Why I Am Posting These Recipes

I believe that it is healthier for an individual and for the planet to reduce the consumption of animal products in the human diet. However, I love to eat all kinds of delicious food, and find it really, really difficult to go totally vegetarian. Also, my family protests if I serve too many vegetarian meals in a row. So I am committed to making an effort to move towards a vegetarian diet without wholly doing so. I will post recipes several times a week that represent my philosophy of eating well, eating healthy, eating local. Most recipes will be easy to prepare, as I have a busy life. So I expect my followers to be people who love to cook and eat well, want to try to help the planet through their eating (by eating local foods and trying to reduce the use of meat in our diets), and have many other things to do each day besides cook.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thai Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls and Green Papaya Salad

Yesterday I had the good fortune of attending a Thai cooking demonstration by restauranteur Brenda Kou, who owns 3 Thai restaurants in Omaha, NE, including Thai Kitchen Lakeside.  She taught me and a few other women how to make these very easy and delicious Thai dishes.

In order to make cooking and eating these delicacies as sustainable as possible, consider the following:
Source as many vegetables as you can from local organic farms.  By supporting local farmers, you are reducing the use of fossil fuels used in transportation of food, thereby reducing your carbon footprint.  Organic farming practices work to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, so again you are further reducing your carbon footprint by supporting organic farmers.  In contrast, the manufacturing of synthetic fertilizers used in conventional farming releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, so purchasing foods that were produced using synthetic fertilizers (which includes animals fed grains that were grown using synthetic fertilizers), unfortunately, contributes to the release of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere and therefore to climate change.  I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty about eating.  (I am unable to choose exclusively local organic produce, after all, so I am far from perfect.)  The important thing is to recognize the impact that your individual actions can have on the environment and to consider this when you have choices about the source of your food.  One of the environmental benefits of the recipes here is that they use minimal amounts of energy for cooking, so in that respect the preparation of these food items is better for the planet than the preparation of food that requires larger amounts of energy for cooking!

Thai Shrimp and Vegetable Spring Rolls

spring roll rice paper wraps/skins (available in Asian food stores)
bean sprouts
bean noodles
shredded carrots
lettuce pieces
fresh basil leaves
plum sauce (available in Asian food stores)
pieces of shrimp, cut into pieces
Thin Soy Sauce (available in Asian food stores)
cilantro, chopped
green onions (scallions), chopped

Dipping Sauce:
Thai sweet chili sauce (Brenda recommends Mae Ploy brand, available in Asian food stores)
peanuts, chopped

First, soak the bean noodles in a bowl of warm water for about 20 minutes, then put into boiling water for a few minutes, until soft.  Drain.  Toss with a little thin soy sauce. 

Lay out ingredients on counter so that you can access all of them to assemble each spring roll.

For each spring roll, let the rice paper wraps soak in warm water in a large bowl for a few minutes.  Lay a few rice paper wraps on the counter, and prepare to place ingredients in a stack in the middle of each wrap, leaving space on all sides so that you can roll them up:  on each wrap place a piece of lettuce with a dab of plum sauce on it; a basil leaf, some bean sprouts, shredded carrots, a couple of pieces of shrimp (you can substitute small pieces of tofu, meat, or other vegetables, if desired--I plan to try using leftover turkey on the day after Thanksgiving!); chopped cilantro and scallions.  To finish, wrap one wide side over the ingredients, then fold in each side once, then continue to roll the rice paper into the spring roll.  Place each roll on a plate and cut in half. 
Dip or spoon over some chili sauce and chopped peanuts over each roll to eat it.

Thai Green Papaya Salad

Shredded green papaya, peeled first (for best results, use a mandoline)--probably 2 or 3 (in the demonstration I saw, the papayas were already shredded and she just put a bunch into the mortar)
garlic clove, peeled
green chili pepper
red chili pepper
lime juice (from one lime, or to taste)
spoonful of brown sugar or combination of brown and cane sugar
thin soy sauce or fish sauce
shredded carrots
fresh tomato, cut into chunks
garlic, roughly chopped and deep fried, for garnish if desired
chopped peanuts for garnish if desired

Using a large mortar and pestle set, grind garlic clove, chili peppers lime juice and carrots.  Add sugar, green papaya, thin soy sauce or fish sauce to taste (add a splash and add more later if desired), tomatoes and grind some more.  If you don’t have a large mortar and pestle set, but have a smaller one, grind all the ingredients except the green papaya with a smaller mortar and pestle set and then transfer to a larger bowl with the green papaya and mix it all up with your hands.  Allow individuals to sprinkle fried garlic pieces and chopped peanuts over their portions, if desired.

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