Finally this week, we’ve gotten a good dose of sunshine! I was dropping off meals to a client and humming a little John Denver to myself, enjoying the glory of the warmth on my face. I got into the car, turned on am 1690, and “Sunshine on My Shoulders” had just begun. Whaaatttt?!?!?! Apparently the DJ was feeling my vibe, also thankful for a break from the gloominess. I cranked the volume, rolled my windows all the way down, and proceeded to croon along with Mr. Denver all the way home. I was more than a quart low on that sunshine, and man- it felt good!
It was even dry enough on Sunday for Adam and I to get out and visit the Grant Park Farmers Market for the first time in a long while.
The market has grown tremendously this year.
I was shocked by the number of farmers, artisans, musicians,
sharing their gifts with the community.
It was exhilarating to be back in the saddle, ogling mountains of veggies,
and exploring the season’s offerings.
It was like I had awakened from some kind of grey, watery slumber- greeted by vibrant colors and interesting shapes and items that sparked my creativity.
For the last week of Jackson Lowe’s CSA, we knew folks would be receiving carrots, squash and blueberries. Adam and I thought we’d spotlight the vegetables by assembling summer rolls and making a savory blueberry dipping sauce. So, we grabbed local carrots,
a couple peppers and a bunch of green onions from Le Tre Lune,
and some of these gorgeous mung sprouts to complement the pretty summer squash we had at home.
And here is what ensued…
Vegetable Summer Rolls with Blueberry Tamari Dipping Sauce and Seared Yellow Fin Tuna.
You can use any kind of veggies you like in your rolls. I used:
1 golden zucchini, julienned
1/2 a giant green zucchini, julienned
1 sweet green pepper, julienned
a bunch of carrots, peeled and julienned
3 green onions, chopped
1 Cup of mung sprouts
1 long hot pepper, chopped into half moons
good handful of cilantro, chopped
To create matchsticks with your vegetables, I find it easiest to cut off a bit of one side, to make a stable surface. Then, cut thin planks. From your planks, you can slice skinny strips of just about anything.
In thinking about making a dipping sauce and a marinade for flavoring the vegetables, I knew I wanted to keep it simple and minimize the work. So, I built this dressing side-by-side. I composed one batch in a small bowl and the other in a small pot, to which I added the blueberries.
For the sauce and marinade: (below is one batch- so do this twice)
1/3 Cup low sodium tamari or soy sauce
1/4 Cup rice wine vinegar
2 t honey
1 t chili paste
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1.5 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
the juice of a lime
Combine the ingredients well, making sure your honey is incorporated.
Then, pour the dressing from the bowl over your vegetables.
Toss and let your veggies soak up the marinade.
You can let them sit for 20 minutes or several hours. You are imparting all kinds of zing here that will be carried into your summer rolls.
To the sauce you built in a small pot, add
1 Cup blueberries
1/2 Cup water.
Bring that mixture up to a bubble over medium heat and then reduce the heat to medium low. Allow the berries to simmer in the liquid for about 20 minutes, or until they are nice and soft.
Then, carefully puree the mixture and taste it. (Beware- dark purple droplets will go flying around your kitchen if you’re not real gentle.) Adjust seasoning to your liking. It should be savory and spicy with a lovely blueberry flavor shining through. I added an extra pinch of salt to round it out.
Strain your mixture through a mesh sieve to eliminate skins and create a smooth texture within your dipping sauce.
Transfer to a bowl and let your sauce cool.
While your sauce is simmering, cook the noodles for your rolls.
I grabbed these rice stick noodles. You simply boil them for 5 – 8 minutes, rinse them with water, and then let them dry out in a colander. They can hang out for 30 minutes or more. You can even make these in the morning and let them dry out throughout the day.
I wanted to keep the protein super simple with this meal, in order to let the summer rolls and blueberry sauce sing loud and clear. So, I bought some beautiful Yellow Fin tuna.
I only seasoned with salt and pepper. The key to cooking this fish is to almost not cook it at all.
