Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Spring rolls

It's the holiday season in California.

But it's 60 degrees outside.

And the leaves are changing colors and falling off the trees.

And the grass is lushly green from all the rain.

Confused?? Yea- me too. We're technically in winter but the weather feels like fall and spring at the exact same time. I'm making up a new name for this California season: sprallter. Or how about winsprall. Or fringter.

Nooo, no no, not fringter. Let's just leave the seasonal names as they were, ok? OK.

But speaking of seasons, these rolls are named after my favorite season: spring.

Spring rolls dipped in a Thai-spiced peanut sauce

Why do I like spring rolls so much?

Lots of reasons. They're light, healthy, fresh, versatile and delicious.

First thing that you need: spring roll wrappers. When taken from the package they're crunchy and translucent. But give 'em a bath in some warm water and they soften right up. They're thin but surprisingly strong and easy to use.


From what I've read, the brand with the red rose is the best one to use. Just a little tip from me to you.
And the great thing about spring rolls is you can use whatever filling you want. This time I used noodles, tofu, bean sprouts, mushrooms, cucumbers and herbs (cilantro and mint). The biggest critique I could give myself: the rolls needed more color. Sliced carrots would have been nice...


Want another tip?? If you're going to use tofu, it's good to press the tofu to squeeze out some of the excess liquid. Just put a plate (or the tofu container!) on top and weight it down. Set it aside for at least 20 minutes, or an hour or more if you have the time.


Normally spring rolls are an appetizer that are rolled relatively small. But as I was making a meal out of it, I decided to make them GIANT. I told you they were versatile!


Because the spring rolls have a very mild and light flavor, it's nice to dip them into something with a little extra punch. A peanut sauce is traditional but I spiced mine up by adding some Thai red curry paste to the peanut sauce. Can I just say that I've actually never seen that idea before and was very proud of my mini moment of innovation!


So no matter where you live or what season you're experiencing, throwing together a spring roll is a breeze.

Buen Provecho,
Jackie

Spring rolls, adapted from Cooks Illustrated

Ingredients

noodles
3/4 tsp sugar
1 TBSP fish sauce
1 1/2 TBSP lime juice
1 tsp salt
3 ounces rice vermicelli

filling, examples
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 large cucumber, cut into matchsticks
lettuce leaves
tofu, pressed to eliminate water
bean sprouts
shrimp
chicken
anything

herbs
cilantro, 1/2 cup
mint, 1/2 cup

Directions

1. Combine sugar, fish sauce, and lime juice in small bowl; set aside.

2. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in medium saucepan. Stir in salt and rice vermicelli. Cook until noodles are tender but not mushy, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain noodles and rinse under cold running water until cool. Drain again and transfer to medium bowl; toss fish sauce mixture with noodles and set aside.

Note: you can also use this fish sauce mixture to "marinate" the other veggies for a little extra flavor.

3. Prepare the spring roll wrappers. Directions I've read vary wildly for how long to dip the wrappers in water and what temperature of water to use. To start, soak the wrappers in warm water for ~5 seconds. Soak a bit longer if you feel they need it.

4. Working one at a time, lay the fillings on the wrapper and wrap like a burrito. Serve with a peanut sauce, or dipping sauce of your choice.

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