The summer streets of Tel Aviv are filled with foreign faces. In the supermarket this evening, I heard no language but French. Despite the heat, some of us find ourselves entertaining — but none of us, I’m sure, wants to spend any surplus time in the kitchen.
That’s why I nominate the spring roll.
I don’t remember exactly when I tasted my first rice paper-wrapped spring roll; I just remember that my palate was gloriously happy. A Vietnamese creation, it’s a tortilla-like wrap made with gluten-free rice flour made into paper-thin disks. Stuffed with an assortment of fresh herbs and vegetables, and optional Asian additions like bean thread noodles, tofu, or non-vegetarian alternative, or even lox and cream cheese, it’s the perfect no-cook, light, fun, healthy and appetizing snack or hors d’oeuvres for a summer’s eve. Served with a dipping sauce, it’s simply divine.
It’s even interactive entertainment for adults and children: Set up a large cutting board with little bowls of the ingredients around them, and a bowl of warm water for dipping the rice-paper disks, and let your guests make their own — to taste. Rice-paper wrappers and other Asian ingredients are available in supermarkets, specialty shops, and health food stores throughout Israel, and around the world.
To get you started, here’s a spring roll I created especially for a birthday cooking class held in my home for Isabella, a vegan.
Isabella’s birthday spring rolls
For each person:
1 lettuce leaf, chopped
3 tablespoons alfalfa or broccoli sprouts
1 small cucumber, cut into thin strips
2-3 tablespoons crushed, seasoned tofu
half carrot, grated
small amount of bean thread noodles (or rice noodles)
5 mint leaves
5 coriander leaves
2 basil leaves
1 piece green part of scallion
1 circle rice paper
To serve: Silan (date sauce), seasoned with ginger and soy sauce (recipe follows)
Coarsely chopped toasted peanuts, for garnish (optional)
1. Prepare little piles of all the ingredients around a work-surface cutting board, and a bowl larger than the diameter of the rice wrapper. Fill with very warm water.
2. Prepare the noodles by cooking 2 minutes in boiling water, draining and rinsing under cold water. Drain again.
3. Crush the tofu with the back of a fork and add a little Silan-ginger mixture.
4. Dip one circle of rice paper at a time in the warm water and place on the work surface. Place two basil leaves face down in the middle-lower part of the circle, place a little grated carrots on top and then the rest of the ingredients. Fold in the sides and roll up from the bottom, inserting the scallion just before the last roll.
Sprinkle peanuts on top of roll and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.
Silan-Ginger Sauce: Half cup Silan, two tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, half teaspoon grated ginger, half teaspoon sesame oil.