Staying Cool with Fresh Summer Rolls

I went to a Shrimp cooking class several years ago at Central Market, given by John Ash. John Ash is not only a renowned chef and owner of the restaurant John Ash and Co. in Santa Rosa, California but he is an author and teacher.

John has written several terrific books, From the Earth to the Table: John Ash's Wine Country Cuisine, American Game Cooking and his newest book “John Ash Cooking One-on-One: Private Lessons in Simple Contemporary Food from a Master Teacher” for which he received a James Beard award in 2005.

John is a great teacher and I would love to take other classes with him if I ever get out to N. California http://www.chefjohnash.com/classes.html.

I learned a lot about shrimp from him and a little about brining. I learned the Gulf White Shrimp were vegetarians (I knew they were my favorite) while Gulf Browns were omnivores feeding on both algae and zooplankton. They are a bit stronger in flavor than the sweet white shrimp.

We often see Tiger Shrimp at great prices in the stores. I shy away from them today. Farm –raised mostly in Asia and India they have a distinctive black or gray strip. John has visited the farms and had a bit of not so exciting information to share. Although some are properly raised, others are raised by farmers that basically dig a hole, seed the shrimp, once grown, harvest them and then start over again. They continue this until the ponds become so polluted they can no longer support life. YUK! I will stick with my favorite Key West Whites!

If you do decide to buy the cheaper Tiger Shrimp make sure they are properly and sustainably raised by talking with the store seafood buyer.

Rock Shrimp are something we in Florida know about but many others have not heard of. They come from Florida or the Gulf and have “rock” hard shells. You buy them shelled and they taste somewhat like lobster. I love to sauté them with garlic, butter and/or olive oil, then squeeze a little lemon juice over and serve them over pasta! That is not exactly low fat but I only get them once a year so I can rationalize it

John taught us how to make Rice Paper Spring Rolls and they have become a lunch or dinnertime staple for me. I have varied the basics a bit but that is the fun about them. You can make them so many different ways and with many different sauces.

I admit, sometimes I am even too lazy to make them so I have bought them at WholeFoods and Publix pre-made. They used to be pretty good, but with the economic times the filling ingredients have gotten pretty sparse and the price has increased to boot. Now I enjoy making my own. They are fresh, have my favorite filling and save me a penny or two.

Once you get over the fear of working with the wrappers, the rest is a piece of cake. If you ever put together a burrito, you have the technique. You can make these in short order and they are pretty and great little treats for friends coming over for cocktails too.

The two ingredients that you will have to find are 9 in round Rice Paper wrappers and Rice Noodles. I have found the Rice Paper at Whole Foods, World Market, online http://www.amazon.com/Spring-roll-wrappers-rice-paper/dp/B000F3NQKS/ref=pd_sim_gro_3 and at Asian stores (much cheaper) and sometimes even at the grocery store. The noodles I use you can get at most groceries in the Asian section. I buy either Rice Noodles or Bean Threads by KAME. Thai Kitchen and Annie Chun’s are two other brands of Rice noodles.

I will share the basics but I never make this many. Mostly I use one or two rice papers and enough ingredients to fill them. Once you have the idea you can wing it (really, you can!).

Here are the basics. Feel free to substitute with fillings of your choice

6oz fine rice noodles
12-9in round rice papers
½ cup mint leaves
½ cup cilantro leaves
½ cup basil leaves (I grow and use Holy or Thai Basil)
1 cup finely shredded lettuce
1 cup bean or other sprouts, rinsed
1 cup peeled cucumber seeded and cut in appx. 2 inch long julienne
1 cup carrot peeled and grated or julienned
8 oz cooked medium shrimp cut in half lengthwise (so they lie flat)
Optional- 3 cups fresh shitake mushrooms, stems removed, thickly sliced and sautéed in olive oil (John Ash gourmet touch. Not something I have used)

Peanut sauce (store bought or homemade. I make the peanut sauce from this recipe:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/aromatic-noodles-with-lime-peanut-sauce-recipe/index.html) or purchased Sweet Chili Garlic Sauce. You can find other Asian Dipping sauces with lime and fish sauce online.

1. Place noodles in a bowl of hot water and soak for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain and cut into 4” lengths and reserve
2. Place a rice paper sheet in a large bowl of warm water (I find pie plates are the right size for this) and gently turn them for 20 seconds until they just begin to soften. They will be stiff in spots. Remove and lay on a dry tea towel to further soften until pliable. Note: dip them too long and they will be so pliable they will be hard to work with.
3. Place shrimp in a line across the lower third of the wrapper, leaving about an inch on both sides. Top with noodles,carrot, cucumber, sprouts and herb leaves, keeping everything in a compact log shape.
4. Fold the bottom of the paper up over the filling snugly and roll half way up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfI1wMeDXhg&feature=fvw

5. Fold each side in on top of the cylinder and “crease” all the way to the top of the wrapper. Continue to roll up gently and firmly. The paper will seal by sticking to itself.

6. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Serve the rolls cut in thirds on the diagonal with dipping sauce on the side.

Some other filling choices: Lobster, Mango, Avocado, Salmon, Crabmeat, Tofu, Cabbage…even Peaches and Strawberries. If you look online you can find lots of ideas.

Have a bit of Plum wine and a nice up of Green Tea and enjoy.