|Vegetable Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce|
I think of myself as a good listener. I like being that person who can really take in what another person is saying, and make them feel heard. As it turns out, I'm only a good listener some of the time... the rest of the time I'm on a one-way street in my own head, and pretty clueless. Sure, I hear what you're saying, and I think I get it... but I'm not really listening. Herein lies the problem, because it's easy to mistake hearing for listening.
I stumbled across an article recently on the difference between listening and hearing - the difference between paying attention, and simply letting the sounds into our heads - and it got me thinking about how important that distinction is. The article focuses on how people who are deaf, or hard-of-hearing, listen to things with their whole bodies. They watch, touch, and perceive the world fully, while the rest of us, who have perfectly good ears, tend to shut out so much of the noise we hear that we forget to pay any attention at all. It's almost as if we have the wrong definition of the word "deaf".
"You hear the pneumatic drill, though you would rather not listen. You listen for your children’s voices in the playground, but you can’t always hear them. In urban environments, there’s usually a surplus of sound — so much, in fact, that it often becomes difficult to hear anything at all. But if we become too good at filtering things, have we also damaged our capacity to listen?" - Bella Bathurst, Sound Advice
It's hard not to fall into the habit of shutting things out in a world so full of clamber and commotion, but it makes it just that much more important that we listen to the things that matters. When the noise isn't just noise, it's someone needing to be heard; when the buzz isn't just buzz, but someone you care about. There are plenty of things in this world that make listening hard - sometimes the loudest sound we can't seem to rid ourselves of is that in our own heads - but letting someone in, and letting them be heard, can be the greatest thing you can give them.
Someone once said, do not listen with the intent to reply, listen with the intent to understand. It is not the words that come after (the apology, the advice, the concern), but the listening itself that counts. That is something I truly want to work on - not just hearing, but listening. The hardest part, I think, is knowing the difference.
This morning I awoke to the sound of birds chirping noisily outside my window. It's been almost a week of sunshine, and today, rain. The cold dry air of winter has been replaced by the damp, earthy scent of spring, and along with it a little sense of self-reflection. Sometimes it's hard to see the things that matter, and all it takes is a change of seasons to make things clear. Spring cleaning for the soul, so to speak.
In honor of spring (or, it finally feeling like spring), I made these fresh veggie spring rolls. Little bundles of fresh vegetables and herbs, wrapped in rice paper for a light and healthy snack. Spring rolls are in essence the same as egg rolls, only they haven't been fried - I'm not entirely sure what the difference is between a spring roll and a summer roll, except that perhaps one is Vietnamese while the other is Thai? I admit my ignorance, here - please educate me!
Recipe Notes: Spring rolls can be made with most any ingredients you like. They are frequently filled with lightly dressed rice or cellophane noodles, but here I chose to use a mix of sprouts and finely julienned cucumber instead. You could also add a protein, like cooked shrimp or tofu, if you like.
Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce
Easily made Vegan and Gluten-Free
Red and yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
Carrots, thinly sliced
Cucumber, thinly sliced
Avocado, thinly sliced
Baby bella or shittake mushrooms, sliced thinly and lightly sauteed
Bean sprouts, or other sprouts
Cilantro - optional
Thai basil - optional
Rice paper / spring roll wrappers
1/4 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tsp. soy sauce, or gluten-free tamari
1-2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. sriracha, to taste*
3-5 TBSP water or coconut milk, to taste
Fresh chopped cilantro or green onions - optional
*to make vegan, replace the sriracha with cayenne powder, or crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1. In a bowl, stir together all of the peanut sauce ingredients, adding the water or coconut milk at the end to thin the sauce to desired consistency. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking.
2. For the spring rolls, prep and slice all of the veggies and any other ingredients you plan to use for the filling Try to cut everything no longer than the length of a strip of bell pepper (a couple inches or so).
3. Fill a pie pan about a 1/4 inch deep with warm water, take one sheet of rice paper, and soak it in the water for 15-20 seconds, until pliable. Be careful not to soak too long, or it will tear too easily to handle. After one or two tries you'll get the hang of things.
4. Lay the soaked sheet of rice paper on a clean plate and begin laying out your ingredients near the end of the rice paper closest to you, right in the middle. Make a neat little mound with the ingredients, then fold the left side of the sheet over the top of your filling, then the right. The two sides should meet, or almost meet, in the center of your filling.
5. Beginning at the end closest to you, start rolling the rice paper around your ingredients, using your fingers to make a tight bundle. For a quick and easy video tutorial on rolling spring rolls, click here: How To Assemble a Spring Roll