TRY THIS: Summer Vietnamese

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Summer cooking is a conundrum: on one hand, you have more fresh and hearty produce than you can fit in a canvas tote. On the other, sweltering weather makes you cringe away from serving anything warmer than ice cubes.

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Instead of settling for salads and Cap’n Crunch for dinner, take that challenge and try something bold: Vietnamese inspired cold plates.

Summer (or spring) rolls are a Vietnamese classic, delicate transparent rice paper wrappers tucked around fresh, chilled fillings. Unlike their fried counterparts, they’re a delicious and dainty appetizer or a light (and healthy) summer entrée.

White on Rice Couple recommends a more hearty man-pleasing version with grilled pork with a hoisin-peanut dip.  My Cooking Hut (photo) wraps basil around her adorable tiger prawn version, paired with a garlic-chili dipping sauce.

However, don’t fret if you don’t have everything on hand. Spring rolls are the perfect opportunity to get creative! Go light with julienne veggies fresh from the farmer’s market, or utilize last night’s leftovers. Set out a spread and let everyone customize their own.

Seek out your local Asian market or international section of high-end grocery stores for hard-to-find ingredients. Struggling with assembly? Chow has a great how-to video.

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try out bun: Vietnamese vermicelli-style cold noodles. It’s a refreshing change of pace from boiling hot spaghetti or the summer-staple pasta salad. The dish isn’t entirely cold: the noodles are room temperature and toppings like pork or beef are hot, while herb and vegetable garnishes provide the cool.

Slurping down tepid noodles takes some getting used to, but with bold sauces and fun flavors, bun is worth a go. Mai Pham at Fine Cooking writes a poignant article about her childhood experience with bun and the cardinal rules of making it, from the right noodles to the crispest lettuce and herbs.  Passionate Eater, on the other hand, shows how simple it is to whip up a quick bun lunch.

So here’s our challenge for this week: get out of the culinary comfort zone of coleslaw and salads and try Vietnamese for a fresh, cool summer meal. Post your creations on our Facebook page!

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I was named after a recipe for Coriander Chicken, in the Silver Palate, specifically. Maybe that’s where I got my appetite, for new media, PR, art/design and exploring. And food, though irony of irony, not a fan of cilantro.

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