Since this is my blogiversary week, it only seems natural to keep indulging in my favorite types of party food.
Last month, my high school friends got together for one of our bi-annual potlucks. It’s nice that we still do this, 10 years later. And crazy to think that we’ve all been eating tofu together for this long. Perhaps it was a product of us being “city kids” but in addition to the afterschool pizza, cookie cake, and mac and cheese, we were all fairly sophisticated healthy eaters back then. It helped that two of our bunch were vegetarians, and it was probably one of them who introduced the group to things like smoked tofu.
I haven’t made tofu in a while, and it seems like one of those crunchy granola things that a health-focused blog should espouse in spades. Forgive me, folks. But I always worry about inflicting tofu on my college friends. I often subtly serve a vegetarian dinner. But tofu is just a red flag that that’s happening.
Anyway, I wanted to test out how Vietnamese summer rolls would fare if I made them hours in advance of eating them. It’s one of the healthy recipes I was considering putting on my Theory event menu. But since I had never made them before for a crowd, I thought it wise not to start off experimenting for 150 people and hoping it went well.
I picked up some smoked tofu for the summer roll filling. As anticipated, it was a huge hit with the high school ladies. The peanut sauce on the side could have had something to do with that. But I took it as a ringing enough endorsement that these rolls should be shared, if not with people at the event (rolling 150 summer rolls seemed like it would be an unnecessary pain in the butt), then with all of you.
It’s not quite summer yet, but as the weather starts to warm, I’ve been in the mood to embrace some no-cook options for dinner. If you buy the larger-sized spring roll wrappers, you can make an entrée out of these guys. And that means less rolling. Which, if you’ve just come off of cooking for 150 people, is the kind of sluggish behavior you might want to embrace.
Smoked Tofu Summer Rolls
- 8 ounces smoked tofu julienned
- 1 seedless cucumber julienned
- 2 large carrots peeled and coarsely grated
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
- 1 bunch cilantro trimmed of bottom third coarse stems
- 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves
- 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
- Twelve 16cm rice paper spring roll skins
Arrange the vegetables, tofu, and herbs in neat piles on a plate or shallow bowl.
Heat several cups of water in a kettle until just shy of boiling. Pour the water into a baking dish so it comes up the sides about 1/4 inch. Keep the remaining kettle water handy.
Two at a time, dip the spring roll skins into the warm water to coat on both sides, shaking off any excess. Immediately remove to a large cutting board or clean work surface. Wait about 30 seconds for the skins to soften. Then arrange 2 tofu spears, 2 cucumber spears, 1 tablespoon of shredded carrot, and a sprinkling of scallions in the middle of the spring roll paper, parallel to the edge of your cutting board. On top, place a few sprigs of cilantro and a small handful of basil and mint leaves. Fold in the sides of the wrapper lengthwise - you should have about an inch on either end to play with. The fold over the flap closest to you. Pull that flap tight around the vegetable pile so it seals with the paper on the other side. Then roll the whole thing up. You should have a tight package. Repeat with the remaining skins, two at a time. It's easiest to do this in one motion, holding the veggies in with your fingers as you roll. If your roll tears, have no fear. You can double wrap. Simply repeat with a second skin.
Cut each roll in half and serve alongside peanut or nuoc cham sauce.