Monday, September 7, 2009

Spring Rolls with Collard Greens

For any of you who live in the bay area, you may be familiar with a popular vegan restaurant chain, Cafe Gratitude. It is one of my favorite treats to go there and have a really delicious and fresh meal, in a nice atmosphere. I often try to recreate their dishes at home. This one was kind  fun. One of their appetizers is spring rolls, but they wrap them in greens instead of rice paper. I have done dolmas wrapped in collard greens before, so I was confident I could recreate these spring rolls somewhat successfully at home. So I bought some collard greens, and all of the veggies that I wanted to stuff them with: avocado, carrot, scallions, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, and I decided to add some marinated tofu (not on Cafe Gratitude's menu). And it was surprisingly easy! So, I blanched the collard greens whole. You do this by bringing a large pot of water to a light boil, and then dipping the whole leaves in the water for a few seconds until they start to turn bright green. Then you submerge the leaves in ice water to stop the cooking process. Once the leaves are cool, you remove the stems so that you have two equal sized and shaped "wrappers". Give them a quick pat dry with a paper towel. At this point, you should have all of your fillings of choice prepared- any veggies and even fruit, that you like: cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, papaya, orange slices, arugula, mint or other herbs, etc. Now you are ready to roll. Put your filling in a line on the lower side of the wrapper closer to you, leaving a little bit of room from the bottom. Then pull the part of the wrapper closer to you up and over the filling, fold in the two sides like a burrito, and then roll it away from you until all of your wrapper is used up. It may take a couple trys to get your rhythm going with this, but you will get it, I promise! If you are having a hard time keeping all of your filling together, then you could always add a little sauce like a peanut sauce to your fillings to keep them from falling apart. If you don't have a sauce on the inside, then I highly suggest a dipping sauce. In this case I made a sauce with almond butter, just like they serve at the cafe.  This can easily be made by whisking some almond butter with tamari, rice vinegar, minced garlic and ginger, and a little chili paste. I finish it off with some lime juice for an extra little kick. Slice the rolls in half at a diagonal, and serve either as an appetizer, or a few rolls with a side dish as an entree. 

Purple Power!

I just had to share these incredible purple foods.. this first one is a purple yam. I first had a purple yam when I was in school at Bauman College and one of my teachers brought one in to show us. She had baked it, and we all tasted it just plain without any seasoning at all, and it was delicious. Ever since then, I have been keeping my eyes open to try to find them again. Well I was at the farmer's market, and low and behold there they were, a small basket of purple yams almost hidden behind larger baskets of regular potatoes and yams. So, of course I bought more of them than I needed just because I was so happy to have found them again! This photo was taken just after I baked the yam whole, then split it in half, and what was inside was this stunning color and beautiful design! The outside of the yam is virtually colorless with just a light beige skin to it. I still eat the skin however, because as with all potatoes and yams, a good amount of the nutrition is contained in the skin.
To the right, is purple cauliflower. This is a little bit easier to find than purple yams, but the purple cauliflower can add some really amazing colors to several dishes. The taste is very similar to cauliflower, maybe just a little bit more complex. My favorite way to prepare this is cut into florets, and simply tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Then roast in the oven turning once or twice for about 25 minutes. You could certainly also integrate purple cauliflower into curries and casseroles, just know that you are going to have a gorgeous intense purple color to your dish!
Purple vegetables and fruits are packet full of beneficial phytochemicals and flavonoids that are great for protecting you against heart disease, cancer, and help to improve brain function among several other benefits. Eat up!