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Summer Rolls: our warm-weather go-to appetizer

It's farmer’s market season: fresh herbs, full-flavored greens, and myriad produce is ready to be eaten and relished. Now is the time to take advantage of bright berries and tender baby squash, as well as a time to make chilled dishes that will not weigh you down with starch.

These Summer Rolls make the most of summer’s bounty, and they’re part of a perfect end to a long, hot day. The fresh veggies and herbs give the rolls a nice crunch, and served with Peanut Dipping Sauce they’re both refreshing and filling. Feel free to use any herbs or veggies you have on hand. Julienned red radishes (or daikon) and a chiffonade of Thai basil are nice additions, as are thin slices of tart apple, mizuna, leftover shredded pork, tofu... the options are endless.  You can find rice paper wrappers at some supermarkets, specialty food stores, and Asian groceries.

If you have the time and inclination, try making our Sriracha to serve alongside. Another delicious, addictive table companion to round out a nice meal: Thai Fish Cakes with Nam Prik.

Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
8 rolls; 1 3/4 cups of dipping sauce

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, remove from the heat, and add:
     2 1/2 ounces cellophane, vermicelli, or rice stick noodles, broken in half
Allow the noodles to sit, submerged, until they are just firm to the bite, about 9 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Refill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add:
     16 medium shrimp in the shell
Boil until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Peel, cut lengthwise in half, and rinse under cold water to remove the veins. Drain on paper towels.
Have ready:
     4 large leaves red-leaf or Boston lettuce, torn lengthwise in half and ribs removed
     1 large carrot, shredded
     1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed
     1/2 cup mint leaves
     1/2 cup cilantro leaves
     16 chives, chopped 
     Eight 12-inch round sheets rice paper
Lay a damp kitchen towel in front of you and set out a large bowl of hot water (115° to 120°F). Dip 1 sheet of rice paper into the hot water, being sure to immerse it completely. Quickly remove it and place on the towel. Place a piece of lettuce along the bottom edge of the sheet, about 2 inches from the edge. Top the lettuce with one-eighth each of the noodles and prepared vegetables, then with 4 shrimp halves. Fold the sides of the rice paper over the filling, then roll up tightly into a neat cylinder. As you finish each roll, set seam side down on a large platter and cover with a damp towel. Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling ingredients. Serve immediately or the rice paper will toughen.

Heat in a small saucepan over medium heat:
      2 teaspoons vegetable oil
Add and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 1 minute:
     4 garlic cloves, minced
     2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
     ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Add and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 4 minutes:
     1 cup water
     2 tablespoons soy sauce
     2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
     1 tablespoon rice vinegar
     1 tablespoon fish sauce
     2/3 cup chunky peanut butter, preferably unsweetened
     1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or to taste
     (1 tablespoon sriracha)
     (3 tablespoons chopped unsalted roasted peanuts)
Remove from the heat and stir in:
     (1 tablespoon finely chopped mint)
Serve at room temperature. The sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 6 days.

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To make this vegan, simply use vegetable oil instead of butter and substitute canned coconut milk (not light) for the cream--it's equally delicious this way.

To make a deluxe,...