Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Summer rolls are named perfectly, because they really are the ultimate summer food.

If you’re not familiar with them, they are a delicious Vietnamese hand roll, filled with rice noodles, protein (usually tofu or shrimp), a bunch of fresh colorful veggies, and a mix of mint, basil, and cilantro. They’re served with a rich peanut sauce that fills each bite with crazy delicious flavors, and makes a healthy light meal.

Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

I’ll be the first to admit, it’s sort of hard to get the hang of rolling summer rolls.

The rice paper wrappers can be finicky & prone to ripping (until you get used to handling them), and it’s super easy to put too much filling and over-stuff your roll until it looks like a crazy burrito-like thing.

But typically by the 4th roll, you’ll have a method down, and the rolls will be edible, if not beautiful 😉

The cool thing about summer rolls is that the rice paper wrappers are translucent, so you can see the beautiful colors of whatever vegetables you put inside.

I really like the look of fresh herb leaves on the bottom of the wrap, and vibrant purple cabbage or bell peppers on the top. If you want to get REALLY fancy, you can even add thin slices of striped chiogga beets, hot pink radish, or other vibrant veggies (search Pinterest for psychedelic summer rolls if you don’t know what I’m talking about- they’re all the rage!)

I really enjoy making these on a hot summer day, since you don’t have to fire up the stove or turn on the oven. They’re refreshing & delicious, and go great with some pot stickers or shu mai or easy miso soup. Enjoy!

Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Tofu Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 
Servings: 12 rolls
Author: Erica Julson
Ingredients
  • 2 oz maifun rice sticks
  • 12 rice paper wrappers, plus a few extra to account for accidental ripping
  • 12 oz sprouted extra firm tofu, cut crosswise into 8 pieces, then each piece sliced lengthwise into thirds, creating 24 slices
  • 1 bunch mint
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/4 English cucumber, julienned
  • 1 bell pepper or a mix of red, orange, and yellow, julienned
  • 2 cups baby spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 purple cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter, no added sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
Instructions
  1. To start, cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Typically, this requires placing the rice noodles in a heat proof bowl, covering with boiling water, and letting soak for about 10 minutes, until tender. When the noodles are done, drain well & set aside.
  2. Next, make the peanut sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, water, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and ground ginger. Set aside until you're done making the summer rolls.
  3. Place all the filling ingredients in little bowls or piles around your work surface. Fill a large flat bowl or skillet with a few inches of very warm water and place next to your work surface. Lay a damp clean kitchen towel on your work surface and get ready to make the rolls.
  4. Submerge a rice paper wrapper in the warm water until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove from the water, and lay flat on the damp kitchen towel. Lay down 3 or 4 mint leaves horizontally across the bottom third of the rice paper wrapper. On top of the mint leaves, add a layer of rice noodles and two strips of tofu. Finish off the pile with 3 basil leaves, a few tender sprigs of cilantro, a few strips of bell pepper, a few pieces of cucumber, a sprinkle of spinach, and a sprinkle of purple cabbage.
  5. Roll up the bottom of the rice paper wrapper to cover the filling. Next, fold in the left and right edges of the wrapper to close the sides of the roll. Finally, gather the filling up tightly and roll the wrap from the bottom up to the top until closed and secured. This will take a little practice. The first few you make will probably be a little over-filled or unevenly shaped, but you'll get the hang of it. Remember, it will still taste great, no matter how it looks! When the roll is done, place it on a plate and cover with a damp towel to keep the wrappers moist. Continue until you're done rolling all twelve summer rolls.
  6. When ready to eat, serve the summer rolls with small bowls of dipping sauce. Dip the end of the roll into the sauce before each bite, and enjoy!
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Corn and Black Bean Summer Salad

Corn and Black Bean Salad - Vibrant and Refreshing

The scorching days of summer are in full swing, and the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the oven.

Salads and bbq to the rescue! Outdoor cooking and raw fruits & vegetables (and maybe a cocktail in tow) are summer essentials. The best way to beat the heat.

I’ve really been digging fresh corn.

Like, raw. You don’t even need to cook it! If it’s freshly picked and peak-season, it has a sweet flavor with a crunchy bite that adds great texture to salads, like this one.

This side salad is awesome.

It can even double as a salsa!

It features fresh white corn, sweet red bell pepper, creamy black beans, fresh cilantro, and minced red onion, drizzled with fresh lime juice and olive oil.

It’s REALLY freaking easy.

Like literally just chop everything up and toss together in a bowl. No cooking involved. No hot kitchen needed.

