After whipping up a Thai-inspired noodle dish, I decided to take things a couple steps further and attempt Summer Rolls and not Spring Rolls because I was trying to stay as far away from deep fried as possible. As Dennis Hopper said in a "Saturday Night Live" opening monologue, "There was always one thing I stayed away from - fried food. Laugh now, but that last donut killed Elvis."
To tweak my earlier recipe, work from that, but with the following adjustments. Read through this recipe from beginning to end before starting because some of the later sections overlap.
N.B. All ingredients should be organic. If you can find organic toasted sesame seed oil, I tip my hat to you.
Non-emulsified peanut butter
1 large lemon
3 cloves garlic, minced
grated ginger (to taste)
powdered cayenne pepper
toasted sesame seed oil
Using a tea strainer to catch the seeds, juice the lemon into a large bowl. Discard the seeds, but toss the pulp in. Add three to four liberally heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter along with a few pinches of salt and a few dashes of toasted sesame seed oil. Depending upon how masochistic you are, use a few shakes of chili powder along with the diced garlic cloves and mix well. The sauce should be rather thick. Set aside and prepare your veggies:
3 green onions, diced
1 large carrot, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 fistful of fresh basil w/ stems, minced
1 small fistful of curly parsley, minced
1 slightly larger fistful of cilantro, minced
A few handfuls of roughly chopped up organic raw peanuts, shelled (duh)
After mincing, dicing, and grating up your veggies, mix them together and mix in a couple spoonful of the sauce. It won't mix as well as you'd think, and you will eventually need some more toasted sesame seed oil (you did save some, right?).
N.B. Organic raw peanuts aren't as difficult to find as you would think. They are more expensive, however, and they're smaller than conventional peanuts, but they're tastier and absofuckinglutely worth it in my mind.
If you're feeling artsy-fartsy, you may want to use a few extra big ass basil leaves in between the filling and the rice paper wraps. I was just nervous about fucking up the rice paper wraps having never worked with them before. More on those later.
Tofu,My Brothas & Sistas
1 pound extra firm tofu, drained & diced
Heat up a wok, but do NOT add any oil yet. Using a good sharp kitchen utility knife, slice the block of tofu into about 4 - 5 sheets before cutting into smaller cubes. Toss the tofu into the wok and sear until it begins to stick to the pan (depending upon your wok and how hot it is, this should take a few minutes). Add in a couple spoonfuls of the sauce and add in a few tosses of the toasted sesame seed oil. Mix so that the sauce and oil is evenly distributed. Remove from heat and toss into your veggies. Mix thoroughly. If you have any sauce left, mix that in with a couple shakes of toasted sesame seed oil. You want the mixture to be chunky but not unwieldy.
I used a box of Annie Chung's Pad Thai rice noodles. They don't have to be that particular brand I guess, and from what I saw at Whole Foods, the different Pad Thai rice noodle packages all seemed about the same size.
Start boiling water for the noodles in a deep pot right before you heated up the wok. Once the water reaches a rapid boil, toss in the noodles. Cook for about 5 minutes, then drain teh noodles in a colander before returning to the pot to "shock" cool them down in ice cold water. You may have to drain again and shock the noodles again until they're cool. At that point drain the noodles well, and return to the pot. Cut them up with a pair of scissors. The reason for this is that you want them to be small enough to be spooned onto the rice paper skins. Mix the cut up noodles into your veggies & sauce mixture.
You're pretty much done except for the last part.
The Rice Paper Skins
Finding these wasn't too difficult at Whole Foods. You might also find them easily at a Vietnamese or Thai grocery store.
While they look stiff and mildly flexible, After soaking them, they're easy to use. They don't tear all that easily, so don't be frightened by their filmy nature after soaking them. You'll need a small shallow pan of cool water. Soak the rice paper skins one by one in the pan for a few seconds. Place the wet, filmy skin on your plate, spoon in the noodles & veggies mix, and wrap it up as you would a burrito.
With some practice, you should be able to wrap these up to set aside in a container for another meal or picnic. The mixture should serve about 4 hungry bastards, and you should still have some leftover skins. Keep the leftovers dry in a bag.