I’m scared. The official hot season starts soon. Its already in the 80’s and 90’s with high humidity. The temperature doesn’t sound that bad but our house traps heat like a car parked in the sun all day with the windows closed. Add cooking to the equation and the living room doubles for a hot-yoga studio. In preparation for more heat, I’ve been working on ways to cook while using the stove less. I’d prefer to live on a diet of chilled salads and ice cream. But with few fresh vegetables and no refrigerator, I’ve had to seek out other options. Looking through my cookbooks, I came across summer rolls. Eureka! I fell in love with summer rolls at Apsara in Providence, RI. (If you are in the neighborhood, please go eat at this Southeast Asian wonderland. You will leave happy.)
Summer rolls are the not-fried, fresh, light, bright-flavored cousin of egg rolls. Could I make them here? Rice flour wrappers, rice noodles and soy sauce are available in fancy grocery stores in Porto Novo and Cotonou. Carrots, cucumbers and other veggies are also available in both cities. Basil, cilantro and mint are available in our garden. I used my go-to cookbook, How to Cook Everything, for the recipe and pointers on technique. Not only do summer rolls require very little cooking (just heating up some water for soaking the wrappers and noodles) but they are also quick and easy to make.
For the first batch I cut carrots into matchsticks and salted them to pull out water and increase the carroty flavor. I put the carrots in the wrappers with crushed peanuts, rice noodles, fresh basil and mint. Simple and delicious. Another time I put slices of avocado and fried tofu (made and sold in our town and recently discovered by me) alongside toasted sesame seeds, fresh cilantro and pickled ginger. Vaguely Japanese and extra rich from the avocado. Both combos go great with basil soy dipping sauce (from Bittman again).
As we ate the summer rolls Jen and I had an intense debate.
She: Tastes great!
Me: Less sweating!
Either way, I’m happy and not as hot as usual.