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Thanks to my local farmer’s market I have become more aware of the seasons. Moving beyond the knowledge that daffodils open in the spring and trees drop their leaves in autumn, my awareness has expanded to which herbs and vegetables are available locally during the first of the three growing seasons we have here in the Northwest.

Locally grown asparagus

Last Saturday the tables at the Capitol City Farmer’s Market in downtown Boise were brimming with lush heads of leaf lettuce in contrasting shades of vibrant green and deep purple, trays of shallow water holding upright bundles of asparagus, and colorful clusters of bright red radishes.

I brought home one of those bundles of ripe asparagus. The stuff grows like a weed in this area and I have been told by more than one local that before the construction boom two decades ago, the plant used to thrive in springtime along the many open ditch banks around town. Anyone with a sharp eye and a sharp knife could cut stalks for free and have them with dinner. I incorporated the bundle I bought at the farmer’s market into spring rolls stuffed with smoked trout, mint and basil. They are especially tasty dipped into a Thai vinaigrette made with salty fish sauce, minced jalapeno, and tart lime juice sweetened with a little sugar.

Asparagus and Salmon Spring Rolls

From Eating Well magazine, March/April 2011, p. 71

Asparagus and salmon spring rolls

Makes 12 rolls

24 thick or 36 thin asparagus spears (about 2 pounds)

2  3- to 4-ounce packages smoked wild salmon

12  8-inch rice-paper wrappers

1 ripe avocado, cut into 24 slices

1 cup shredded carrot

½ cup chopped fresh basil

½ cup chopped fresh mint

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large skillet. Trim asparagus spears no longer than 6 inches; add to the boiling water. Partially cover and cook the asparagus until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain; refresh under cold water. Cut each spear in half lengthwise. Cut salmon slices into 12 strips no longer than 6 inches each.

Soak one wrapper at a time in a shallow dish of very hot water until softened, about 30 seconds. Lift out, let excess water drip off and lay on a clean, dry cutting board.

Center a strip of smoked salmon in the bottom third of the wrapper, leaving a 1-inch border on either side. Arrange 4 thick (or 6 thin) asparagus halves (overlapping as necessary) over the salmon. Top the asparagus spear halves with 2 avocado slices, 1 tablespoon carrot, and about 2 teaspoons each basil and mint. Fold the wrapper over the filling and roll into a tight cylinder, folding in the sides as you go. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. Cut each finished roll in half.

Thai Vinaigrette

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking, p. 93

Makes about ¾ cup

6 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

6 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons sugar

2-3 teaspoons minced fresh hot chiles with seeds [I use jalapenos]

In a small bowl, stir together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chiles until blended. Serve alongside spring rolls.

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