June 17, 2010
Fresh, Colorful, and Crunchy
One of my dear friends is also moving to the midwest this summer. She and her husband will be leaving soon and this past weekend they had a little party to say farewell. When I asked what I could bring, she asked for fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce. I was surprised by such a specific request until she reminded me that they were part of the appetizers at our wedding and her husband had really enjoyed them. Her husband is not the most adventurous eater so I could not hesitate to honor his wishes for something fresh, colorful and crunchy.
I've made fresh spring rolls a few times, they are so easy to put together, they look beautiful and they are fun to eat. It occurred to me that they would be a perfect substitute for the ubiquitous veggie platter at a party since they are simply little packets of veggies nestled around a dipping sauce. These are an ideal way to show case the freshest most flavorful vegetables, ideally using what is in season, and perfect as part of a summer meal.
Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce
There are many different possibilities here -- I wouldn't use more than three or four different types of vegetables for a batch, but you can use different combinations depending on what you like. Some that work best: carrots, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, sprouts, mushrooms, bell peppers and herbs like cilantro, basil and mint. Below I have listed the amounts and vegetables that I used.
1 package rice wrappers (available at many grocery stores and certainly at Asian Markets)
1 red bell pepper very thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper very thinly sliced
1 carrot sliced into matchsticks
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
For the sauce:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
zest and juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup warm water
Once all your vegetables are cut, prepare a clean work surface (a cutting board works well). Fill a dish that is larger than the diameter of a rice wrapper with an inch of warm water. Place two rice wrappers together in the dish and gently press down to submerge them. Wait a few moments until the wrappers become totally softened and transparent. Carefully remove them together, and spread them flat together on the work surface (this takes a little practice, if a few wrappers don't work out, just try again). Submerge two more wrappers in the water. Place a small handful of spinach leaves on wrapper (just above 6 o'clock on the circle). On top of the spinach, add 6 or 7 carrot slices, and two or three pieces of each kind of pepper. Sprinkle some cilantro on top. The pile of veggies might not be totally neat and that is fine. Fold both sides in to contain the veggies slightly. Then fold the bottom of the wrapper over the veggies. Hold the veggies in the wrapper and roll them from the bottom to the top so that they are all tightly wrapped in the roll. It might take a few times until this process becomes simpler, but you'll get it! Place the finished wrap on a plate and continue the process until all of the filling has been used. Leave the rolls on the plate while you make the sauce.
For the sauce, combine all of the ingredients except the water, until smooth. Add the water, a little at a time, until the sauce has the consistency of a thick salad dressing. I like it best when it is easy to dip into but it doesn't dribble all over the place. Before serving, cut the spring rolls in half and arrange them on a platter with the sauce in a bowl in the middle. They can be made several hours ahead of time, just refrigerate them uncut and covered so they don't dry out.
This recipe yeilds about 14 spring rolls and enough sauce to dip them in.