Summer Basil Rolls

Summer Basil Rolls

Last week my friend Alice asked me what I eat when I don't feel like cooking, haven't planned a recipe, or when the refrigerator is looking sparse.  Great question! On my journey toward a more natural slow food diet I used to eat really well until I hit speed bumps.  If I was really tired, didn't feel well, or simply wasn't inspired, I turned to takeout and processed foods.  I'd know that somewhere in the pantry I'd find a bag of zero-nutrition crackers with a scary-long shelf-life.  After eating I'd have even less energy than I had before.

Once I got to a point where I was buying almost no processed foods, eating like that simply stopped being an option.  Now when I don't feel up to cooking, the choices for foods I can grab and eat are fruits, veggies, or nuts.  And I often find that after a handful of cashews or an apple my energy comes back enough to prepare something substantial.

But I'm not always in the mood for twig-and-berries kinds of snacks, so I try to plan ahead for times when cooking isn't going to happen.  When I make a meal with a grain (quinoa, farro, rice, etc.), I make a double batch of the grains to keep on hand in the fridge.  And if I make soup, I always make more than I need so that I can refrigerate or freeze some.  My freezer is always stocked with fruit for smoothies and I love to make flourless seed and nut breads and keep them in the freezer as well.

I also try to come up with recipes that don't require a trip to the market.  It is actually like a fun game to challenge myself to make a complete meal with ingredients I have on hand.  Sometimes it is hard to let go of the idea that if I just had one more ingredient it would be perfect.  But I can stand to learn to be more flexible.

Kohlrabi is all over the farmers' markets around here right now.  If you've never tried it, its appearance can be intimidating.  They can be purple or green and look like something out of a sci-fi movie.  But for their dramatic appearance the flavor is actually simple, sweet, and mild.  They have sort of a cabbage-turnip flavor to them.  Kohlrabi is low in calories but high in fiber and Vitamin C.  Eat them raw or try roasting them.  Delicious either way!

This recipe is a great way to make a meal when you think you've got nothing to eat.  You can use almost any combination of fresh vegetables and they always seem to taste good.  I got sunflower sprouts, fresh basil, and kohlrabi at the local farmers' market.  If I made these at a different time of year I'd just swap out for whatever vegetables happen to be in season.  If you can't find kohlrabi for this recipe substitute carrots, cabbage, turnips, or radishes.  That's the beauty of this recipe.  It is super flexible.

Summer Basil Rolls

Makes 8 rolls.  If you don't feel like slicing the beets and kohlrabi, you can save some time and work by running them through the food processor.


8 sheets of rice paper

8 large basil leaves (use lots of small leaves if you don't have large ones)

1/8 cup sesame seeds

1 beet, julienned

1 kohlrabi, julienned

1/2 cup snow peas, julienned

1 avocado, sliced

1. Fill a wide shallow bowl or a deep plate with warm water.  Submerge a sheet of rice paper for about 20 seconds.  Remove rice paper and lay flat on work surface.

2. Sprinkle rice paper with a spoonful of sesame seeds.

3. Thinking of rice paper as a clock, lay a large basil leaf on the paper from 11 to 6.  Put a little of each vegetable evenly on top of the basil leaf. 

4. From the left side (6 on a clock), fold the paper just enough to cover the filling.  If you've ever folded a burrito, this is the same strategy.

5. From the top (12:00) fold the rice paper down about 1.5-2 inches.  Do the same from the bottom (6:00).

6.  Starting from the left (9:00), roll the rice paper all the way across.

7. Repeat until all ingredients are used up.

After all that folding I am usually too excited about eating to make an elaborate dipping sauce.  I usually just use tamari sauce with a few drops of chili oil and maybe some raw almond butter whisked in.  But get creative with it!  Miso, tahini, lemongrass, and garlic all make great ingredients for sauces.  Or use the Orange Peanut Sauce from the Baked Vegetable Pockets recipe or the sauce from the Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash recipe.