For fashion designer Nicole Miller, there’s no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than over a casual lunch with close friends. On the menu? Handmade summer rolls (recipe at the bottom), quality wine, and tantalizing conversation on the porch of her art-filled home in North Haven.
What’s your formula for a perfect summer lunch?
I usually host lunches on Sundays, because on Saturdays, I go waterskiing. I like to come up with a concept. I usually tend to go for Asian and Italian themes, although occasionally, I do something Japanese.
What inspired your summer roll fixation?
Well, we were out here in the Hamptons, and I invited some friends over to eat. One of my girlfriends arrived with all the remnants from her dinner party in the city. We decided to use them to come up with something new, and so we tried to make them into summer rolls. I’m fascinated by summer rolls, and Vietnamese food in general.
Did you encounter any challenges?
At first, we couldn’t get the rice papers soft enough—they were still very crunchy and hard to manage, and then finally, someone told me to dunk the wraps in a bucket of water, and that’s what I did.
It all came together!
What about the sauce?
I finally found the best nuoc cham recipe. It’s not too sweet—I don’t like very sweet things—and it’s not too salty.
What’s the secret to spring roll success?
I like to add a dab of hoisin sauce to the inside of the spring roll, to give it a little extra flavor. I don’t like the brown color to show through the rice paper, so I put it between two halves of shrimp, and add some green color with mint leaves and cilantro. And always make sure to roll them as tightly as possible—they’ll look great, and be easier to eat.
Which restaurant makes your favorite summer rolls?
Indochine, for sure.
You frequently entertain your friends—what do you do when you need a break from the cooking and cleaning?
Well, although I almost always cook for lunch, I will hire a chef to make dinner, because we usually have a lot of people. And, of course, I always enjoy eating out at restaurants in the Hamptons—we have so many great places here.
NICOLE MILLER’S SUMMER ROLLS:
Ingredients: Vietnamese rice papers, Boston lettuce (cleaned and deveined), Ka-Me rice sticks for noodles, Hoisin sauce, 1 lb cooked medium-size shrimp (split in half – you can also use crab or duck), cilantro, mint leaves, Nuoc Cham sauce
Process: Lay out cloth dish towel on counter. Dip one rice paper into bowl of lukewarm water until slightly soft. Lay it out on dish towel. Start about quarter way from top, and place half lettuce leaf. Add small handful rice noodles, dab of hoisin sauce, and two shrimp halves. Start to roll tightly toward you, folding in sides neatly. Add sprig of cilantro and a mint leaf; finish rolling. (It might take a few tries to get this right!) Cut in half on diagonal with scissors, and serve with Nuoc Cham Sauce.
NUOC CHAM SAUCE
Ingredients: 2 TB lime juice, 2 TB sugar, 2 TB rice vinegar, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 1/4 cup warm water, 1 clove garlic, minced, 1 hot pepper, minced, a little grated carrot, cilantro
Process: In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until sugar is dissolved.
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