Friday, June 25, 2010

Fabulous Friday Food

A few months ago, B and I attended an international potluck—an event we attend every year. Now, you’d think that with as much international travel as I’ve done I’d be eager to attend such a dinner.

You would be wrong. See, I’m kind of a wimp when it comes to trying new foods. In fact, if I can’t recognize the type of meat that is in a dish, I won’t eat it. Many a delicious dish has been passed over by me just because it doesn’t come with an explanation.

I need an explanation before I’ll try it. I just do.

And curry and me? . . . we’re not exactly friends.

So when I travel, I’m the most pathetic kind of eater. I always make sure I can get some type of delicious bread and some kind of cheese and then I’m good. Oh, sure, I’ll try new things in restaurants . . . as long as I know what’s in them. Because if I got stuck with some kind of strange meat (what is blood sausage, anyway?) that just happened to be covered in a curry-type sauce, it would be all over. My day would be ruined, and I’d have to run to the nearest grocery store to stock up on bread and cheese for the next week.

And don’t even get me started on the potluck concept. Eating food made by someone else under conditions that might be slightly less than the standard I hold for my own kitchen? That’s pushing it.

I like my food. And my mom’s. And my sisters’. Well, and my friend, Jymette, who used to do “Once a Month Cooking” with me when our kids were little—our cooking styles were very similar. Oh, and there’s Amy who leaves the MOST delicious meals for me after I’ve been out of town. Yeah, I’ll take any of their cooking any day.

But I will admit here and now that I have a little bit of a hard time getting used to eating other people’s cooking. I’m weird that way, I know.

**Edited to add that pretty much any restaurant does not count in this assessment. I love to eat out. I would do it every night if I could. Almost.

So, combine “international” and “potluck” in the same sentence and you’ve got one scared little girly on your hands. (Just don’t tell my kids because I try to get them to eat strange foods all the time. I’m a bit of a hypocrite in this area.)

So you can just imagine the dread and fear with which I approach this “international potluck” every year. Who knows what we’re going to get?

But this year. Ah, this year brought a delightful surprise. Someone brought spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce, and I am here to say that they were delicious! Surprisingly so. I ate as many as I could without looking like a pig, I loved them so much.

Now, I’ve long been a fan of the egg roll—all that deep fried deliciousness dipped in sweet sour sauce—but I had never before tasted its cousin the spring roll, a fresher, healthier type of Asian rolled food.

So, you can imagine my delight when this month’s issue of “Everyday Food” came in the mail and supplied me with the recipe for “Summer Rolls” which is, I guess, their take on the spring roll. Doesn’t matter. It looked the same to me.

Last week, Kate and I ventured into the world of Asian cooking and I gotta say, we had fun. And these little rolls are just perfect for those really hot days when you don’t feel like doing any heavy-duty cooking. All you really need is some water and your ingredients and you’re ready to roll. Get it?!

So, without further adieu, Let’s Roll!!

First, assemble your ingredients. You will have a very hard time pulling this off if you have to stop and chop in the middle of your assembly.

We set everything out on the counter, chopped, prepared (the noodles have to have boiling water poured over them), and ready to go.

We used shrimp, chicken, carrots, cucumber, mango, bean sprouts, and those funny no-taste-to-them-whatsoever Asian noodles.

And you need spring roll wrappers. All you do with these is take them out of the package and dip them in cold water for about 20 seconds.

Pull them out of the water as soon as they become pliable, but not too pliable or they'll be mush.

Next, put a small amount of whatever ingredients you want on top of the wrapper--this one was carrot and shrimp. Put some of the noodles in the middle, then top with a few more ingredients.

Roll it up and . . . voila! . . . you have a spring roll.

The mango/chicken variety was very tasty. Mmmm.

But you have to have a sauce to dip these sweeties into. I guess a peanut dipping sauce is traditional, and so easy to make.

First, take 1/2 cup of peanut butter.

Add about 1/2 cup of hot water and 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice to the peanut butter and whisk it all together.

Add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce and that's it.

Peanut dipping sauce. Mmmmm.

Just in case you'd like to follow the exact recipe, here you go.

Summer Rolls
1. Pour boiling water over 1 package (4 oz) vermicelli rice noodles and soak 15 minutes. Drain and rinse. Divide into 8 equal portions. Fill a wide, shallow bowl with cool water. Working with one 8-inch spring-roll wrapper at a time, soak until pliable, 20 seconds. Transfer to a flat surface and smooth.

2. Place a layer of desired fillings on bottom third of wrapper, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Top with a portion of noodles and another layer of fillings.

3. Fold bottom of wrapper tightly over fillings.

4. Roll over once, tuck in sides, and finish rolling. If desired, add 3 fresh chives and continue rolling to enclose them. Transfer roll to a plate and cover with a slightly damp paper towel. Repeat to make 8 summer rolls. Serve immediately with dipping sauce, or refrigerate up to 2 hours.

**Note: fillings may include cooked shrimp, chicken, carrots, cucumber, avocado, mango, cilantro, basil, parsley, or whatever your heart desires. Be creative!!

**Additional note: be sure to roll these tightly or they will fall apart when you bite into them. Take it from me.

Creamy Peanut Dipping Sauce
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter with 1/2 cup warm water until smooth. Whisk in 1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes), 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 4 teaspoons sugar. Sprinkle 1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts over sauce just before serving.

Now tell me, is this something you'd want to try? Let me know if you do!

What are you making this weekend that will be fabulous?



  1. Just sat down for a second after two batches of blackberry jam. I pulled most of the seeds out, but there are a few pesky ones in there.

    I also have designs to make zucchini bread and granola this weekend. We'll see. . . .

  2. Oooh, Angie. Yum! Glad to hear you pulled the seeds out of your jam. I could never eat it with the seeds, but I could eat a jar of the seedless variety . . . :) Sounds like a yummy weekend at your house!

  3. I have to say that I'm surprised at your confession of not wanting to try new foods. But the potluck thing I can relate to especially with all of my food allergies. I just always take something that my family and I love and hope it is still there when we get to it.

    I wish I could try your recipe but unfortunately I cannot. Oh, and fortunately for you and me, bread and cheese in foreign countries is usually so delicious!

  4. Linda, you just reminded me of one time in h.s. when we were out and you unintentionally ate a pea. Oh my! You do have some food allergy issues, my dear.

  5. I'm the same way with eating other people's foods! But I am getting braver with international foods (I love curry!), though I have a long way to go.

    I LOVE spring rolls. I would probably chop/shred the ingredients, though...I just like things that way. And peanut sauce? To die for. I will have to try to make them myself some day! I'm proud of you for attempting them!

    I'm about to take the Pioneer Woman's coffee cake out of the oven. I intend to share it with my neighbors in the morning. :) I intended to do that last weekend, but the cake ended up on the bottom of my oven rather than in the hands of my neighbors because my pan was too small. Lesson learned! (And oven cleaned!

  6. I will be making a lemon meringue pie and wholewheat buns.
    I will make them early in the
    morning as it is to be 107 in AZ.

  7. What great ideas! You are all such great cooks!

  8. You officially made me hungry! :-)