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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Recipe Makeover #3 - Egg Rolls!

Here in my neck of the woods, we've just celebrated The Fourth of July -- American Independence Day. And what's more American than egg rolls? Huh? What?!

Actually, there's some truth in this. Italian, Mexican, Chinese and other international cuisines are all influenced by our American ways. Some good influences, some bad (portion sizes, for one!), and some just different.

So our cousins Tony, Julie and their daughter Sirona come to visit us from Arizona every year at this time. Julie and I are having a blast in the kitchen, preparing dinners, discussing menus and having companionship as we wash the mountains and mountains of dishes in the sink (4 adults, 3 kids, a revolving door of visitors, 2 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise make for a lot of dishes!). Anyway, I love it -- the chaos, the family bonding, and the cooking!

Julie and I were talking about some of our vices, and she asked me how bad egg rolls really are. "Wait, never mind -- I don't want to know. It's not going to stop me from eating them." Oh, Julie. You can't bait me like that and not expect me to go on a research mission to find the answer -- good or bad!

Well, it turns out that the answer is "it depends." An egg roll, basically, is pork (or chicken or shrimp), eggs, vegetables and lots of Chinese flavors rolled into a wrapper and deep fried. I did some searches, and from what I can tell, you're looking at around 200 calories (never mind the fat, salt and MSG) for a standard sized "take out" egg roll. So that's not too bad, right? Well it depends. If you eat two egg rolls and stop, then you're not doing too badly (this being a vice and all). However, at least in the Chinese take-out places here, the egg rolls come in pairs and are meant as an appetizer. Then you add the entree, and all bets are off.

So I told Julie that she and her egg rolls could be Recipe Makeover #3. I'd never attempted them before, but you know I like a challenge. And lest you think I just automatically know how to cook all this stuff, here's my method -- I go to my favorite recipe sites, write down the flavors (ingredients and spices) from the ones that seem the most "authentic," eliminate all the really unhealthy parts (the deep frying, for example), and mix and match to taste until I find a flavor/texture/method that gives us "authentic" flavor without all the fat and calories.

I put "authentic" in quotes because of my original point. Though I've traveled throughout my life, I've never been to China. Therefore, my only frame of reference is what I read or order here. So forgive me if I've butchered the egg roll! Or, even better than forgiving me, teach me!

Tony, Julie and Sirona were here for a while, then left to visit a friend for a few days. I told Julie I'd have her egg rolls ready for testing when she got back. Well. The recipe I came up with makes 16 egg rolls....and I managed to salvage two for her. TWO. Keith ate eight and I ate five. Yes, I can do math -- the last one was a casualty (I'm clumsy). They were SO good. Julie agrees! And at only 87 calories each, go ahead and eat five for dinner -- just not as an appetizer! I made sweet and sour sauce and duck sauce for them, but Keith and I both agreed that these were best with plain soy sauce (low sodium, of course!)

The Svelte Gourmet Egg Rolls
Makes 16

Meat:
6 oz pork loin, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp minced garlic

Veggies:
1 cup matchstick carrots
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 chopped green onions
1/2 head napa cabbage, cut into thin 2-inch strips

Cooking & Assembly:
3 tsp olive oil, divided
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
16 sheets phyllo dough, thawed if frozen (I use 9"x14" rectangular sheets)
1 egg white

Preparation:
Marinate pork cubes in soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic and ginger for at least 30 minutes. Mix vegetables in a large bowl. Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a wok or large skillet. Add eggs, either scrambling or cooking into a large pancake that can be cut into pieces later. Remove cooked eggs from wok and set aside to cool. Heat another teaspoon olive oil. Stir fry pork AND marinade for 2 minutes. Remove meat with a slotted spoon, leaving juices in wok. Heat last teaspoon of oil, adding vegetables and stir frying for 3-4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from wok, place into a colander over a bowl and allow to drain and cool for 15-20 minutes. Chop pork and eggs and add to vegetables.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Working quickly so the phyllo doesn't dry out, gently fold 1 sheet of dough in half. Place a couple tablespoons of filling on the first 3rd of the sheet and fold over bottom and sides. Brush exposed phyllo with egg white and continue to roll up until the edge seals to the roll. Place seam side down on a baking sheet misted lightly with olive oil. Repeat process with remaining phyllo dough and filling. Brush tops of all egg rolls with egg white and bake for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown.

Enjoy!

The Svelte Gourmet: A Month of Main Courses cookbook is available at www.thesveltegourmet.com/products.html.

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