Eating light and fresh is the way to go during the summer. And if you like being hands on with your food, why not try spring rolls? They are great for a romantic couple’s night in, or even with a big group of friends. Either way, it allows you to dig into a platter full of the vegetables and fresh herbs that you love. Although spring rolls are typically all about the vegetables, don’t be afraid to switch up the game. Slices of fruit or even bits of protein could really make your spring rolls a recipe that is indeed all yours.
Before we even begin, it should be said that spring rolls have a few different names–Thai spring rolls, Vietnamese spring rolls, summer rolls, salad roll, crystal roll. Different names, same idea. The little guys making an appearance in this spring roll platter are tried and true regular ingredients, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t try a batch with jicama, mango, cooked eggplant or mushrooms, bamboo shoots, soybean sprouts, asparagus or roasted peppers. Of course, roasted chicken, tender, grilled beef, steamed shrimp or even fish could make for great additions as well. No matter how you roll it together, the spring roll is your vehicle to happy. Of course, don’t forget a couple of condiments to go along with everything. Below, you will find two recipes–one for a spicy, chunky peanut sauce and another for a sweet chili sauce with a tangy kick. You can definitely make the sauces and rolls a couple of hours before a big party. Just be sure to cover the prepared rolls with a slightly damp paper towel and plastic wrap, as they tend to harden when left out. In all honesty, they are bast when eaten immediately.
The second dish that accompanied the spring rolls was a batch of coconut milk-laced green lentils. There’s something about coconut milk that makes just about anything better. It’s so creamy and smooth, and the flavor it adds pushes everything over the top. Of course, you could use a lowfat coconut milk, but a little je ne sais quoi is lost with the reduced fat version. Coconut milk is a great alternative to coconut cream for most dishes if you want to shave off a bit of the fat. The key to these lentils is a bit of green curry paste. You can make your own, or you can buy the jarred version that is usually a blend of galangal, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro, coriander, kaffir lime zest, shallots and more. If you get your hands on all of the raw ingredients, peel and trim them as necessary, then grind with a mortar and pestle until you have a smooth paste. The flavor is unmatched. As the lentils soften in the liquid, they will continue to release their natural starches and the mixture will thicken. Over a serving of rice, these lentils are very warming and satisfying. Spring rolls and coconut curried lentils are the perfect dishes to add to your summer list.
Thai Spring Rolls with Pan Fried Tofu – Serves 4
12 ounces extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cut into 1/2″ strips
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus more as necessary
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 cup shredded red cabbage
1 small bunch fresh mint, stems removed
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed
4 large radishes, thinly sliced
1 small red pepper, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1 Persian cucumber, thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
12-16 large spring roll wrappers
1. Thoroughly dry the tofu strips and lay them on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, mix together the garlic powder, coriander, cumin, white pepper and salt. Season the tofu with the spice mixture and set aside.
2. Heat a medium frying pan over a medium high flame and add the grapeseed oil and sesame oil. Once hot, add a few strips of the tofu in two or three batches, cooking for 2-3 minutes per side or until browned and crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and allow to cool.
3. To form the rolls, fill a medium frying pan halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Dip a spring roll wrapper into the water until it softens and becomes malleable. Carefully lay it on a flat surface, unfolding any edges to create a full circle. Working quickly, begin by placing a piece of cooled tofu lengthwise towards the bottom edge of the spring roll wrapper. Top with a few vegetables of your choice, but do not overfill. Fold the short ends of the wrapper over the left and right side, then roll from the bottom up as if you’re making a burrito. Repeat with the remaining wrappers, then serve immediately.
Spicy Peanut Sauce – Approximately 3/4 cup
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
3 scallions, trimmed
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped
1 small Thai chili
Zest and juice of 1 small lime
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Blend all of the ingredients in a food processor until combined.
Sweet and Tangy Chili Sauce
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup coconut vinegar
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
In a small bowl, whisk all of the ingredients until combined.
Green Curry and Coconut Lentils – Serves 4 to 6
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
16 ounces green lentils
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
3 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup green curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
1. Heat the coconut oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Once melted, add the onions and cook, stirring often, until soften and translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
2. Increase the heat to a high flame. Add the lentils, ginger and garlic, then vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add the green curry paste and coconut milk and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with rice.
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