Baked Spring Rolls for a Summer Supper

You can add just about any veggies you want to our Baked Rice Paper Spring Rolls but we started with about 1 1/2 cups of garden-fresh kale, finely shredded. If you don't have a few kale plants bullying your backyard, substitute an equal amount of cabbage or bok choy; just remember to slice very thinly so the veggies will have a chance to, if not exactly cook, lose some of their rawness.

Various textures are important in spring rolls, egg rolls etc so be sure to add a crunchy vegetable or two. Again, we had plenty of kohlrabi growing just outside the kitchen door so we used that. Jicama, radishes or peeled broccoli stalks would work just as well.

The peeled and slivered kohlrabi is added to the mixing bowl. Use one large enough to mix ingredients and seasonings without making a mess all over your counter.

To the 1/2 cup of slivered kohlrabi we added 1 peeled and diced carrot.
Next up, 2 small green chilies, minced. This was the prefect amount to add mild heat but plenty of grassy notes to the baked spring rolls.

Now we chopped some Virginia ham for the rolls, about 1/3 cup total. Absolutely leave out the ham if you prefer. Vegetarians might want to use strips of fried or baked tofu or leave the protein out all together. Don't worry, your spring rolls won't suffer.

But since we did use ham . . . fry it quickly with 1 cup of chopped onions until the ham is browned and crispy and the onions have softened.

All those chopped veggies got dumped in the skillet with the ham. If not using ham it's still best to fry the onions so follow the steps. We're going to season everything in the skillet by adding and mixing in well: 2 cloves minced garlic; 1-2 T. grated or minced ginger; 1/4 cup minced cilantro; 2 t. toasted sesame oil; 1 T. rice vinegar and 1 T. soy sauce. Mix it like you mean it.

The baked spring rolls just won't be complete with a bounty of fresh herbs served alongside. Above, rau ram from the Cafe Drake HRV Shade Garden. Cilantro makes a good substitute.

Other appropriate herbs we snipped and set on our work station included mint, Thai basil, lemon verbena and shiso.

We used the circular rice paper wrappers found in all Asian markets. They're opaque when dry but turn clear when wet. Working quickly now . . . dip each wrapper (make this easier for yourself and use the large ones) in to a bowl of warm water then immediately remove to your work station. Make only one roll at a time and do not "pre-soak" any rice paper wrappers.

Place about 3 T. of the veggie mixture in the lower-middle section of the rice paper wrapper. Roll and fold up, tucking in the sides as you go, just like a burrito or wrap. Set aside and move to the next spring roll, using up all of the vegetable and ham filling. Now's a good time to pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place a metal rack on a large baking sheet and lightly oil the rack. Place all of the spring rolls on the rack; do not let them touch each other. Brush the tops and sides of the spring rolls with a bit of vegetable oil and then bake for about 15 minutes. Flip and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.

The baked spring rolls should be browned and crisp/chewy.

One or two may split open. That's OK. On our second effort we stuck wooden skewers through those deemed trouble-makers. An even easier way to avoid the dilemma is to just not over-stuff your spring rolls.

The baked spring rolls make for a very light dinner entree when served with - or over - a well-dressed garden salad.

Brown rice, shiso leaves and a sweet chili dipping sauce complete a perfect summer meal.

And the next day, leftovers for lunch. Reheat any remaining spring rolls on a baking sheet in a 400 degree F. oven for just 5 minutes.


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