Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Salad Rolls

One of our favorite restaurants serves Vietnamese salad rolls. Have you ever had one before? They are light and delicious, and fun to make.


Your local grocery may or may not have all the ingredients available. We had to go to a specialty Asian market to get the wrappers. If you have one in your town, this would be a good excuse to venture inside. The staff in all of our local Asian markets are very friendly and helpful, so don’t be shy about asking for what you need.

Here are the ingredients:

Spring roll wrappers (also called Rice wrappers) – read below about soaking them and make sure you get a size small enough for your largest shallow bowl.
Rice stick noodles (there are many varieties; you need the one that is cooked by soaking in hot water. When cooked, they are milky white.)

You will also need:
Cooked shrimp – size about 40-60 and peeled, deveined, tail removed
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh mint leaves
Salad lettuce
, chopped (use a soft variety such as leaf or spring greens)

To cook the noodles, boil water in a teakettle. DSCN8313Place one bundle of rice noodles in a large bowl. When the water boils, pour enough over the noodles to cover. Let the noodles soak for 2-3 minutes. We’d recommend letting them sit in the water until you’re ready to use them or they will stick together in an un-useable blob.

While you wait for the water to boil, get the wrappers ready. In the package, the wrappers are brittle and thin, and you’ll need to soak them so they’re soft. To soak them, set out a shallow dish of lukewarm water. You will need to be able to completely submerge one wrapper in the water. We bought the smaller wrappers and soaked them in a large skillet.

When the noodles are soaked and you have the water ready for your wrappers, set up an assembly line of the rest of your ingredients. We placed all of our ingredients around a plastic cutting board.

Start by soaking your wrappers, one at a time. Here is one wrapper straight from the package.


After soaking it in the lukewarm water for about 60 seconds, it became soft and ready for the next step. Yes, it will be like a wet clingy piece of saran wrap.  DSCN8316

DSCN8324Spread the soaked wrapper on your cutting board and lay a little bundle (about a small handful) of noodles on the bottom 1/3. Arrange a little of the salad, basil, mint, and shrimp on the noodles. This sounds silly, but you’ll want to make it look nice because the wrapper is translucent.


When everything is arranged on the wrapper, start rolling it up from the bottom. Roll it as tightly as you can. Flip it over and fold the sides in. Finish rolling it up.

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Your first few might look a little messy, but keep at it. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that as soon as you take a softened wrapper out of the water you can slide another hard wrapper into the soaking water. It’ll be ready when you are.

Our restaurant serves their salad rolls with peanut sauce that is so delicious that we ask for extra sauce to go with the rest of our meal. You can make this at the beginning of your salad roll project, while you wait for the noodle water to boil.

Peanut Sauce
1/4 c peanut butter
1 Tbs fish sauce (you can substitute soy sauce)
1 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp sugar
crushed peanuts, optional

Blend together all ingredients, adjusting the fish/soy sauce and lime juice to taste. Serve with crushed peanuts on top. Use as a dip for your salad rolls.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Just one tomato plant... planted last year

Forget Best Boy or Early Girl or any heirloom tomato. I have named this variety of cherry tomatoes Rasputins.

The owner of our house planted this tomato last year and we just didn't have time or energy to put in any plants this spring. Tonight I decided to spend some me time outside and wanted to clean up the jumble of weeds between the patio and back porch.

Lo and behold, there was a flash of orange and I spied this cluster of beautiful tomatoes in the jumble of weeds.

This is too good to ignore and the poor tomatoes won't be happy laying on the ground. I poked around in the carriage house and found a small section of left over iron fence that goes around the back yard. A little green ribbon, some bird feeder hooks over the pergola, a little vine coaxing, and voila! My Rasputins have a mock espalier.

Would you believe this mess is just one plant?

Mmmm, next year I'll get serious about gardening and make some time to put in more plants.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Monty Python goes to school

Yesterday was Rachel's first day of school (FDOS). She's starting high school (Do I feel old? Yes.) at a new school and does not know a single person in her class. Yes, she was nervous, but I reassured her that many of the other 500+ freshmen in her school feel the same way.

On the eve of the FDOS, our dear friend Marcy gave Rachel some excellent advice: Quote Monty Python movies.

If Rachel declares "Your mother was a hamster..." and another kid chimes in with "And your father smelt of elderberries!" then she knows she has found a kindred soul to hang out with.

You can give this wise advice to your kid as well. Of course, if your kid is not a fan of Monty Python, they probably won't be able to correctly answer to "What is your favorite color?"

"Blue. No! Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!"

Your kid will have to fill in the blank with their own personal weirdness.