Often, when I return home from the farmers' market, I am overwhelmed with the variety and volume of food I have purchased. I don't think about much in the way of recipes when I am buying produce there, but I do always try to find something new that I haven't ever tasted, get something that is recently in season (like fava beans and English peas this week), and obviously look for things that I enjoy. At home, I lay everything out on the counter and sort and bag things according to type (all herbs together etc.), and only then does my mind begin to assess what I might throw together to make a meal. It probably isn't the most efficient way to do things, but I don't like to shop encumbered with lists. I want to get my inspiration from the beautiful things I find at the market, and perhaps the farmers themselves, who are always eager to share recipes with their customers.
Because storage space in the refrigerator is always an issue, I must clean out containers of dubious leftovers and straggly half-used veggies to make room for the fresh stuff. Today, I noticed that we had a bit of left over rice vermicelli from the soup I made the other night, and so I decided to make some summer rolls using those noodles, and some fresh from the market slivered snap peas, carrots, scallions, and baby lettuce. Summer rolls are like a salad in a thin, cold, translucent wrap made of rice flour. We enjoy them occasionally when we are on the Cape (there is a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant nearby), but now that I see how easy they are to make at home, I'm happy that we can have them a lot more often. Besides veggies and noodles, they are often filled with cooked shrimp or thin slices of steak (or even tofu), but I made a vegetarian version this afternoon and thought they were just fantastic. To accompany the rolls, I made an easy dipping sauce out of hoisin sauce, peanut butter, rice wine vinegar and chili garlic paste. It made for a quick, refreshing, and healthy lunch, and I'm looking forward to them making a more regular appearance on our menu.
4 Vietnamese rice spring/summer roll wrappers (they are different than the soft won ton wrappers, but can be found in the Asian section of many markets)
1 C cooked rice vermicelli noodles
1/3 C julienned carrots
1/3 C julienned snap peas
1/3 C julienned red or yellow bell pepper
1/3 C julienned scallions
handful of baby lettuce
handful chopped cilantro and mint
Soak one wrap in hot water. (I put some very hot water in a skillet that is a bit larger than the wrap then place the wrap into the water, pressing down with my fingers so the edges don't curl.) When the wrap becomes soft and yielding, after about 10 seconds or so, carefully lay it out on a clean dish towel. On the bottom third of the wrap, layer some lettuce, some rice noodles and a bit of each veggie, and top with cilantro and mint. Take care to not put too much or it will be difficult to roll. Fold in the outer edges over the middle, then roll from the edge closest you up to the top. It is not too much more challenging than rolling a burrito (or a sandwich in parchment paper) and much the same method. If your first one turns out lumpy, don't worry, it gets much easier with practice. It will still taste delicious. Place your roll onto a plate and do it again with each remaining wrap.
Place 1 T hoisin sauce and 1 T chunky peanut butter in a small bowl and mash together with a fork. Stir in 1/4 C seasoned rice vinegar and 1 t chili garlic paste. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of water to loosen to your desired consistency.