Monday, January 23, 2012

An Auspicious Spring Roll



As we launch into this most promising year of the Water Dragon, I thought a festive spring roll recipe was in order. Bright and cheerful with plenty of health enhancing perks. Since we are not quite out of the woods yet with winter, the Chinese New Year is a perfect opportunity to bring more brightness into our days.

The spring rolls are filled with plenty of antioxidant rich vegetables, edible flowers, sprouted tofu, and accompanied by a zesty plum dipping sauce. Plums have an interesting history in Chinese lore. Lao-Tse, the famous Chinese philosopher, was believed to have been born under a plum tree. It is generally agreed upon in China that plums symbolize good fortune. Just what we need to bring in the new year.

Black sesame also shimmies onto the stage providing a nice bit of contrast. In ancient China, it was believed that sesame seeds were the symbol of immortality and a food of the gods. It is no wonder as sesame seeds have enormous health benefits. Black sesame seeds are rich in nutrients such as the E and B group vitamins, minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and especially iron. These tiny seeds also provide lignan fiber, protein, and good fats.

The following recipe is a loose adaptation of "It's Spring! Rolls" which includes nutritional information about edible flowers. I usually tend to shy away from using tofu as I think soy is overused, hard to digest, and can lead to allergies. Having said that, Wildwood now has a line of sprouted tofu which is much more bioavailable and easier on the digestive system. If you would like to skip the baking step for the tofu, Wildwood also offers a line of naturally seasoned products.

Wishing all a colorful, prosperous, and magical New Year!

An Auspicious Spring Roll

Yield: Joyful light lunch for two

*As always, organic ingredients are best for flavor, nutrition, and health.

Marinated Tofu
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup sesame oil
3 tablespoons agave nectar
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 package Wildwood brand extra-firm sprouted tofu

Spring Rolls
1 cup shredded carrots
2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves, stems removed
A handful of edible flowers in a variety of colors
8 large rice paper spring roll wrappers
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

To prepare tofu:
Preheat oven to 350ยบF. While oven is warming, whisk vinegar, sesame oil, agave, garlic, soy sauce, and cayenne in a small baking dish. Set aside. Slice tofu into 3 equal thin slabs. Transfer to baking dish and let marinate for a few minutes on each side. Bake with marinade, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven. Once tofu is cool enough to handle, slice into 1/4 x 2-inch pieces. Transfer to prep mat.

To wrap spring rolls:
Divide ingredients into eight equal portions on a large cutting board or mat. Rinse a single rice paper wrapper with warm water and lay flat on work area. Take one portion of flowers and arrange in the center on the wrapper, leaving 2-inches of space on each side. Follow with carrots, tofu, and spinach leaves. Fold both ends of the wrapper towards center until snug. Next, fold top side of the wrapper inward while tightly rolling into a uniform roll, ending with seam on the bottom, flowers on top. Sprinkle lightly with black sesame seeds. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Good Fortune Plum Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup dried plums, soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon raw manuka honey
1/4 cup warm water
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
pinch of Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
1 teaspoon chipolte red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Drain soaked plums and remove pits. In a blender or small food processor, pulse plums, vinegar, honey, water, garlic and salt until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add an additional tablespoon or two of warm water. Transfer to a small bowl and mix in red pepper flakes and sesame oil. Divide mixture between two dipping sauce bowls and serve with four spring rolls each. Enjoy throughly with a delightful friend.

"To win a man's heart, she must first learn how to cook a good pot of soup."
-Cantonese Proverb