Saturday, April 10, 2010

(End of) Summer Rolls

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we begin cooking with Mark Bittman, best known for his books How to Cook Everything and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, as well as his regular column in the New York Times.  (As an aside - many of you may find his article this week on Eating Sustainable Fish particularly interesting.)  I love Mark Bittman's food philosphy of - as he puts it - "lessmeatarianism", which is totally consistent with my own - the notion that if we all ate a bit less meat then both the environment and our bodies would be a whole lot better for it.  I also love the way his recipes offer more a simple basic guide which you can springboard off in all sorts of different directions, and suggesting lots of different alternatives, rather than a strict set of instructions that need to be adhered to or failure will surely ensue.  This is my kind of cooking.

For our first week our theme is "Bites of Bittman" - think appetisers, nibbles, tapas - and I chose to make his Summer Rolls from the How to Cook Everything book.  Even though summer has now really passed here, our autumn days are still warm and golden and I thought these would be perfect for an "end of summer" appetiser ... or light lunch ... which is actually how I enjoyed them.  Mark's original recipe makes 8 rolls - I'm only giving you instructions here for 4, but you really don't need precise quantities for these, and it is easy to multiply to make any quantity you like.  I think that actually 3 rolls would make a perfect size appetiser for two people - I actually ate three rolls on my own for lunch - which may seem excessive, and I will readily admit to being greedy, but these are very light and I didn't feel as though I had over-indulged.

Some variations I made - Mark suggests using some aioli in the rolls, which would indeed be very nice, but as I had some leftover lemon tarragon mayonnaise that I had made a few days ago I used that instead and I think that made a very pleasing alternative.  I'm not giving you a precise recipe for that here, but it is really nothing more than a simple one-egg mayonnaise with plenty of lemon juice and chopped tarragon added.  Yes you could add those things to a store-bought mayo if you must, but really why would you when making your own is so incredibly easy, tastes so much better and, to me, is still probably the most exciting thing I ever do in the kitchen - there is something about the alchemy which enables an egg yolk when mixed with a little bit of liquid and some oil to emulsify into something so wonderful that never ceases to thrill me - it's just like magic.  But I digress.  

I also added some avocado to the rolls, which really added a nice creaminess, and as I didn't have any regular mint I used some Vietnamese mint instead.  Coriander or Thai basil would also be wonderful in these.

I used up some leftover Soy Chicken (made from the Donna Hay "Seasons" book), but as Mark suggests roast pork would be good in these, or I think they would be positively sublime with some crispy skinned roast duck which is what I intend to try next time.  Hot-smoked salmon would also be a nice addition, both texturally and flavourwise.

Bittman also suggests serving these with a Peanut Dipping Sauce, which would be great.  I should have taken that advice - being a little bit lazy I tried a dipping sauce of fish sauce, soy, sugar and chilli paste.  After a couple of dunks of that, I just felt it was a bit too overpowering for the "delicate" flavours of the filling, so I put that to one side and had a few dips into a bit more of that mayo that was leftover ... perfect!

Summer Rolls Recipe
Adapted from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything"
Makes 4 rolls
Gluten free
Click here for a printable copy

4 rice paper wrappers (10 inch)
shredded lettuce, such as butterhead, about 1 cup
rice vermicelli noodles, about 1 cup
shredded cold meat, about 1 cup:
chicken, pork or duck
aioli or mayonnaise, about 1/3 cup
fresh herb sprigs:
mint or coriander or Vietnamese mint or Thai basil
8 cooked shrimp, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

Begin by assembling and preparing all your ingredients, and then make each of your rolls one at a time - don't try going for some kind of assembly line technique.  Take care not to "overfill" your rolls, and - a bit like making crepes - the first one might not be perfect, but you will quickly get the hang of it.

Firstly, cook your rice vermicelli according to the directions on the packet.  I soaked mine in  a pan of hot water for about 5 minutes to soften, then put the pan over heat to boil - about 2 minutes - or until cooked.  Immediately drain and refresh in cold water.

Meanwhile, shred lettuce, slice avocado and chicken, tear up herbs (if leaves are large), and cut shrimps in half lengthways (so they are not too fat).

Now it's time to assemble.  Spread a damp tea towel out on your bench.  Fill a shallow bowl (at least as wide as your rice paper wrappers) with hot water and also set that on the bench.  Working one at a time, soak a wrapper in the hot water until you feel it go soft (this really just takes a few seconds), then lay it out on your tea towel.

Then begin to fill.  Imagine a line running crosswise through the middle of the wrapper.  Position your filling below that line (in the half closest to you), keeping filling about one inch in from each side.  I started with some of the rice vermicelli noodles first, and then some of the chicken on top of that.

Next add the shredded lettuce, herbs, avocado and mayonnaise.

Lastly add the shrimp.

Then comes the fun part - beginning to roll.  Firstly fold the sides in over the filling.

Then fold the piece of the wrapper closest to you up and over the filling.

Then roll up, et voila ...!

How to Cook Everything (Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition), Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition: 2,000 Simple Recipes for Great Food  and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food

both available from Amazon, Book Depository UK, and Fishpond NZ


  1. I love summer rolls--they are a warm-weather staple for me. These look wonderful (I would have eaten at least three--maybe more!). I love all the changes you made and that lemon-tarragon mayo sounds delicious!
    So glad you are cooking along with us and with Bittman--I totally agree with his food philosophies too. ;-)

  2. Ces rolls semblent délicieux.
    J'aime beaucoup.
    See soon.

  3. The summer rolls look fabulous! I'm almost embarrassed to say that I would've ate at least 3 of them, if not more:D So glad to hear that you love the way Bittman cooks. I agree!

  4. Deb & Kim - so pleased to know that I am not the only person with a "healthy appetite", and that we all share a love for cooking "the Bittman way".

    Nadjibella - Merci de votre visite :-)


  5. So pretty! I love these too, and while the passing of summer is sad, you have artichoke tarts to keep you happy today right? ;P

  6. Hi there! Thanks for including me in your blog roll!!!! I happened to pop into your blog for a wee look this evening and found this great recipe that I had been talking to a friend about today, so have forwarded it on to her to have a go!
    Lovely blog by the way!

  7. Sasasunakku - thanks for visiting - they are pretty aren't they - that gorgeous combination of pink shrimp and pale green avocado.

    Linda - thank you so much for visiting and for passing my recipe on to your friend. Really appreciate the referral.


  8. These are so impressive looking! I really appreciate the step by step photos on rolling them! You make it look really do-able.

  9. Tiff - thanks for visiting. These are really totally easy, after you've done the first couple - you get the hang of it really quickly. Hope you give them a try.


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