Springy spring rolls

This month’s recipe is just a little obvious. After all, what else would you make to herald the coming of spring other than a spring roll?

And just like the freshness of the impending season, spring rolls can be light and fresh and surprisingly…not fried.

The hardest part of making fresh spring rolls is learning to manage the rice paper and the best advice we can offer is to practice, practice, practice.

Rice paper is available at most markets and grocery stores. The rice paper sheets are “crisp” in the package and the trick is to soften them in water enough to be able to work them but not to get them so soft that they tear easily.

The filling for your spring rolls is really up to you. Here are some common and favorite ingredients for the filling:

Cucumber, julienned

Carrot, julienned

Sweet red or yellow pepper, julienned

Napa cabbage chopped into long shreds

Basil, julienned

Fresh cilantro, finely chopped

Purple cabbage chopped into long shreds

Avocado sliced thinly

Shrimp, cooked, peeled and coarsely chopped, or sliced lengthwise.

Cooked pork thinly sliced

Roasted chicken shredded

Cooked rice vermicelli

Sesame seeds for garnish

Soften the rice paper according to package directions. Pick a combination of the above ingredients to suit your palate. My personal favorite is cucumber, carrot, red pepper, Napa cabbage, shrimp, vermicelli and basil.

Place filling (in a neat pile) along the bottom third of your rice paper. You may need to experiment a bit to get the right amount. You don’t want to overfill and break the rice paper, but you don’t want a wimpy spring roll either. Because the rice paper is transparent, you can arrange elements like the shrimp or the julienned basil to make the spring rolls attractive.

Now roll. It’s like rolling a burrito. Start from the bottom, fold over the filling and roll up, folding in the ends as you go. Roll tightly. You don’t want all of the good stuff to fall out when you dip it in the sauce.

Speaking of sauce, a delicious dipping sauce really makes the dish. You can buy pre-prepared sauce, but a simple peanut dipping sauce is easy to make and is very flavorful.

In a food processor combine:

3/4 c. peanut butter.

1/3 c. chicken or vegetable stock

4 T. Hoisin sauce

juice of 1/2 lime

5 tsp. of soy sauce or tamarind sauce if you’re avoiding gluten

A squirt of Sriracha sauce (small if you don’t like it too hot…big if you do)

1 glove of garlic

Dash of sesame oil

Blend until smooth and serve with your spring rolls.

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