We had some old friends over for dinner recently. The kind of friends who have known us for years and have seen us at our very best and very worst and still love us just the same. The conversation (and the wine) always flows naturally and we usually come around to stories of when we were young and carefree and marvel over the fact that our kids are growing up so quickly while we still look so young and vibrant ; )
These particular friends are the perfect pair for experimenting on with new foods – they are confirmed foodies and very open to trying new dishes and they are also the type of people who would be honest enough to tell me if something was really awful and we could just chuck the whole thing and order pizza.
I cracked open some of my more intimidating cookbooks (Tal Ronnen, Great Chefs Cook Vegan and The Joy of Cooking) and I pulled together a menu of new and fancy-ish dishes. I have been wanting to prepare a 100% vegan dinner party for some time but I usually cave and throw in some cheese or fish just to appeal to a broader range of food preferences. But this time I went all the way and I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.
Every course from the appetizer to the salad through the main course and a final act featuring a cheater dessert from our local vegan bakery was a resounding hit! Whew! It was a bit of work but it was definitely worth it. And don’t be put off by the ingredient list or the preparation steps – this meal is very achievable even for novice cooks.
I started with a Vegetarian Cold Spring Roll appetizer and my 9-year-old daughter was my lovely assistant in preparing these delicate and delicious h’or doerves. They are a bit fiddley but come together quickly and the final product was light, flavourful and fresh. Everyone loved them and I put out 3 different dipping sauces to experiment with tastes – Asian sesame sauce, spicy Thai sauce and a dish of tamari.
It’s easiest if you have an extra set of hands to prepare these rolls so get all of your veggies and noodles prepped and try to recruit a helper when it comes time to roll.
I will post the rest of our meal items in the coming weeks but why not try out these rolls first as an appetizer or for a light lunch and I’m willing to bet you’ll love them as much as we did. And remember that they are best served with good friends, good wine and good stories!
Vegetarian Cold Spring Rolls (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
1 package of rice papers
1 package of rice vermicelli noodles
1 beet, grated
2-3 carrots, grated
1 small zucchini, grated
3-4 cups of bean sprouts, washed
1 head of boston lettuce, washed and seperated
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
Dipping sauces of choice
Break the vermicelli noodles in half and cook according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and set aside.
Grate carrots, zucchini and beets. Wash sprouts and lettuce and break leaves apart.
Gather the grated veggies, lettuce, noodles, sprouts and cilantro on your workspace.
Place a damp tea towel on your workspace and have another damp towel ready to put over top of the finished rolls to keep them moist (the rice papers harden quite quickly when exposed to the air). Fill a large bowl with hot water.
Take one rice paper and immerse it into the water until it softens – about a minute. Lay the paper in front of you and place a lettuce leaf in the middle of the paper. Down the middle line of the lettuce, place a row of noodles, veggies, cilantro and sprouts (approx 2 tbsp of fillings). Pull the bottom edge of the paper over the veggies and tug very gently to tighten. Fold in the sides and continue to roll until the wrap is snug. Use a bit of water on your fingers to seal the wrap in place. (I used this youtube video to help me with my first few wraps until I got the hang of it.) Some of my rice wraps tore while I was wrapping so I simply took another wrap and covered the first one to hide any imperfections.
Place the finished wraps on the damp towel and cover with the other damp towel. Repeat with remaining wraps.
Just prior to serving, cut the rolls diagonally in the middle and place on a plate. Serve with dipping sauces of choice. Enjoy!