Jul 12, 2009

Spring Rolls with Fruit

Sorry to be a bit delinquent in posting lately. I've been sidelined with a tummy bug that had me eating baby food for a week. But I'm back and wanted to share these tasty spring rolls.

Before the tummy bug, I was foraging at the Whole Foods sushi counter for lunch and ran across a fruit spring roll. This was a new offering and a delightful and hopefully, recurring, one. It was served with a light peanut sauce that was a little sweeter than usual. Their spring roll included strawberries, lettuce, carrots, cabbage and cucumbers. The strawberries brought a whole new flavor to the party that I really liked. So I decided to try some myself at home.

The main thing about spring rolls is getting the hang of the rice paper wrappers. Once you've got that, you can put just about anything in them. So use your imagination. You just don't want anything too wet or it will weaken the structure of the wrapper too much.

You can also use rice stick noodles or not. You see them often in restaurant spring rolls. They make for a nicely textured filler. Sometimes I put them in, sometimes not. It's up to you. The flavors will be a bit more defined without the noodles.

Cut and prep all of your filling ingredients first. When everything is ready to go, you dip your rice paper wrappers in water and then start assembling immediately, one at a time. The rice paper wrapper won't seem soft enough at first, but as you are assemble it, it will continue to soften.

You can also use whatever herbs you'd like to pair with your filling. Use this as a guide and think up your own combinations. You can make each roll a little different, if you like. They can also be made with shrimp, pork, tofu, or not. It's up to you.

I made these on a weeknight and had enough on my hands assembling the spring rolls, so I picked up a bottled peanut sauce. I've also had them with sweet chili sauce and a ginger lime sauce. Again, your choice.

Below, I've put together more of a guideline than a specific recipe. How many you make and what you put in them is up to you. If you're serving them as an appetizer, you'll probably want two per person.

Spring Rolls with Fruit

strawberries, trimmed and sliced in half
mango, peeled and sliced into sticks
hothouse cucumber, peeled (or not), and sliced into sticks
greens of your choice: leafy lettuce, Asian microgreens
cilantro, chopped
mint, whole leaves stripped from stem
basil, whole leaves stripped from stem
zest of one lime
shrimp, peeled, cleaned, boiled and cooled, and split in half (optional)
rice paper wrappers
rice stick noodles, soaked in hot water briefly and drained (optional)
peanut sauce, for serving
lime cut into wedges for serving

Prepare all of your filling ingredients and have them lined up on the counter ready to go.

If you're using rice stick noodles, soak them in hot water for 2-3 minutes and then drain them. Let them cool while you move on.

To assemble: I tried a few different plates until I found the one that worked best. It had higher lip around the edge which seemed to keep the wrapper from sticking as much.

Take a large bowl or a sauté pan larger than the rice paper wrappers and fill it with 1-2 inches of cool water. Set it next to your assembly space.

Take one rice paper wrapper and submerge it in the water for 3-4 seconds. It won't seem soft enough yet, but go ahead and pull it out, let drip for a second, and lay it on your plate. Arrange your first filling ingredient in a row down the center of the spring roll wrapper. Leave a good 1 1/2 - 2 inches of wrapper clear at top and bottom.

Layer more filling ingredients until you're ready to roll up your wrapper. Be careful not to overfill it or it will be difficult to roll up.

To begin rolling, pull up the bottom portion of the wrapper up and fold it over the filling.

Now do the same with the top portion.

Then take right side and fold it over to the left, covering the center of the roll. Like a sushi roll, you'll want to tuck in the wrapper as tightly as possible into the crease along the left side. Tighten and tuck as you roll. Roll to the left and until it's completely rolled up.

Now start again.

With these ingredients, I made two combos -- 1) strawberries with mint, cucumber, and Asian microgreens; 2) mango with lime zest, cucumber, Asian microgreens, basil, cilantro and sometimes shrimp.

Happy wrapping and rolling.

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