Summer Rolls...

Of all the crazy things a girl could do, I have gone and done one of the craziest.  I made a split second decision to go back to school for a second bachelor's degree.  I know what y'all are thinking: she's already got a degree what in tarnation does she need a second one for?  My first degree is in nursing, which is a great profession, with great pay, that can be a little (or a lot) stressful, and I have an established career built around orthopedic surgical nursing.  But, you know when you get into your late twenties and early thrities, and you tend to "find" yourself.  That's exactly what happened, I (finally) found myself.  I have a very clear picture of what I want to do and where I want to be, (un)fortunately it requires that I put in some effort toward a degree in plant science.  The good news, everything from my previous degree counts!  I only have upper division classes to get through, which is easier said than done, and it's already kicking my Wrangler covered hind end!

The whooping that I am taking from my advanced vegetable growing class (come on, you know that it's a fun whooping - we are building a high tunnel and doing research on growing veg in the tunnel - it ROCKS!) has me a bit behind as far as fun recipes and awesome stories to share with y'all.  Be patient with me, this farmgal has a lot to learn and not a lot of time to juggle it into!  I have great things to share, it just may take a bit of time to deliver...

I thought I would share one of my favorite things to eat: I love summer rolls, they are light and healthy, and you can pack them with all the fresh flavors of summer.  Every time I make these I am invariably told that I am a champion to find the time to make them.  Let me tell y'all, it's really not that hard.  Get a mandolin, slice away, pile your fillings, and then assembly line these bad boys until you have a pile of glassy, gorgeous jewel-like rolls staring back at you.

This is one of my favorite things to do with raw beets.  I love them just barely pickled, and their color is exquisite showing through the rice paper wrappers.  I recently added the tomato slice and I love the look of it.  The dipping sauce is tangy, you don't need much, just a small dab and you have an amazing flavor combination.  I can't say it enough... I love, love, LOVE these!!!

adapted from Tyler Florence

3 ounces Vietnamese cellophane noodles, cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed in cool water
2 carrots, julienned
1 large beet, julienned and soaked for an hour in 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
2 handfuls fresh cilantro, hand-torn
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
1 lime, juiced
Sea salt
20 (8-inch) round rice paper wrappers
Several extremely thin slices of tomato (*as you slice the tomato, lay it on a clean dry flour sack towel to absorb some of the moisture, by the time you wrap up the rolls, the tomatoes should be quite dry and will not make your rolls mushy.)


Put the cellophane noodles in a large bowl; toss with sesame oil and lime juice to give the filling some flavor; season with salt and pepper.

Pour 3 cups of hot, not boiling, water in a large shallow bowl. One at a time, immerse the rice paper wrappers in the hot water for 10 seconds to soften, then place on a slightly damp towel. The rice paper is very delicate, don't soak them any longer or they will break apart. Keep the dry ones covered while you work to prevent them from drying out and curling.  Soak a wrapper and then move it to your work station to fill it, then soak your next wrapper, etc.

To form the rolls, lay a rice paper wrapper on a flat surface. Grab a small amount of the cellophane noodles and lay it across the bottom third. Lay a small amount of beets, cucumbers, and carrots over the top of the noodles.  Sprinkle cilantro over the cucumbers.  Use less filling than you think you should, if you overstuff the wrapper it will tear. Carefully fold the bottom of the wrapper up to cover the filling. Fold in the left and right sides, then tuck and roll it over once. Lay a thin tomato slice on top, then tuck and roll it over to close the whole thing up like a tight cigar. The tomato should show through the transparent rice paper. Arrange the finished rolls on a platter and cover with a damp towel.

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/4 cup hot water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon red chili paste, such as sambal
In a blender, puree the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, hot water, sugar, lime juice, garlic, and chili paste until combined. Place in a sauce pan and reduce by half over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Pour into a small bowl and serve with the summer rolls.


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