In this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, we’re talking parties. More specifically, we’re talking healthy party food. I can’t think of a better way to have a good time than to have a group of friends over and to feed them. Sometimes this means a sit-down dinner with many courses, other times it’s a bunch of appetizers to call a meal. Either way, finger food is always involved and ideally it will be light, flavorful and nutritious, while being festive enough to be invited to a party. One of my favorite hors d’oeurvres is fresh spring rolls, which you might call a salad roll. They are bright, colorful, bursting with fresh veggies and herbs, and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce with a kick of heat. They are a perfect way to begin a meal: Not only are they delicious, they are healthy, low in calories and won’t leave you with a stuffed feeling – even if you find yourself standing over the tray gobbling them up because they are so darn good.
Fresh Spring Rolls
For a vegetarian option, omit the shrimp. Feel free to mix and match your vegetables to taste and heat preference. Choose between sweet peppers, spicy chiles, jicama, daikon, cucumber, chinese cabbage, carrots, green onions. Remember that the key to a good roll is to have a balance of sweet, savory, heat and salt in the ingredients and to combine a variety of textures for a satisfying bite. Be sure to prepare all the ingredients in advance, so that when you are ready to assemble the rolls, everything is in place.
Makes 8 rolls.
For the spring rolls:
8 (eight-inch/22 cm.) spring roll wrappers (galettes de riz)
8 large green lettuce leaves, any tough ribs removed, torn in half
4 scallions or spring onions, ends trimmed, halved, cut length-wise in julienne strips
2 large carrots, peeled, cut in matchsticks
1 large red bell pepper or 4 red jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 english cucumber, seeded, cut in matchsticks
1 large bunch coriander leaves and tender stems
1 large bunch mint leaves
16 medium cooked shrimp, peeled, halved lengthwise (optional)
For the Peanut Lime Sauce:
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
Make Spring Rolls:
Pour warm water into a wide bowl. Immerse one rice paper round in water to just soften, about 5 seconds. Remove and spread on a plastic cutting board. Let stand for 30 seconds to absorb water. Arrange 2 lettuce leaf halves over the bottom half of the rice paper round. Top lettuce with a line of green onion, carrot, pepper, cucumber, coriander and mint. Fold bottom of rice paper over filling and tuck around the filling to compact it. Arrange 4 shrimp halves horizontally over the crease and continue rolling. Transfer roll, seam-side down to a plate and cover with damp towel. Repeat with remaining rolls. (Adjust ingredient amounts to taste and to ensure the roll is plump and full).
Spring rolls may be made up to 4 hours in advance. Cover with damp paper towels and plastic wrap and refrigerate. To serve, cut cross-wise in quarters, with one shrimp per segment, or in half. Serve with Peanut Lime Sauce for dipping.
Make Peanut Lime Sauce:
Whisk all ingredients except the cilantro together in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning. (Add 1 more tablespoon water if desired). Refrigerate covered until use. Before serving add cilantro.