Whether you call them spring rolls, summer rolls or even plain old salad wraps doesn’t really matter—unless you feel the need to be culturally precise. Whatever name you choose, Vietnamese-style rice paper wraps are an irresistibly fun and tasty, hands-on approach to pushing fruit and vegetables. Call it sneaky if you want, but what kid (or adult) doesn’t embrace the idea of choosing the food on their plate—and having the chance to play with it, too? Pull out all the veggies, Mom. This is the day you’ve waited for.
Fresh cilantro pesto brightens up this easy pasta salad. Vary the vegetables as you like or substitute toasted walnuts for the pepitas. Spring asparagus or pea shoots would be a nice addition. Look for Israeli couscous at high-end and specialty markets such as Whole Foods or Gene’s in Saratoga. In a pinch substitute jarred pesto for the fresh. You may not find ready-made cilantro pesto, and if not, basil pesto will do. Add as much as you need to moisten the salad and give it plenty of flavor.
By now you may have noticed that I like a crunchy slaw. There are endless versions to try. What renders salad into slaw at a most basic level, is an abundance of crisp vegetables—cut just so. Shredded with a box grater or sharp knife or cut into julienne, matchstick-sized lengths—any of these will do. It all depends on your preference. For some reason the mere act of cutting the veggies this way creates a different feeling in the mouth—something close to sublime. Ask any crunchy-raw-vegetable-addicted slaw fiend.
I love a crunchy slaw. This one showcases healthy raw cauliflower, carrots and radishes. You could easily add broccoli, fennel or celery. Even turnip or rutabaga. I use a julienne peeler to make the carrot strips, but a sharp knife works just as well. Toss in a handful or two of chopped dandelion greens for extra nutrition—no one will even notice they’re there (unless you want them to know).
Herbs occupy an important place on the Persian table where they are offered with most every meal — radish, tarragon, basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley — whatever’s fresh and in season. Salty feta cheese is cut into cubes and thin lavash bread completes the combination. I also like to spread a yogurt and shallot mixture called mast-o-musir, even if it’s not traditional.
- Assorted fresh herbs, rinsed and cut into sprigs (cilantro, mint, basil, parsley, tarragon, dill)
- Radishes, rinsed, tops removed and sliced
- Green onions, roots and stalks trimmed (optional)
- Feta cheese, drained and cut into cubes
- Lavash, cut into rectangles about 2 by 4 inches
- Arrange herbs, onions and radishes in the middle of a large platter.
- Add bread and cheese on either side.
- Eat by choosing which elements you want to put together. Lavash, a cube of feta, some herbs and a radish on top, for instance.
Note: For mast-o-musir mix strained, plain yogurt (or plain Greek yogurt) with finely minced shallot (to taste). Wonderful spread on any kind of bread.