Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update

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Vegetarian Journal's Foodservice Update
Healthy Tips and Recipes for Institutions

Volume VIII, Number 4  Fall 2000  


By Nancy Berkoff, R.D., Ed.D., CCE

Looking for a way to add some excitement to the delivery of grilled veggies, salads, or baked beans? How about wrapping them up. Humans always seem to like portable food, and wraps make toting easy. In addition, wraps bring excitement and presentation to traditional ingredients that may lack some pizzazz on their own.

Wraps or rolled sandwiches have been around for centuries. Think of the cuisines of the Middle East, Mexico, and Asia and their inclusion of rolled sandwiches such as falafel in pita, burritos, enchi-ladas, egg rolls and spring rolls, stuffed grape leaves, and crepes. Many special dishes are made of flat breads wrapped around seasonal ingredients. Asian cuisine uses won ton wrappers for dumplings and egg or spring rolls. In Mexico, cornhusks are used for tamales. In Greece, phyllo dough is used for both sweet and savory wraps. Puerto Rican "pasteles" are pork and squash wrapped in banana leaves. They can be made vegetarian by using mashed, seasoned potato instead of pork. Ravioli is nothing more than a pasta sheet used to wrap savory or sweet fillings (we enjoyed a great dessert ravioli made with pasta sheets flavored with orange zest, orange juice, and cinnamon and filled with chopped dates, raisins, and nuts!). English Cornish pasties are a puff pastry wrap, Greek dolmathes are fresh or pickled grape leaves stuffed with rice and nuts, and cabbage rolls hail from many different cuisines.

Whether you enrobe, encase, surround, roll, envelope, tuck, or nestle ingredients, essential to a good wrap is, well - the wrap! An advantage to wraps is that they protect the ingredients and seal in flavors; wraps can usually be made even more in advance than sandwiches made with bread or rolls. Flat breads can include corn or flour tortillas (check the type of fat used for flour tortillas, since sometimes lard is used), pita bread, soft cracker bread, and naan (made without yogurt). These breads can be used to make rolled sandwiches, veggie gyros (use roasted eggplant and mush-rooms instead of lamb), empanadas, and fajitas (use chili-spiced potatoes or tofu instead of beef or chicken). Phyllo dough is available frozen (you can find phyllo made with vegetable oil or margarine instead of butter) and can be used for savory and sweet wraps. Create a grilled vegetable napoleon with grilled carrots, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, and peppers (or call it a vegetable strudel). Everyone loves apple, peach, blueberry, and even pear strudel. Serve it warm as a vegetarian hot breakfast entrée, topped with chopped raisins and nuts.

Puff pastry can be used like phyllo dough, and can be easier to handle. Both phyllo and pastry dough take some practice; the key is to keep the dough sheets moist. You can try placing them under damp towels or brushing them with melted margarine. Baking in an oven with steam makes an excellent product. If your oven doesn't have a steam component, place a shallow dish of water on the bottom of the oven to create steam.

Leaves have been used since before recorded history to steam food and make it portable. Nori (dried seafood sheets), traditionally used as sushi wrappers, can be moistened and used to wrap rice, cous-cous, chopped raw, steamed, or grilled veggies, or flavored tempeh or tofu. Cabbage, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and grape leaves can be used to wrap barley, rice, mashed potatoes, chopped veggies, and substitute-meat deli slices.

Pasta sheets, such as fresh or frozen ravioli or lasagna sheets, won ton wrappers, and gyoza wrappers (eggless Japanese dumpling wrappers) can be used to wrap white or sweet mashed potatoes, chopped veggies, and cooked grains. When using pasta sheets, keep them moist and work with them at room temperature. At colder temperatures, they could crack.

Crepes are traditionally made with eggs, but in Asian markets you can find dried rice paper or steamed rice paper crepes that are eggless. You can fill these with hot or cold ingredients, even including chopped green salad.

Cracker bread (see the listing for Hye Quality Bakery under "Product Updates" for more informa-tion) is a versatile wrap. It is tough enough to stand up to heavy fillings, yet tender enough to be eaten easily. It can be stored for long periods of time in the refrigerator or freezer. A prepared cracker bread wrap can usually last up to 48 hours in the fridge without getting soggy. Cracker bread filling can be something as simple as hummus and spinach leaves. Add some chopped canned pimentos and sliced black and green olives, and you'll see a dramatic-looking wrap when it is cut into sections.

Ingredients for wraps are generally cut in bite-size pieces or chopped fine, since the ultimate wrap will be cut in small sections, and large slices of food do not cut well, nor are they easy to eat.

Leftovers can be used as ingredients in wraps. For example, leftover mashed potatoes can be seasoned with vinegar, chopped fresh chilies, chopped cilantro, chopped canned tomatoes, and garlic then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. For a breakfast wrap, leftover white or brown rice can be tossed with chopped dates, apricots, raisins, and nuts, seasoned with cinnamon and ginger, then wrapped in phyllo or rice paper and steamed. Fillings for tortillas are endless; try a combo of three or four different kinds of beans with salsa, or mashed white potatoes with bell pepper, onions, and garlic, or roasted, mashed winter squash seasoned with cinnamon and a touch of onion.

Excerpts from the Fall 2000 Issue:

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Converted to HTML by Stephanie Schueler.

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