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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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

 

Barb-IQ: Tips for Healthier Summer BBQs

What We Eat: Watermelon

The first official day of summer was June 21, but we all know our real kickoff is the ubiquitous July 4 cookout. From then until Labor Day (that end-of-summer holiday that should not even be mentioned at this point) is an endless barrage of alcohol-fueled and food-filled get-togethers—a boon for our social lives, but not typically our waistlines. So how can you let down with your friends now so you don’t have to let out your pants come fall? Here are a few tips that I’ve been discussing with my clients lately:

  • Do at least one full lap. If your summertime BBQs are served buffet-style, before you plop that first scoop of potato salad on your plate take a minute to circle all of the offerings. Once you know what’s ahead, you can make an educated decision about what’s really worth it and what you’re willing to forgo this time around. Which brings us to my next suggestion…
  • Follow the 50/50 rule. You should indulge a little bit. Go ahead and have a burger and strawberry shortcake, life is meant to be enjoyed after all. That said, aim to make at least half of what you put on your plate “free” foods. To steal the concept from Weight Watchers, “free” foods are minimally dressed fruits and vegetables. Seriously, in the history of man has anyone ever gotten fat on plain fruits and vegetables? (Rhetorical question….nope!)
  • Come armed. If you don’t anticipate there being a plethora of “free” food offerings, bring one along with you. To be polite, make sure you ask the host before hand whether (s)he minds if you contribute a dish. Few would turn the down the offer and now you’ve got an insurance policy.
  • Downsize. We tend to serve ourselves in proportion to the size plate that we’ve been given. Research shows that decreasing our plates by a couple of inches—say from a 12- to 10-inch diameter—results in 22% less calories consumed. So if there are both regular dinner and salad/dessert plates available, choose the latter.
  • Add distance and look away. After you’ve taken your lap and filled your salad-sized plate 50/50, choose a seat as far away from the food as possible and face yourself in the opposite direction. The more you look at what’s still for the taking, the more you are going to want it. Eat what you’ve served yourself slowly, taking breaks to sip water (or your cocktail) and talk to your friends. Give yourself 10 minutes after you’ve finished and then check in with your hunger. Stomach still rumbling? Refill half your plate with “free” foods. If they no longer look attractive, that’s a good sign that you’re not truly hungry.
  • Put it into perspective. Ever go into a party with the best intentions, but still things fall apart? You end up leaving with feelings of guilt, waking up the next morning still filled with regret, and then thinking, “Well at this point, why not get donuts for breakfast?” Stop right there! One day of indulgence will never undo all the good you’ve been doing. Lots of days of indulgence strung together will. So if you have one less than stellar meal, leave it at that. A true sign of success is not how long you can maintain a perfect diet, but how quickly you recover when you don’t.