I meant to tell you about these summer rolls and their accompanying peanut sauce before I left for Memphis. You know how it goes, a thousand and one things to finish before you throw everything into the car and go.
A summer road trip mix that won’t quit. A cat who tends to wander off. Homemade snacks that disappear before we make it out the door.
A boy who I can’t stop missing though I haven’t even left.
The missing wide angle lens I won’t use the entire trip but need to find anyway despite the fact it’s noon and we need to drive at least seven hours to make it to Pennsylvania, we hope.
For the three out of the eight rolls that actually made it on the trip with us, I made sure to pack the peanut sauce because if you set the car up right, you can dip while you drive.
They’re terribly hard to resist. Don’t even try.
This recipe calls for two different rice papers, 6-and 8 1/2-inch, a trick I learned from I from Didi Emmons’ seminal book Vegetarian Planet. Two papers help create a tight and resilient summer roll that’s less likely to tear or fall apart as you put it together. Don’t worry if you can’t find the same sized papers, as long as you have two sheets of rice paper, one smaller and one larger, you’re set. The rice papers are dipped in hot water just long enough to soften them. If you leave the rice paper in the hot water too long, it tears easily and sags. Summer rolls are best served immediately, but if you need to make them ahead of time, you can refrigerate the rolls up to 5 hours before serving. Wrap them in damp paper towels and plastic wrap or seal them in a plastic container to prevent them from getting dried-out and chewy. The other thing to remember is to try not to over stuff the rolls, I know, it’s tempting to do so. Also, feel free come up with your own fillings for these summer rolls, think tofu, shredded summer vegetables, sliced fruits, etc. You can also use sticky rice in place of the noodles.
Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
makes 8 rolls (4 to 8 servings)
4 ounces dried rice vermicelli
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and cut into thin 1/4-inch wedges
8 lettuce leaves (such as Boston Bibb or other tender varieties) washed, dried, and torn
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, minced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro or basil leaves, minced
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried plums, coarsely chopped
lime wedges for garnish
8 (6-inch) round rice papers
8 (8 1/2-inch) round rice papers
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Boil the rice vermicelli for 1 minute. Drain the noodles in a fine-mesh colander or sieve, and rinse them under cold water.
Set up a work station with the vegetables, herbs, vermicelli, peanuts, and dried plums in separate bowls. Use a cutting board or kitchen counter to assemble the rolls on.
Fill a large bowl with hot tap water (110 to 120F). Dip one large rice paper into the hot water, turning once to soften. Lay it flat on your work surface. Dip one small rice paper in the water, and center it on top of the large paper. Let the papers sit for a minute to get tacky.
Sprinkle a teaspoon each of peanuts and dried plums across the middle of the papers, leaving about a bit of space around the edges. Spread a handful of noodles over the peanuts and dried plums. Add 2 avocado pieces, a small handful of carrots, lettuce leaves, mint and cilantro on top of the noodles. Fold in the bottom edge and both sides and then roll tightly (as you would a burrito) into a cylinder. (The rice paper sticks to itself so you don’t have to worry about it falling apart). Repeat this process with the remaining ingredients.
Serve the rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce (recipe below).
If you have leftover peanut sauce, try tossing it with hot or cold cooked noodles or over steamed or sautéed vegetables.
Peanut Dipping Sauce
makes about 2 cups
1/2 cup natural unsalted peanut butter
3/4 to 1 cup coconut milk (full or low-fat)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
sriracha or other hot chili sauce to taste (optional)
In a large bowl or food processor, combine the peanut butter, coconut milk, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger, garlic, and sugar until well blended. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more coconut milk or water if the sauce is too thick. Stir in the cilantro and chili sauce (for a little or big kick) just before serving.
Use right away, or cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days.