Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things

Very few things satisfy me as much as a cutting board, a knife, and a whole bunch of fresh produce ready to be chopped, chiffonaded, minced, and diced! One of my favorite dishes to make that requires prepping above and beyond most recipes is Fresh Spring Rolls. It takes a lot of prep, but that's about it since there is little cooking required for this recipe. And it is so satisfying to work with all these fresh ingredients. Easy to make, Fresh Spring Rolls require only a couple special ingredients.

FISH SAUCE: You can never cut this out of a recipe that requires it. It will ruin the flavor of the dish to leave it out. While this is not required for the rolls themselves, it is used in one of the dipping sauces I like to have on the side.

CHILI GARLIC SAUCE: Again, this is for the sauces I make on the side. Delicious.

SPRING ROLL SKINS/WRAPPERS: These are commonly available; I found mine at Fred Meyer's.

RICE NOODLES: I prefer the thinner rice noodle versus these Pad Thai sized noodles, but these were all the store had and since I was making these late in the day to take to a dinner, I didn't have time to search for the thinner noodles. But I think the thinner noodles are more elegant.

Rice noodles are easy to cook. Just boil water, take off heat and add noodles. Stir noodles to make sure they are completely submerged and allow to sit 10 minutes and drain.
Chop all of your vegetables: Carrots, cilantro, green onions, cucumber, baby corn, mint, and bibb lettuce. Most Spring Roll recipes don't use cucumber or baby corn and use cooked shrimp instead. I just a vegetable peeler to get my carrots and cucumbers nice and thin.

Once your noodles are cooked and your veggies prepped, it's time to assemble the rolls.

Fill a pie plate with hot tap water. Submerge wrappers, one at a time, in water for 30 seconds. You want the wrappers to become pliable but if you leave them in too long they will start to tear easily.

Place a small amount of noodles and veggies at one end of the wrapper.

Firmly roll up end, tucking edge under veggies as you roll.

Fold edges in as you would wrap a sandwich in wax paper.
Keep holding wrapper firmly as you roll it up. You want the spring roll nice and snug. I always screw a couple up when I get started, sort of like how I always ruin the first pancake or crepe.

I stack them on a plate between sheets of wax paper and keep them in the fridge until ready to serve. They soak up the excess water and stop looking soggy pretty quickly.

Serve with your favorite dipping sauces. This is my peanut sauce.
And this is my Noc Cham dipping sauce. Both are delicious. Unfortunately I don't have any good photos of serving them because I took them to our friend's house for dinner. But trust me, they were good. And they are great for parties. You can easily cut them in half to make them more appropriate finger food size.

Noc Cham Sauce

1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup water
1 T sugar
1 teaspoon Chili Garlic Sauce
4 cloves chopped garlic

Combine before you make anything else to allow flavors to meld. You can also add chopped peanuts to either the sauce or the rolls themselves.

J's Favorite Peanut Sauce
(I use this as a dipping sauce but also as a sauce for a cold noodle salad, yum!)

1 cup creamy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup (sugar ketchup, not high fructose corn syrup ketchup--it tastes too syrupy)
4 cloves garlic
1 T chili garlic sauce (or 1 heaping teaspoon dried chili flakes)

Blend in a food processor. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add up to 1/4 cup water to make sauce more runny if desired. I like it thick for noodle salad, thinner for dipping Spring Rolls.

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