Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Avocado Summer Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce

While in Cape Hatteras earlier this summer, S and I made Summer Rolls with my father. This is one of his specialties, and he makes them pretty traditionally, with lettuce and basil, noodles, cucumber, carrots, and shrimp. They were delicious, super simple, and reminiscent of dinners at a Cambodian restaurant in Cleveland I've been going out to eat at with my parents for as long as I can remember.

My father makes a lot more asian food than I do. From Laab to Bahn Mi to hand rolled sushi, when asked, he proclaims things like "It's easy, you pickle the radishes in your fridge the day before, and the sauce is just caramelized shallots with fish sauce, rice vinegar, hoisin, and chopped thai chilies." Suddenly I understand how my noncooking friends feel when I suggest that it's really very simple to make grasshopper pie with fresh mint and heavy cream dyed green with spinach juice.

Despite the fact that I undoubtedly got my love of cooking and food adventurousness in part from my father, we have pretty different preferences about what we cook.  My father does not cook asian fusion, nor does he have a taste for kale, or strawberries on a pizza. He will probably take issue with the dandelion I suggest you add to this summer roll.  It's not authentic, and what's more, it's hippie food. Dandelion, it's a weed!

I, however, clearly have no such qualms. I have no problem with taking a traditional dish I enjoy and removing any elements I don't particularly like and adding in ones I prefer. I won't claim this roll is Vietnamese or Cambodian in any way, it is definitely heavily Americanized, it's been vegan-ified, rendered mostly raw, and generally made pretty healthy, but it is also so, so, so delicious. S and I made more the day after I made this batch. 

The sprouts are reminiscent of the noodles in more authentic rolls, and the slightly spicy dandelion mixes nicely with the cool bits of mint and the velvety avocado, while the carrots provide a lovely crunch. It's all around good.

You can use store bought or homemade peanut butter for the sauce, chunky or creamy. I used homemade chunky peanut butter, and it was great. I prefer it spicy so I used two big tablespoons of the chili oil (make sure to scoop in some chili bits too), but you can definitely use just a bit of chili oil if you're sensitive to heat.

These rolls would be great as appetizers as a summer dinner party, you could even enlist the first few guests to help with the rolling process. The fillings could definitely be changed around to offer a few options at a party as well, you could add cucumber to some, or matchsticks of marinated beet, or swap out the avocado for marinated slices of tofu, and a small handful of edamame in some could definitely be interesting as well. Feel free to mix these up any way you'd like, I would love to hear about any variations!

Avocado and Sprout Summer Rolls

6-8 Spring Roll Skins
1 Avocado
2-3 Carrots
1 1/2 C Chopped Dandelion or Arugula Greens
3/4 C chopped mint
1 Cup Sprouts (I used clover and arugula, but use what you like)
Shallow dish of lukewarm water, such as a pie pan or lipped plate

Spicy Peanut Sauce

1/2 C Peanut Butter
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Chili Oil
2 Chopped Chilis (I used 1 Cayenne, 1 Cherry bomb, but any kind will do)
1 Tbsp Grated Ginger
1 Scant Tbsp Soy Sauce

1 Tsp honey
1/4 Lime

 Spicy Peanut Sauce:
Combine the sesame and chili oils in small bowl and add the chopped chilies. Let this sit a while, you can even let it sit overnight- though this will make it quite spicy. In a separate small bowl, combine the soy sauce, honey, and ginger, mix well and let sit for 20 minutes or so as well. You can do this before cooking, or you can make the rolls while the peppers and ginger infuse their various liquids. Either way, after 20 minutes or so, add the peanut butter to your soy/honey/ginger mixture, along with 1-2 Tbsp of the chili/oil mixture, and squeeze the juice from the 1/4 lime into the sauce. Mix well. 

Summer Rolls:
Cut carrots into thin matchsticks. I do this by cutting the carrot into the lengths I want, about 3 inches, then cutting the pieces in to thirds lengthwise, then I slice those thirds into matchsticks. Set the carrots aside for now.
Slice the avocado, I cut mine in half, separate the halves, squeeze the side with the pit lightly so it loosens up, then remove it. Remove the skin from the halves, then slice. I cut each of my halves into four slices.

Situate all your fillings so they're easily accessible around an open area of counter for rolling up the spring rolls and the dish of water for wetting the wraps. Place one of the spring roll wraps into the dish of water for about 2-4 seconds, or until it begins to feel flexible, but not unmanageably soft. It will soften more once removed, so don't wait until it feels like a finished spring roll skin, it just needs a quick dip.
Remove the skin from water and set on your counter- you won't need anything to keep it from sticking, but you do need to work fairly quickly at the next part. 

Place a small pile of dandelion greens in the 1/3 of the spring roll closest to you, then a bit of mint, followed by a small pile of sprouts, then arrange a small pile of carrots on top. Add an avocado slice last, then roll spring roll. The rolling process is much like a burrito, or a taco bell mexi-melt. Take the edge of the spring roll wrapper beneath the materials and lift it away from the counter, gather your ingredients together close to the edge then roll it over about one rotation so all your ingredients are inside the wrapper. Take your loose ends and fold them in, like a burrito, then roll it over once more to close.

Do not stress if your first ones are funny looking- it takes a try or two to get a feel for the thin wrappers and how many ingredients to put in. You will totally get it, and the spring roll skins are sticky enough that they will stay closed, even if you roll them badly. 

Place finished rolls on a serving plate, don't let them touch too much, they can end up sticking to each other a bit. Serve soon after preparing, to avoid browning of the avocado. 

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