Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spring Rolls

As the seasons change, cravings change. The comfort food that sounded good just two months ago now sounds, well, uncomfortable. When I walk in the door on a week like this, all I crave is cold, fresh salads with lots of veggies and fruit. Grilled meat and summer salads are always summer classics, but I encourage you to branch out and try something new this season. These simple spring rolls are not only easy to make, but are the perfect ending to a hot July day. If you grow your own lettuce and herbs like we do, this is also a great way to share (show off) all of those homegrown goodies with your family and friends. Enjoy!

Spring roll skins (Bahn)
Rice sticks
Crisp lettuce (green leaf or romaine are best)
Fresh mint
Fresh basil
Fresh cilantro
Shredded carrots
Butterfly pork chops (optional)
Teriyaki marinade (optional)
Hoisin sauce
Peanut butter

The first two ingredients on the list can definitely be found at your local Asian market if you can't find them in your grocery store. If you are opting for vegetarian spring rolls, then skip this first step.

Thinly slice your pork chops and pan fry with a bit of salt and pepper. Once cooked through and no longer pink, add some teriyaki sauce or marinade and toss to coat. Set aside to cool.

Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Add the rice sticks as you would pasta and cook for just a couple of minutes. Rinse in cold water and set aside.

Take a spring roll skin and soak it in hot water until soft (about a minute). Lay the skin on a large plate.

Now for the fun part. Simply layer these ingredients in whatever order you prefer. I usually start with the rice sticks and follow with the lettuce, carrots and herbs. Top with the pork then fold in both ends of the skin and roll like a burrito. The skin will stick to itself. It's much easier to roll tightly when you don't overload the skin with ingredients.
Hoisin Dipping Sauce
Put a few spoonfuls of hoisin sauce in a microwave-safe bowl. Add a teaspoon of water then microwave until almost boiling. In our weakling microwave circa 1945, this takes about a minute. But for those of you with a fancy microwave from this century, 30 seconds should do the trick. Once hot, remove from the microwave and add one spoonful of creamy peanut butter and stir until incorporated. The warm hoisin will melt the peanut butter down and create the most amazing dipping sauce you could imagine. I must admit that I always find myself eating this sauce with a spoon if there is a bit left over.

This recipe is adapted from Tien Tran's famous spring rolls she always made in college!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Magnolia's Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

After a week of salivating over the endless tweets and posts about festive goodies, I decided to join the masses and do some baking in honor of the upcoming holiday too. While making a cake is typically less time consuming, it's just not as cute as a bunch of little cupcakes dressed up with sprinkles and the like. Plus, cupcakes are easy to share and when you bake, SHARING IS A MUST. This not just for the sake of generosity, but for your waistline as well. If any of you are like me, those cute little cupcakes just stare at you every time you walk through the kitchen, begging to be inhaled in excessive portions.

I have never been to Magnolia's famous bakery in NYC, but the pictures I've seen of the ridiculously long lines at Magnolia's speak for themselves. I adapted this recipe slightly as I had to improv on an ingredient or two, but they turned out wonderfully! I brought a tray of them out to my office this morning and from what I hear, they didn't disappoint. If you're looking for a fun treat that's relatively simple to make and easy to share, give this one a try. Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line two muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours and baking soda then whisk until smooth. In your electric mixer, cream the butter then gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about three minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake papers, filling them about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in the tin for five to ten minutes, then let cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Vanilla Buttercream Icing
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream the butter and sugar in your electric mixer. Add four cups of the sugar, milk and vanilla. On medium speed, beat until smooth and creamy, about three minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time, until the icing is thick enough for piping or spreading. This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes or one 9-inch layer cake.