assemble it themselves.
  • Roll it up like you would a burrito. The wrappers are pretty tough so don’t be shy!
  • Or forgot the rice paper wrapper all together and use a leafy green instead.

For dipping sauce:

  • We love a peanut sauce with 1/2 cup peanut butter lots of fresh grated ginger, garlic, a pinch of chili flakes, 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil, 2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar and 1/2 cup water.
  • You may also like a sweet and sour sauce or sweet mustard sauce.
  • Or just plain soy sauce!

xoxo,

Charlotte

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Summer Grilling: Spiced Butterflied Chicken with Tahini Yogurt and Mint Chimichurri

 

Summer weather has finally arrived in New York City and with that an entirely new world of possibilities has opened up. Picnics in the park, drinks at a rooftop bar, and weekend beach escapes are just a few of the many options that New Yorkers have as an outlet to beat the scorching heat. Personally, I think nothing screams summer more than a barbecue.

Grilling outside feels primal somehow. Cooking outdoors over an open flame harkens back to the very first cooking methods, and even though we have evolved, it is still one of the most delicious. I love the crisp char of grilled meat or vegetables coupled with the smoky aroma that they release into the breeze. Over time, I have learned through trial and error what works best on the grill versus what proves to be a very messy or frustrating experience. In the end, the biggest problem for me has always been striking the balance between having an enjoyable outdoor grilling experience while keeping in mind that I live New York City, a place with almost no nature and an extremely low tolerance for open flames.

Once, about a year back, I got the opportunity to take a day off from chef life and attend a backyard party in the Lower East Side. The afternoon was beautiful, the drinks were flowing and the vision of so many “artisanal” bratwursts was a sight to behold. I watched as the grill was piled with burgers, steaks and franks. The grill cracked and popped at the influx of raw ingredients and flames began to lick up over the grate. The grill was obviously overloaded, but I was hesitant to jump into chef mode. Onlookers observed as the small flames and wisps of smoke steadily grew. The mood quickly escalated into panic as a full-fledged fire emerged and began to dance around the telephone wires six feet up. All ended quickly and safely but I have been forever traumatized by my first New York City grilling experience.

 
Summer grilling at sunset

I have since dedicated much time and practice to learning the art and grace of outdoor grilling. Cooking on my own rooftop has become an amazing dinnertime ritual now that the weather allows and the sun stays up later. Rian and I frequently experiment with new glazes or rubs, so I thought I would share last night’s delicious endeavor of grilling a butterflied chicken. This was a play on a chicken tagine that we have been making for clients of late. The result wa
s a charred and flavorful crust that gave way to tender and juicy meat. We enjoyed the entire bird over a swoosh of Tahini Yogurt and topped with a drizzle of mint chimichurri. I have since decided that I never want to go back to traditional roasting.

 

For the Chicken:

1 Chicken, butterflied

1 tbs chili powder

1 tbs Cumin

3 cloves Garlic, minced

1 tbs Smoked paprika

1 tbs Ground Coriander

1 tbs olive oil

For the Chimichurri:

1/2 cup cilantro

1/2 cup mint

1 clove garlic

2 tbs parsley

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 cup olive oil

pinch of salt

To make the chimichurri: combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped finely. Allow to rest and develop the flavors.

To make the chicken: In a bowl, combine the spices, garlic and olive oil until a paste forms. Rub the paste under the skin of the chicken and on top until evenly coated. Sprinkle a liberal amount of salt and pepper on top and head toward the grill!

Turn the grill on medium high and cook skin side down for 15 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to cook for an additional 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve scattered with cracked green olives, a dollop of tahini yogurt and a drizzle with chimichurri.

With Love,  Kristina

 

Get to Know It: Chickpea Flour

Socca, an unleavened pancake made from chickpea flour and water.

Chickpeas are an ingredient we know and love. They’re satiating and a great source of plant-based protein. And, like most legumes, they provide an excellent canvas for flavor. You can really dress them up in any way you like.

We eat them chilled in our summer bean salads, warm in our winter stews. Pureed in our hummus, fried in our falafel. We love to roast them to crispy, baked perfection. To munch on them as a snack, to include them in our kitchen sink salads. Basically, we love to consume chickpeas pretty much any way, at pretty much any time.

But how often do you find yourself cooking with chickpea flour? If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably not too often.

Chickpea flourtraditionally made by grinding raw chickpeasis gluten free and nutrient dense. Like whole chickpeas, it’s a fantastic source of protein, and one that doesn’t come with an ominous use-by date. It has a really nice flavor and a rather dense texture, so it holds up well during cooking and tastes delicious once it’s done.

You can use chickpea flour in many ways, most of which are easy, fast, healthy and economical. Read: this is an ingredient worth getting to know.

Not sure where to begin? I can’t think of a better way to break the ice than by making socca.

