Vegetarian Summer Rolls w/ Quinoa
You know that thing I said about tiptoeing into fall? It’s on hold. Well, temporarily. Ma Nature has gifted us with an extended summer and around these parts, you don’t look a sunny and 75 gift horse in the mouth. You bypass the pumpkin lattes and keep on making cold brew and enjoy every last bit of summer you can, because there’ll be beets and parsnips from the moment it ends until July comes around again next year.
I’m sure I’ve committed some kind of culinary crime with these vegetarian summer rolls. Violated a sacrosanct law by bringing quinoa into the picture. A grain that’s as hipster as skinny jeans and typewriters. But if you’re trying to get more whole grains, more fiber, well, then you work it in where you can. These summer rolls are a perfect little snack, a perfect little starter and they’re chock full of vegetables.
The key here is to prep. Have all your vegetables cut up and your quinoa cooked, cooled and ready to go. The toughest thing here, unless you’re an old pro, is the roll. The rice paper wrappers are delicate, but as long as you don’t oversoak them, you’ll be in business.
Since we’re going vegetarian with these and tofu is pretty plain, I’ve layered in some flavor, giving the quinoa a sort of sushi rice treatment, dressing it while its warm with a little bit of seasoned rice wine vinegar and sesame oil, and if you like, stir in some chopped green onion to up the flavor. Drizzle the tofu with soy sauce and sesame seeds if you have them.
The one tip I can give you on the roll is to use the lettuce to help keep everything together. Give your wrapper a 5-count soak, turning it over on each count, then lay the lettuce down first, followed by the herbs, vegetables and tofu. It’ll act as a second line of defense to keep everything together and help you avoid poking a hole in the wrapper.
As for the dipping sauce, it’s up to you. Peanut sauce is what you usually see, but I sometimes find it’s too thick and gloppy and masks the flavor of the vegetables and mint. I usually go with sweet chili sauce, just the regular bottled variety, especially if I’m eating them for breakfast (on a hot day, heck yeah). The day I made these, I discovered I didn’t like the Trader Joe’s sweet chili sauce all that much, (between the two, stick with Thai Kitchen), so I made Diane Cu’s nuoc cham, Vietnamese fish sauce for dipping. I keep Squid Brand fish sauce in the house, which is on the saltier side, so I ended up doubling the lime juice and sugar in her recipe.
- ½ c. red quinoa
- ½ c. water
- ½ t. seasoned rice wine vinegar
- ½ t. sesame oil
- 1 pkg. banh trang – rice paper spring roll wrappers
- 1 large carrot (or 2 small), julienned
- ½ an English cucumber, julienned
- 1 small red bell pepper, julienned
- 7 oz. (1/2 a brick) extra firm tofu, julienned
- 6-8 leaves red leaf lettuce
- 2-3 mint sprigs (~12-18 mint leaves)
- soy sauce (optional)
- black sesame seeds (optional)
- Combine quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until water is fully absorbed and the quinoa is completely cooked. Transfer to a boil to cool and dress it with rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Set aside.
- Make sure you have all vegetables, herbs and tofu cut and ready to go. Drizzle the tofu with soy sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Fill a plate or pie pan with water and make sure it’s large enough to submerge the rice paper wrappers.
- Soak each rice paper wrapper as you go, turning it over in the water 5 times. It’ll still feel a little bit stiff, but resist the urge to oversoak. The water will continue to hydrate the wrapper as you’re adding your filling.
- Lay the lettuce and mint down first, followed by 2 T. quinoa, 2-3 slices of each vegetable and tofu. Carefully wrap the bottom edge over the filling and pull it back slightly to create a tight roll. Fold the right side of the wrapper to the center, fold the left side of the wrapper to the center and roll upwards to complete the roll. Set on a plate and continue rolling with the remaining ingredients.
- Serve with sweet chili sauce, peanut sauce or nuoc cham, as desired.