It's no secret to many that winter is still alive and well. And so not to anger my fellow mid-westerners, I won't dwell too long on the story of how these spring rolls were consumed whilst sipping a refreshing cocktail on the patio under a slowly falling sunset, temperatures hovering around 75 degrees, dainty pink blossoms peaking from the background on the peach tree. That would be insensitive.
When you give a dish a name like "spring roll" it is only natural that it makes an appearance more often during the warmer months. But I don't like to be limited. I enjoy the challenge of taking a dish with traditional ingredients and introducing it to a new scene with flavor profiles more appropriate for that season. I have done this with Panzanella salad in the fall using brussel sprouts and sweet potatoes instead of the traditional tomato and cucumber abundant in the summer. It's a great way to use what is seasonal and available in your markets. But it is also a nice way of hinting at what is to come. You may still be dining on hearty root vegetables and heavy greens but the little package that it comes in is reminiscent of those lighter, brighter days.
Another great thing about this dish is while it needs some prep work to chop, roast, etc. the filling ingredients, once all the elements are pulled together on a platter, you only need to roll and eat. This makes it a wonderful dish to do with a bunch of friends, preferably those who don't mind pitching in to create some of their meal. We were lucky enough to host such folks this weekend. Our visitors were two good friends, Kevin and Shari, two talented home chefs whom Emily and I owe some credit to the inspiration for this blog, and our ever growing love of all things food. They enjoy being served a good meal as much as they like to create it. And it was so much fun to lay out the ingredients, demonstrate the rolling process, and then let everyone take turns filling their rice paper and rolling up their own. While the meat for dinner sizzled on the grill, we could roll and eat, sip and laugh, and leave behind thoughts of the next 5 inches of snow they would be going home to in a couple of days. The nice Texas weather helped with that a little.
Grapefruit makes another appearance for me. It not only took the place of the traditional limes in the peanut sauce but we also incorporated slivers of grapefruit inside the rolls, a sweet and tangy surprise. My refrigerator is abundant with daikon radishes these days and I have recently seen how you can "noodle" them by using a julienne peeler. It was a great crunchy replacement to the traditional rice noodles. Crispy kale and roasted sweet potatoes are always a winning combination in the winter but next to the avocado and grapefruit, it's kicked up a notch. A simple peanut sauce to dip is fine but I thought the hoisin and grapefruit made it feel richer, more like a wintery dish.
I also couldn't not include the recipe for the fantastic cocktail we enjoyed with our rolls. Mike served me a Whisky Sour on Valentine's Day and topped it with a Kaffir Lime Leaf (he is learning how much I love a good garnish!) I loved the cocktail so much and the presentation that I decided to incorporate the Kaffir lime leaves even further by steeping the leaves in the simple syrup. Kaffir lime leaves are excellent in Thai food and are worth seeking out, if not for making a great Thai curry, at least to make this cocktail.
So gather a bunch of friends around a warm fire (or come down to Texas and visit us) with a pile of your favorite winter ingredients, roll up these Wintery Spring Rolls and shake up a cocktail until you think you can almost just maybe see a little tulip popping up through that pile of slushy snow.
Hey Sis, try this...
Wintery Spring Rolls
Bunch of Kale
2-3 Daikon Radish
Bunch of Cilantro
Spring Roll Wrappers
Begin by prepping all your ingredients for the winter rolls.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut Sweet Potato into matchsticks. Chop Kale into bite size pieces. Toss each separately in cookie sheets with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Roast kale into crispy, about 10 minutes. Roast Sweet Potato into soft and edges begin to brown a bit, about 20 minutes.
Thinly slice avocado. Rough chop cilantro. Julienne daikon radish into noodle size. This is best done with a julienne peeler. Seems unnecessary but I am so glad I have one. So very easy and many other possibilities to “noodle” other vegetables. (Just for fun. Not to replace the deliciousness of pasta, of course.)
Fill a pie plate with hot water. When temperature is comfortable to touch, soak spring roll wrapper until soft and pliable, usually this only takes about 20-30 seconds depending on how warm the water is.
It is a bit complicated to write down how to roll a spring roll, so I suggest just watching this video.
Cut on the bias. Serve with hoisin peanut sauce.
Hoisin Peanut Sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Sriracha
juice of 1/2 grapefruit
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
Mix first seven of the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. Slowly add oil until well mixed.
Kaffir Lime Leaf Whiskey Sour
3 ounces favorite Whiskey
2 ounces lemon juice ( I used Meyer Lemons)
1 ounces Kaffir lime leaf simple syrup
Kaffir lime leaves (garnish)
Shake first three ingredients in shaker with ice. Pour into martini glass. Garnish with leaf.
Kaffir Lime Leaf Simple Syrup
In saucepan bring ½ cup sugar, ½ cup water, and 6-8 lime leaves to a simmer until sugar is melted. Take syrup off the heat, cover, and let cool. Remove leaves and store in refrigerator, or consume quickly over many drinks.