Yesterday’s farmers market had some beautiful Chinese spinach, a large leafy green with purple veins that was too pretty to pass up. I got an instant craving for crunchy green summer rolls, so I picked up the neighboring basil and a bunch of long super thin spring onions. A handful of crunchy sunflower sprouts and my straw market bag was stuffed for only a few dollars.
One thing to remember about greens from farmers markets, or local gardens, is that they’re much more delicate than your standard supermarket varieties that are bred to travel well and last longer after cutting. Garden fresh greens and sprouts have amazing flavor but need to kept chilled and used fairly soon after purchase. Even the ride home from the market can be fatal to delicate greens if you’re not careful. If you’re going to be making stops, bring along a cooler with an ice pack.
The spring roll wrappers are made with rice flour, and you can usually find them in the Asian section of your supermarket. They are dried, and come in a large flat box or cellophane package. They are thin and brittle when dry, and become very soft and pliable after a quick soak in water. You’ll find the bean thread, or glass noodles, in that same section. Both are gluten free.
Rolling summer rolls is not hard. Working with one at a time, you soak the brittle rice paper wrappers in water for 15 seconds, and then lay out your counter. Pile your filling in the center, and then fold up from the bottom, folding in the two sides, and then continue rolling into a tight log, like a cigar. Keep them under a damp paper towel while you work so the finished rolls will stay moist.
Slice in half with a sharp knife and you’re ready to eat. The wrapper is more forgiving than you might think, and since it is sticky from the rice starch, it will stay together no matter how you wrap it.
There is something irresistibly fresh and clean tasting about summer rolls. I am addicted to the combination of the crunchy vegetables inside and the chewy rice wrapping. Dip them into a vibrant sauce and it’s just about the best thing you can imagine. I usually make simple dipping sauces for these rolls. Today it is a combination of coconut milk, lime, and lemongrass. Zippy and fresh.
- 1 bunch Chinese spinach (or regular spinach) washed and dried
- 1 bunch basil leaves, washed and dried
- 1 handful sunflower or pea sprouts
- 8 very thin spring onions, trimmed
- about 2 oz dried bean thread noodles, soaked and drained according to the package directions
- 8 spring roll wrappers (you can find them online here)
- 1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 stalk lemongrass (or 2 tsp bottled minced lemongrass)
- Set out a plate or wide shallow pie pan and add about 1/4 inch of water.
- Pluck the best leaves off of the spinach and basil stems and set aside.
- Cut the spring onions to a length of about 5 inches, so they will fit in the rolls. If they are not super slender, slice them lengthwise into strips.
- Working one at a time, soak a wrapper in the water for 15 seconds. Put it down on a flat surface such as your counter-top and arrange the veggies and rice noodles in the center of the wrapper. Lay the largest leaves down first, then the bean threads, and the spring onions and sprouts.
- Bring the bottom of the wrapper up over the filling, and fold in both sides as well. Continue to roll it up tightly, like a cigar.
- Slice each roll in half with a sharp knife. Keep the finished rolls under a damp paper towel while you make the rest.
- Serve with coconut lemongrass dip.
- To make the dip, trim the long stalk from the lemongrass and peel away the tough outer layers. Mince the soft inner core, there will only be about an inch or two to mince. Mix the coconut milk, lime and lemongrass together. Serve cold.
Don' t try to make these too far ahead of time, the rice wrappers will dry out.
Talk about a 30-minute meal, this is lightening fast. Lay them out on a tray, or stand one or two up in little individual glasses like I did.
More summer rolls —