Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Vegan Entertaining! Southwest Summer Spring Rolls & More

Hooray for another party! Another reason to cook! Another reason to EAT. Memorial Day has previously been an underappreciated holiday for me, but I now understand and value its critical timing (Hello…No days off between MLK Day and now?) and its All-American fervor. As stated in a recent post, I don’t explore American cuisine very much, but this holiday was calling me. So I set out to cook up some grub that could appeal to the average racecar lovin’, trucker hat wearin’, sunburn coated American. While throwing burgers and brats on the grill is the typical way to welcome summer, this vegan can’t pass up the chance to prove that meatless eats go beyond packaged goods and our options are more extensive than beans. Why would I just buy some tofu pups and veggie burgers when I could spend 6 hours cooking something way too elaborate for a simple pool party?

So in searching through Memorial Day menus and recipes, a few ensuing questions came to mind in my search for inspiration. What do my coworkers usually bring to potlucks? What do I normally see at picnics that I can never eat? Layered dip. Check! Rolls or wraps of sorts always laced with cream cheese or ground pork. Coleslaw, duh. And there never fails to be a scrumptious looking dessert that could so easily be made vegan if you replaced the butter with Earth Balance…which led to the following menu.
  • - 7 Layer Taco Dip
  • - Salsa and Queso
  • - Southwest Summer Rolls
  • - Purple Coleslaw
  • - Apple Crisp
 Holy cow did I binge on some taco dip. I also ate about 3 “practice” summer rolls before the party even started and I am still happily finishing the last of the purple slaw that somehow made it through as leftovers (ok it was a huge batch). I’m still not over that layered dip though. While I made my own vegan sour cream and taco seasoning, you could easily purchase toffuti, some pre-mixed seasoning and packaged seitan to make this super quickly. This queso is a perfected vegan nacho cheese recipe that I make about once a week by request from my token omnivore.

The purple coleslaw was the result of have too many veggies in the crisper in quantities too small to stand alone in any dish. So I combine red cabbage, broccoli stalks, carrots and cucumbers together in one happy purple mess. The dressing was based off a traditional recipe but made healthy by mixing in some leftover homemade vegan sour cream into a standard sweet red wine vinaigrette instead of loading it with a bunch of mayo and sugar.

The apple crisp – not much needs to be said. It’s like a traditional recipe but with Earth Balance instead of butter. Lots of oats on top with some pecans to boot. Crumble it up with some margarine and throw it over sliced apples. Delicious.

And the All-Star Summer Rolls…. Inspired by the famous Chile’s southwest egg roll appetizer, these were by far the favorite. I’ll admit I stumbled on the recipe for the Chile’s version and used it as a starting point. I added more veggies of course and replace the chicken with marinated tofu. I then baked them instead of deep-frying and served them without a dip – because they don’t need anything to cover up their deliciousness! These are super easy even if you make your own tofu. The assembly of course is the most time consuming, but this is worth it for special occasions. To save time, buy the pre-baked and pre-seasoned tofu whose texture is just right for these. I’d also recommend Daiya cheese for the filling: it’s my favorite.

Southwest Summer Rolls
Makes: 14-16 rolls
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes


1 pkg. Extra Firm Tofu, pre-marinated and baked or homemade (recipe below)

1 T. Olive or canola oil
2 Green onions, sliced - white and green parts divided
2 Garlic cloves, minced
¾ c. Mixed bell peppers, diced
½ c. Corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)
½ c. Spinach, cooked or frozen (thawed)
½ tsp. Chili powder
½ tsp. Ground cumin
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Cayenne pepper
½ c. Vegan cheese, grated (i.e. Daiya - Italian)

1 pkg. Spring roll wrappers


If you are using pre-baked and marinated tofu, cut the block into ¼ inch thick slices, about 12-14 per block. Cut each individual slice into 3 or 4 matchsticks and set aside. For homemade baked tofu, do not cut into matchsticks until you have baked the tofu. To make your own marinated baked tofu, see below.

To make the filling, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and sauté onions, garlic and peppers until vegetables are just tender, 4-5 minutes. Add corn, spinach and spices and cook until corn and spinach are heated through (the peppers should not be al dente but not mushy). Remove from heat and transfer to a medium bowl. While mixture is still hot, fold in vegan cheese until well blended and melted. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

To assemble, place one spring roll wrapper on a plate or cutting board. Have a small bowl of water and a brush set aside to help seal the rolls. Fill each wrapper with 2 T. of filling and 3-4 pieces of tofu. Brush the top edge with water, about ½ inch down. Starting at the bottom, fold the bottom edge over the filling and secure the filling tightly. Fold each side of the wrapper over the outside edges of the filling and finish by rolling upwards. Press the edge firmly and set aside. Repeat with remaining wrappers. Brush each with canola oil or coat all sides with cooking spray. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until starting to brown. Turn the rolls over and bake an additional 10-13 minutes, or until rolls are golden and crispy.

Marinated Baked Tofu
Makes: 12-16 slices
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


1 pkg. Extra-firm tofu, sliced into ¼ inch thick rectangles

¼ c. White wine or sherry
3 T. Red wine vinegar
3 T. Olive or canola oil
2 T. Soy sauce
2 T. c. Lemon or lime juice, Freshly squeezed
1 tsp. Chili powder*
1 tsp. Ground cumin*
½ tsp. Garlic powder
½ tsp. Onion powder
½ tsp. Paprika*
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp. Black or cayenne pepper

* Note: This is a southwest marinade. The recipe can be used for any dish by toning down the southwest spices. For a basic marinade, only add onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper.


Preheat oven to 450ºF.

Place tofu on paper towels and cover with additional paper towels. Pat dry to ensure most of moisture is removed. Place slices in a glass baking dish and set aside.

Whisk all marinade ingredients together and adjust seasoning to taste. Pour over tofu and flip tofu over to coat all sides. Bake for 15 minutes and flip tofu pieces. Bake an additional 15 minutes or until all the marinade is absorbed.

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