Easy-Breezy Summer Rolls With Peanut Sauce

A no-cook, full-flavor recipe to celebrate the season’s green bounty.

Photo by Leah Lizarondo

Whenever I pick up my weekly CSA, I have two conflicting emotions. First, a sense of excitement  (it’s like opening a present every week!) and then a sense of panic – I MUST consume all these things. I must NOT waste any of it! And the moment I take out the contents of the box, my brain starts racing with options, permutations and combinations. You can picture some kind of Russell Crowe/John Nash equation-whirling-through-the-brain visual, but with bok choy, mint and sprouts instead of derivatives. You get the idea.

I know. I can preserve. But truth be told, if it's harder than “blanch and freeze,” I’m simply no good at it. I can ferment, but I tend to consume those jars quickly, too (if you’re with me on my Facebook page, you know I am obsessed with krauts and kimchis!)

So today was my CSA’s second week pick-up and I still had a bag of salad lettuce and a few baby bok choys in my crisper (panic ensues). My new box had more salad greens (can’t freeze that) and more bok choy. LIFO demands I consume last week’s remnants immediately. I know I can do a quick stir fry with the Chinese greens for lunch tomorrow (and use up the new batch of the garlic scapes in the process). But on hand, I had TWO bunches of mint, MORE salad material, some cilantro and more cooking greens.  What to do … what to do.

With the temperature being 93 degrees, I decided to focus on a refreshing salad. BUT (See? Obstacles!) as you know, I have a somewhat Simpsonesque attitude toward salad, so I had to think of something else. I took a quick survey of what I had. Mint? Cilantro? Some basil? Some stray zukes (and cukes)? Lettuce? (*Rummages through the cupboard* – YES, rice paper rolls!) Perfect for a no-cook version of Summer Rolls (that means, no rice noodles, no tofu, nothing else but stuff from the crisper). Brilliant. A quick batch of peanut sauce and I was good to go in – honestly –30 minutes.

The secret to great summer rolls is mise en place. And a heavy-handed use of the word “rustic.”

Let me explain. Having everything in place before you begin assembling will take the stress out of managing the somewhat fragile rice paper rolls. Because everything is laid out, all you have to think about is putting one ingredient on top of the other and rolling. A bias for the word “rustic” gives you space for “roll imperfection.” When you see “rustic” preceding a menu item, you can bet that some garde manger didn’t have to dice or julienne or mince to precision. In the same way, don’t fret if your roll isn’t the tight, neat tube you get served in Asian restaurants. It will taste just as good!

If you haven’t made summer rolls before, read the instructions on the rice paper packet and relax. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is. You WILL make rolls that look just as ethereal and taste just as refreshing as the ones you enjoy in restaurants.

So. here we go: An easy, breezy, no-cook summer roll with a peanut sauce you’ll want to use on EVERYTHING.

  Easy Summer Rolls

Yield: Serves 4 (2 rolls each)

You don’t need to be exact on the quantity of each ingredient

  • 8 rice paper wrappers
  • About 32 mint leaves (4 each roll)
  • About 32 basil leaves (4 each roll)
  • 1 small bunch cilantro
  • 2 cups zucchini or cucumbers or both (I made mine into noodles because….I can)
  • 8 big leaves lettuce
  • ¼ cup chopped peanuts (optional)
  • Other additions: carrots, bean sprouts

Peanut Sauce
This version is more tart than what is typically served in Thai restaurants

  • ¼ c. raw almond butter or peanut butter
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 T tamari
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 2 T coconut milk/coconut milk creamer
  • 1 T toasted sesame oil
  • water to thin to desired consistency
  • chopped peanuts (optional)
  • chopped red chilis (optiona)

1.     Make the peanut sauce – mix all the ingredients and set aside.
2.     Organize your roll assembly line, taking note of the instructions on the rice paper packaging (email me if your package does not have this or if you’ve tried it and have questions).
3.     Place rice paper on towel. In a strip, lengthwise a little above center: layer mint leaves, basil, cilantro then lettuce. Top lettuce with rest of the ingredients. Let some of the ingredients “overflow”  on one end of the rice paper (see photo).
4.     Fold one end of the line of greens and roll tightly but gently (again, we are not after perfection here!)
5.     Repeat with the rest.
6.     Serve immediately.

Do not refrigerate unless you have experience doing this. If you have to wait to serve, cover the rolls with a damp towel and then plastic wrap.

Categories: Brazen Kitchen