I suspect I’m not the only one who’s feeling the change of seasons keenly this week. Some friends have mentioned to me that they’re feeling melancholy about summer’s end, and others seem to be excited for the fall, but no one I’ve spoken to has been ambivalent.
Part of saying goodbye to summer, at least for me, is the idea of parting with a more social season, a time when it’s easier to gather because we’re not all huddled indoors, staying out of the cold. This doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny, because of course there are plenty of gatherings in the winter months (the holidays, for starters!).
I guess it’s a feeling more than anything else: I find it easier to be spontaneous in the summer, to make plans at a moment’s notice, to text a friend and suggest a walk or a last minute coffee. There’s an easygoing quality and sense of flow that I find more difficult to access in other seasons.
I spent the summer trying hard to emerge from the thick shell I’d built up around myself this past spring, when heartache had me feeling alienated and shut down. It has been worthwhile, but it has been work: it doesn’t come easily to me to ask for company, to pick up the phone, to keep a flexible schedule that can accommodate last minute plans. It’s a challenge to my safety zone of routine and order. Even if I were to put aside the human connection, which I know I need, I’ve usually found that it’s good for me to push back against my highly habitual nature.
So, as summer fades out, I’m working to continue the process of reaching out, staying in touch, and—most of all—sharing my food, an act that I’m only just starting to realize is essential to my happiness. I’m continuing to think about meals that are friendly for company, and this includes tasty vegan appetizers.
Summer rolls are quintessential party food, and it seems appropriate to be sharing a recipe as we send summer off in the next couple of weeks. In my neck of the woods, it’ll be warm enough for cold appetizers for a good while yet, so the recipe is still pretty timely.
These rolls are made all the more filling and tasty with Dr. Praeger’s Asian burgers. Last month, I mentioned that I’d be teaming up with Dr. Praegers to showcase some simple, low-maintenance ways that the brand’s burgers, hash browns, and veggie puffs can be used to create flavorful vegan meals. I’ve been a big fan of Dr. Praegers for my entire stint as a vegan, always impressed with how flavorful and crowd-friendly the products are.
All of the burgers can be served traditionally, with a bun or an English muffin, but it’s particularly fun to use them in offbeat or unexpected ways. I’ve almost always made summer rolls with a simple mix of veggie matchsticks or with tofu: it’s never really occurred to me to branch out with fillings.
Using the burgers, which are made with a yummy mix of brown rice, water chestnuts, scallions, peppers and green peas, makes these rolls so much more hearty than the average vegan summer roll. The burgers give the rolls a nice texture contrast, between a dense filling and plenty of crisp veggies. And because the burgers are ready made, preparing the rolls is pretty much as easy as chopping your veggies and whisking together a sauce.
The sauce, by the way, is a hoisin peanut sauce that’s equal parts tangy, salty, and spicy. Great with the rolls, but also so good for brown rice bowls, for drizzling over stir fry, or for using as a marinade for tofu.
For the rolls:
- 8 rice paper summer roll wrappers
- 4 Dr. Praeger’s Asian burgers gently heated according to package instructions, cut into quarters
- 2 large or 3 medium carrots peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1 large cucumber peeled, seeded (not necessary if your cucumber doesn’t contain a lot of seeds, but a good idea if it does), and cut into matchsticks
- 1/4 head purple or green cabbage shredded
- 16 basil leaves about 1 small bunch, washed and leaves removed
- 16 mint leaves about 1 small bunch, washed and leaves removed
For the sauce:
- 4 tablespoons peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce check label to make sure it’s vegan
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 clove garlic finely minced or grated
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes plus more to taste—adjust according to your preference for heat
- Whisk all sauce ingredients together in a small mixing bowl and set aside while you prepare the rolls.
- Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water. Dip your first wrapper into the water, leave it there for about 10 seconds, then transfer it to a large plate or a marble work surface (I find that the wrappers stick to wood, so I don’t recommend a cutting board for this).
- Place two quarters of a veggie burger in the center of the roll, stacked vertically. Lay a couple matchsticks of carrot and cucumber, also vertically, alongside the burger. Top with a bit of shredded cabbage, then two leaves each of basil and mint. Tuck the bottom and top sides of the wrapper over the filling, then fold the left side over the center. Roll everything up to the right to make a neat package.
- Repeat with all remaining wrappers. Cut each roll in half and serve with the sauce
If you’ve never made summer rolls before, you’ll probably find that the whole process is a little fussy at first, then simple once you get the hang of the working with rice paper. Some recipes suggest allowing the paper to get completely soft before you fill up the roll, but I find that the paper gets too sticky and delicate that way, so I only submerge it in water for about 10 seconds before using it. It continues to soften as you add the fillings.
If you like, make some extra vegetable matchsticks for a trial roll or two; that way you’ll have the hang of wrapping and rolling once you get started with your fillings. And don’t worry if the rolls are a little messy looking. In my experience, no one minds, so long as they taste great ?
Hope you enjoy this refreshing vegan appetizer while it’s still warm outside, or once it becomes warm where you live. And I’ll be back this week with a recipe that’s a little more suggestive of autumn: a frosted vegan cake that’s all things cozy and comforting.
This post is sponsored by Dr. Praeger’s Purely Sensible Foods. All opinions are my own, and I’m a huge fan of this brand’s easy vegan offerings. Thanks for your support!