A few days ago, I came across a package of rice paper in my pantry and was inspired to make a trio of summer rolls. Any combination of ingredients that make a good chopped salad also will make a good summer roll. Rice paper starts out rigid and it easily cracks and crumbles. Place a sheet into a dish of warm water for 10 seconds and the paper is suddenly flexible. Set it down, mound your filling across the bottom third, and by the time you're rolling it up the paper is very soft and a little sticky -- so it rolls with ease, and the finished roll holds together.
In case you're wondering, "summer" denotes uncooked rolls, while spring rolls are fried. That's the basic rule, but it's not hard to find examples of recipes that illustrate less-than-strict adherence to the rule. As long as the recipe tastes good, I don't get too hung up on the label.
My first summer roll was filled with pea shoots, slivers of fresh local turnips, and some peppadews (but pepperoncini would also work). I combined the ingredients with some mango chutney I got as a gift and the filling was ready to roll. Any moist but not dripping wet condiment will work well. If the filling is too wet the summer rolls will be soggy. Whole pea shoots running lengthwise made my roll look good, but the texture of my pea shoot filling would have been better if I'd chopped the shoots.
I made a dressing with tahini and cider vinegar for my second roll. It was thick enough to cling to the filling of radish sprouts (which actually taste like radishes) and slivers of pasilla pepper. This roll is truly a salad, and of the three it's the only one that I would not serve by itself. Still, it's an easy way to eat a salad while watching TV or electronically multi-tasking.
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My last summer roll combined rainbow chard, heirloom tomatoes, and goat cheese. I used full-grown chard, which can be tough, but I cut it into extremely fine ribbons which made it tender and pliable. Here, I opted to dress the ingredients with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of smoked salt. This roll would be perfect in a lunchbox.
Summer rolls might be the perfect food for a couch potato. They're simple to make, easy to customize, and hand held. They're also relatively healthy, so the average couch potato can feel a little less guilty about that bag of potato chips that's now half a bag.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.