Before we delve into the world of summer rolls, I have some news! Last week I officially became a registered dietitian nutritionist otherwise known as an RDN. It took many years of school, a year-long internship, and a big test but now I can finally call myself Stephanie Lang, MS, RDN. And gee, it feels good. I look forward to using my degree and credential to help people make good, delicious, healthy food choices.
And now…back to summer rolls.
On a recent visit to Ithaca, New York, I ate Vietnamese summer rolls at the Ithaca Farmers’ Market and have not stopped thinking about them since. Weeks later, those delicious summer rolls were still on my mind and I thought, how hard could it be to make these at home?
Turns out, not that hard at all. Summer rolls are great because they do not require any cooking and you can fill them with all of your favorite colorful vegetables. The best part? The sweet and tangy peanut sauce for dipping.
I pressed some of the liquid out of a block of tofu, cut the tofu into thick matchsticks, and rolled each matchstick in toasted sesame seeds.
This was my first time working with rice paper. To make the rice paper pliable for rolling, you have to dip each round of paper into a bowl of water for about 30 seconds to soften it. It helps to have a bowl of water and a damp towel so you can dip and assemble quickly. You should be able to feel the rice paper soften and you will know it is ready to roll. It might take you one or two tries, or you might get a paper or two with a tear, but overall I found the rice paper pretty forgiving.
After assembling the summer rolls, the rice paper dries off and becomes slightly sticky, but oh so delicious.
Make a batch of summer rolls and pack them up for an exciting and healthy weekday lunch.
The directions below may seem long and daunting, but fear not. Just chop and slice your favorite veggies and herbs, roll some raw tofu in sesame seeds, and wrap it all up. The sauce is just a matter of whisking.
Sesame Tofu Summer Rolls
inspired by The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook
makes 8 rolls
For the filling:
1 block firm or extra-firm tofu
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup each of 3 different kinds of sliced vegetables — I used sliced bell pepper, romaine lettuce, purple cabbage (other ideas: carrots, cucumber, kale, roasted sweet potato wedges, jicama, mango…)
1 green onion, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs — I used a mix of basil and mint
For the sauce:
1/3 cup peanut butter or other nut or seed butter
3 tablespoons Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tablespoons honey or agave
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2-1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce or sriracha
8 brown rice spring roll wrappers
To prepare the filling: Press the tofu by wrapping in two paper towels and placing a saucepan or plate on top with something heavy inside like a large can of tomatoes. Let the tofu sit for at least 10 minutes and gently squeeze as much liquid out as possible. Unwrap the tofu and slice into long matchstick strips.
Place the toasted sesame seeds in a shallow bowl or plate. Roll each strip of tofu in the sesame seeds, coating all sides.
Slice the vegetables into long strips or stems. Chop the green onion and the herbs.
To prepare the sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in a medium bowl or shake in a jar. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
To assemble: Preapre a bowl of room temperature or slightly warm water and lay a slightly damp kitchen towel on the counter. Working with one rice wrapper at a time, soak the wrapper in the water for about 30 seconds to soften it. Lay it on the dish towel. Lay about two matchsticks of tofu and a small amount of each kind of vegetable, green onion, and a big pinch of the chopped herbs. Fold in both the top and bottom of the wrapper toward the center, roll the right flap all over the filling, and roll it up like a burrito until it sticks to the other side. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
Placed finished rolls on a damp paper towel until ready to serve. Serve whole or sliced in half with the peanut sauce.