For those of you unfamiliar with what summer rolls are, they are just like spring rolls, but less… fried. In fact, depending on what you put in them, they don’t have to be cooked at all. The wrappers, sold as dry sheets of rice paper, just have to be lightly soaked in hot water before they become pliable enough to wrap around anything you set your mind to. I, for one, was inspired to make these on an unbearably hot day when I didn’t want to get anywhere near the stove. I had just gotten some beautiful carrots, zucchini, and Boston bibb lettuce from a farmstand in my neighborhood that I wanted to incorporate. For protein, I decided to go with plain old chicken breast, though you could switch it out for tofu or even avocado wedges (not a protein, but still filling) for a vegetarian option.
Now, I could have just diced up the veggies and tossed them in willy-nilly like you would in a taco, but summer rolls have the potential to become something really beautiful (if you don’t believe me, check out the blog/Instagram account Nutrition Stripped. She is quite an artist!). Instead, I decided to play with my food and use a special cut known as an allumette to slice the veggies (minus the lettuce, of course) into very fine, noodle-like strips, perfect for layering inside a summer roll (special produce prepping techniques is also, conveniently, the theme of this month’s Recipe Redux- see below for more creative ideas!). While it sounds fancy, it is simply a series of cuts that results in 2-3 inch long strips that are 1/8″x 1/8″. Summer squash and carrots are great vegetables on which to practice this cut since they are long, thin veggies that are soft enough to get precise, thin slices without too much effort.
To avoid spending too much time in the kitchen, I cut a chicken breast in to strips, tossed it with salt, pepper, and low-sodium soy sauce, and seared it for about 3 minutes on each side in a saute pan.
But I couldn’t let all that beautiful fond go to waste, so I turned off the heat and tossed the zucchini strips in the pan to heat them through, creating a contrasting texture to the carrots, and to pick up some of that gorgeous seasoning left behind by the chicken.
To reduce the amount of dishes I had to do, I put water directly in the saute pan in which to soak the rice paper. It heated up enough to soften the wrappers without burning my fingers just from the residual chicken-cooking heat. I soaked each wrapper for about 5 seconds, then quickly layered lettuce (to reinforce the wrapper), one piece of chicken, and each vegetable. I really wish I had fresh basil leaves to put between the lettuce and the wrapper (it’s so pretty!) but I killed my basil plant while I was away on vacation. Oops. I wrapped the rolls up like little burritos to keep everything inside.
On the side, I whipped up some spicy peanut sauce for dipping. I used the same recipe as with my Chicken and Vegetable Wontons, but to make it even simpler, I just added a little chili paste directly to the peanut butter instead of soaking it in oil first.
I found that about 6 of these rolls was a good sized dinner for me, but you could eat more guiltlessly because they are so high in fiber, protein, and produce! They also keep well as leftovers to be eaten cold the next day, so make extras. This is a great recipe to help you play with your food and get comfortable with new vegetables, so adjust this recipe for whatever you think looks good at your local farmers’ market or grocery store!
- Rice paper wrappers (about 15)
- 8 leaves Boston bibb lettuce
- 15 basil leaves
- 3 carrots, cut using allumette technique
- 1/2 summer squash, cut using allumette technique
- 1 chicken breast, cut into strips
- Peanut Dipping Sauce
- Low sodium soy sauce, salt, and pepper, to taste
- Canola oil for cooking
- Prep the vegetables and the chicken. Cook the chicken by tossing with soy sauce, salt, and pepper, then searing over medium-high heat in a saute pan with a dribble of canola oil. Sear for about 3 minutes per side.
- Remove the chicken and set aside. Add the squash to the pan, turn off the heat, and saute for about 2 minutes, until slightly softened. Remove.
- Add water to the pan and let water warm through. Soak rice paper, one wrapper at a time, for about 5 seconds or until pliable.
- Layer basil leaf, lettuce, chicken, carrots, and zucchini in wrapper, then roll up, tucking in the ends like a burrito. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.
- Serve with spicy peanut dipping sauce.