Rebellious is not my middle name. I do my homework on time, study for my tests, and go to swim practice every day. At times though, my (very mildly) rebellious tendencies rear their heads in unlikely scenarios. It could be sitting on the couch eating ice cream while reading Cooking Light (I’m sure one of their fat-free recipe testers just gasped), or it could be something like putting unusual ingredients inside spring rolls.
I’m not sure exactly what compelled me to put lentils, red peppers, and feta into rice paper wrappers; Morocco and Vietnam share very little in common other than they were both colonized by the French at some point or another. In fact, the driving force behind this recipe was the date and harissa dipping sauce for the rolls. I had seen a recipe for a salad with dates in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times, and I knew that with a few key spices and flavors, the dates would create the base for a sweet and spicy dipping sauce—the rolls came later as a vehicle for the sauce. I blended the dates with harissa, a North African chili paste, and some lemon juice and olive oil to offset the heat. A pinch of cumin added smoky flavor without overpowering the sauce.
For the rolls, French green lentils are rolled up with layers of sliced red bell pepper for color and feta for a creamy texture and salty contrast to the sweet date sauce.
These rolls will throw everyone off guard, but don’t worry; once they get a taste of this spicy and sweet combination, you’ll wish you had made a double batch.
Moroccan Lentil Rolls
Makes 6 rolls
1 ½ cups cooked green lentils (Try the Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils, they’re as close to life changing as a bean can get.)
1 Red Bell pepper, sliced into 1/8″ strips
6 tablespoons crumbled feta
6 8-inch circular rice paper wrappers (Available in the international foods aisle of most grocery stores)
- To set up for rolling the rolls: Place a damp dishtowel on a clean work surface, and fill a wide, shallow bowl with hot water.
- Dip one of the rice paper wrappers into the hot water for 10-15 seconds until softened, then lay it on the damp towel.
- In the bottom third of the wrapper, place ¼ cup lentils, 5 bell pepper strips, and 1 tablespoon crumbled feta. Roll up the rice paper wrapper by rolling it once around the filling, then tucking in the sides and rolling up the rest of the roll. (Confused? Go to Chipotle and look at how they roll up the burritos.)
- Repeat with the remaining rice paper wrappers and filling ingredients.
- Keep the rolls covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve, and make sure to serve them within 4 hours of shaping.
Date Harissa Dipping Sauce
Makes about ½ cup
4 medjool dates, pitted
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon harissa
¼ cup olive oil
- Place the dates in a heat safe bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let sit for 10 minutes to soften. After 10 minutes, drain the dates, reserving their soaking liquid, and coarsely chop.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the chopped dates, ¼ cup of the date soaking liquid, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, cumin, harissa, and olive oil. Process for 2-3 minutes, until completely smooth. Season with additional salt, to taste. Serve alongside the lentil rolls.