Summer rolls are aptly named because they’re the perfect thing for making on a summery day when even looking at the stovetop will make you break out into a sweat. They require nothing in the way of additional heat to make and they’re perfectly portable.
Even though the process is simple—and dare I say, therapeutic—summer rolls take a little bit of time to put together, but if you prepare your fillings ahead of time and set up a little mise en place assembly line for production, you can make quick work of the task.
Maybe best of all, you can experiment with different fillings that suit your taste. If you’re a meat eater, grilled chicken or shrimp would work nicely, but I prefer fresh tofu in mine. If you want to add a little bulk, you could fold rice vermicelli into the roll, too. For veggies, I like to include a variety of colors and textures. For these rolls I used carrots, cucumber, avocado, mixed greens, and brightly colored radish greens. Basil and mint leaves added on top of the veggies help give the rolls their signature fresh, bright taste.
For dipping, I like to make a creamy, spicy peanut sauce. You can buy a bottle of the stuff, but it’s super easy to make at home. Last week I made a full cup and used half for dunking summer rolls and saved the rest in the fridge to mix into cold noodles to enjoy later in the week.
Cut all of your vegetables into long, thin strips for easiest assembly.
I used fresh mint and sweet basil but you could also swap in Thai basil and cilantro.
Perelandra sells brown rice paper wrappings. I dunked each wrapper in a tray of water for just about 10 seconds and let it soften slowly as I build the roll.
I generally used the same formula for each roll, but you can decide the order of appearances for ingredients in each roll.
To roll, start by folding up the bottom edge of the wrapper around the pile of veggies, then fold in each side and continue rolling. The paper is slightly sticky and will stay stuck together in a tight roll.
You can get as precious as you want with the rolling, but I think it’s nice to face some of the leaves on the bottom layer outward so that they look nice in the finished roll.
1 package of rice paper wrappers (I used the brown rice papers that Perelandra keeps in stock.)
1 block of fresh tofu, cut into thin sticks (I typically use about half the block)
1 medium bunch mixed salad greens
1 small bunch rashish shoots or other tasty green for variety and color
2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 small bunch fresh basil
1 small bunch fresh mint
Begin by preparing all of your fillings first: slice your carrots, cucumbers, and avocado. Rinse and dry your herbs and salad greens. Slice your tofu into thin fingers. Arrange everything in piles according to type to help you remember to add a little bit of everything into your summer roll.
The rice paper wrappers come hard and you’ll need to soak each one in warm water to moisten it. I use a cookie sheet filled with water for this step and I prepare each roll on a round wooden cutting board. Prepare each roll individually by first soaking one rice paper wrapper at a time and filling it with a neat pile of your fillings. I like to keep like with like when adding to my roll but anything goes.
Once you have all your ingredients stacked, lift the bottom of the wrapper up over the fillings. Fold in each side and roll the wrapper, keeping it tight around the ingredients. Chill your finished rolls. Slice in half before serving.
Adapted from this recipe from Food52.
Makes about 1 cup
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled
scallions, for garnish
You can make any style of dipping sauce that suits your fancy, but I prefer a creamy peanut sauce because it makes a light meal feel a little bit more substantial.
To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, thin with a bit of warm water until it reaches your desired consistency. When we take summer rolls on picnics, I pack a container or two of the sauce separately for dipping.
This summer picnic series is sponsored by Perelandra Natural Foods Center, our favorite neighborhood grocery store. Since their opening in 1976, Perelandra has been committed to supplying the Brooklyn Heights community with nutritious, sustainable, and delicious food. Perelandra prides itself on stocking 100% certified organic produce and all of their grocery products are hand-selected by their on-staff nutritionist.