I was thinking about how to make a low fat appetizer using avocado. Now, avocado is chock full of good fats, but still, I didn't want an appetizer portion to come in at much over 100 calories. So, the trick would be to use avocado as a main component of the dish, but have the amount be supplemented by lower fat ingredients. I also started thinking about good flavor matches for avocado. It's used in Mexican and Latin American cooking with cilantro, garlic and tomato; in Japanese with sushi; I've had wonderful avocado, crab and grapefruit salads in France.
My local Vietnamese restaurant makes a vegan version of their delicate Shrimp Fresh Rolls, using avocado instead of shrimp. Since seafood plays so well with avocado, I thought I'd bring the two together in a fresh roll, punctuated by the traditional Vietnamese use of fresh herbs and lettuces. It was a done deal when I discovered that Vietnamese rice paper wrappers are only 20 calories! Make sure you get Vietnamese spring roll wrappers, which are hard and brittle until briefly soaked in warm water, and eaten uncooked.
These can be made ahead and served as finger food; but I think it'd be great fun to prepare bowls and plates of all the ingredients, and let guests prepare their own at the table for a first course. I'm not giving precise amounts here, since the amounts will depend on how many you are making. It's easy to soak more noodles or chop more lettuce as you go if needed.
Vietnamese-Style Avocado, Shrimp and Herb Fresh Rolls
shelled and cooked shrimp (I used TJ's frozen shrimp, they were fine)
1 package Vietnamese rice paper "spring roll" wrappers, the large diameter (available from Asian groceries and Whole Foods)
rice vermicelli noodles (look in the Asian aisle of your supermarket)
ripe avocado, but not squishy
fresh mint leaves
fresh basil leaves
sweet green lettuce, like butter or greenleaf, iceberg or romaine in a pinch
finely shredded carrots
Pie plate of warm water
1. Boil some water, and pour it over the vermicelli in a bowl. Let the noodles soften for 5-10 minutes and then drain and blot dry with paper towels. (don't leave them on the towels, they'll stick. Whoops)
2. Open the avocado, remove the pit, and carefully peel off the skin. Slice the avocado into thin slices.
3. Using a sharp knife, cut the lettuce into extremely thin shreds.
4. Slice each shrimp down the middle lengthwise if they're big; or leave whole if small.
5. Form one roll at a time. Take a rice paper wrapper, and lay it in the pie plate of warm water. Turn over. Within a minute or two, it will soften. Take out of the water, and lay out flat.
6.Starting at one side of the wrapper, place two shrimp halves end to end. On top of the shrimp, put two avocado slices, also end to end. Then a few pinches of the noodles, a few of shredded lettuce, then a pinch or two of carrots, and finally some basil and mint. Tightly roll the wrapper around the filling, tucking in the ends as you go, like rolling a burrito. Lightly squeeze the finished roll to seal.
7. Repeat with the remaining wrappers. As you finish, cover each roll with plastic wrap to keep them moist.
8. Store in the fridge, and serve the same day you make them, ideally within 2-3 hours. with a very shark knife, slice in quarters to serve; or leave whole.
8. Serve with a dipping sauce of 2 Tbs rice vinegar,1 tsp. fish sauce, 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tsp. chili sauce, 1 Tbs. water, and a few squeezes of lime. Taste and adjust to get a balance of sour/sweet. Optional--garnish with chopped peanuts and fresh mint and basil.