Let’s Cook Spring Rolls!

(photos taken by Ashleigh Longtine; doodles by me)

(photos taken by Ashleigh Longtine; doodles by me)

Ah, yes.  The spring roll.  My family loves these delicious fried wonders.  We don’t go out to eat much, so if we want them, we usually have to make them ourselves.  I’m in no way a professional, but this is my favorite thing to make/eat, so I thought I’d share it! I’ve adapted this recipe from here.


Here's what you need

Here’s what you need:

4 ounces ground pork

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Everything Else:
1 medium carrot
4 water chestnuts, fresh or canned
1 green onion
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup shredded Napa cabbage
1 tablespoon ginger
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sherry
2 tablespoons chicken stock
a few drops sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Oil for deep-frying and stir-frying (have one 48 oz. bottle just to be safe)
9-12 egg roll wrappers (spring roll wrappers work too, but grocery stores in the area never seem to have them)

I did two batches of this recipe for my family, which yielded 19 spring rolls.  (The five of us devoured all of them in one night.)  All the ingredients were things we either had laying around the house, or got in local grocery store.  If you can’t find the napa cabbage, or just want to speed up the process, you can replace the cabbage and carrot with coleslaw mix.

First, put together the marinade for the pork so we can get that soaking while we chop veggies.  Put soy sauce and cornstarch in a plastic bag and mix. Then put the pork in.  I squeeze it around a bit to get the marinade mixed in with the meat.  Then stick it in the fridge.  We’ll leave it there until we need it again.

So now we’ll take care of the vegetables.  Peel and grate the carrot, and cut up your green onion.  Finely chop up the cabbage and water chestnuts.  Mince ginger.  (Quick note on ginger: you only use a little for this recipe, but you  can save the rest of the ginger by freezing it.  It keeps for months!)  You’ll also want to rinse out and drain your bean sprouts.

A quick note on water chestnuts:

A quick note on water chestnuts:

It’s okay if you don’t buy whole water chestnuts.  I just stack slices up until it looks like it might be the size of one water chestnut and then chop them up.  It’s usually somewhere between three to five slices that I’ll count as one water chestnut.

Here's all my veggies together, except the bean sprouts

Here’s all my veggies together, except the bean sprouts

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Now get out a small bowl and mix together the oyster sauce (the stuff smells nasty, but it adds good flavor, I promise!), sherry (the alcohol cooks out), and sesame oil.  After that’s all mixed up, whisk the cornstarch in.  Now set this aside.  We’ll need it later.


Take out a large sauté pan (a wok works too) and put about two tablespoons of oil in it.  Once the oil is hot, remove the pork from the marinade and place it in the pan.  Sauté it until it’s cooked through and no longer pink.  Take it out, set it aside, and wash out the pan.

Yay cooked pork!

Yay cooked pork!


Add about a couple tablespoons of oil.  Now put the ginger in and sauté until it smells yummy.  This goes pretty quick, so have the rest of your veggies on deck.  Once it smells like yummy ginger, put the rest of the vegetables in the pan and sauté.

Don't forget your bean sprouts in the sink.  I did that once.  It was sad.

Don’t forget your bean sprouts in the sink. I did that once. It was sad.

Sauté all the vegetables together and until they all smell  good and have all wilted a little bit.  Now push them to the sides of the pan.

One veggie ring to rule them all.

One veggie ring to rule them all.

Go get that small bowl of sauce and pour its contents into the center of your newly made ring of veggie-wonderfulness.  Stir the sauce until it thickens, and then mix it in until it coats the veggies.

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Now mix in the pork.

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Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool a little before you get around to filling the wrappers.

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In the meantime, get the stuff you need to fill the wrappers.  A clean surface, the wrappers themselves, a tablespoon, and a small cup of water.

Once it’s cool enough to work with, position a wrapper in front of you so it looks like a diamond.  Spoon about two tablespoons of filling straight the center of the diamond (don’t worry, the animation below will help clear this up a bit).  Dip a finger in the water and get it a little wet.  Run it along the top two edges of the diamond.  Take the bottom and wrap it up over the filling.  Fold in one side and then the other.  Roll that sucker up, the water on the edge should seal it.  Set it aside, and repeat this until you’ve used all the filling.

How to roll a spring roll.

How to roll a spring roll. (My style.  Because again, I’m no pro.)

Don’t let the filled spring rolls touch each other, as they have the annoying habit of sticking to each other, and then rip open when you try to pick them up again.

This was my first one I filled.

This was my first one I filled.


Now for the fun part.  Clean out your pan once more, and pour in oil until it’s about half an inch to three quarters deep.  Keep in mind that oil gets super-hot and is also flammable, so keep an eye on it.  I also keep a candy thermometer in so I can have an idea of when it might be a good idea to turn down the heat a bit (once it starts nearing 400 degrees I tend to try to get it to calm down).  Once the oil’s hit 200 degrees, I start putting the spring rolls in.  This is mostly because I get impatient.  It should be hotter than this, but I start at 200 because at this point I am starved.

