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FOOD | Friday…er…Sunday Five, and Garlicky Shrimp Spring Rolls

Cross-posted from Kat Gainesโ€™ personal blog The Wine-Y Tomato.

My Friday Five didn’t quite happen on Friday this week, but that is sometimes how it goes in the land of thesis-writing. My first draft is due in two weeks and I’m officially in crunch mode. I’ll try avoid words with the ‘Sunday’ list of my five favorite things right now and keep it mostly pictorial, so we can skip straight to the good stuff – the spring rolls I made for lunch today.

A Preview... ๐Ÿ™‚ (All photos courtesy by Kat Gaines)

1) Blood Oranges

2) Za’atar Seasoning

I bought this particular giant bag for only $4 at a Palestinian Arts Bazaar in December. Usually it costs about this much for a teeny tiny spice container in a grocery store (!)

3) Spinach

In this case, stir-fried with za'atar and served alongside vegan "sausage" patties and blood oranges.

4) Books (and bookshelves!)

I am in love with my new bookshelves.

5) Tea

My new bookshelves gave me an excuse to use this old one for organizing my tea stash instead ๐Ÿ™‚

A Close-Up

But now for the recipe:

Garlicky Shrimp Spring Rolls

When your parents grew up in Southern California with pretty much any cuisine they could want within walking distance, and you grew up in small-town Montana … where pretty much no restaurant delivers and international cuisines are limited … you find yourself in a weird place of knowing all the delicious foods you want but having mostly limited access to them.

My mom is a great cook and can whip up pretty much anything from her own memorized recipes and her varied cookbooks, a lot of which are themed around Asian food. So even in our rural surroundings, my sister and I grew up eating shrimp tempura, seared ahi tuna, varied and delicious stir-fry dishes, etc. Our grocery stores were kind of limited but my mom still manages to keep a healthy stock of seaweed and bamboo mats for sushi-making, mirin, furikake, wasabi, etc.

So while other kids were snacking on fruit roll-ups after school, I was tearing flat sheets of seaweed into pieces for a snack and helping my mom shell shrimp so that she could make shrimp tempura for dinner. Whenever we went on a roadtrip through Washington, Oregon, California etc to visit family, the nearest sushi bar was pretty much our first stop. And when our small town finally started to get some variety in restaurants with a Thai place and couple dependable Chinese restaurants, we found new options for dinner after ballet and tap classes. Long story short, I was raised on Asian food but never got quite enough to satisfy my hunger.

When I moved back to California for college, it was a different story. I live near places where I can get *affordable sushi*. I got to try Vietnamese and Korean food, which I had never had a chance to before. Pretty much any food I want is only a short bus trip or walk away. Of course, eating out can get expensive on a college student’s budget, so like my mom I started to turn to my own kitchen for my own reincarnations of my favorite restaurant dishes.

These spring rolls are one of those reincarnations. They’re similar to the Vietnamese style rolls wrapped in fresh rice paper, but in order to use what I already had on hand and involve more veggies and less carbs, mine are wrapped in large romaine lettuce leaves.

I used these shrimp from Trader Joe’s — because they were the cheapest at the time. The nice thing was that they were already shelled and deveined, so I didn’t have to put in that work. When using frozen shrimp, you want to soak them in a bowl of cold water for about 10-15 minutes until they’ve thawed.

While waiting for the shrimp, mince several cloves of garlic. I used seven cloves because I love garlic, and that’s what makes these rolls garlicky. Use as many as you need to. Also mince several leaves of bok choy – separate the stems from the leaves and chop in separate piles. Set the garlic and bok choy aside, keeping all three piles separate.

When the shrimp are ready, heat about a tablespoon of oil over medium heat and once it’s heated add the shrimp. While those are cooking, add some soy sauce and rice vinegar to the pan – don’t drown the shrimp in them but add enough to coat all of the shrimp. Toss the shrimp in the sauce and continue to cook.

After a few minutes, when the shrimp are about 75% cooked, add the chopped bok choy stems and cook for several more minutes until they’ve softened a little. Then add the leaves.

Stir the leaves in for a moment and add the garlic. You now have two options — you can serve the spring rolls warm or put the mixture into the fridge until it’s cool and assemble the spring rolls afterward.

Either way, wash your lettuce leaves and lay them flat on a cutting board…

…And spoon a small amount of the mixture into the center of each leaf. Roll the leaves up, and serve!

A roll cut in half to show the yummy inside.

These are sooo addicting. I ate several for lunch today and need to go buy more lettuce and bok choy now so that I can make them again. They’re quick, too! I would recommend making the mixture ahead and serving them with the mixture chilled but if you’re in a hurry you can serve it hot. You can serve them with a dipping sauce (peanut sauce? soy sauce? your choice?) but the mixture inside has a ton of flavor on its own – I opted to eat them just as they were.

Happy Sunday, everyone – have a yummy week!