Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Low-Down on Roll-Ups (Tortilla Pinwheels)

Call 'em "pinwheels" or "roll-ups" or "spirals", simple ingredients wrapped inside a tortilla is the easiest appetizer you'll ever make. I've got no idea why anyone would buy these things pre-made. They take no time, no skill and no weird ingredients. Depending upon your degree of imagination, they can range from simple and tasty, to devine and sublime - and they are always a hit.

Things to keep in mind:
1) Always warm the tortillas just a bit in the microwave before you try to roll them (that way they don't "break") - about 7-10 seconds per tortilla.
2) ALWAYS prepare them in advance. It makes them hold together better.
3) Less IS more. Both in quantity and variety of ingredients.
4) Color counts - a sliver of red bell pepper goes a long way in both taste and presentation.
5) Keep all ingredients to 3/4 of the tortilla; there's always some "smudge" as you roll it and you'll need the extra 1/4 tortilla to keep it all wrapped.

Secret tips:
1) Wrap each rolled-up tortilla in a paper towel. It keeps them fresh & tight, plus it provides a barrier from the cling wrap AND/OR a hand-held eating device. (Works great for sandwiches, too!)
2) When making a bunch for a party, vary the ingredients. Guests love the variety, even if they don't know what they're tasting. Use cucumber in one, onion in another and pickle in a third - just don't get crazy and throw all the ingredients into each one. Trust me, less really IS more.
3) Cream cheese is a requirement. Use a little, or use a lot - vary it depending on the other ingredients. But the cream cheese is what really makes it. (I use fat-free - you don't have to put on pounds to enjoy this!)
4) Try Corn tortillas for a different taste and texture. Just be SURE to soften them first between damp paper towels (& have more patience).

Suggestions:
1) For a truly memorable presentation, toast the rolls before you cut them into pieces. Use a toaster oven on the roll and do each side to a light toast - yum!
2) Don't overload them on the meat - 6 thin slices or 3 standard slices is more than enough. Additional cheese should be thin and minimal.
3) Deli mustard makes a nice addition, but use it sparingly.
4) Mayonnaise is a no-no; not only does it not travel well, but it negates the nice cream cheese flavor.

Toppings:
Deli meat - thin-sliced chicken, turkey, ham, roast beef, pastrami
Cheese - keep it simple: cheddar, mozzarella, provolone, maybe swiss
Veggies - cucumber, bell peppers, onions, celery, radish, perhaps pickles (if you're making a "pickle dickle")

Best Spread Ever:
Before I even understood how good this spread was, I was using it. I've had spirals since that were good, but it took me awhile to realize that the SPREAD was what made the old ones so incredibly yummy. It takes more effort than the standard "Pinwheel," but it is so worth it - try it once & you'll understand. [Original source: "Great Cooking For Two" - one of my two favorite cookbooks EVER!].

RECIPE for AWESOME Cream Cheese Spread:
Combine -

  • 1/3 Bar Cream Cheese (your choice - fat-free, with chives, whatever!)
  • 1 regular Carrot, peeled & shredded (use a cheese grater over a bowel)
  • 2 Tbl. Bell Pepper, any color (about 1/4 a standard pepper), finely minced - or grated on the cheese grater if you prefer
  • 1/8 tsp. Wasabi powder (OR 1 tsp. cream-style prepared Horseradish OR 1/2 tsp. Horseradish mustard)
  • If using Horseradish mustard, nothing else needs to be done; if using Wasabi powder, add 1/4 tsp. Deli mustard; if using prepared Horseradish, add 1/8 tsp. brown Mustard) - each will produce different results, all good.

Spread on "standard size" flour tortilla. Top with a thin layer of meat, cheese & a veggie. Roll, cigar-style, wrap in a paper towel and slice the next day (or a few days later) and serve!

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