Space them out so they don’t touch each other.  

Space them out so they don’t touch each other.  They like their personal space.

I also recommend using tongs to lower them in.

“I wonder why you don’t use tongs,” my dad muttered.

“Because I am really stupid, that’s why,” I declared as I continued to plop spring rolls into the crackling oil using only my fingers.

“Well, that makes sense,” he responded, resigned to whatever fate I might have brought upon myself.  So basically, don’t be stupid like me.

Keep your spring rolls frying until they are a delectable golden-brown.  They’re probably not completely submerged in oil, so be sure to turn them over so the other side can fry too.  Pull them out with metal tongs when they’re done (believe me, I didn’t use my fingers for that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now) and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels.  Repeat until you’ve finished all the spring rolls, turn off the heat, and let the oil cool down.

Et voila!  You have yourself some amazingly yummy spring rolls that are practically ambrosia.  You may want to let them cool down a minute or two before eating them.  It’s a good bit of work, but I think you’ll find it’s worth it.


(photos taken by Ashleigh Longtine; doodles by me)

Here is a sweet and sour sauce recipe that is extremely easy that you could throw together while frying up the rolls, if you’d like something to dip them in.  (Just don’t lean over the pot when it’s super hot and get vinegar fumes in your eyes and jerk back, coughing.  “Wow, that was entertaining,” my dad laughed as I blinked away the pain, “like slapstick.”)


Cooking with Delaware Farmer’s Market Produce

Whatcha Got Cookin?

IMG_5060Delaware is incredibly lucky to have a great Farmer’s Market that runs twice a week (Wednesdays from 3-6pm and Saturday mornings from 9:30-12:30) downtown. The typical season is May to October, so if you haven’t made it to Sandusky Street to find fruit, vegetables, jams, salsas, and so much more made in our area, you still have time to get down there!

I love to cook, and using fresh, whole ingredients is not only healthier, but it just tastes better! The satisfaction from eating something that is simple and delicious that I made with my own hands is incredible. I want to share two of my Alabama family recipes with you. One features one of Ohio’s biggest crops– sweet corn, and the other is a fruit cobbler that you can use throughout the season with any type of berry or stone fruit that is fresh at the market this week.

Creamed corn is a great side dish for most any meal! This baked version adapted from a recipe I got years ago is perfect next to any grilled meat, barbecued chicken or just salt & peppered steak. It’s easy and great for taking to a potluck meal as well.

IMG_5066Baked Cream Corn (makes about 4 servings)

ingredients: 4-6 ears of fresh Ohio sweet corn, ½ cup heavy cream, 2 Tbsp butter,1 small chopped onion (optional, and any kind of onion will work just fine.), ½ tsp salt (or to taste), ¼ tsp ground black pepper (or to taste)

How to do it:

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.

2. In a small saucepan, sautée onion until tender, about 5 minutes.

2. While onion is cooking, husk the corn removing all the silk strings too, and cut off the kernels in a large bowl with a sharp knife (sometimes it helps to cut off the tip of the ear of corn to stabilize it in the bowl as you cut off the kernels). Use the back of your knife to scrape each ear to get out all the good stuff out of the cob.

IMG_50653.  Add cream and salt & pepper to the bowl of corn. Let the onions cool just a little before adding to the milk mixture. Stir together and pour into baking dish.

4. Bake at 350º for 30 to 45 minutes until warmed through.

Now Something Sweet!

This cobbler recipe is simplicity at its best! Great for taking to friends with new babies, or for an easy dessert at home, you can use any berry or stone fruit (think peaches, nectarines & cherries) combination that sounds good to you. This month, I would choose a combination of peaches and blackberries. But blueberry cobbler is my all-time favorite!

IMG_5061Basic Cobbler Recipe

ingredients: 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of self-rising flour (if you don’t have self-rising flour on hand, substitute with 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 ½ tsps of baking powder + ¼ tsp salt), 1 cup of granulated white sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 cups of fruit of your choice.

How to do it:

1. Preheat your oven to 350º.  Place your stick of butter in the baking dish, and put it into the preheating oven to melt.

 2. When the butter is melted, pull out the dish (it will be hot!) and add directly to the butter the self-rising flour, sugar, and milk. Stir until well mixed. There will still be a few lumps, but try to break up the big ones.

3. Sprinkle fruit evenly over the top of the batter you just made. If the fruit is a little tart, sprinkle the top of the cobbler with another 1-2 Tablespoons of sugar.

4. Put into the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown on top. Let it cool for 10 minutes before digging in. And don’t forget a nice scoop of ice cream on top!