May means strawberries, there’s no two ways about it. When those little red jewels are in season locally, it’s time to go all in. May 20th is National Pick a Strawberry Day, so why not put a date on the calendar and find a local farm where you can relish the experience of picking-your-own? Getting your hands in the dirt is worth it when you taste the fresh, sweet heaven that is a strawberry just off the plant.
Need help finding a farm? Try Pick-Your-Own.org – a great website and resource. Select your state, and narrow down from there. This site even includes picking tips, as well as instructions on how to can, freeze, make jam and more.
Growing up, I remember hulling many quarts of strawberries with my mom – making jam, making pies and of course, strawberry shortcakes. Once each year, we were treated to strawberry shortcake as the main entree for dinner. My brother, Dad and I always looked forward to that. I mean, seriously – it was dessert for dinner!
Strawberries and dinner are still a match in my mind. Now, though, I enjoy savory recipes with strawberries – like tossed into spinach salads with some balsamic vinegar. Or in this unusual spring roll with smoked tofu and basil.
If you’ve never rolled rice paper wraps before, it’s a little tricky. You have to wet the paper and it gets sticky. If you wrap too tightly, the paper rips; if you wrap too loose, you have a messy spring roll. The best way to learn though, it by doing, so just jump in and give it a try! If you want a more formal lesson, go to You Tube and type in “how to wrap a rice paper spring roll.” There are loads of videos.
This recipe is vegan and gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce.
Lemon Basil Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup gluten-free soy sauce
1 Tbl. finely minced basil
1 Tbl. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1 tsp. mirin (rice cooking wine, we used Eden)
2 cloves finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
pinch ginger powder
Strawberry Spring Rolls
1/4 package (4 oz.) rice vermicelli noodles
8 rice paper wrappers
1/2 cup whole basil leaves (or mint, if you prefer)
1 cup strawberries, thinly sliced
1 cup smoked tofu, drained and cut into slim matchsticks
1 cup cucumber, cut into slim matchsticks
1/2 cup sliced almonds
First, mix up the sauce. The longer it sits, the better the flavors will combine. In a medium-sized bowl, combine soy sauce, minced basil, lemon juice, lemon zest, mirin, minced garlic, red pepper flakes and ginger. Stir well and sit aside, or chill if desired.
Boil water for the rice vermicelli noodles. When the water reaches a rolling boil, drop in 1/4 package (4 oz of a 16 oz bag) and boil for two to three minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water.
To assemble the rolls, fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper at a time to soften and lay it flat on a plate or board. In the middle of the wrapper, place basil leaves, strawberries, cucumber sticks, tofu sticks and sprinkle with almonds. (Whatever items you place down first will be what’s visible through the wrapper.) Roll a oval space of noodles and lay that on top. Leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered right and left sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper so that it looks like an egg roll. The rice paper is sticky, so you have to work quickly. Repeat with seven remaining wrappers.
Serve immediately with dipping sauce. We like to spoon the sauce into the rolls as we eat, but traditionally, you dip it into a shallow bowl.
Chef’s Note: If you can’t find mirin at your local grocery store, use sake or a teaspoon of rice vinegar with a pinch of sugar. Smoked tofu is also widely available at many grocers, natural food markets and Asian markets, but if you can’t find it, any firm flavored tofu will work. There are many seasoned tofus out there – from Thai spice to garden herb. Choose one you like!
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