Rainbow Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are one of my all-time favorite foods.  I love them anytime of the year, even in the winter and fall.  For lunch, dinner, or even as a light snack, they are always a welcome addition at my table.  Especially as the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, spring rolls become the perfect meal.  These Rainbow Spring Rolls with Sweet & Sour Sauce are delicious enough to suit the taste buds of meat eaters and vegetarians alike, and it’s very possible that even the kiddos might love them too!

As much as I love baked goods and delectable bites, my background in healthcare reminds me that balance is the key to a happy life.  When I try to make a traditional recipe healthier, I like to spend a lot of time making sure that it actually still tastes good.  If a fantastic tasting recipe is also healthy it becomes golden to me, something to remember and make often.  I like that these spring rolls have visual appeal and also taste amazing.  When I look at these Rainbow Spring Rolls my mouth waters the same way it would if I were looking at a cupcake.  Don’t you love it when healthy foods can create that kind of response?

These Rainbow Spring Rolls are made mostly with raw veggies.  The only vegetable I’ve chosen to cook is the asparagus–just a quick blanching to bring out more of it’s flavor and color. Adding a thin slice or two of firm avocado gives rich creaminess to balance out the rest of the crunchy textures.  If I am making these ahead of time, I like to give the cut avocado slices a spritz of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

The tangy, spicy, Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce is what makes these Rainbow Spring Rolls shine. It’s common to find ketchup in other recipes for sweet and sour sauce, but this recipe gets its brilliant color from fresh orange juice, a squirt of Sriracha, and a sweet, sunny base of strongly steeped oolong tea.  Oolong is commonly paired with orange in tea blends as both the flavors have a warmth and sweetness about them.  In this light sauce, tea adds depth and character without adding any extra calories.  For another layer of flavor, I use honey as the sweetener here instead of using sugar.

Rainbow Spring Rolls with Sweet & Sour Sauce are the perfect meal as we head into warmer months.  Crunchy, creamy, light, and tangy, these rolls make healthy eating a no-brainer.  With colors so inviting and a taste so fresh, you’ll realize why I think that this recipe is one for the keeping!

Rainbow Spring Rolls with Sweet & Sour Sauce

Makes 12 rolls.

Ingredients:

{Spring Rolls}

1 large red bell pepper, sliced into 3″ long strips

2 medium carrots, shredded

1 large yellow bell pepper, sliced into 3″ long strips

1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 3″ pieces

1/4 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced into 3″ long shreds

1 avocado, ripe but firm, halved and peeled, then cut into thin slices lengthwise

small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped

3 small scallions, green part thinly sliced

12 spring roll wrappers

{Sweet & Sour Orange Oolong Sauce}

zest of 1 orange

1/3 cup fresh orange juice (1-2 oranges)

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 cup oolong tea, strongly steeped (1 Tbsp loose tea leaves steeped in 1/2 cup water for 3-5 minutes @ 190 degrees F), strained then cooled to room temperature

3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

3 Tbsp honey

2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce

few drops sesame oil

pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

1 Tbsp cornstarch

Equipment:

fine grater

work surface

large casserole or deep, large dish

medium pot

medium bowl with ice-cold water

wire mesh sieve

Directions:

1.)  Fill a medium pot with water, then bring to a full boil.  Blanch the asparagus by throwing the tip portions into the boiling water for about 45 seconds.  Remove the asparagus with a wire mesh sieve, then plunge into another bowl filled with ice-cold water.  Blanch the non-tip asparagus sections for 1 minute in the boiling water, then remove with the sieve and also plunge into the ice-cold water.  Remove all the asparagus from the cold water and place on a dish to drain off excess water.  Set aside.

2.)  Fill a large casserole or deep, large dish with about 1″ of warm water.  Submerge 1 spring roll wrapper in the water completely, wait for it to soften for about 10 seconds, then place the sheet on a clean work surface.

3.)  Stack 2 strips of the red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, asparagus, and avocado in the lower 1/3 section of each sheet, towards the center.  Add some of the shredded cabbage and carrots on top of the stack.  Scatter some chopped cilantro and sliced green onions on top of the stack to finish.  Roll up spring roll and fold right and left sides of the wrapper in towards the center of the roll.  Continue rolling upwards (away from you) until you get a completed roll. If you prefer visuals, please check out Andrea Nguyen’s instructions on how to wrap rice paper rolls.  She’s one of my culinary idols, and gives very clear directions on how to do this.

4.)  Repeat the rolling process for all 12 rolls, then make the Sweet & Sour Sauce by first reserving 1/4 cup of the tea and setting it aside.  Add the rest of the sauce ingredients (except cornstarch) into a medium pot, then place the mixture on the stove on medium heat until it comes to a boil.

5.)  Mix the cornstarch into the reserved 1/4 cup of tea to create a slurry.  When the mixture reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and add in the slurry.  While constantly stirring the mixture, wait for it to come back to a boil and cook into a translucent, glaze-looking sauce. Pour the hot Sweet & Sour Sauce into a medium bowl and serve along with the spring rolls. Enjoy!