Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce + songs for new beginnings

Vietnamese-style spring rolls with peanut sauce (recipe here)

New York has been feeling like spring, well, throughout most of where winter normally would have been. But this week we finally had the first real day of spring, and to celebrate the beginning of a new season, I made these spring rolls — tasty, refreshing, and uh, springy. Make a few and go eat them in a park (that’s what I did the evening of the spring solstice, and it was lovely). And, since spring is a time for starting over — a new season, new life outside, spring cleaning, etc. — below are a few songs/albums about new beginnings.

Bowerbirds, “Tuck the Darkness In”
The Clearing is a fitting name for Phil Moore and Beth Tacular’s third LP as Bowerbirds: A clearing is a clean slate to start over again, and these songs came out of Beth battling an extreme illness, the couple breaking up and getting back together, rescuing a stray dog, and beginning to build a cabin together in the woods. [Recipe: Acorn squash soup, inspired by Bowerbirds]

Edwyn Collins, “Losing Sleep”
On the title track of Edwyn Collins‘s 2011 album, the former Orange Juice frontman sings, “I must believe, I must retrieve/ The things I know, the things I trust.” In 2005, a brain hemorrhage left him at the beginning of a long road to recovery. That he regained the ability not only to speak and walk again but to make an entire new album (and he also finished one he’d started before the hospitalization) is astounding.

We Are Augustines, “Book of James”
We Are Augustines are made up of former members of the band Pela; that band was dissolving, frontman Billy McCarthy’s brother James committed suicide, and We Are Augustines rose from their ashes. This song from their debut, Rise Ye Sunken Ships, is a tribute to James, with McCarthy singing, “Just know we tried/ You’re forgiven.” [Recipe: Peach-blackberry-ginger popsicles, inspired by We Are Augustines]

Kathleen Edwards, “Sidecar”
Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards‘s recent album Voyageur is, in part, a post-divorce recovery. But the end of that brought on the beginning of a new relationship, this time with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, who helped produce the record. Voyageur was also sort of a musical rebirth for Edwards, who traded a bit of her older (and amazing) music’s Americana twang for a little more pop polish. This is a perfect song about a new romance — sharing each other’s favorite places, eating breakfast in bed, getting over monsters from the past and “chasing down the hard stuff” as we go.

Mikal Cronin, “Apathy”
Graduating from college is a monumental time to snap into start-over mode, and that in-between is what fueled California garage-rocker Mikal Cronin‘s 2011 self-titled album. In “Apathy,” he sings about being older and “getting along with my future.”

Great Lake Swimmers, “New Wild Everywhere”
On the title track from Great Lake Swimmers‘ upcoming album, Tony Dekker sings about new life outside: plants rooting, “blooming sounds,” and the sky exploding. Also, this band will always make me think of new beginnings, thanks to my cousin and his wife, who played their song “Your Rocky Spine” at their wedding last summer.

Makes 8 rolls


8 round pieces of rice paper (available at most Asian grocers)
Various fillings: I used strips of cooked eggs, roasted asparagus, alfalafa sprouts, arugula shoots, thinly-sliced carrots and cucumber, avocado, cilantro and basil
Pie plate or some kind of bowl with the same width, filled with room temperature water a couple inches high


• Place a piece of paper towel on a cutting board.

• Set one piece of rice paper in your dish of water; gently move it around until it starts to soften to the point where it almost looks like plastic wrap (as in, the edges will stick to other parts of the paper). It should take about 1-2 minutes.

Rice paper

• Flatten the rice paper onto the paper towel, then flip it to the other side (to get rid of excess water).

Rice paper

• Set it directly onto the cutting board and flatten out the best you can.

Rice paper

• Add your fillings about 2 inches from the bottom of the paper, leaving about 2 inches on each side.

Spring rolls

• Roll up the bottom, then fold in the sides and tightly roll the rest of the way up. It’s OK if the paper rips a little bit along the way — once you roll it up it’ll all stick together.

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

• Cut in half and serve. (These also keep well in the fridge overnight.)

Spring rolls

Peanut sauce
Makes about 3/4 cup


1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped scallions
1 clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chili oil
1/4 cup hot water


In a food processor, combine everything except water. Gradually add water and stir until you reach your desired consistency.

Peanut sauce


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