Summer rolls keep it light — and fresh — on a warm-weather dinner table

Summer rolls keep it light — and fresh — on a warm-weather dinner table

By Gretchen McKay, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

If the past few weeks have taught us anything, it’s that the best meals in the dog days of summer come together quickly, without heating up the kitchen.

Summer rolls are a terrific option for warm-weather cooking and dining, as they’re made from rice paper wrappers rolled around cold proteins — shrimp, pork or tofu — plus fresh herbs and a colorful array of crunchy vegetables. Add some chewy rice, cellophane noodles, soft lettuce leaves or baby spinach for extra heft, and don’t be afraid to get creative with the dipping sauces.

The basics: Preparation is essential. You’ll want to have everything gathered, prepped and ready to go, before you start rolling. Cut your vegetables into thin slices, matchsticks or a fine dice. If the recipe includes rice noodles, make sure they’ve been properly soaked and drained. Separate herbs and lettuce into individual leaves or small, bite-sized pieces.

Ready to roll: Fill a pie pan or large, shallow bowl with warm water. Have a serving platter or parchment-covered tray at the ready for the finished rolls. Briefly submerge a rice paper wrapper in warm water until it’s pliable but not fully softened on both sides — it should take about 10 seconds. Rice paper wrappings get very sticky very quickly, so you want to work fast. Slide the wrapper out of the bowl, shake off any excess water and place it onto a flat work surface.

Center the filling in the bottom third of the rice paper, adding the prettiest ingredients last, so they’ll show through the wrapper. Bring the lower edge up over the filling, fold in the two side flaps and then roll the entire thing up as tightly as you can, like a burrito. Don’t over stuff or the roll may burst!

Transfer the roll to the platter and cover with a damp paper towel to keep it from drying out. Repeat with remaining ingredients, being sure to leave a little space between each roll on the plate to keep them from sticking together.

Grilled Shrimp Summer Rolls

Makes 8 rolls


1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sesame seeds

1 teaspoon minced scallion

2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil


24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), shelled, deveined, tails removed

1 tablespoon olive oil

Juice and zest of 1 lime

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 8½-inch round rice paper wrappers

6 ounces rice or vermicelli noodles softened in hot water and drained

1 seedless cucumber, julienned

1 medium carrot, julienned or shredded

1 small daikon radish, julienned

1/2 cup cilantro leaves

1/2 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup mint leaves


Make sauce: Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl until well combined.

For the rolls: Drizzle shrimp with olive oil, lime juice and lime zest. Season with salt and pepper.

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Heat grill to medium heat and brush with oil or cooking spray. (Or use a cast-iron grill pan over a gas burner.) Skewer shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Let cool.

Remove shrimp from skewers and slice in half from head to tail.

Fill a large bowl with warm water, submerge rice paper wrapper until softened, 5 to 10 seconds. Set wrapper on a clean, flat surface and blot dry.

Place some vermicelli noodles on the bottom third of the wrapper and top with shrimp, vegetables and herbs. Roll up burrito style, tucking in ends as you go.

To serve, cut rolls in half or in thirds, and serve at room temperature with prepared dipping sauce.

— Gretchen McKay, Post-Gazette

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