Vegetable Summer Rolls

Though I love ordering them at restaurants, for years I have been too intimidated by summer rolls to try to make them myself. The whole wrapping/dipping sauce thing had me convinced that they were much too complicated. However, the other day at the grocery store I spotted some rice paper wrappers while buying fish sauce (a new staple in my apartment) and decided to give it a try. Though the first one I made was a little wonky, to my surprise I quickly got the hang of it and they weren't too hard to master. A perfect appetizer before Pad Thai, or you could do what A. and I did and just have them for dinner. Vegetable Spring Rolls (adapted from Food & Wine and Tyler's Ultimate)

For chile dipping sauce:

2 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons water

1 small red chile, thinly sliced

For peanut dipping sauce:

3 garlic cloves, minced

1-inch piece ginger, minced

3 scallions, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter

6 tablespoons water

 

3 oz vermicelli

12 rice paper wrappers

3 large carrots, cut into matchstick-size pieces

1 cucumber, cut into matchstick-size pieces

1 avocado, thinly sliced

4 oz tofu, cut into thin slices

Small handful basil, julienned

Whisk all ingredients for chile dipping sauce together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic, scallions, ginger, and red pepper flakes until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Whisk in vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, peanut butter, and water until peanut butter melts. Transfer to a medium bowl and set aside.

Place vermicelli noodles in a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over, and let soak until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.

Working in batches of two, soak rice paper wrappers in a shallow bowl of water for 5 seconds. Let soften for 30 seconds, then place a little bit each of rice noodles, carrots, cucumber, tofu, basil and 1 slice avocado on top. Fold up sides of wrapper and roll until sides close (it's kind of like making a burrito). Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately with dipping sauces.

Pad Thai

I love Thai food. However, sometimes I find that takeout options can be sickly sweet, or too oily, or not spicy enough. I decided to take matters into my own hands, and after finding out how easy this recipe is, I might never order pad thai for delivery again. It is also gluten-free, an added bonus to its simplicity and great taste. This can also easily be non-vegetarian by substituting the tofu for shrimp. Pad Thai (modified from Bon Appétit)

Serves 2-3

8 ounces pad thai rice noodles 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 large eggs 1 block tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes 2 cups bean sprouts 6 tablespoons tamarind water, or 3 tablespoons tamarind paste mixed with 3 tablespoons water (I couldn't find tamarind paste, so I used pomegranate paste to the same effect) 3 tablespoons (or more) Thai fish sauce (nam pla) 3 tablespoons simple syrup 5 scallions, thinly sliced. 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes 6 tablespoons crushed roasted, unsalted peanuts, divided 2 lime wedges
Soak rice noodles in a large bowl in hot water until firm but not soggy, 5-8 minutes. Drain and set aside. Heat oil until shimmering in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Sear tofu until browned on each side, 10- 15 minutes. Add eggs and scramble for 30 seconds. Add noodles, stir for 30 seconds. Stir in bean sprouts, then add tamarind water, fish sauce, simple syrup, scallions, and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute. Stir in 1 tablespoon crushed peanuts and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately with extra peanuts, fish sauce, scallions, and lime wedges.