I love spring rolls. They’re a great way to make salad an on-the-go food, for one. But, they’re also versatile and beautiful. I suggested them to Gaylin in my menu ideas, and she thought it sounded like fun. Since she’d never used the rice wrappers before, I mentioned that I often double them up to keep them from ripping open (they’re fairly delicate, so if you’re using anything that has sharp edges, like carrot sticks, this can happen fairly easily).
Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls
I have to confess the idea of using rice paper wrappers terrified the bejezus out of me when this was first floated as a possible recipe. I mean rice paper? It’s tissue paper delicate, right? My big fumbly fingers can can chop and dice with the best of them, but I am not a decorative cook by any means. And rice paper wrappers look…elegant. Delicate. Special. When I went to my favorite little Asian market near my house, I made the mistake of walking down the wrapper and noodle aisle (yes, they have a whole aisle dedicated to this!). And when I saw the neat little packages of square wrappers next to the round ones, I thought “Well, if it’s square, then it’s more like origami, right?” And into my cart went the packages. I’m so glad I did. These were my favorite dish of the whole trip.
The filling was key here.
I started with the last of several small containers of grains that I had gotten as gifts from people who know my love for trying new things (otherwise I would have used the grains from Hampshire Farms). Most of the grains had very little left in their containers, so I mixed them all together in an effort to clean the cupboards. In the end, the mixture included black rice, red rice, brown rice, purple barley, hulless barley, and rye berries. It was about two pounds of dried grains. I put these in our fuzzy logic rice cooker (one of the best high-cost items I’ve ever gotten for my kitchen), followed the directions for mixed grains, and let it work its magic while I was cooking the rest.
But here’s a little secret. Before I closed the lid on the rice cooker, I nestled 5 raw eggs still in the shell onto the mix. The rice cooker fit them all quite comfortably and when the grains were done cooking, I had 5 already hard-boiled eggs that didn’t require yet another pan on the stove. I use this trick almost every time we use the rice cooker because hard-boiled eggs are a go-to protein source for our household, whether they end up getting used on salads or simply eaten out of hand when we’re rushed for time and on the go.
While the grains were cooking for the filling, I sliced up some of the lion’s mane mushrooms we’d soaked ahead of time, adding both those and some red onions to my frying pan in some olive oil over medium-high heat. I wanted the onions to soften, but not to brown. As these were cooking, I defrosted the last of last year’s pea harvest (so happy to have found these lurking in the freezer). Once the mushrooms and onions were done, I tossed them together and let things cool for about ten minutes, then added a goodly amount of leaves and stems of sorrel that we needed to harvest before we left on the trip. The plant was already starting to bolt and we needed to use it up or lose it. The already green sorrel turned a lovely bright green when tossed with the rest of the ingredients. A splash of white balsamic vinegar, a quick adjustment of salt and pepper spices to balance the flavors, and this all went into the fridge.
The grain mixture cooked along its merry way and when it was done I spread it all out in a large baking pan and let it cool completely. This went into the fridge with the rest of the filling. Once everything was good and cold, I pulled out the grains, oiled my hands with a little olive oil, and broke up the large chunks of grains that stuck together, coating each of the grains in just a little oil. Into the oiled grains I tossed the mushroom mixture and mixed everything together completely, checked the seasonings again, and then got to work rolling them in rice paper.
Spring rolls make a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, and are so quick and easy. They keep in the refrigerator for several days, too, so you can make a bunch up ahead of time for cool summer snacks (try them with fruit salad, they’re great!).