first post at Eat Well, Eat Cheap extolled the pleasures of dining at home on a Friday night. But by dinnertime last night, we were both fried and a bit cranky—Tim from a week of relentless meetings, Ruth from a massive case of poison ivy. We debated whether to go out for a quick, cheap dinner—there's a good Vietnamese place about a mile away—but decided we were too fried and cranky even for that. We also lacked the energy to go grocery shopping for something grillable.
Grudgingly, we decided to pull a meal together from what we had on hand.
Mint had recently popped up in the herb bed, with a vengeance. We also had spring roll wrappers, rice noodles, cilantro, and fake-chicken strips from Trader Joe's. With a grumpy sigh, we supposed we could make our own version of summer rolls. It would be easy, at least, and allow us to quickly dispense with the problem of dinner.
So we boiled water for the noodles and sautéed the fake-chicken strips. (Normally, we would use tofu and shrimp, but we didn't have any.) We washed big lettuce leaves from the garden and tore up the mint and cilantro. We made a dipping sauce from crunchy peanut butter, hoisin sauce, soy sauce, and sriracha.
We shared a little Simonassi while we soaked, stuffed, and rolled up the rice paper sheets. (After much trial and error, we've finally figured out how to handle these brittle rice sheets: dip them in warm water and let them rest on a dish towel for about 30 seconds.) A thunderstorm had left the air heavy and wet, and the damp floor tiles in the kitchen reminded us of the hotels we'd stayed in in Mexico. Etta James sang on the radio. The dogs lounged on the sofa, happy to have us home with them.
We worked side by side, Ruth laying down the filling, Tim rolling up the rice sheets. One after another, our ad hoc summer rolls filled up the platter. Sam Cooke began to sing "You Send Me."
And suddenly we realized that we were having a great Friday night.