Lunch Break: Roasted Salmon Summer Rolls with a Peanut Dipping Sauce
Difficulty Level: This recipe requires specialty Asian food items (rice paper wrappers) and takes some technique to assemble. Once you get the hang of it, time flies.
Notes: Great for a party, create a “make your own” station with various ingredients. You can add any vegetable to this - bean sprouts, peppers, shredded mango. Just make sure everything is in a matchstick size/shape. Make this vegan by substituting baked tofu for the salmon.
Once a month, Salad For President will be catering the staff lunch at Imprint Projects, an innovative creative agency that develops brand platforms for marketing and communications. They work as artists, designers and curators in partnership with non-profits, businesses and communities. Check out some of their work here. (Full disclosure: this is my husband’s company, and yes, I am very proud).
Once a week, this bustling crew of producers and designers stop to eat lunch together and to have a conversation about something other than their work. Such a familial gathering deserves better than tinfoil containers and plastic forks. In lieu of eating take-out, Salad For President will provide the office with a home-cooked meal and a little distraction from the maelstrom of ongoing projects — ranging from building the first skate park in the Bolivian city of La Paz, to producing Moogfest, an upcoming electronic music festival in Asheville, NC.
One of my favorite foods is a Vietnamese Summer Roll: an herbaceous salad in a rice paper wrapper — fresh, filling and pleasantly simple. I crave them daily. When I lived in L.A., this was a staple of my diet. Much to my dismay, it is really difficult to find solid Vietnamese food in New York, even in Chinatown. My main complaint is that the Summer Rolls I find here are not freshly made, and the wrappers lose their glutinous texture. I also find the dipping sauce too sweet, too soupy or with an disconcerting ”canned” flavor. Summer rolls are not fried, so they must be made just before eating, a perfect reason to tackle them in your own kitchen.
I am used to entertaining large parties in the comfort of my own home, but the challenge here was to transport the food over the Manhattan Bridge and into Chinatown. I decided I would make a pile of rolls myself, and then bring the ingredients and inspire a little team building, demonstrating the technique, and then having people teach one another. Food tastes better when it is interactive and collaborative.
This recipe was inspired (again) by Diane Morgan’s book, Roots, but I jazzed up the salmon preparation, added a heap of fresh herbs and adjusted the proportions of the sauce. I love the liberal use of cilantro, mint and basil in Vietnamese cookery, so don’t be shy, use as much herbs per roll as possible. I paired the rolls with a green mango and cabbage slaw, but those ingredients could easily be added to the rolls themselves. Just make sure you are using your trusty julienne vegetable peeler to achieve nice thin strips. No self-respecting Vietnamese chef would be caught dead without one.
- 3 tbs chunky, high quality peanut butter
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp fish sauce (optional if you want to keep this vegetarian)
- 1 tsp micro-grated fresh ginger root
- 1/4 tsp dried red chili flakes
- 2 lb Wild Atlantic Salmon
- 1 tbs red pepper jelly. I had some in the fridge that a friend recently made for me, but you can buy this in the store. Alternately, use 2 tsp Huy Fong Chili sauce and 2 tsp honey
- 1 tsp micro-grated ginger root
- 1 tbs Tamari
- 1 tsp Rice Wine vinegar
- 2 tbs toasted sesame oil
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 package round rice paper wrappers
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 jicama, trimmed, peeled and cut into 3” matchstick pieces
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 package rove vermicelli
- 4 green onions, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and sliced with julienne slicer
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch basil, or Thai basil
- 1 bunch mint
- 1 Hass avocado, slice into matchstick pieces
Combine all ingredients for the salmon marinade in a bowl and stir vigorously to combine. Coat salmon in the marinade and allow to sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.
To make the dipping sauce, combine all ingredients until well mixed. You may have to put the peanut butter in the microwave to soften a bit. Set aside until ready to eat.
Cut jicama, and place in a colander. Sprinkle evenly with salt and allow the moisture to seep out for about 20 minutes, keeping the colander in the sink.
Pre-heat oven to a broil or 500 degrees. Add a baking sheet with a thin coat of vegetable oil to the oven to heat up. Once hot, place salmon, skin side down, on the baking sheet and sprinkle the flesh with a pinch of salt and sesame seeds. Place the sheet on a rack on the upper third of the oven, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until you can poke a knife into the flesh and it flakes apart. Do not overcook! Keep an eye on it, the center of the salmon should remain pink. Remove from oven and allow to come down to room temperature.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, remove from heat and add vermicelli noodles. Allow to sit in water for 3-5 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.
Wash all herbs and dry. Remove leaves from stalks for mint, cilantro and basil.
Using your julienne peeler, slice strips of carrot.
Create a rolling station (fun to do with friends), with all your ingredients in adjacent piles, and a bowl of warm water. Dip the rice paper in the water to soften, and allow to sit for 15-30 seconds. Remove from water and place on a lightly oiled surface. Lay the wrapper as flat as possible.
Being to add your filling to the lower third of the wrapper in a compact bundle. Add a little of everything with the noodles on the bottom. If using salmon, just use the flesh, not the skin. Do not over-fill or the roll won’t stay together. Leave about 1” of wrapper free to the left, right and bottom of the filling.
Begin to roll the wrapper around the ingredients, folding the edge closest to you, up and over the pile of filling. Fold the left and right sides of wrapper towards the center, like an envelope, sealing off the edges. Now, tightly roll the entire package away from you until the wrapper has been wound around the filling entirely. The key is to try and make the roll as tight as possible from the beginning, without tearing the rice paper. This gets easier as you go.
Serve with peanut sauce in small dish for dipping. Garnish with herbs.