Fresh Spring Rolls withSpicy Prawns and Summer Greens


by Lynne Vea, PCC Natural Markets Chef

Posted on May 11, 2013 at 10:57 AM

Updated Saturday, May 11 at 11:50 AM

I remember visiting a southeast Asian market in New York City with my family when I was about 11years old and discovering these gem-like translucent rolls filled with all kinds of delicious things. We sat down at their 2 small tables and shared what I remember to be my favorite meal that whole vacation. Since then I have made them in countless situations, and I love them more each time!  Working with rice wrappers may seem a bit intimidating, but with the smallest amount of practice, and a healthy sense of fun, you too can become an immediate expert. Just imagine the possibilities!

For the prawns:
6-9 large cooked prawns, peeled, tails off
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai sweet chili sauce
A few red chili flakes (optional)
1 teaspoon salt

Cut each cooked prawn in half lengthwise and toss together with the garlic, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, chili flakes and salt. Keep chilled until ready to use.

For the Spring Rolls:
6 rice paper wrappers
1-2 cups cooked, thin, rice noodles
1/2 English cucumber, cut into thin strips about, 3 inches long
1 carrot, cut into thin strips, about 3 inches long
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips, about 3 inches long
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into slices
18cilantro sprigs
1 cup or so loosely packed Summery greens such as arugula, spinach, watercress, mustard greens, etc.
Thai sweet chili sauce or your favorite dipping sauce

Hints: Have all of your ingredients prepped and at hand before starting to prepare the rolls. Fill a tea pot or saucepan with water and bring to a simmer. You will dip your rice wrappers in hot, not simmering water, but the water in your dipping vessel will cool rapidly, so it’s a good idea to have a back-up to replace it.

Fill a deep pie plate 3/4 full of hotwater. Hold a rice wrapper with your hands in the 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock position and dip it into the water, spinning the wrapper with your hands, to completely submerge it. The wrapper will immediately begin to soften. Your goal is to have the wrapper malleable, but not so soft it dissolves into a gelatinousfree-form sculpture. When the wrapper has softened to the degree that it is flexible, remove it to a clean work surface and lay it out flat. If it is still a little chewy, you can pat or brush some hot water on to its surface and wait a few seconds for it to absorb and soften. If it has some wrinkles, worry not. Those are just beauty marks!

Starting in the lower 1/3 of the wrapper, place 2 or 3 prawn halves, pink, curved side down, on the wrapper. Leave yourself at least an inch of space at either end to fold it over. Layer on a bundle of noodles (about 3 tablespoons or so), then 2-3 strips each  of cucumber, carrot and red bell pepper. Top with 3 cilantro sprigs, a few leaves of summer greens, and finish with a couple of slices of avocado.

To roll: Lift the flap of the rice wrapper closest to you and fold it over the filling, tucking it in tightly with your fingers. Continue rolling forward about half way up the wrapper. Next, tuck the ends of the wrapper in (like a burrito) and continue rolling, pulling gently backwards to keep the roll tight.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and ingredients. Keep your work surface wiped down with hot water between each roll you make. Place the rolls on a platter, separated, to keep them from sticking together.

To serve:
Cut each roll in half to show your artistic endeavors, and serve with Thai sweet chili sauce or your favorite dipping sauce.


Basic Prep and Cooking for Artichokes

To cook large artichokes: (simple method)
Snap off the discolored outer leaves, by pulling backwards, away from the body, and discard. With a sharp knife, cut off about 1 inch off the spikey top and if you would like, cut off the tips of the rest of the leaves with a pair of kitchen shears. To prevent the artichokes turning brown as you prep them, rub the cut edges with lemon, or submerge in a cold water bath with a little lemon. Bring a large pot ofsalted water,into which a couple of lemons have been squeezed, to a boil and cook for 18-25 minutes or until the leaves pull away very easily. You may season the water with bay leaves or other herbs.
To serve: Spread the leaves apart to reveal the inner“choke”. With the tip of a spoon, scrape away the tough furry center. Serve artichokes warm, room temperature or chilled.Pull the leaves away, dip in butter, aioli or your favorite recipe, and scrape the flesh from the base with your teeth. When you have removed all of the leaves, you have reached the prized heart, which can be cut into wedges and dipped or stuffed with your favorite filling.

To cook baby artichokes: (simple method)
Snap off the outer leaves until you are left with about a 1-inch wide innerartichoke. (You can steam the leaves you’ve removed and scrape off the flesh with your teeth or just nibble on them raw.) Cut off about 1/2 inch of the spikey top, cut off the stem and trim away any ragged edges around the base. You may cut them in half or cook them whole. To prevent the artichokes turning brown as you prep them, rub the cut edges with lemon, or submerge in a cold water bath with a little lemon.Baby artichokes can be grilled, sautéed, steamed or simmered. To simmer them: Bring a pot of salted water, into which a couple of lemons have been squeezed, to a rolling simmer, add the artichokes and cover the pot. Cook for 10-12 minutes for whole and 7-8 minutes for halvesor until a knife tip inserted into the base reveals it is tender.
You may season the water with bay leaves or other herbs.
To serve: The tough and furry “choke” in baby artichokes has not fully developed, so you can eat the whole inner fruit. Serve artichokes warm, room temperature or chilled. Toss them with a vinaigrette, offer a dipping sauce or serve with soft or freshly grated cheese.

Baby Artichokes with Sizzling Garlic-Lemon-Rosemary Butter
(serves 2-4)
Spring is a harbinger for so many happy foods and one of my very favorites is the plump and deep green artichoke! Although it appears spiny and intimidating (it is, after all, a member of the thistle family) once you have plucked away it’s armor, and revealed its tender striated heart, you will find it entirely endearing! If baby artichokes aren’t available (their season is short) by all means use the larger ones. I have included cooking directions for both.

12 baby artichokes
4 ounces unsalted butter
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt (I love truffle salt for this!)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 or 2 sprigs of rosemary

Prepare the artichokes according to the directions (above)

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter until it sizzles. Add the garlic, salt and lemon juice. Remove from the heat. Serve in heated ramekins, or small butter warmers, swirled with the rosemary sprigs.

Serve the artichokes piled on plates with the dipping sauce on the side.

Recipe developed by Lynne Vea