When I serve an appetizer, I almost always revert to my old snack standby, hummus. Hummus is familiar. I have hummus down to a science. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with hummus – except when you serve it every single time people come over.
In order to avoid being typecast, I’m switching things up, pushing my sleeves past my elbows and working on something fresh, wholesome and chilled for the hot summer weather. I came up with this spring roll appetizer featuring a hearty broccoli rabe and whole grain noodle interior as a nod to one of my favourite Chinese food takeout dishes, broccoli beef. Here, broccoli rabe (rapini) is used for a more robust, more mature version of broccoli beef, standing up to a light sauce of honey, garlic and sesame oil. It’s full of vitamin C, A, K and iron, along with a snappy, vibrant green taste to boot.
The broccoli rabe is paired with a tangle of spelt noodles, lending a meaty quality to the rolls. And I can’t help but think that real broccoli beef wouldn’t benefit from avocado, so I’ve blended the creamy fruit with cilantro, garlic and lime. The gentle bitterness of broccoli rabe is an ideal partner for such a rich (but seriously healthy) condiment.
I recommend these fresh rolls as an appetizer before a full on Chinese food feast, either homemade or, if we’re being real, takeout. I’ve been devouring leftovers for a light lunch, too, and they’re just enough to power me through a busy afternoon without weighing me down. If spring rolls are too fussy, skip the rice paper wrappers altogether and toss everything in a large bowl, sauce and all, for a cold noodle salad studded with that better-than-broccoli-beef broccoli rabe.
Let’s give hummus the night off.
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes, plus more to garnish
- ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more for pasta water
- 1 bunch Andy Boy broccoli rabe (rapini), bottom ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 ounces spelt spaghetti or buckwheat soba noodles
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 8-10 rice paper wrappers
- Sesame seeds, to garnish
- 2 cups roughly chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ clove garlic, peeled
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Zest of 1 lime
- 2 small or 1 large avocado, flesh only
- Juice of 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
- Water, to thin, as needed
- For the Spring Rolls: In a large, high-sided skillet, heat sesame oil, honey, garlic, chilli and salt over medium until fragrant. Add broccoli rabe, cover and steam, tossing a few times, until tender (about 3–5 minutes). If pan is too dry, add a small splash of water. Cool to room temperature or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; salt well. Cook noodles according to package directions, drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Toss with tamari. Set aside.
- Have all roll ingredients ready to go in front of you for easy building, and work on 1 roll at a time. Fill a large high-sided skillet with warm water. To rehydrate rice paper wrappers, soak one wrapper at a time until pliable (this only takes 15–30 seconds) in warm water. Place rehydrated wrapper on a large cutting board or countertop. At the bottom of each roll, leaving a ½-inch gap to each side, line up a handful of broccoli rabe and cooked noodles. Roll like a burrito, tucking in sides as you turn to encase ingredients. If serving immediately, transfer to a serving platter. If serving in 1–2 hours (don’t make them any longer ahead than that or they’ll turn soggy), wrap roll in plastic and store in refrigerator. Meanwhile, make the sauce.
- For the Avocado Cilantro Sauce: Pulse cilantro, garlic, salt and lime zest in a food processor until finely chopped. Add avocado and lime juice. Puree until smooth. If a thinner sauce is desired, thin with water 1 tablespoon at a time. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- To Serve: Garnish rolls with a sprinkle of additional chili and sesame seeds. Serve chilled with sauce.
Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe and I received compensation for my participation. All opinions are my own.