July 6, 2014 by Meg G.
In honor of this hot, sticky, hazy, hurricane-rainy season, we made – wait for it – summer rolls!
Summer rolls (sometimes called fresh rolls or fresh spring rolls) are basically all kinds of freshness wrapped up in rice paper and dipped in peanut sauce. This is the opposite of rocket science, folks. Just choose your favorite veggies, herbs, and a protein, pile it on a rice paper wrapper, roll, and eat. Inspired by this recipe (check out Alanna’s gorgeous photography!), and the Farmer’s Market harvest, we choose zucchini and snap peas, along with some panfried tofu. But you can use whatever you like, is in season, or you happen to have on hand. We wanted to elevate this meal to dinner status, so we served it with a quinoa edamame salad on the side (recipe coming soon). Let’s get to it!
Zucchini, Snap Pea, & Tofu Summer Rolls – inspired by The Bojon Gourmet
For the summer rolls:
- 2 zucchini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- sea salt
- 8 ounces extra-firm tofu
- toasted sesame oil
- about 1 – 1.5 cups fresh snap peas
3 medium carrots, scrubbed
1.5 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 scallions
- 1 avocado
leaves from 1/2 a bunch of basil
leaves from 1/2 a bunch of cilantro
12-16 rice (or other) spring roll wrappers (plus extras to allow for breakage)
For the peanut sauce:
- 1/4 cup smooth all-natural peanut butter
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/4 cup tamari (or soy sauce)
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1 inch knob of fresh ginger, finely grated (about 2 teaspoons)
- 4 teaspoons maple syrup (or agave for a vegan option)
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
Prepare the Summer Roll filling:
- Drain the tofu between two plates lined with paper towels. The longer you drain, the firmer tofu you’ll have – it’s up to you. We let ours drain for about 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425F.
- Cut the zucchini in half crosswise, then cut them into 1/2″ thick spears. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat, then spread them into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until golden on the first side, about 10 minutes, then rotate and cook on a second side until golden and tender but still firm, 5-10 more minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- While the zucchini is roasting, prep the tofu by cutting it into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini. I went with rectangles that were about 1/2 inch thick and 2 inches high by 1 inch wide. Heat the sesame oil in a large pan and add the tofu (you may have to do it in two batches). Cook until golden on both sides, about 5-7 minutes on each side, depending on your stove. Set aside to cool.
- While the tofu is cooking, prep the snap peas by removing the stem and the string on each of them. Bring a small pot of water to boil, add the snap peas and a dash of salt, and blanch for about 3-5 minutes, until they brighten and soften up. Drain and add to a bowl of ice water to cool and stop the cooking. Then drain again and chop them in half lengthwise.
- Scrub the carrots clean and slice into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Place them in a bowl with the rice vinegar and set aside.
- Slice the scallions into long, thin pieces and place in a bowl.
- Slice the avocado into medium-thick pieces and set aside on a plate.
- Stem the cilantro and basil and place each in bowls.
Prepare the Peanut Sauce:
- In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, tahini, tamari, sesame oil, ginger, maple syrup (or agave), and rice vinegar until smooth.
- Taste, adding more vinegar or ginger if you like your sauce a little sharper, more peanut butter if you like it thicker, or a few drops of water if you like it thinner. The dressing will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
Now, the fun part – assembly!
- Fill a very large bowl with warm water. Have the wrappers and ingredients ready, as well as a clean surface to shape the rolls on, a platter on which to place the finished rolls, and a clean, damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out.
- Submerge a wrapper in the warm water and hold it there until it has softened, but still holds its shape, about 5 or 10 seconds. Lay the wrapper on your clean surface and layer your ingredients on the lower third of the wrapper. We layered them rather haphazardly, but you can be more orderly, if you’d like.
- Grasp the bottom of the wrapper with your thumbs and forefingers and cup the filling with your other six fingers to fold the bottom of the wrapper up and over the filling. Fold the sides of the wrapper in toward the center, then roll the roll the rest of the way. There is a delicate balance between rolling these too loosely and too tightly. But a slight tear here and there or a loosely wrapped roll won’t ruin the whole operation!
- As you go, cover the finished roles with the damp kitchen towel to keep them from drying out. You can make these in advance and store them covered in damp paper towels in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
- Serve whole or cut diagonally, with individual bowls for the dipping sauce.
A few things I’d do differently next time:
I don’t think roasting the zucchini really added to the flavor as much as it elevated the temperature in our kitchen. I’d recommend either slicing it like the carrots and adding it (with a dash more rice vinegar) to their marinade or simply giving the spears a quick pan fry.
The recipe for the peanut sauce makes a TON! I mean, we managed to make sure it didn’t go to waste (twist my arm to slather some noodles with peanut sauce!), but next time I’d halve it.
It’s not rocket science, but yes, it is a bit time and labor-intensive. However, you can prep quite a bit ahead of time and it’s a fun dish for a DIY dinner assembly. We invited our new neighbor Danielle over to help out, so it was a great excuse to sit across the dining room table, roll up our own creations, and get to know one another a bit better. So, grab a few friends and enjoy!