Heat a nonstick skillet with a good drizzle of grapeseed oil or canola oil to high heat. Allow the oil to shimmer, but not to smoke.
Add the fish to the pan and sear for about 1 – 2 minutes on the first side, creating a golden brown crust.
And then flip it and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
You want the middle to be rare. Let the fish cool down while you prepare for rolling.
*You’ll want to place your veggies in a colander to shed any excess liquid. They don’t need to be dripping with sauce when they go into your rolls.
I used these rice paper wraps. They have tapioca in them, which only requires warm water for softening and offers stickiness for binding the rolls together. The sweet lady at my local Asian market suggested them.
Okay- veggies flavored and drained, noodles cooked and drained, sauce cooked and strained, tuna seared and ready. Time to pull it all together.
Grab a bowl large enough to accommodate the diameter of the rice paper. Fill the bowl with hot water from your tap.
Place one sheet of rice paper into the water. It will curl up if you let it. So, gently place your fingers on the rice paper and twirl it around. You only need to give it about 15 seconds in the water. You will start to feel the paper turn from plastic-y into a flowy, flexible shell. Just as you feel that change occur, take the rice paper out and place it on a plate. (If you leave the rice paper in the water too long, it will become very sticky and gummy and difficult to work with.)
If you place noodles on the bottom and veggies on top, the noodles will be most visible in your rolls. I chose to alternate, layering some noodles first and some veggies first.
Then, you just roll it up like a burrito. Fold in both sides and roll from the bottom up and away from you.
As with everything I stuff, I made mine fat. Surprise. I think it may be a bit easier to roll if you don’t over-stuff them. But, my brain can’t ever seem to heed that advice.
Then, it’s time to plate.
Oh- more advice from my Asian Market expert- don’t make too many rolls. Make what you will eat right away. She told me that in Vietnamese restaurants, a bowl of water is placed on the table for guests to stuff and eat their summer rolls immediately. But, hey- if you want to make a bunch and wrap them individually in plastic wrap, do your thang.
Serve tuna alongside a couple of your summer rolls and a little ramekin of blueberry sauce and prepare for a flavor explosion!
Fresh, light, spicy, crunchy, and exciting! I loved these summer rolls. What an excellent way to enjoy summer vegetables. The blueberry sauce was an awesome accompaniment. It wasn’t sweet- but you could definitely taste the blueberries, which played incredibly well off the tang of the rice wine vinegar and lime and the brininess of the tamari. I especially enjoyed the sauce with the tuna. The TUNA! Oh maaa gaaahhh! Melt in your mouth, buttery deliciousness. What a treat. I can’t figure out why the tuna married so well with the blueberry sauce, but it seemed to bring out the berries even more than just tasting the sauce on its own. It wasn’t weird at all, I promise. In fact, I shared this meal with a foodie friend, and she said she wanted to swim in the blueberry sauce. I’d say that’s a pretty good endorsement! It was wonderful- a different way to incorporate those luscious blueberries. And for a girl who isn’t into sweets, this was a great method to utilize the fruit.
You know, the one thing I wish I’d had on this plate was crushed peanuts. I pondered the addition of peanuts ahead of time, but I thought it might be like having peanut butter and jelly. And I am like the only American in the world who isn’t into peanut butter and jelly. I never was, not even as a kid. I used *hate* going over to my friends’ homes when I was little and being forced to eat PB and Js for lunch. Yuck. Why taint the magical peanut butter with all that syrupy sweet stuff?? Anyway, I opted to not grab the peanuts and I wish I had. The one note that my plate was missing was a touch of rich nuttiness. Lesson learned- go with my gut. Duh.
Alright, friends, I gotta roll. (Ahahaha- no pun intended!) I’m preparing a few yummy appetizers for my clients to take with them over to their friends’ home tonight along with their regular order of two big, fresh meals for them to eat during the week. I need to get shoppin’.
I hope that you have had a wonderful week and are looking forward to a restful and fun weekend. I know I am!
Let me know how your summer roll extravaganza goes and which veggies you decide to utilize. I’d love to hear!
Happy cooking and eating to you,