STRIP DOWN AND PARTY!
We’ve been eating a lot of cake lately. Chocolate cake and chocolate muffins, butter & egg-rich striped cake, chocolate chip muffins, cookies and macarons. At some point, even I reach my limit, have my fill and crave for something clean, fresh and light. And something that is definitely not cake! Husband walks around patting his tummy and I am feeling the bite of the belt buckle, and someone, I swear, has been sneaking in at night and, scissors, thread and needle in hand, someone has been taking in my jeans. It is time to start thinking of something other than cake.
I step out onto the sidewalk and am kissed by the warmth of Spring. The sun is shining and barely a whisper of a breeze ruffles my hair. I have always preferred Autumn, but after months of steel-gray skies, dreary drizzle that trickles down the neck of my coat and icy winds that bite at my skin, harsh cold winter without even the joy of fluffy, white snow, I am reveling in this beginning of Springtime. But as I pull off my winter coat and hang it back in the closet, as I begin peeling off the layers of sweaters, unwinding the scarf from around my neck, as I peek in one shoe box after another and remind myself just how fabulous a collection of strappy sandals I have, I am starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, I have eaten a little bit too much cake this winter.
Spring will be upon us before we know it and summer will be nipping at her heels. As many of you know, we are off to Florida this summer, the first vacation we will be taking together as a family for a long time. But the point is: we are off to Florida. And Florida means shorts and swimsuits. Long months of icy cold days packed up in layers of fleece hidden under thick, padded, Michelin-man coats and socks over hose under knee-high boots (not to mention the hats and the gloves) and evenings in flannel jammies huddled under a mountain of blankets have left me numb, groggy and a bit on the mushy side. And like the Eskimos, that extra layer of fat is a winter necessity. But Spring is here and summer is right around the corner and it is at times like this that I start flipping through the cookbooks looking for tempting, light, fresh salads and soups, something to cleanse the system and, yes, I dare say, the palate. It’s time to start thinking about baring the arms and the legs and slipping back into last year’s tops, skirts and pants. Ouch! So, dear, what shall it be?
Husband and I go through phases of miso soup. I love the packets of instant red or white miso soup I can pick up at the Asian market along with packets of Udon noodles. On my way home, I’ll swing by the primeurs, the fruit and veg monger if you will, and buy several shitake, plump and chocolatey brown, a handful of tender, crunchy snow peas all dressed in bright, cheery green, some spring onions and a fragrant bouquet of fresh coriander. A few minutes to bring the water to a boil, add the miso mix, sliced shitake, snow peas and noodles and simmer until everything is cooked to perfection. Divide into two bowls, toss on shopped coriander and sliced spring onions and we are sipping light and flavorful soup, a warming Winter meal when it is time for something lighter than cream sauces, pasta and casseroles.
Well, this time I was in the mood for spring rolls. There is an Asian (Chinese? Vietnamese more than likely) restaurant right next door to my Asian market and they have a take-out counter. Whenever I get the craving, I pop in and pick up a couple of fresh, cool spring rolls, rice wrappers stuffed to bursting with thin rice noodle, crunchy bean sprouts and carrot strips, bits of cooked chicken and butterflied shrimp all flavored with fresh mint leaves and chopped peanuts. The girl behind the counter will add a tiny plastic bag of golden dipping sauce to my purchase. Or I’ll enjoy these babies dipped in spicy sweet chili sauce. But I decided to go wild and make my own spring rolls and my own dipping sauce.
Along with the gorgeous sunny weather comes plans for Food Blogger Connect 2010! Remember Food Blogger Connect 09? Wow was it ever fantastic! A weekend spent with fellow food bloggers from near and far sharing information, plans, ideas, laughter, good times and good food. Well, don’t think that once is ever enough for something this good. So we have planned an even bigger, better Food Blogger Connect for this June! Spread out over 3 days, it will be THE Food Blogger event of the year! Just look at that line up of speakers! You can get loads of information and tips from the biggest and the very best! Check out the itinerary! 3 days chock-full and jam-packed with exciting, informative roundtables and hands-on workshops specifically designed for the food blogger covering everything from finding your writing voice to food styling and photography to networking and monetizing your blog! There will even be a star-studded panel letting you in on the secrets of Food Blog to Book/Magazine! And all of this and more – prizes, prop swap and awards – a wine tasting, barbecue, cocktails and teatime plus fabulous meals in these beautiful London hot spots. Spaces are limited and food bloggers from all over Europe are already snapping up tickets, so give our Food Blogger Connect blog a good once-over then go ahead and register for this fantastic, not-to-be-missed event!
Now, here is a wonderful, tasty recipe to start you on your way to looking and feeling your best for Food Blogger Connect and that great summer vacation!
SPRING ROLLS WITH SPICY PEANUT-HOISIN SAUCE
The sauce is from Annie Somerville’s Everyday Greens
For the Spring Rolls:
9-inch round rice wrappers
Any or all of the following ingredients, as you like:
Rice noodles, cooked, drained, rinsed with cool water & drained again.
1 carrot, trimmed, peeled, sliced into thin 2-inch matchsticks
Shredded cooked chicken
2 cooked shrimp per spring roll
Small bunch mint leaves
Have all of the filling ingredients prepared and lined up on your work surface: vegetables cleaned, trimmed, peeled and sliced as necessary, shrimp cooked and peeled and butterflied (simply slice down the back almost to the end of the tail but leaving attached then press flat), chicken shredded.
Simply dampen one or two rice wrappers at a time and keep them pressed between damp kitchen towels as you are working. This is only the first time I have made them so I learned as I went and mine were not too perfect. I placed two mint leaves in the center of a damp wrapper, placed twp flattened shrimp nose to nose on top of the mint, then lined up some beans sprouts, cooked and cooled noodles and bits of each and the rest (ok, I forgot the carrot strips and didn’t have chicken and only added lettuce leaves to two, but I’ll get better next time!). Bring the sides of the wrappers in towards the center then roll as tightly as possible being careful not to rip the delicate, fragile wrapper.
Spicy Peanut-Hoisin Sauce:
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced, about ¼ cup
Salt and pepper
½ cup Hoisin sauce
1/3 cup water
½ tsp rice vinegar
½ cup toasted peanuts, chopped
1 tsp sambal (red chili purée) or to taste
Heat the oil in a small frying pan and sautée the shallots with a pinch of salt over medium-high heat until golden and crispy, about 2 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop and transfer to a small bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients, adding the sambal to taste. Make sure the sauce is well blended before serving with the spring rolls in tiny sauce bowls.