Socca, native to France, is an unleavened pancake that can be made from equal parts chickpea flour and water. The process will seem friendly to even the most novice cooks. It requires little more than whisking flour and water, heating a lightly oiled pan and cooking a pancake. Isn’t that lovely?

But there’s room for adventure, too.

For instance, you could amp up your socca with egg a la this genius recipe for “cromlet”, a chickpea-omelette hybrid developed at Bon Appetit and beloved by the team here at WWE.

Or perhaps you’d like to use it as a gluten and dairy free roux in your next vegan sauce, as Lindsey Love, a fellow chickpea flour evangelist, suggests.

Love also wrote this recipe for za’tar spiced chickpea crackers, which look to be delicious, healthful and minimalist all at once. They consist of little more than chickpea flour, olive oil and water.

Other intriguing uses: pizza, wraps, baking (it’s a trustworthy binder) and soups, to name a few.

But don’t let me get carried away. If you’re new to chickpea flour, how about a simple, anything-goes, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants Salad Socca? The guidelines are straightforward:

Purchase some chickpea flour (also called garbanzo or gram flour), then head to the farmer’s market and fill your tote with spring produce. Make your way home. Make a salad, then make socca, then top the socca with the salad. Easy, right?

A salad of baby greens, fennel and cucumber.

Below, a bit of inspiration: a recipe for a Salad Socca of my own creation. Let me know what you think of yours. Happy cooking!

 

Salad Socca

1 cup yogurt

1 tablespoon tahini

1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed

1 lemon, juiced and zested

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups baby greens

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

Olive oil to taste

½ teaspoon sumac (optional)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup water

 

In a small bowl, combine yogurt, tahini, garlic, half of the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Separately, combine greens, fennel and cucumber. Toss well with olive oil, remaining lemon juice, some lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste. Optionally, sprinkle with sumac.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 cup chickpea flour, 1 cup water and a healthy three-finger pinch of salt. Whisk until smooth.

Heat a medium (10-in or so) skillet, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, or enough to lightly coat surface.

Pour socca batter into skillet and let cook, undisturbed, until golden brown on bottom. It will fill the entire skillet. Flip and repeat on other side.

Once done, top socca with a generous serving of tahini-yogurt. Using the back of a spoon or spatula, spread mixture to evenly coat. Using your hands, top with fennel and cucumber salad. Enjoy.

The Green Goddess

Green goddess dressing.

I’ve known about green goddess dressing for a while now, but I have to admit that up until recently, its ingredients were somewhat of a mystery to me. Herbs, of course, and something creamy, for sure. But was that greek yogurt, or was it buttermilk? Avocado, or just green herbs? A hint of anchovy, or am I just making things up?

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “green goddess” notions of healthy grain bowls, sunny weather and glowing skin come to mind. New Californian cooking. As far as I’m concerned, it sounds like quintessential health food branding. Right?

While many recipes proved my theory correct, featuring fresh, healthful ingredients like herbs, avocado, greek yogurt and lemon, I was surprised to learn that a wholesome green goddess recipe is something of a reformed party girl.

The green goddess got its start in 1920s New York, when a broadway show of the same name premiered and gained popularity. Following its rise, a chef at The Palace Hotel in San Francisco invented a green dressing in its honor.

A green goddess with cilantro, greek yogurt, avocado and lime.

And the original recipe had absolutely nothing to do with health. Think mayonnaise, sour cream, anchovies, tarragon and chives. Delicious? Definitely. Wholesome? Not so much.

That said, this recipe – now nearly a century old – is far from obsolete. Many contemporary green goddesses have decadent, old-school vibes, requesting a heavy hand with rich dairy and classic French herbs.

Personally, I prefer a green goddess with greek yogurt and lots of citrus. To me, these versions are cleaner and brighter.

But that’s what’s great about the green goddess. She’s a chameleon. You can really make this dressing your own. Craving something avocado-forward? Go for it. Need to finish that buttermilk before it goes bad? Use it. Want to make anchovies your star? Sounds great. Forgot them at the grocery store? It will still be delicious!

I suggest preparing a batch of green goddess on Sunday evening to get you through the start of your work week. It’s versatile, so making it doesn’t require committing to one specific dinner idea. You can dress your salads with it, marinate your proteins in it, use it to amp up your grain bowls, or even let it guest star on taco night.

Below, you’ll find a few renditions I know and like. If you’re going to marinate a protein, I suggest following this recipe by Melissa Clark. Otherwise, simply use the ideas below to spark your creativity. After all, that’s what the green goddess is all about.

Green Goddess I

Combine parsley, basil, greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Green Goddess II

Combine parsley, mint, basil, cilantro, sour cream, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

Adapted ever so slightly from Mina Stone’s recipe in Cooking For Artists (p 33).

