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How to make garden veggie rolls with fresh herbs

There are a variety of Asian-type rolls, most of which originate from China. However, my favorite are the fresh spring rolls native to Vietnam. I love that they are rice-paper wrapped and not fried, and as far as filling goes, pretty much anything works.

Traditionally made with chicken, pork or shrimp and vermicelli, I love stuffing them with a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables with lots of herbs for fragrance and flavor. When picking vegetables, make sure they are cold when you are ready to make the rolls.

It does take a bit of expertise to make them — at first, I was making lumpy, awkwardly shaped rolls with vegetables sticking out. They still tasted good, and my family happily ate them up. It took some time and practice to get them to look uniform — the key is not to overstuff them and pack the vegetables in tight when rolling.


GARDEN ROLLS

6 medium carrots

1 large beet

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Pinch salt

3 medium sized avocados, cut into slices

2 small cucumbers, cut into ¼-inch-thick sticks

1 scant bunch torn lettuce leaves (red leaf, butter or romaine)

Handful basil, mint and cilantro leaves

24 rice-paper rolls

SAUCE

½ cup rice-wine vinegar

½ cup tamari or soy sauce

½ cup sambal olek (chili sauce)

1 tablespoon freshly minced ginger

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel the carrots and beet separately, sprinkle with toasted sesame oil and salt and wrap in foil. Roast in the oven — the carrots should be done in 30 minutes, the beet in an hour. The vegetables should be soft and cooked through. Refrigerate overnight. Slice into ¼-inch-thick sticks.

When ready to make the rolls, fill a shallow round plate or tray with water. Have all the ingredients for the rolls laid out in front of you in the right order — start with avocado on the left, followed by roasted beets and carrots, cucumber, lettuce and herbs. Have a cutting board ready in front of the vegetables.

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To make each roll, dip two rice-paper wrappers into water for a minute or two. The papers will turn translucent — remove them from the water and lay them side by side, mostly overlapping on the cutting board.

Starting with 2 avocado slices lengthwise, top with carrots and beets, then cucumber, then greens and herbs. Fold the sides of the wraps over, then begin to roll it tightly, holding the vegetables down with two fingers. Place the roll on a tray or a plate. While rolling, keep in mind that the less gap between the vegetables, the better the rolls will hold up while eating. Repeat with the rest of the rolls. Drizzle a bit of toasted sesame seed oil on top to keep them from sticking to each other. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve whole or cut into half with the dipping sauce on the side.

To make the sauce, combine the rice-wine vinegar, tamari sauce, sambhal olek and fresh ginger.

Notes & variations

Most vegetables, from cooked mushrooms to sliced raw fennel or cabbage, will work in these rolls.

Do not refrigerate them for more than 24 hours — the moisture in the vegetables may make the rolls soggy.

Makes 12 rolls

From Anita Jaisinghani

Anita Jaisinghani is the chef-owner of Pondicheri restaurant in Houston. Her website is india1948.com. Her first cookbook, “Masala” (Ten Speed Press), will publish in 2022. Email: anita@pondicheri.com.

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