Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

As a happy coincidence, just before I started my forty days of vegetarianism, my mother got me a copy of "Welcome to Claire's", the latest cookbook from Claire Criscuolo, whose organic, vegetarian restaurant Claire's Corner Copia is a New Haven, CT landmark (and the place where I once saw Kirsten Dunst eating a bowl of soup).

The first recipe experiment of Lent 2012 is inspired by one from this cookbook, and turned out pretty delicious. (Although I need a lot more practice in getting the finished product to roll up a little tighter.)

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

3 small organic carrots, cut into thin julienne sticks, 4 inches long (or just a bag of pre-shredded carrot sticks if you want to save some time)
1/2 large organic red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1/2 small head organic cabbage, cut into thin strips
16 large organic basil leave, cut in half
16 small organic mint leaves
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
juuice from 1 lime
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

8 spring roll wrappers (I had to track these down at an Asian market where the ingredients weren't even in alphabet I understand, let alone language, so I'm not 100% sure what was in them, but this recipe I later found is definitely corn-free if you want to make them yourself, or can't find them at the store.)


1. Place the carrots and pepper strips into a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl, place cabbage, basil, mint, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno.  Toss to combine.
3. Whisk dressing ingredients together, and pour evenly over cabbage mixture, tossing to coat the vegetables well.
4. Spread out a clean dish towel near your bowls of vegetables.  Take one spring roll skin out of the wrapper and run under warm water for 12-15 seconds, rubbing with your thumbs, until it begins to soften. (If you never done this before, it's definitely weird at first.)
5. Place softened roll wrapper on the towel.  Place 2-3 carrot and pepper strips into a row horizontally down the center of the softened skin, leaving about 1 1/2 inches around the filling to roll up.
6. Arrange a generous handfull of the cabbage mixture over carrots and peppers, horizontally down the center of the skin.
Can you see the skin under there?  It's really see-through.
7. Now comes the tricky part.  Lift the side of the skin closest to you over the filling, bring the two sides in to meet the filling, then roll up the spring roll as tightly as you can without tearing the skin.  Turn seam side down.   Transfer to a cutting board and repeat for all eight.

8. Cut rolls in half on the diagonal, and carefully transfer to a serving platter.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

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