Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Posted on

I make these light and healthy spring rolls all the time, especially when the weather begins to warm up. (Or when it never cools down, as is this case with this year’s endless Bay Area summer.)

Even though I usually make them with shrimp, you can substitute with shredded chicken, fresh crab, or any kind of protein. The herbs are interchangeable too: I prefer a mix of romaine lettuce, mint, and basil, but anything goes. Sometimes I substitute shredded carrots with cucumbers or avocado instead. You get the picture.

Don’t make these too ahead of time, as I’ve learned the hard way that refrigerating fresh spring rolls results in a stale wrapper. Don’t worry, though. These are so good you won’t have any left over.

Shrimp spring rolls

Ingredients:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled (or shredded chicken)
4 ounces dried bean thread (glass) noodles
16 round rice paper wrappers
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 bunch mint leaves, removed from stems
1 bunch basil leaves, removed froms tems
1 Persian cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 bunch romaine lettuce, ribs removed

1. To make the peanut sauce, whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. To make the spring rolls, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Set aside.

3. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and pour over bean thread noodles in a heat-proof bowl and cover for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.
Working quickly, tear off a piece of lettuce that is roughly half the size of the wrapper and place in the center of the wrapper. Add 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer 1/4 cup of the noodles over the shrimp, followed by a spoon of carrot, a few mint leaves, and a few basil leaves. Place 2 of the cucumber sticks on either side of the noodle pile.

5. Fold the bottom and top halves of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top. Slice in half.

6. If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.

Chocolate-Dipped Frozen Bananas

Posted on

It turns out I may be developing a sweet tooth after all. Cake and tarts and most pastries still do nothing for me, but these chocolatey frozen bananas are just right. Crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside, they keep well for when a craving strikes. Plus, bananas are full of potassium, so these are kind of healthy, right?

Chocolate-dipped frozen bananas

Ingredients:

2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons canola oil
Assorted toppings for coating bananas (toffee bits, chopped Butterfinger candy bars, or chopped salted peanuts)
3 bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

1. Stir chocolate and oil in heavy small saucepan over low heat just until smooth. Let stand 15 minutes to cool.

2. Place each topping in separate shallow dish. Line baking sheet with foil. Arrange banana slices on foil. Using fingers, dip 1 banana slice in chocolate, coating completely. Shake off excess chocolate. Drop dipped banana in 1 topping. Using clean hand, sprinkle more topping over banana to coat; transfer to foil-lined sheet. Repeat with remaining bananas, chocolate, and toppings. Freeze until firm, about 3 hours, then serve.

Thai Basil Gimlet

Posted on

I used to hate gin. It tastes like liquid bark, and who wants to drink bark? It wasn’t until I tasted a gimlet that I learned to love the libation, and this summer, I experimented with different versions. Cucumber gimlets, albaloo (sour Persian cherry) gimlets, you name it. This Thai basil gimlet is my favorite: herbal, tart, and complementary to the strong flavor of gin.

Thai basil gimlets

Ingredients:

7 large Thai basil leaves
1 3/4 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce simple syrup

1. Put 6 basil leaves in a cocktail shaker and press them with a muddler or a wooden spoon. Add the gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Fill with ice, shake vigorously and strain into a small chilled glass over ice. Garnish with the remaining basil leaf.

Gai pad gra pow

Posted on

I first tasted gai pad gra pow this past spring (late pass, I know), when my friend Natasha offered me a bite of her dish at a Thai restaurant in San Francisco. I was hooked, and I had to learn how to cook it.

Since then, this basil-inflected chicken stir-fry has become one of my favorites. Spicy and full of protein, it pairs perfectly with a cooling cucumber salad and steamed rice.

Gai pad gra pow

Ingredients:

5 cloves garlic, minced
3 bird’s eye (Thai) chiles, stemmed and minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cleaned and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup Thai basil leaves

1. Place a wok over high heat. Add the oil, garlic, and chiles and stir-fry for 30 seconds, or until the garlic is slightly golden. Add the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes, or until the chicken has cooked throughout, using a spatula to press the meat against the hot wok.

2. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the basil and stir-fry until wilted, about 1 minute, then turn out onto a serving dish. Serve warm.

Crab and Tobiko Summer Rolls

Posted on

It’s only February, but I’ve had summer on my mind, and all the fresh dishes that go with it. The aptly-named summer rolls are one of my favorite things to eat in the warmer weather and with spring only a few weeks away, I’m making these early this year.

These seafood summer rolls pack a bunch with a chili-garlic spiked aioli and the crunchy, vinagared vegetables balance out the mayonnaise perfectly. If you take the time to prep your mise en place ahead of time here, putting these rolls together is a snap.

Crab and tobiko spring rolls

Ingredients:
1 (3-inch-long) piece daikon radish, peeled and julienned
1 carrot, peeled and julienned
3 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 Persian cucumber, halved and julienned
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
1 ounce tobiko roe
3 teaspoons soy sauce
10 round rice-paper wrappers
1 pound crabmeat, picked over and coarsely flaked
1 green onion, thinly sliced diagonally

1. Combine one tablespoon of lime juice and soy sauce in a small bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, toss carrot, daikon, and cucumber with vinegar, sesame oil, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, and salt to taste.

2. In another bowl, mix chili-garlic sauce with mayonnaise and half of the tobiko and set aside.

3. Stir together the remaining lime juice and soy sauce in a small bowl.

4. Soak 1 rice paper wrappers in a baking dish of warm water until pliable, about 5 seconds. Put 1 soaked wrapper on a dry cutting board. Put one tablespoon of crabmeat across lower third of wrapper (nearest you), leaving a 2-inch border at bottom. Spread with 1/2 tablespoon mayonnaise-tobiko mixture and top with a few pieces of the carrot mixture and sliced scallion. Fold bottom of wrapper over filling and roll up tightly. Repeat with remaining filling ingredients and rice paper wrappers.

5. Cut each roll into 2 pieces. Arrange on a platter, standing them up, and top each with a dollop of tobiko. Drizzle lime-soy sauce around rolls.