Craved Creations

craved creation: avocado summer roll

It doesn’t seem, at first, very exciting that this craved creation isn’t even from a restaurant (it’s from a chain grocery store), but when something is good. Something is good.

Considering my office at work is across the street from a Wegmans supermarket, I find myself there for lunch pretty often. I usually get something random from their cafe — the wokery, a sub, pizza, a salad, a soup sushi…if they offer it, I’ve probably had it at least once or twice.

Most of the food is fairly decent considering the convenience of it all, but one thing I actually find myself craving all the time is their avocado summer roll, found by the sushi.

It’s essentially veggies wrapped up in a roll (i.e. rice paper), which — truth be told — is really the delivery vehicle for the sweet chili sauce that accompanies it. The sauce is first sweet, then sour, then spicy. It’s the perfect trifecta that makes my taste buds do a little happy dance when I indulge!

Considering the summer roll is fairly straightforward, at least in terms of ingredients, I took the sweet chili sauce as the challenge when making this craved creation. I have never attempted a sauce like this before, so leveraging the ingredient list from Wegmans and this basic recipe from about.com, I was able to finagle a pretty close replica!

Sweet Chili Sauce

It certainly tasted close to the one I so frequently crave, but in retrospect, I would have toned down the amount of pineapple I used. I adjusted my recipe to account for this though.

Now, because it’s not customary to just eat spoonfuls of sauce, I next had to assemble the rolls.

I had never used rice paper before, but it was kind of easy and fun to work with. When first out of the package it’s hard and not very flexible, but a few seconds in some hot water and it loosens right up, ready for rolling!

How to: Avocado Summer Roll

You could mix and match the veggies as you’d like, but I would at least keep the lettuce, as it helps neatly secure the other chopped up vegetables. Other than that though, feel free to get creative.

I made a total of 4 rolls and two were rolled great and looked store-bought; but, the other two… errrr not so much. My advice per lessons learned:

  1. Don’t overfill the wrapper with the vegetables or it will get a little unwieldy when it comes time to “roll.”
  2. Be patient. After I made two rolls, I felt like I was a pro at the art of the roll (logically), so I moved more quickly with the last two and ended up making ugly, oddly-shaped rolls. I obviously did not want photo evidence of this so I can’t show you what I mean, but trust me, they weren’t pretty — be patient, work with care.
  3. Don’t wait too long to work with the wrapper after they are softened. If you wait too long (as I did with one of the wrappers) they get a little bit sticky and hard to handle, and that’s when holes and things start to appear. Not good. Soften and work with only one at a time.

If you don’t have a Wegmans market near you, or you’re just feeling adventurous, try my recipe for fresh, crisp avocado summer rolls and sweet chili sauce!

Avocado Summer Roll

 

craved creation: napa sandwich

Craved Creation: Napa Sandwich

Sometimes the best things in life are also the simplest things.

That’s how I feel anyway whenever I’m eating a napa sandwich from Rybread Cafe. I actually have a hard time ordering anything else when I visit because it’s just that good.

The sandwich itself is just five ingredients (six if you have it with the proscuitto add on). It sounds simple…. almost too simple… to be anything that special, but it just is. Really.

Now, I can sense your skepticism, but just trust me on this…

Build-a-sandwich
Build-a-sandwich

It’s easy to make this light, refreshing and tasty sandwich at home!

  1. Cut the ends off the french baguette and then cut in half
  2. Slice the baguette open
  3. Add a few tablespoons of pesto
  4. Layer fresh mozzarella
  5. Layer freshly sliced tomatoes and some salt and pepper
  6. Drizzle the balsamic glaze to finish it off

Being in the heart of the spring season, this is a great sandwich to have in your repertoire.

Bright and herby pesto, salty mozzarella, fresh and crisp tomatoes, a tangy balsamic glaze — all on a fresh and crusty baguette — you too will soon realize that some of the best things in life really are the simplest ones!

Try it for yourself and enjoy 

Napa Sandwich: Pesto, Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Tomatoes, Balsamic Glaze, Salt & Pepper on a French Baguette
Napa Sandwich: Pesto, Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Tomatoes, Balsamic Glaze, Salt & Pepper on a French Baguette

craved creation: dirty pickle martini

Food is an amazing thing, but sometimes the spotlight finds itself shifting from the food itself, to the drink accompanying it. That is exactly what happened while visiting XIX (Nineteen) restaurant in center city Philly.

I, being a big fan of a classic dirty martini, ordered this similar drink off their bar menu. I was intrigued, but not necessarily expecting anything special. I was soooooooo wrong. In fact, I am pretty sure I smiled every time I took a sip of this cocktail… literally… every sip.

What made this drink so special? The pickle juice. It was not just ordinary pickle juice, it was spicy! There was definitely a kick, but the spice elevated this play on a dirty martini to something fantastical.

I had to recreate this at home.

Dirty Pickle Preparation
Dirty Pickle Preparation

The key to making this drink successfully at home was finding the right pickle juice. Exploring the grocery store for options, I came across Brooklyn Brine Co. Damn Spicy pickles. They pickle this particular cucumber with a brine infused with habanero peppers.

Really good.

Three parts vodka. One part vermouth. One part pickle juice (I like my martinis extra dirty). All that in a martini shaker with some ice, 50 shakes — it’s a habit — poured into a chilled martini glass and garnished with a pickle and you will have your self a great variation of a dirty martini.

If you are a fan of the briney taste of olives, pickles and the like — or just dirty martinis in general — this drink is for you. Recipe here if you are not able to make it to XIX in Philadelphia.

Enjoy (responsibly)!

Dirty Pickle Martini
Dirty Pickle Martini

craved creation: mesclun salad

Craved Creation: Mesclun Salad

Every once in a while when I am out to eat, I have something that I know I will want to make for myself at home. When I come across these dishes, I do my best to take special care in tasting the food to figure out what makes up the dish so I can attempt to create it myself.

Sometimes this task is easier with certain dishes than others, like with today’s post – the Mesclun Salad that I had at Iron Hill Brewery.  The salad itself was pretty straightforward, considering the ingredients were listed on the menu.

Mesclun salad ingredients
Mesclun salad ingredients

The only part that required some creative experimentation was the orange-vanilla vinaigrette that dressed the salad. With a bit of fresh orange juice, vanilla extract, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, s&p and extra virgin olive oil, I was able to come up with a close replica.

I have made this salad time and time again. I’ve made it just for myself and also for larger crowds at dinners and parties, but no matter what, there never has been any left of what was made.  It is a great salad to try for a little change from the norm, and the orange-vanilla vinaigrette adds a refreshing note that rounds out the plate.

If you don’t have the opportunity to try this salad at Iron Hill, I hope you’ll try it from my recreated recipe and enjoy!

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