Cucumbers are ripening in my garden, so I’m not only preparing for fermented and vinegar-brined pickles but also enjoying them raw. Wrap cucumbers in rice paper with other garden-fresh vegetables, and you’ll taste summer in each bite.
The ingredients listed here are easy-to-find favorites, but you have many options. The key is to keep the pieces small enough that they roll comfortably in the wrappers. Vegetarians can replace the shrimp with thin slabs of tofu fried in sunflower oil and then cut into matchsticks.
The rolling technique can take practice. Err on the side of barely dampened wrappers; they will keep softening as you fill them. If they are brittle when you start to roll, gently press exposed portions with damp fingertips.
Summer Rolls with Lime-Chili Sauce
Makes 6 rolls
For the dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce or soy sauce
1 tablespoon ultrafine sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
Pinch of dried chili flakes or 1 bird’s eye chili, finely sliced
For the summer rolls:
12 large or 18 medium raw, peeled shrimp
1 stalk lemongrass, crushed
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 blocks rice vermicelli
6 8-inch rice paper wrappers
3 tablespoons peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 small red bell pepper, cored and cut into thin strips
2 handfuls of fresh herbs and greens, such as mint, basil, chives and baby arugula
In a small jar, combine the lime juice, fish or soy sauce, sugar, garlic and chili. Screw on the jar lid and shake briskly until the sugar dissolves. Set aside for the flavors to combine.
Into a small saucepan, cover the lemongrass and salt with water and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp, lower to medium heat and poach for two minutes, until just pink. Drain the shrimp, cut in half lengthwise and chill until ready to use.
In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the noodles until covered and let sit for about four minutes, until al dente. Rinse under cold water and drain thoroughly.
Choose a pie plate slightly larger than the wrappers and fill halfway with cold water. Gently press in a wrapper until just dampened; flip, press again and then remove while still fairly stiff with visible hatch marks. Lay the wrapper flat on a cutting board.
Layer the filling ingredients down the middle of the wrapper: crushed peanuts; a small clump of noodles; a few cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks; a line of herbs and greens. Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper tightly over the filling. Top with a line of four to six shrimp halves, and then roll once to secure. Fold the ends in, and then continue to roll, pulling the wrapper tightly but gently to prevent tears. Lay the summer roll on a plate, and repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Shake the dipping sauce again before dividing it among small, shallow bowls. Serve immediately with the summer rolls.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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