Monthly Archives: September 2012

Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce-Marinated Tofu or Chicken

Peanut Sauce marinated chicken and tofu summer rolls, yummo.

One of my very favorite things to eat is anything in a “summer roll” – a very thin rice paper that you soak briefly in hot water to make it pliable, and then quickly wrap any fillings in it like a little asian burrito. When I lived in Colorado, there was this amazing asian restaurant that would serve this tofu summer roll with this incredible peanut dipping sauce. I tried a bunch of recipes to duplicate this sauce, but ultimately landed on one you can just buy in the store. It’s delicious, and for someone who has a real aversion to anything spicy, but is marrying someone who would eat spice every day, it has enough heat to create a solid middle ground for both of us. Working with rice paper is pretty fun once you get the hang of it – the key is to work quickly, and not overstuff it, since the paper is really thin (ummm…because it’s made of rice grains. You get the picture). I marinate both tofu and chicken in the peanut sauce, since some people still think “protein” only means “meat”.  As a side note, it’s really important to get organic tofu and check that it’s a brand that contains no GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), as soy GMOs are especially bad for you.

– 1 package Nasoya Extra-firm tofu, drained (I take the tofu block out of the package, put it on ultra-absorbent paper towels – I love Viva Paper Towels, and put it in between two heavier plates to get as much water out of it. This takes about an hour and a couple changes of paper towels. I also hear there’s such a thing as a tofu press, which must be a revelation.)
– Bean sprouts
– 1 english cucumber, seeded (if any) and julienned
– chicken tenders or chicken breast strips
– “bean thread” noodles
– rice paper wraps
House of Tsang Peanut Sauce, Bangkok Padang (I found this at Wegman’s)
– Mint, basil (either or, and these are also optional, but you should really try them the first time around)
– julienned carrots (optional)

1. After tofu is drained, cut into 1/4 in. strips and cover with Peanut Sauce, marinate for 2 hours to overnight. These slices also make an amazing snack. 
     –As a side note, my favorite story about vegans and tofu.  When I lived in Boulder, there was a “local interest” story all over the news about a vegan who wanted to personalize her license plate by letting people know about her love of all things soy.  The Colorado DMV wouldn’t approve her suggested license plate because they were concerned “ILUVTOFU” could have a more suggestive translation than, you know, “I luv tofu”.  

peanut-marinated chicken done “convection oven style”
2. Marinate the chicken strips in the peanut sauce as well. When ready to cook, line a roasting pan with aluminum foil, and put a cooling rack over it. Place the marinated chicken strips on the cooling rack and cook in the oven under the broiler for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness.  I love this little roasting pan/cooling rack technique of cooking chicken, since it basically creates a convection oven type of environment, and covers both sides of the meat way better than something lying flat against a cooking tray.

3. Cook bean thread noodles according to package – this should take approx. 2 minutes in total once the water is boiling.

3. Arrange your little “assembly station”.  You want to have a wide, flat bowl full of hot water, a plate for assembly of the summer rolls, your cooked bean thread noodles, the marinated tofu, the marinated, cooked chicken, the basil/mint, bean sprouts, and julienned cucumber (and carrots, if you’re doing that).

4. Working quickly, dip rice paper in hot water until soft and pliable (approx. 30 seconds). It will become translucent when ready to use. Put rice paper onto a plate and add noodles, tofu or chicken, bean sprouts, basil, mint, cucumber.

Peanut tofu summer roll

Peanut chicken summer roll
5. Starting from the bottom, roll up like a burrito.Be careful not to overstuff the rice paper. This took me a couple of tries to get the hang of it, but they turn out so well once you do!  Arrange summer rolls on a plate, making sure they don’t touch (they will stick together).

6. Serve with a side of peanut dipping sauce and a delicious salad.  

Chicken Milanese

This recipe is one of my tried and true since I started cooking almost ten years ago. It’s fresh and light and can be made super healthily – the “wash” of lemon juice and olive oil, and the topping of peppery arugula bring this classic dish to a different level.  The first time I made this for a boyfriend (ten years ago) he said, “If I was going to open a restaurant, this would be one of my signature dishes”.  He went on to become a CPA instead of a restauranteur, but I’ll still take that compliment. :]

CHICKEN MILANESE with arugula and a “lemon wash”
Ingredients (serves 8):
– 8 thinly sliced chicken breast cutlets
– 1 vidalia onion, diced
– 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– Baby arugula (approx. 2 cups)
– Juice of 1 lemon
– Parmesan cheese (approx. 2 tablespoons)
– Bread Crumbs (approx. 3 cups)
– Olive oil
– salt
– pepper
1. Heat 1 T. olive oil and 1 T. butter (or 2 T. olive oil instead of 1 and 1) in small saucepan.  
2. When melted, add the diced vidalia onion and saute until soft.
3. Add 2 cloves crushed garlic, stir until fragrant (approx. 1 minute)
4. Seed approx. 4 plum tomatoes (seeds make things kind of bitter) and dice, add to the onion/garlic mixture. Reduce heat to low and let simmer to blend flavors and ingredients while you prep the chicken.
5. Rinse chicken and pat dry, season with salt and pepper. 
6. Arrange 2 bowls for breading: the first one should be a mix of the juice of one lemon and 2 tablespoons olive oil, whisked together, the second a mix of 3 cups breadcrumbs and grated parmesan.
7. Heat approx. 1/4 inch of olive oil (and 1 T butter, optional) in a large skillet. ** Alternatively, for a healthier version, you can bread the chicken, spray it with Pam olive oil cooking spray, and bake it in the oven at 350 for approx. 20 minutes, flipping once. 
8. Dredge the seasoned chicken in the olive oil/lemon juice mixture, then in the bread crumbs/parmesan mixture.

breaded chicken, ready to be cooked either in a pan or in the oven.

 9. Cook in the oil (or in the oven, after spraying with Olive Oil cooking spray), flipping once, until each side is golden brown and chicken is cooked through (these cutlets were thin enough that each side took approx. 5 minutes).

10. If you cook the chicken in the oil, when it’s ready, remove and drain on paper towels (at this point I was regretting not spraying it with olive oil and baking it)

11. Top chicken with arugula dressed with a simple lemon viniagrette (1 T lemon juice, 3 T olive oil, salt and pepper to taste), and then top that with the tomato/onion/garlic mixture, which at this point should be combined in a really melted down, kind of awesome little chunky “sauce”. Serve with shaved curls of parmesan cheese (optional) and a lemon wedge.