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

 

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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.

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!