Monday, August 6, 2012

No Meat, No Heat Monday - Vietnamese Summer Rolls & Table Salad

It's August.  And though the Bay area is actually experiencing the coldest weather of the year (strange, but true for every summer) we are just far enough away from the bay breezes and daily fog that we are experiencing the typical heat of summer. 

Even for me, cooking on 90+ days isn't the most appealing thing I can think of, so these little rolls are the perfect thing to get dinner on the table with little cooking.  Any time I get basil and cucumbers in my veggie box, they are the first thing that comes to mind.

They're light, the kids love them, it's basically salad in a roll format so how much more summer-light and healthy can you get.

These rolls are also a way to wrangle your family into helping since it does involve a lot of prep.


THE STUFF:

In spite of the many prep steps, the ingredients are very interchangeable.
Other than needing rice paper wrappers (Don't have them?...keep reading) to roll everything in, you can certainly Cook What You've Got


For instance:
  • You can use any sort of salad greens:  very thinly sliced cabbage, bok choy, lettuce, spinach, mixed greens.
  • Herbs can be any tender herbs you might find in an Asian garden:  cilantro, basil (any variety will work, but Thai basil if you have it is the best), mint, chives, scallion (green onion) tops - the green part.
  • Fillers can be any very thinly sliced (matchsticks) vegetables you might have around:  summer squash, carrots, scallions, cucumbers, sweet peppers, radishes even young turnips.
  • While tonights' version was strictly veggies, IF they are on hand, I might include some cooked rice noodles, but you could certainly use warm, cooked rice to give them more density also.
  • And finally, for vegetarians or those observing Meatless Monday you can use thin egg omelets cut into strips or you can use cooked shrimp or chicken for other not-so-food-conscious days.  If you leave all animal protein sources out though as I did today, you can make peanut sauce that will more than fill the protein needs.  
THE SAUCE:
My basic peanut sauce (that I've trained my boys to make since they practically drink it) starts with 1/3 cup natural peanut butter mixed with a few tablespoons of hot water to thin.  I add tamari (or soy) sauce, agave nectar (or brown sugar), rice wine vinegar (or lime juice) and chile garlic sauce until it tastes good to me.  The whole idea with Southeast Asian food is to balance sour, salty, sweet and heat.  So when it tastes good to you and all those things are balanced it's ready to go. When my kids make it for themselves they tend to leave out the heat part so no chile garlic sauce for them.  For a more complex Peanut Sauce that is a bit more authentic, download "Rock Star" recipe collection.

THE TECHNIQUE:
So here's how it all goes down.
  1. Prep all your greens, herbs, veggies, noodles, sauce and protein sources if using. (May want to call in the troops for this or use it as your Zen time.)
  2. Make your sauce.
  3. Set a pie plate of warm water next to a large clean countertop area or cutting board for rolling.
  4. Grab your family to help with the next few steps for sure.

 Step One:  
Place one rice paper wrapper in the warm water and move it around until it's completely wet and soft.


Step Two:
Move it around until the entire sheet is saturated and soft.





Step Three:
Place some greens, herbs and veggies  and other filling ingredients as shown



Step Four:
Fold up the sides over the veggies

Step Five:
Roll...



and tuck the ends under to make a tight roll



Step Six:
Cut in half in the diagonal or in thirds to reveal the colorful middle.



NO RICE PAPER WRAPPERS
So full disclosure, I actually only made one spring roll tonight.  I was feeling lazy and my family was too busy at the moment to recruit them for rolling so I did this version instead. Place the prepped ingredients that you have in mounds on a large platter leaving room for a few ramekins of extras. Arrange large romaine, iceberg or butter lettuce leaves on another platter.  Fry some shallots in peanut or grapeseed oil (or whatever kind you have) until brown, drain on paper towels then place in a ramekin and sprinkle with salt.  Add a ramekin that has chopped peanuts, cashews or almonds, and make a quick dipping sauce from equal parts soy sauce, lime juice (or rice wine vinegar), agave and chile flakes.  Add a little sesame oil to balance it all out.  Instruct your family or guests to wrap what they want in a large lettuce leaf then spoon the dressing over each wrap.  This is called a Vietnamese Table Salad.


Print Page Copyright 2011 Christi Flaherty, Cook What You've Got

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