Pack Away Those Boots!

Every spring is the only spring – a perpetual astonishment.-Ellis Peters
Got that right, Mr. Peters. First we were astonished that there was no real winter (at least around this part of the country) and now we are astonished that it’s officially Spring. We have waited patiently and now we can finally hear those fabulous words…The First Day of Spring.
Woot-woot! Wahooooooo!
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind winter. The winter muck and slush is another thing altogether, but the beauty of a snowstorm, the cozy fires, I do enjoy that. But NOTHING compares to Spring, at least in my opinion. Maybe I’ve lived with my name (April) too long and it’s seeped into my brain in a way that someone who is named, say Carol or Meg, can never understand.  April. As the Earth Opens Unto Spring. I’ll run with that, despite it just being March 20th. Who’s going to question anything today? It’s Spring. Spring, Spring, SPRING! You just want to say it because it makes you feel good and makes your heart go pitter-pat. The days are a little longer, the bugs and birds are starting to sing their songs (called peepers, wocka-wockas…you name it, everyone has a name for those little guys) and there are buds on the lilacs branches outside my window if I just turn my head to the left right now. What a sight. And to think…it always happens every year and with the same gusto. Some Autumns can be less colorful than others, we all know that this past winter just fizzled and summer is usually some extreme of hot, rainy or dry…but Spring…she’s a temperate gal who puts on a reliable show year after year. It’s like those recipes that you make that you just know are going to turn out well…you’ve made them a thousand times and know all the tricks and because of that, you positively hunger for them. Same with Spring. We hunger for it because we always know it’s going to be so good. Even when it’s a rainy spring, it’s still great because that just means that everything is going to bloom and green up that much faster. Good girl, Spring. We’re glad you are here.
As an ode to the new season, here’s a tried and true recipe for Japanese Spring Rolls, which I think I actually got out of some Robin Leach Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Cookbook (the horror) about a zillion years ago. If nothing else does, that dates this recipe and tells you how long I have been making these things. They are perfect for Spring and Summer lunches, picnics and dinners at the beach. They are a little time consuming to make, so do it for a crowd, but I guarantee they will be well worth it.
1 lb. small, cooked, chilled shrimp
24 rice papers (you’ll need to go to an Asian market or specialty food store for these. They are transparent and stiff as boards until you wet them and then they become pliable and fun to work with. Takes a little finesse in the timing department, but once you get the hang of it, you are good to go and it will be a breeze)
Boston lettuce leaves-1 large head
mung bean sprouts (about 2 cans worth)
fresh mint leaves
fresh cilantro leaves
(optional and to taste…grated carrot, long slices of cucumber)
Dipping sauce:
2-3 Tb. canola or other light oil (grapeseed, sunflower etc.)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup plum sauce
1 Tb. water
1 Tb. honey
1/2 roasted, chopped peanuts
Soften rice papers (run quickly under water faucet and then place on cutting board. They will soften up before your very eyes). In center of each paper, place a shrimp or two. You may need to slice the shrimp lenthwise to make them fit in the paper better. Then place a lettuce leaf (tear into smaller piece if too big a leaf), a large pinch of bean sprouts, several good sized mint leaves and some cilantro leaves (to taste). Begin by rolling the paper with contents, then fold in the sides across the roll and then continue to roll. All will stick together like magic.
For the sauce, heat oil. Add garlic and cook over medium heat until soft (but not brown). Add plum sauce and water. Drop heat to low and cook until flavors blend, about 3 minutes. Stir in honey and peanuts. Cool and serve along side of rolls.
(I totally apologize for the lack of parenthetical spaces in this post. Can’t seem to get it to cooperate and give me those breaks where I want them! Just when I start to enjoy computers, they give me a reason to hate them again)

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