Green Goddess III

Combine tarragon, chives, greek yogurt, anchovies*, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend until smooth.

*I suggest using 1-2 anchovies. If using, be sure to season less aggressively; anchovies add a lot of salt!

Green Goddess IV

Combine cilantro, avocado, greek yogurt, garlic, lime juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

BYO Hawaiian Bowls

Vegetarian? Vegan? Gluten Free? Nut allergy? Onion phobia? These days being a private chef can be challenging. Each week we work hard to dish out new and inspired menus while keeping careful track of everyone’s allergies, intolerances and preferences. It’s not easy and our build-your-own-bowls have quickly become our saving grace and inadvertently our biggest sensations. We prep all the components into separate serve-ware, giving our clients full reign. It’s up to them to decide what they’re in the mood for and don’t think we’re not curious. We really envy that fly on the wall. I mean, it must be kind of crazy coming home to a counter full of mise-en-place and not know what the chef envisioned for the end result. BYO night resembles a quintessential taco night (always my favorite dinner growing up) with all the fixings laid out for you to pick and choose.

Obviously, we know what we would do and it takes all the strength in the world to keep from sprinkling the herbs in with the salad or smearing the garlicky yogurt on the bottom of the platter. We also know it’s true that this is your meal at the end of the day and maybe you had cheese for lunch or you’re just not feeling that tahini drizzle on your sweet potatoes. By far the best news we get is when one of our client’s kids changes their mind about salmon or roasted carrots and I have to think that the BYO is responsible for these little victories.

We also have to think that maybe our clients want some direction. I know from my own life that my BYO dinners usually turn into a show and tell. My boyfriend will say, “I want to see how you do it”. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained a menu to a friend or family member forgetting that BYO isn’t a commonplace acronym. Prompting my third recipe-video, I wanted to show how I would construct my own bowl for our clients who are used to this lingo and also respond to the BYO quarries I get from everyone else. We gathered at Laura’s for our usual Friday staff lunch and spent the afternoon prepping ingredients like we would for our clients. Then, with cameras rolling, I constructed my bowl.

A behind-the-scenes look at the BYO Hawaiian Bowl shoot

This bowl, in particular, was taken from one of our weekly menus and happened to be an experiment. As chefs, we’re constantly on the hunt for unique ingredients to broaden our directory of ingredients and culinary repertoire and plantains were one such, exotic thing that sparked our curiosity. It was the first week we had our first glimpse of spring and we were all craving something light and tropical (or maybe a vacation :)). This bowl was the brainchild of our chief menu strategist, Rian, and, lets be honest, no one doubted it’s viability. In the end in was fun to built our own bowls and admire each other’s different plated creations, not to mention walk in our clients shoes for an afternoon.

By far the best part about BYOs is the versatility. If the store doesn’t have mangos, pineapple would make a great substitute. The opportunities for experimentation and adaptability are endless. This is the first BYO video, but it’s certainly not the last. Stay tuned for more BYO demos!

With love, Charlotte.

BYO Hawaiian Bowls (as they appear in the video):

Sticky sushi rice, baby spinach, crispy pan-fried salmon (alt: pan fried tofu or pork carnitas), pan seared plantains, roasted carrots, sliced mango, shaved radish, cucumber moons, blanched edamame, sliced avocado, scallions + cilantro, mandolined jalapeños, tangy cilantro-coconut dressing, toasted sesame seeds (black and white) + pepitas and lime zest

Some other recent BYO favorites that might peak your interest:

BYO Super Green Spring Bowls

Fried or poached eggs, boston + butter lettuce, farro, quartered radish, blanched peas, blanched asparagus, blanched sugar snaps, avocado, cucumber moons, toasted hazelnuts, whipped feta, scallions + basil + mint and lemon + thyme vinaigrette

BYO Steak Cobb Salad Bowls

Seared and sliced steak of choice, brown rice, crumbled bacon, romaine+watercress+endive, cherry tomatoes, avocado, pickled red onion, radish, crumbled blue cheese, hard boiled eggs, crispy chickpeas, roasted sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes – http://whatweeat.nyc/jerusalem-artichokes/), cucumber moons, parsley + chives and red wine-dijon vinaigrette

BYO Glazed Korean Meatball Bowls

Korean glazed meatballs (alt. tofu), butter lettuce, brown rice, roasted shiitake mushrooms, sauteed baby bok choy, blanched broccolini, avocado, cucumber, toasted black and white sesame seeds, scallions + cilantro, ginger dressing)

BYO Honey-Dijon Roasted Pork Tenderloin Bowls

Fluffy quinoa, thinly sliced apples, roasted sweet potato cubes, arugula + baby spinach, dried cranberries, cucumber, avocado, goat cheese, mint, toasted slivered almonds, apple cider vinaigrette

Feel free to ask about any of these recipes or preparations in the comments section!