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VEGETARIAN SPRING ROLLS

MAKES ABOUT 16

Spring rolls are surprisingly easy and satisfying. You’ll find the wrappers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, (inexplicably) near the tofu and tortillas, or in the freezer section at an Asian grocer in affordable packs of 50 or 100. I won’t pretend there isn’t some knife work involved in chopping the vegetables for the filling, but I tend to cook one thing while chopping the next and it all comes together happily. Or use the food processor to shred the cabbage and carrots for a jumpstart on the chopping. Make the filling earlier in the day or even the day before, then roll ’em up for dinner. Get the kids to help.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
  • 6 ounces (170 g) shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps slivered
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated garlic
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) chopped cilantro stems
  • 3 cups (450 g) shredded napa cabbage
  • 2 cups (100 g) shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) mirin (rice wine)
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cup (113 g) snap peas, each cut into two or three pieces
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) chopped scallions, green and white parts (about 4)
  • 1/4 cup (15 g) chopped cilantro leaves
  • About 16 spring roll wrappers
  • 2 to 3 cups (480 to 720 ml) grapeseed, peanut, or canola oil, for frying
  • Sweet, Salty, Spicy Dipping Sauce (recipe follows), for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oil in a large wide skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook without disturbing for 4 to 6 minutes, until the mushrooms turn easily without sticking. Add the ginger, garlic, and cilantro stems and stir. Add the cabbage and carrots and stir again. Cover and wilt the cabbage for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir well, and add the mirin, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and add the peas and scallions. Cook until the liquid has cooked off and the filling is nearly dry, about 10 to 12 minutes longer. Stir in the cilantro leaves. Set the filling aside to cool completely.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sheet, the stack of wrappers, and the filling on the counter. Have a small bowl of cool water at hand. Taking one wrapper, dip your fingertip in the water, paint the edges, and place 1/4 cup of the filling in the center. Tucking in the sides, roll the wrapper around the filling like a burrito. Place on the baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap to keep the rolls from drying out. Continue to fill the wrappers until either the filling or the wrappers are gone.

Place a few layers of paper towel on a rack set over a baking sheet. In a straight-sided deep, heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, add about 2 inches of oil, at least . inch below the rim of the pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 375ÅãF. In batches, slip in a few rolls, seam side down. The rolls will lower the temperature of the oil when they go into the pan, so adjust the heat accordingly, keeping the oil at 375˚F to the best of your ability. Fry, staying vigilant and turning them as they become golden and blister, until browned and crispy all over and thoroughly cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider and drain on the paper towels. Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

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SWEET, SALTY, SPICY DIPPING SAUCE

Makes about 1/2 cups

Pastry cream is rich and velvety. It’s the eggy, creamy base for fruit tarts and tartlettes and makes insanely delicious treats (such as Fresh Apricot Breakfast Pastry, page 163). Below is a classic vanilla cream, but . teaspoon almond extract may be swapped in for the vanilla extract. Or stir in 1 teaspoon rum, cognac, bourbon, kirsh, or orange liqueur to take the flavor in an adult direction.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup (60 ml) tamari or low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup (60 ml) rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, stir together the tamari, vinegar, sugar, and Sriracha until the sugar has dissolved. Sprinkle the cilantro into the dipping sauce just before serving.

The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 4 days.