I am currently in Peru. One the activities I enjoy the most here—other than spending time with family—is going to the local farmers markets. To me, visiting a market in any country is always a fascinating experience. While strolling around, you learn (or get reminded) so much about the local lifestyle and customs—more than any book, museum or tourist attraction can teach you. A few hours after our arrival, we headed to the organic farmers market and that was a treat! Fruits I forgot I grew up eating, vegetables I´d never heard of, aromatic herbs and every kind of potato I could imagine! Vendors offer their products enthusiastically while customers negotiate prices and freely taste before buying. Stunning in Lima markets is the great variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs from all over the country, reflecting the rich biodiversity of Peru. Merchants are very friendly and more than happy to explain the origin of fruits or veggies and their preparation.
The excitement was intoxicating and with all the beautiful and colorful produce, I wanted to cook a dish that would let the ingredients be the star of the show—Fresh Summer Rolls.
I think a lot of people can agree that fresh summer rolls is one of those dishes that you gladly order in a restaurant but rarely make at home. My friends and I were blaming this on how that it was hard to find the right ingredients, that it took a lot of time to make and was quite difficult to make. During this trip, however, I realized that none of my excuses were valid. The only thing I thought could be a hard to find was rice paper, but I found it at the supermarket. In America, some supermarkets carry it and definitely any Asian market would carry it as well. They don’t take a lot of time to make either. And how difficult is it to roll them? Well, the first ones looked sad. But after a couple of tries they drastically improved. They tasted just as good (or even better) as in a five-star restaurant when you use fresh, organic ingredients.
Summer rolls are made with rice paper rounds and don’t require any cooking. If you’ve never worked with rice paper before, don’t be intimidated, as it’s really easy. The great thing about summer rolls is that they can be filled with anything – fruit, veggies, or your protein of choice. Oh, and the dipping sauce? It´s awesome: roasted peanut butter, tamari or soy sauce, fresh orange juice, sesame oil, fresh ginger, and a touch of sugar to balance it all out.
I couldn’t imagine going through summer without making this ultimate light, fresh and healthy dish!
SUMMER VEGGIE ROLL WITH PEANUT SAUCE
Ingredients for the filling:
Spring Roll Wrappers (at least 8-10)
Cooked chicken, sliced (optional)
2 cups Vermicelli rice noodles cooked and lightly seasoned with sesame oil.
1/2 English cucumber, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 medium carrots, shredded
3-4 lettuce leaves, julienned
1/4 cup fresh Thai basil leaves, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, thick stems removed and minced
1/3 cup roasted & salted peanuts
Sea salt, to season
Ingredients for the peanut sauce:
1/4 cup natural roasted peanut butter
2 tbsp. sesame oil
1/2-1 tbsp. peeled & roughly chopped fresh ginger
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tbsp. low sodium tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1-3 tsp water, to thin out as needed
1. For the filling: Julienne the vegetables (slice into long thin strips). Set aside, along with peanuts. Mix the carrots and red bell pepper and lightly season with sesame oil salt and pepper.
2. For the sauce: Blend the sauce ingredients until smooth. Adjust to taste. You may prefer more sweetener, tamari, oil, or lime juice.
TIME TO ROLL
1. Set up a roll making station and gather all of your ingredients in one area. Place a tea towel on the counter and fill a very large bowl with hot tap water. Dip one rice paper wrapper into the water and carefully submerge it once it gets soft. Hold it under water for about 10 seconds, or until soft, and remove from water carefully. Place it onto the tea towel and unfold any corners that may have rolled up.
2. Add the filling ingredients in the center of the wrapper. Do not to overfill or the wrappers will tear. Sprinkle with peanuts and a sprinkle of salt.
3. Roll the two sides of the rice wrapper inward and then flip the bottom over top the filling and roll forward. Place roll on a plate and cover with damp paper towels. Repeat for the rest.
4. Serve the rolls immediately with the peanut dipping sauce.