I had such buyer’s remorse the other day. But sometimes, that’s a good thing.
I’ll start at the beginning. Instead of writing from home last week, I decided to set up shop at the Starbucks that was down the block from my daughter’s camp. That way, I wasn’t wasting any time in the car, I was maximizing my time working, and I was only ever ten feet away from re-caffeinating, should it come to that. (Note: It often comes to that.)
The only problem? I was also ten feet away from those delicious coffee cakes, the ones they offer to heat up for you? (Yes, please.) And the egg biscuit sandwiches. You know, those things are not awful. Neither are the blueberry lemon scones. I bought one to bring to Abby after camp, but ended up eating it myself as I cranked away at the laptop, too productive to leave, too lazy to walk outside to get something a little healthier. (Not to mention, too greedy to risk giving up my table near the coveted computer outlet.)
By Day 3, I had had it with the baked good bacchanalia. I needed something for lunch that included a vegetable. As usual, though, I was pressed for time, and starving, and the only thing I could find nearby was a Whole Foods in a strip mall. Against my better judgement, I headed to the prepared food department to see what I could grab quickly. Hmmm. Salad bar? Too complicated. Tandoori potato flatbread sandwiches? Too carby. Sushi? Too expensive. But next to the chopstick display was a container of vegetable spring rolls with spicy peanut sauce. Now that is what I am in the mood for, I thought. I looked at the price tag: Eight bucks. Not ideal, but I sucked it up, and bought them anyway.
I inhaled those things in the car like a wolf. Fresh and crunchy, light and spicy. I loved them. I loved them so much that I went back the next day, even when I wasn’t pressed for time. Even when I looked at the ingredient list — cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, avocado — and thought to myself “This should cost eight cents.” But the sauce. The sauce was so good! I wanted…I needed….
The whole next day I was like a junkie thinking about my spring rolls. But I didn’t think I could live with myself if I dropped eight dollars on them three days in a row. So instead, I picked up a pack of spring roll wraps, looked at the ingredients for the spicy peanut sauce on the label, realized I had everything I needed in my pantry, and headed home to make my own.
I had never made spring rolls before and I figured it was one of those things that was most likely better left to people who like detail work, like, you know, stop-motion animators or something. But after a quick youtube tutorial, I was on my way. I dipped the wraps in warm water, laid them down on a cutting board (smooth side down!), added avocado, cilantro, Bibb lettuce leaf, matchstick-cut carrots, and cukes in a small mound, then rolled away, much like a burrito. But when I got to the peanut sauce part, I hesitated. I’ve made variations of it before, and all of them involve a food processor. What if, I thought, what if I just mixed a few things in a measuring cup instead. Because I know myself, and I know that if I have to break out a major appliance to make something, the chance of making that thing again or with any kind of regularity was gonna be slim.
I heaped, I squeezed, I stirred like maniac. I nailed it. And best of all, I had leftover sauce, so I made my rolls three more days in a row. What can I say, when I like something, I like it.
Easy Vegetable Spring Rolls with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Makes enough for one hungry person’s lunch. I made them as a pre-dinner snack one night last week, and when Andy tried one, he not only went crazy for them, too, he couldn’t believe it wasn’t our entire dinner. (Classic “I-could-eat-like-this-every-night” moment.) They definitely could’ve been dinner — maybe I’ll try that next week. Also: I would not blame you if you added shrimp or did some experimenting with shredded kale.
spicy peanut sauce
2 heaping Tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha (a little more if you like more heat; you can also use sweet chili sauce, which was what the Whole Foods label mentioned, but I wasn’t about to drop five bucks on a bottle when I had Sriracha at home)
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
squeeze of lime
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
hot water (the hottest you can get from the sink is fine, no need to boil anything)
4 or 5 spring roll skins (see above, available at Asian grocers and the Asian aisle of most supermarkets)
bowl of warm water
1 Bibb lettuce leaf
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 2-inch matchsticks
a few strands of purple cabbage
1 bunch cilantro leaves, stems removed
1/2 avocado, cut into slices
Make sauce: Add all ingredients to a measuring cup and stir with a fork. Add a shot or two of hot water and stir vigorously until it reaches desired consistency, adding more water as you see fit. (I like my dipping sauce more on the drizzly side than the thick side.)
Make wraps: Dip one spring roll skin into warm water for about two seconds. Remove and lay, smooth-side down, on a cutting board. Act fast because the roll gets stickier the longer you wait. Lay down one lettuce leaf in the bottom center of the wrap. (If the wrap is a clock, then think between 8:00 and 4:00) Add a small bunch of vegetables and carefully roll bottom side over filling. Fold in each side of the wrap and continue to roll until it’s all bundled up. (The video I linked to in the post shows exactly how to do this if you’re not sure.)
Continue with remaining spring roll skins and vegetables. Serve with peanut sauce.