I couldn’t make up my mind. Did I want fresh spring rolls or lettuce wraps? I decided to combine the two!
It was a rough week, weather wise, here in Vermont. Ice, rain, snow, then frigid below zero temperatures for days; even the sunshine did not make it easier, and no one wanted to leave the house.
So we cooked.
Visions of a verdant spring!
I thought about spring and summer, green grass and flowers. Sigh! decided I needed to make something light and refreshing, something to serve at a garden party, and fresh spring rolls (sometimes called summer rolls) came to mind. Yet, I also wanted that lovey crunch of a butter lettuce wrap that I love filled with similar ingredients. Why not combine them both?
Stray from tradition
You can fill these little parcels with whatever you like best. Traditionally, fillings can include mint or cilantro, shrimp, sometimes thinly sliced beef, cucumbers, carrots, rice noodles, and bean sprouts. Dipping sauces can be anything from a simple soy sauce to a peanut sauce.
For my creation, born slightly from availability of ingredients and what I had on hand, I used carrot and celery, daikon radish and scallions, left-over rice and edamame, a simple dipping sauce, and sesame seeds for even more crunch.
Use what you like…
You could use so many other vegetables –– cucumber, avocado, peppers of many colors, celeriac, jicama, bean sprouts, spicy radishes, green beans, just about any favorite. If you are using a dense vegetable, such as the carrot, you will need to blanch them for a a few seconds, just to soften them. But other vegetables such as the scallion and radish, you will want to leave raw for the crunch factor, and there needs to be something crunchy here.
I added pea shoots this week because I couldn’t find any mint at the market, but you can add any herb or green you like such as arugula, frisee, mustard greens, etc. Think about both the flavor and the texture, and what you have sitting in your larder. I do like to mix the colors up to keep them interesting to look at.
…and what looks best!
Traditionally, rice noodles or glass noodles are used to bulk the rolls up and add more substance. I had left-over rice in the refrigerator, so I used that instead. I usually use bean sprouts, but the only ones I could locate did not look very appealing, so I skipped them altogether! It doesn’t matter at all.
Butter lettuce is perfect to wrap up any number of fillings from gently poached vegetables to leftovers from last night’s stir-fry! Pull off the largest, outside leaves and fill them with whatever you like, or fill them with a little summer roll. The extra layer of lettuce keeps the whole thing really neat and easy to eat, and adds more texture and flavor.
No more sticky fingers
I cut the finished summer rolls in half and tucked one half in each little butter leaf. So much easier to dunk in the dipping sauce and enjoy.
Additionally, by placing the cut spring rolls in the lettuce wraps, you avoid the problem of them sticking together and giving you sticky fingers! This would be much neater for a party.
Your sauce can be as simple as tamari served on the side, or add just a few ingredients to create more flavor. Here I used a simple soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and honey mixture.
They were delicious, and I could almost hear the birds singing in the trees outside my window!
Spring Lettuce Roll Wraps
2 blanched carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 stalks of celery, cut into matchsticks
1 large purple Daikon radish, cut into matchsticks
3 scallions, cut into similar shapes as the rest
1 bunch of pea shoots OR mint leaves
1 cup black rice or other grain, cooked, OR
rice or glass noodles
1/2 cup edamame
Sprinkle of sesame seeds
1 tsp. sesame oil
Juice and zest of one lemon
10 sheets of rice paper wrappers
20 butter lettuce leaves
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. low-sodium tamari
1 tsp. honey
Red pepper flakes or thinly sliced hot chilis
Cut all your vegetables into similar-sized sticks.
Blanch carrots for a few seconds in a pot of boiling water and set aside. Follow directions on cooking the rice noodles if using, and set those aside as well.
Mix together the rice and edamame and add a little sprinkle of both sesame oil and rice vinegar.
To assemble, fill a large bowl with warm water and add one sheet of rice wrapper. Do not add multiple sheets or they will be too soft to handle and will almost certainly stick together and tear.
Let the wrapper sit for just a few seconds, until you can just start to bend it, then place it on a dry kitchen towel.
Start adding your filling ingredients in the bottom third of the wrapper, closest to you, and leave a good margin on both sides. I like to start with the best looking herbs on the bottom, something that will look pretty showing through the thin paper. Pile on the colorful vegetables, then the rice or noodles, and a little layer of lettuce to hold it all together.
Start rolling up about half way, then gently fold in the sides. Try to keep the roll tight, and finish rolling up. It will stick to itself for a nice seal. Set aside (try not to let them touch) and finish rolling the rest.
Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter, then cut each roll in half on a diagonal, placing a half in each leaf. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve with the dipping sauce.
Sesame Dipping Sauce:
Combine all the ingredients together and whisk! You can add a few drops of fish sauce for a more traditional flavor, or whisk in some freshly grated ginger.
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