Roasted Red Pepper Chipotle Egg Rolls with Tzatziki Dipping Sauce
This is my contribution for The Spice is Right IV: It’s Too Darned Hot!, though, in truth, I am probably the only resident of New York City who is not completely sick of the heat by now. I am cold-blooded and reptilian, and nothing makes me happier than soaking in the warmth. I am trying to bank it for winter, when I will be cold and miserable and missing the wind on my shoulders and the sun pulling out more of my freckles year by year. Bring on the hot and sticky days, baby, bring ‘em on! We will be trudging through icy wind tunnels soon enough.
I am somewhat convinced that when colors of foods match, the flavors tend to match as well. This is a roll of reds, dipped in a sauce of greens. The roasted bell peppers are vibrant and sweet, and blend wonderfully with the tartness of the pomegranate molasses and smokiness of the chipotle inside the rolls, with noodles and carrots to add texture and crunch.
The cucumber and mint yogurt sauce is a classic combination, though tzatziki usually involves garlic as well. I practically lived on tzatziki the entire time I spent in Greece last summer, and the addiction has not faded yet. You can find a recipe for classic tzatziki here via Wikipedia. The tzatziki dipping sauce I made to go with these egg rolls is milder, less chunky, and more fluid. Not what I would use with plain bread, but a perfect counterpoint to the intense flavor of the egg rolls.
I made these last night with my friend Bonnie, who had come over to hang out in the kitchen for the evening. I am sure I could not have gotten the balance of flavors to work out nearly so well without her there. Credit where it is due, as always. It is always more fun to cook with friends!
Note: Even if the recipe itself does not interest you, you may want to follow the link for the rest of the post to see the illustrated instructions for two different methods for rolling egg rolls.
Roasted Red Pepper Chipotle Egg Rolls
2 red bell peppers
1 large-ish carrot, julienned
3/8 tsp powdered chipotle
2 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (plus more for garnish)
1/2 tsp corn starch
2 C rice vermicelli (cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package egg roll wrappers (this recipe makes about a dozen rolls, depending on how densely you fill them)
Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds end stem entire. Arrange them under the broiler on a aluminum-foil-covered cookie sheet, skin up, and broil for about 12 minutes, or until the kitchen smells wonderfully of them and the skin is blackened. Remove from the oven and cover with another piece of aluminum foil, allowing them to steam as they cool. This will loosen the skin, to make it easier to peel off later.
Cook the rice vermicelli by placing it in a large bowl, pulling the densely-packed noodles apart a bit. Pour boiling water over the noodles, making sure the water covers them completely. Leave them for 3 minutes, then taste. If they are still too hard, leave them for another minute or so, or until done. Drain them and allow them to cool.
Once the bell peppers have cooled, peel off and discard their skins. Slice the peppers into long, thin strips.
Stir all ingredients together. I used pretty hefty amounts of salt and black pepper, so do not be shy with these. If you have too much liquid, add more corn starch or more noodles to soak it up; that is where most of the flavor is, after all.
Roll the rolls (instructions below). Set up a pan with about 1/2″ vegetable oil, and bring the oil to about 350°. Fry the rolls for about a minute and a half on each side, or until golden brown and done. Remove from oil and place on a plate covered in paper towels to drain the oil and cool somewhat. Serve with tzatziki dipping sauce (recipe below) and an extra drizzle of pomegranate molasses.
We used two different methods for rolling the rolls. It can be very difficult to explain these techniques in words, so pay more attention to the photos. They illustrate every step of both processes.
I started out rolling the rolls the way my grandmother taught me to roll stuffed cabbage when I was a kid. It’s a very simple technique, and it gets the job done nicely.
First, you spoon out a thick line of filling, leaving about an inch free at the top of the egg roll wrapper and half an inch free on either side. Wet the sides of the wrapper, then fold them over.
Wet the sides of the wrapper again, where they’ve been folded over, then fold over the free wrapper at the top.
Keep rolling the roll until you have only a bit free at the end. Wet the end.
Finish rolling, and be sure to press the ends down a bit to seal in the liquid so that it will stay juicy and not splutter when frying.
This next way to roll your rolls was just taught to me by Bonnie. I can’t wait to teach my grandmother this method, next time I’m helping her roll stuffed cabbage. I think she will really enjoy applying the foreign technique to her traditional recipe.
Again, first arrange the filling on the wrapper as pictured above. Dampen the entire wrapper a bit.
Fold over the top corner of the wrapper and tamp it down around the bulge of the filling.
Wet the exposed wrapper where it comes up against the sides of the filling, then fold the wings that extend out from the sides over, again tamping them firmly against the bulge of the filling.
Wet the wings, and fold them over the filling.
Press the loose wrapper down so that it molds to the shape of the filling bulge, then roll over once, leaving the tip exposed. Wet the tip.
Tzatziki Dipping Sauce
7 oz greek yogurt
2 tbsp grated cucumber shreds
1 tbsp cucumber juice
1/2 tsp dried spearmint
Grate your cucumber using the largest holes of your largest box grater. Anything smaller will leave you with nothing more than cucumber juice. Using the large holes will give you a combination of cucumber shreds and cucumber juice, and both will come in handy to get the right texture for this dipping sauce.
Stir all ingredients together. Tada! The sauce is done.