I adore fresh spring rolls, and coming across a recipe for a spring roll salad in Vegetarian Times magazine was like a revelation. All the things I love about the rolls - the thin and delicate rice noodles, the fresh herbal hit of cilantro, chunks of tofu... and the peanut sauce! Lots of simple and great flavors happening in the classic spring roll, yet I never made them at home since I never felt like bothering with the 'roll' part. Wrapping all those ingredients in a temperamental rice paper wrap seemed like too much of a hassle. When I saw the recipe for a spring roll salad, I was almost kicking myself for not thinking of it myself. And then I promptly made it.
The recipe was pretty good, but it didn't really have the flavors I was looking for. It calls for mint and cilantro, but I prefer only cilantro since it doesn't overpower the other ingredients. The dressing was not my favorite either. The recipe's version was not very balanced. Even though there are chopped roasted peanuts garnishing the salad, there wasn't enough peanut flavor for us.
If you happened to check out and/or make the salt & pepper tofu from last week, you may be wondering what to do with all that extra peanut sauce... or not. The recipe does make a pretty large batch, and we really use a lot of it with salt & pepper tofu, but I always have some left over. This salad is pretty much the perfect way to use that left over sauce, and with just a couple additions it really changes the flavor profile to it. And it is so perfect for this salad. It ends up making the perfect amount to dress it, and really gives the vegetables that extra punch of flavor, as well as playing up their delicate taste.
This salad is definitely going to be repeated a lot in our house, especially during those hot and humid days when using the oven is out of the question. It's really easy to change it up and use up some veg in your fridge, or other herbs you may prefer. Cilantro seems to be a hate it or love it thing, so if that is the case, Italian parsley, basil, and/or mint work here as well. Cashews or almonds would be great (especially if there are any peanut allergy things happening), and other nut butters can be used in lieu of peanut butter for the 'peanut' sauce. This salad can feed a lot of people if used as a side, or easily feed a family of four as a main dish. I feel that it tastes the best at room temperature, but its still great cold. It would be a colorful and healthful addition to any up coming cookouts.
~4 ounces thin rice noodles
1 package firm or extra firm tofu, drained and cut into small bite sized cubes
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled into thin ribbons with veg peeler
1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into fat matchsticks
1/4 of purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro (or basil, parsley, mint, or combination of these) coarsely chopped,
plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup roasted peanuts (or cashews, pistachio, etc), coarsely chopped
for the dressing
1/2 recipe of peanut sauce
juice of half a lime
2 - 3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Fill a tea kettle or medium pot with water and set over high heat. Place rice noodles in large glass bowl. Once water is boiling, remove from heat and pour over the noodles. Let sit for 3 - 5 minutes, carefully stirring every minute or so. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.
Meanwhile, prep the vegetables, herb(s) and peanuts (or other nut). You can increase or decrease the amount of any of these ingredients to your taste. This recipe calls for a pretty balanced mix of ingredients, but is still very good if you change the ratios (except on the dressing) so if you prefer to tip the scales with the noodles, you can prepare a double batch. Or, if you are wild about cabbage, use half a head. Add all the ingredients (except for the nuts) to a large bowl.
Prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients and mixing well. The consistency should be thin, yet with a bit more viscosity than a vinaigrette. Add the cooked noodles in with the other prepared ingredients. Pour over the dressing. Toss gently yet thoroughly, taking care to ensure the noodles are mixed in well with the other ingredients (they tend to want to clump together), while not breaking up the tofu.
Garnish with nuts and extra herbs. Serve room temperature or chilled. Lasts up to 3 days in a tightly sealed container - mix well before re-serving.
This recipe has been adapted from Vegetarian Times magazine.