Spring (Roll) Recipe: NOW, not January, is the time for eating seasonally.

Okay, maybe not now-now, as people here often say when they mean “at this very moment,” but spring is surely the time for taking up the practice of eating (at least some things) that are local and seasonal. Now’s the time to find a CSA (some of them even deliver, which can be so convenient) or plant an itty-bitty garden, if you can spare the space and effort. Even if all you’re able and willing to grow is a pot of herbs on a windowsill, by all means, do it. 

Do it for this recipe alone. You may be thinking that it is weird to eat a bunch of herbs all together, but once you taste the cilantro, basil, and mint in these rolls, you’ll see it’s not weird at all. The peanut dipping sauce is pretty much all-season; it’s equally good with spring rolls as with rice and cooked veggies and strips of grilled meat, chicken, or fish (and even with tofu, if you like tofu. I do, especially with peanut sauce.)

You know those fancy food blogs where the house is so perfect and there's no crumpled up napkins lying around, or, if they are, they're lying around artfully, somehow? This isn't one of those blogs.
You know those fancy food blogs where the house is so perfect and the table is so retro-fabulously beautiful and things are out of focus, but in a good way, and there’s no crumpled up napkins lying around, or, if they are, they’re lying around artfully, somehow? This isn’t one of those blogs.

Spring/Summer Rolls and Peanut Sauce
For the Rolls:
8 sheets rice paper
8 soft lettuce leaves
4 ounces thin rice noodles, soaked until tender (but not mushy)

A quantity of vegetables:

  • Grated or julienned carrots, cucumber, avocado, radishes—be creative!
  • ½ cup each fresh mint, cilantro and basil leaves torn into pieces. (If you lack one of these, feel free to omit one or the other, but it’s really best with all of them; see above!)

Soak 1 sheet of rice paper in warm water for 10 seconds or so, then lay out on a kitchen cloth. Place a lettuce leaf in the middle, and fill it with a finger size portion of noodles, a bit of each vegetable and some of the fresh leaves. Roll up the rice paper wrapper like a burrito, closing in both sides. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, making sure not to allow rolls to touch, or they will stick together. You can wrap them in a damp towel and plastic wrap and serve within an hour, with peanut sauce (my favorite) or go easy-lazy style with a simple dipping sauce of equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar with a couple tablespoons of sesame oil stirred in.

For the Peanut Sauce:

Chop finely and sauté together in 2-3 tablespoons of neutral oil
(like corn or grapeseed) until tender and fragrant:

  • 1 small onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece ginger
  • 1-2 stalks lemongrass (optional)

Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon turmeric and stir to coat, 1 minute.
Then add:

  • 1 can (organic is best, if you can!) coconut milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons brown or turbinado sugar (you can also use maple syrup; or substitute 1/4 cup hoisin sauce and reduce soysauce to 1-2 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½-1 cup non-hydrogenated peanut butter
  • Ground cayenne pepper to taste

Simmer, stirring constantly to keep from sticking and adding water to achieve the desired dipping consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings and serve liberally over everything.

{Shameless plug: adapted from a recipe in my new book, where you’ll find more non-guilty, joyful reasons to eat seasonally as well as fun, tasty recipes that are healthy and fresh without being nutso about the whole thing}

How weirdly long and thin does the Stone Doctor's arm look in this photo? Feed that man!
How weirdly long and thin does the Stone Doctor’s arm look in this photo? Feed that man!

One thought on “Spring (Roll) Recipe: NOW, not January, is the time for eating seasonally.

  1. The first time I tried peanut dipping sauce was 30+ years ago at this little Indonesian restaurant on Clement Street in San Francisco. A young woman Dutch I was interested in suggested we eat there (figures, right?). It turned out she didn’t reciprocate my interest, but I considered the evening as a whole to be a bonus for me since she introduced me to Indonesian food!

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