BROWN SUGAR TOFU + MUSHROOM SPRING ROLLS

I have a feeling if you follow along here, you are no stranger to the work of Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks and Quitokeeto. If a recipe writing style can mimic one's personality by being gentle, confident and classic, that is Heidi. You can even see it in the glimpses into her kitchen or the products she chooses for her shop. In my otherwise hurried and efficient way of cooking, her photos and the way her recipes are composed make me want to slow down. She can set a mood in a cookbook like no one I've ever seen. All said and fan-girl gushing aside, her cookbook Near and Far is a keeper. She takes you through a few of her favorite places to travel by sharing recipes inspired by each of these places. I am naturally drawn to everything in the "Near" portion, but am anxious to try my hand at some of the recipes influenced by trips to Japan and Morocco. These rolls are just the beginning. We have loved her buttermilk waffle recipe and red lentil hummus with plenty more bookmarked.
Congrats to you, Heidi. The clear time and attention that went into this book made it a complete treasure. 

BROWN SUGAR TOFU + MUSHROOM SPRING ROLLS // Makes about 10

Recipe from Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson with a few extra wrap additions

This is a recipe composed of a couple recipes in Heidi's book. The tofu and mushrooms could really go anywhere - on rice noodles, over rice, with a heap of greens. I made the ginger onion paste and while that is certainly what gives these rolls a punch of unique flavor, you could make them your own by using whatever sauce you fancy. I still dipped them in a tahini citrus sauce or perhaps you are a peanut sauce person. The beauty of the paste is that the entire roll is self contained, making it ideal for travel and why it lies in her "en route" chapter.

Ginger Onion Paste
2 green onions, finely sliced
3 medium shallots, finely sliced
3 Tbsp. peeled, grated ginger
scant 1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
6 Tbsp. sunflower oil

Place the onions, shallots, and ginger in a mortar and sprinkle with the salt (alternatively, a food processor on pulse works fine if that's what you have). Pound with the pestle until the onions are quite bruised, but not pastelike. Heat the oil in a small saucepan until hot enough that you could saute something in it. Add the onion mixture to the oil, remove from the heat and transfer it to cool. Drain off (and save) most of the oil before using it in the spring rolls, leaving just the paste.

12 ounces extra firm tofu
3 medium cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
4 tsp. natural brown sugar
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil, as needed
8 oz. mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced 1/4"
butter lettuce, cilantro, mint, cucumbers, sesame seeds, for assembly
8-10 rice paper wrappers

Pat the tofu dry and cut into 6 equal slabs before arranging in a single layer on a rimmed plate. Place the garlic in a mortar and pestle, sprinkle with salt and sugar and pound into a paste. Work the oil in a bit at a time, continuing to work the ingredients until they come together (I added a splash of tamari here for fun, optional). Scrape the paste onto the tofu slices and slather to coat each piece, be quite thorough. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and place the tofu in a single layer and cook until deeply golden on each side, about 5 minutes. It's likely you won't need additional oil here; if you do, add to the pan a small splash at a time. Remove the tofu from the pan and once cooled, slice into pencil-thick pieces. Sprinkle with salt to taste. 
While the tofu is cooking, toss the mushrooms gently (but well) in the residual marinade left from the tofu. Once the tofu is done, use the same skillet to saute the mushrooms stirring just a couple times along the way, until the mushrooms release and evaporate their water and take on a nice, dark color. Transfer to a bowl. 
Set up your mise en place for the spring rolls - a large bowl of warm water, lettuce, ginger paste, tofu, mushrooms, cucumber, mint and seeds. Dip a rice paper into a bowl of hot water to just soften - resist oversoaking, it will continue to absorb water as you wrap. Place on a flat surface or damp dish towel. You'll want to keep all your ingredients crowded into one third of the available surface of the wrapper. Add a lettuce leaf or two, a swipe of the paste, a little tofu, a few mushrooms, a cucumber spear, mint, cilantro and seeds. Tuck the wrapper over the filling and roll it up (I find the wrapper packaging often gives you a visual). Heidi suggests them open-sided, but you can enclose them as well

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