Spring Rolls

I’ve mentioned before how I have a can have a hard time finding specialty ingredients here on the Eastern Shore. Like – exotic mushrooms for instance. Whenever I take a trip to Annapolis or Virginia Beach, I always make sure to get some funky fungus that I can’t find here at home – chantarelles, oyster, trumpet. I love them all!

Thankfully a local friend has started growing her own varieties of mushrooms. I visited her last week to pick up some gorgeous oyster mushrooms (her latest harvest), and was also kind enough to show me her garden, with all kinds of delicious goodies growing. She loaded me down with peas, lettuce, onions, herbs, and broccoli greens! We enjoyed them all week long in various dishes. There’s nothing like fresh picked produce – and growing on Chincoteague Island, right on the water – you can taste the salt from the air and the soil in the veggies. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for showing us your little piece of paradise, Donna!

We enjoyed some of the mushrooms and onions sauteed, served over some thinly sliced roast beef and chevre on a baguette. But, the favorite thing that I made last week by far were these delicious spring rolls. I’ve always loved spring rolls from Chinese restaurants – but often the filling is bland and boring. My filling used the gorgeous oyster mushrooms, fresh bean sprouts, garlic scapes, shredded cabbage and carrots, as well as softened rice noodles. They turned out so delicious – rivaling my famous chicken egg rolls. Already can’t wait to make them again!

Eli's Asian Salmon

I’ve made mention of the wonderful restaurant distributor that I have here in my small town right? Sysco? I’m sure you’ve probably heard of them. They have a “cash and carry” shop, where they sell produce, fresh meats, deli items, frozen foods, etc. More often than not they have an order that’s cancelled, overstocked, expiring, slightly damaged, etc – that they’ll then sell for lock, stock, and barrel just to clear up room up in the warehouse. So, to have a friend or neighbor knock on the door with 5 lbs of feta cheese, or say…a gorgeous side of salmon, is pretty much the norm.

So when Stephanie dropped this slab of sustainable protein on me, there was one recipe that immediately popped into my mind…Eli’s Asian Salmon. I remember seeing Ina prepare this ages ago on “Barefoot Contessa”, and had always wanted to give it a go. But, a side of salmon is expensive. And, with all the other fabulous seafood options available to us…I’d just never gotten around to it, until last week.

I’m pleased to report that it’s a winner. Easy to put together and cook, and it the flavor is just wonderful. And, it came out prettier than I’d expected too! This would be perfect on a Sunday brunch buffet, or paired with something like grilled baby bok choy – it would make a lovely, light summer meal.

Crab Rangoons

On the rare occasion that we visit a Chinese buffet, these little guys are probably my favorite item on the menu. They’re savory, while being slightly sweet – and dunked in a sweet chili sauce? Definitely an appetizer worth throwing the calorie count out the window for!

Then Karole, a friend in our book club, bought these to our monthly meeting. She assembled the wontons in advance, then fried them at the meeting. It was so much fun for all of us girls to be chatting, laughing, and munching in the kitchen together! The book for that month had been “The Joy Luck Club“, and we always have a great time planning our menus around the theme of the book. This one was no exception.

Now, let me broach the subject of the imitation crab (or “krab” as I like to call it). You guys know me…I’m fortunate enough to have some form of fresh, locally-caught seafood available to me at all times. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t touch krab with a 10-foot pole. However, I’ve tried this recipe with hand-picked blue crab before…as I’d assumed it would be better. But sadly, it wasn’t. The fresh crab was just too delicate – absorbed too much grease and fell apart. The krab holds together much better, and it’s what the Chinese restaurants  use – so I’ll go with it. I would like to try it with Opelios (snow crab) or Dungies, though. I think they’d be a happy medium between the two.

Take Out Fake Out: Orange ChickenIt’s been a while since we shared a take out fake-out favorite here on the site – so I thought it was high time! I’ve made this orange chicken several times now over the past couple years, and we always really enjoy it. I hate deep-frying anything. Not that I don’t love fried foods, but it makes a mess, isn’t figure friendly, and the smell lingers in the air for hours. But, once in a blue moon it’s a nice treat that we all look forward to.

At first I was leery of the cornstarch batter. But, I’ll tell you – it’s totally the secret of the Chinese restaurants. Browns and crisps up beautifully, and it stays crispy. Even after spending some time in the oven while I fried the rest of the chicken, and saucing – it was still nice and crunchy.

And the sauce? Fresh orange juice and zest, a little tang from rice wine vinegar, and a spicy kick from cayenne makes for a perfect combination. I actually like to use whole dried small red peppers, but I couldn’t find any – so cayenne works in a pinch (heh, in a pinch – no pun intended). I’m looking forward to trying the sauce in other applications as well. I think it would be a fabulous basting sauce for chicken or pork on the grill – which we’ve been firing up a lot lately.

So let’s give your delivery guy a rest, and make this Chinese favorite in your own kitchen tonight!