Cool Dinner

Some days, you just want a simple dinner that won't leave your air conditioner working overtime. And some days, you can get just that:

Spring rolls are great for mid-summer meals because you can pack them full of wonderful fresh vegetables, make them in advance (I like assembling them in the morning before it gets hotter and busier), and you don't need to turn on the stove! I steamed my asparagus in the microwave and my crabmeat was already cooked when I purchased it. Then, all that's left is softening wrappers in warm water and assembling the rolls. I put them out on a plate, wrap it well with plastic wrap, and tuck it in the refrigerator. Then, when it's time to eat, I unwrap the plate, put some of my favorite dipping sauces in small bowls, and set them all out on the table. Maybe a pitcher of iced tea or some glasses of chilled white wine happen to appear as well.

The combination of vegetables in the recipe below were chosen for the way they make a very beautiful roll. The colors are fantastic and the texture is equally appealing. That said, you can absolutely opt to switch the vegetables up to pick items you have on hand or fall into your family's favorite column. I know a lot of people absolutely love avocado in spring rolls and I'm not exception, but I tend to avoid using it for make-ahead meals like this because it browns so easily. If you simply must have it, do yourself a favor and slice it early and soak it in salt water for a couple of hours prior to assembling the rolls. That step will keep the browning at bay, but adds an amount of fuss that I tend to just not have on hand when the thermometer is telling me it's ridiculously hot outside!

You can go with simple hoisin, plum, or duck sauce for these rolls, make something special you've put together yourself, or pick a good combination to give everyone at the table a little variety. Since the rolls don't take too much time to assemble, you can add an element of special occassion fun to the meal by scattering several little bowls around the table for some dipping fun. And hey, it's a no sweat meal!

Springy Spring Rolls

  • 12 spring roll wrappers
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into 3" long strips
  • 6 mini cucumbers, trimmed and cut into 3" long strips
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, steamed and cut into 3" pieces
  • 6 oz. fully cooked crabmeat, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded
  • Small bunch of sorrel or cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 3 small scallions, green part thinly sliced
  • Black sesame seeds, for garnishing

Fill a large pie pan with about 1″ of warm water. Submerge 1 spring roll wrapper in the water completely, wait for it to soften for about 10 seconds, then place the sheet on a clean work surface. I like to use a silicone baking mat, as the wrappers don't stick to it and you can lift parts of it to make rolling easier.

Stack two strips of the red bell pepper, cucumbers, and asparagus in the lower 1/3 section of each sheet, towards the center. Place 1-2 teaspoons of the chopped crabmeat between the vegetables. Add some of the shredded carrots on top of the stack. Scatter some chopped sorrel or cilantro and sliced green onions on top of the stack to finish. Roll up the spring roll and fold the right and left sides of the wrapper in towards the center of the roll. Continue rolling upwards (away from you) until you get a completed roll.

Repeat the rolling process for all of the rolls. You can make them ahead of time and store them, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, in the refrigerator before serving. Serve sprinkled with black sesame seeds and your favorite dipping sauces or make your own.

  • Yields: 12 rolls
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes

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