It’s great as a side salad to grilled chicken or skirt steak. It’s also super easy to add to a DIY taco buffet. Simply grab a corn tortilla, fill with grilled steak, top with a generous spoon of this corn/bean mixture and some fresh avocado & go HAM.

We repurposed ours the next day in breakfast burritos, and even used it in Mexican bowls with beans, rice, and sofrito. The sky’s the limit!

Try bringing it to your next summer potluck and watch it disappear.

Corn and Black Bean Salad

Corn and Black Bean Summer Salad
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
 
Servings: 8 as a side
Author: Erica Julson
Ingredients
  • 3 ears white corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15- oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Place everything in a large bowl and toss to combine. Enjoy!

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Grilled Chicken and Vegetables with Pesto

Large Tray of Sliced Summer Vegetables for Grilling

Grilling. Grilling. Grilling.

A summer STAPLE.

But living in an apartment complex (especially one without a bacony…. *ahem*), can make things tricky.

Thank God for grill pans.

I got one for Christmas a few years ago, and now I have no idea how I ever lived without it. Yes, it does turn my apartment into a smokehouse while I’m grilling (thanks to the joke of an exhaust fan above our stove), but I’m willing to risk the black lung for the taste of some grilled meats and vegetables.

My favorite grill pan is this Le Creuset double-burner sized cast iron beauty:

Nothing sticks to it, and the cast iron holds a ton of heat to give you those grill marks and char that are the hallmarks of good bbq. Yes, you won’t get the smoky flavor you might get from charcoal or smoking chips, but it’s a pretty darn good second place.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables with Pesto

Basil is just as much a summer staple as grilling, so why not pair the two together?

Sounds like a genius plan, if I do say so myself.

Enter: homemade pesto to spoon all over your grilled meat (and veggies, if you desire).

Homemade pesto is magical.

It’s so much more flavorful than any storebought kind, and pretty much makes anything you put it on taste like heaven. That’s why you can get away with just salt and peppering some chicken breasts and grilling ’em. The pesto topping steals the show and makes plain chicken taste divine.

I pretty much never make pesto w. pine nuts anymore.

They’re way too freaking expensive. I’ve come to really enjoy pesto made with almonds though… If you use roasted salted almonds, it pre-seasons your pesto, and the almonds give the pesto a nice chunky toothsome texture that I really like. Plus, they’re pretty mild, so they support the true stars of the pesto (basil, garlic, and cheese) without stealing the show. Win-win-win.

So, what are you waiting for? Get to grilling!

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables with Pesto Overhead Image

Grilled Chicken and Vegetables with Pesto
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
Servings: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 zucchini, halved crosswise and then thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 yellow squash,  halved crosswise and then thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds removed and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 8 oz carton of white button mushrooms, wiped clean and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 red onion, halved and cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 1/2 to 3 lbs lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (~6 small breasts, or a few very large breasts, cut in half lengthwise to make them thinner)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Grapeseed oil or other high smoke-point oil for grilling
For the pesto:
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan-romano cheese blend (I get mine from Trader Joe's, or just Parmesan)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Place all the cut vegetables on a large baking sheet. Drizzle liberally with oil, and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and ground black pepper. Use your hands to toss the veggies on the tray, making sure that each veggie is well coated with oil and seasoning.
  2. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan (I used a grill pan). Add enough veggies to fill the grill pan, and grill a few minutes on each side, or until nice and charred. If you are using a real grill, I recommend using a grill basket to keep the vegetables from falling through the grates. When they are done, remove the veggies to another large baking sheet. The vegetables will cook at slightly different speeds, with the mushrooms taking the least amount of time, and the onions taking the longest. Remove the veggies as they finish cooking and add new ones to take their place. Continue until all the veggies are grilled to your liking.
  3. Next, add the chicken breasts to the now empty baking sheet that had the uncooked vegetables on it. Repeat the process of drizzling with oil and seasoning with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the chicken breasts for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the breasts reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees (use a meat thermometer if you're not sure) When the chicken is done cooking, remove from the grill and place on the baking sheet with the grilled veggies.

  4. Let the chicken and vegetables rest while you make the pesto. Add the almonds, cheese, garlic, basil, and olive oil to a mini food processor & pulse/blend for a minute or so until the pesto is relatively smooth. Since this pesto uses almonds instead of pine nuts, it will remain a little chunkier, but it has AWESOME flavor.
  5. When you're ready to eat, add a chicken breast to each plate with a bunch of grilled veggies. Top the chicken with a generous dollop of pesto, and enjoy! Goes great with some grilled bread or brown rice.

 

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