Roll your way through summer with this cool, no-cook supper

My kitchen overflows with vibrant summer produce, and I am too hot to cook. I’m too hot to eat. In fact, I’m too hot to do anything more than hold my wine slushie against my brow and dream of February. But around 6 p.m., my family starts poking around the kitchen in search of sustenance. Since these are the same people who heap wet swim towels adjacent to empty laundry baskets, I’m not inclined to jump up and put on a full spread. Instead I wave them toward the ingredients for my Citrusy Summer Rolls, which is a gluten-free, no-cook meal that even towel-droppers can make. If you think my recipe requires too much chopping for your current languid situation, skip to the last paragraph where I tell you how to cheat.

Summer rolls are mostly raw, unlike their fried spring roll cousins. Don’t be intimidated by the long-ish recipe. Simply cut up a bunch of fresh seasonal vegetables, toss in some shrimp, chicken or tofu, and gift-wrap the whole shebang in chewy rice paper wrappers. Any veggies will work, although I give preference to those that play well with fresh lime juice, like carrots and seedless cucumber. And I like to bundle my chopped veggies in lettuce leaves, which keeps the firmer vegetables from poking through the delicate rice paper wrapper. Slacker tip: taste your cucumber before peeling it. If the skin isn’t bitter, you can leave it on. If the skin IS bitter, well, you’ll probably spend more time looking for the peeler than actually doing the peeling. Cooking is frustrating that way.

The rice paper wrapper is the only part of the recipe that doesn’t allow for winging it. You actually have to purchase wrappers that say bánh tráng, spring roll, or rice paper on the package. Wonton wrappers are too small. Egg roll wrappers are too thick. My regular market sells rice paper wrappers in the Asian food aisle, but if yours doesn’t, a field trip to an Asian market is a worthwhile, air-conditioned outing.

In their packaging, spring roll wrappers look like large translucent Frisbees. After all of your vegetables are chopped as small as they can be practically chopped, dip a single disk into a dish of hot-ish water for 15 seconds and watch it transform into a soft, slightly sticky wrapper. (Better yet, give everyone individual dishes of water so they can make their own dinner while you search the back of your freezer for rosé popsicles.) Remove the floppy wrapper from the water and place it flat on a work surface. Pile the veggies and protein on the bottom third of the wrapper. Then fold the wrapper like a burrito: gently lift the bottom of the wrapper up and over the vegetables. Tuck the sides in, and continue rolling from the bottom up. The rolls stay sealed on their own because rice starch is magic.

Now, if you’re in a pickle and need to get dinner on the table in 10 minutes or less, skip the chopping and use a bag of prepared coleslaw mix or containers of store-chopped veggies from the produce department. Really, really in a pickle? Skip the whole rice paper adventure and leave your veggies bundled in lettuce alone. Re-brand them as lettuce wraps and call it a day. You can also skip my dipping sauce recipe and crack open a jar of sweet red chili sauce from the market, but as your healthy cooking columnist I’m obligated to remind you that the jarred stuff has more sugar, calories and preservatives than homemade. Even if you’re cheating, give yourself a slow, low-exertion pat on the back for skipping the drive thru and getting a fresh, veggie-packed meal on the table.

Citrusy Summer Rolls

1 medium (6 ounce) seedless cucumber

2 medium (approx. 5 ounces) carrots

4 ounces red or daikon radish

1 cup chopped green cabbage

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/8 teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice from one lime

8 leaves of bib or butter lettuce

8 bánh tráng (large rice paper wrappers), plus extra for practice

16 cooked medium shrimp, shells and tails removed

3 cups warm (105 degrees) water

Cut the cucumber, carrots and radishes into matchsticks. Place them in a non-reactive bowl with the cabbage, cilantro, mint and salt. Toss with the lime juice and set aside while you prepare dipping sauce.

Divide the cucumber mix among the lettuce leaves. Submerge a rice paper wrapper in the warm water for 15 seconds or until it is soft and pliable. Lay the wrapper flat on your work surface. Place two shrimp and a filled lettuce leaf across the bottom third of it. Roll the wrapper up from the bottom, pausing to fold the left and right sides toward the center. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Serve chilled with dipping sauce. Makes 8 rolls.

Hot Honey Dipping Sauce

6 tablespoons rice vinegar

¼ cup honey

2 tablespoons sesame or grapeseed oil

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce

Mix all ingredients well. Makes 10 servings.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Austin360 Eats

Louisiana veteran entertains motorists with saxophone
Louisiana veteran entertains motorists with saxophone

A Vietnam War veteran has become a fixture for music lovers in his Louisiana town. Donald Givens plays saxophone for several hours daily in his gazebo at his Monroe residence. His yard is located near the corner of two overpasses and commuters can listen to his daily jam sessions, the News-Star reported. Strangers pull up to his home and ask Givens...
Stolen Van Halen guitar returned to Hard Rock Cafe in Texas
Stolen Van Halen guitar returned to Hard Rock Cafe in Texas

A guitar owned by rock ’n’ roll legend Eddie Van Halen worth more than $100,000 was recovered Friday, hours after it was stolen from a Hard Rock Cafe in San Antonio, Texas, KSAT reported. The guitar, nicknamed “Frankenstrat,” had been reported stolen around 1 a.m. Friday. It was returned later in the day, but it is unclear how...
What to play during Thanksgiving? Here’s our Austin-centric playlist
What to play during Thanksgiving? Here’s our Austin-centric playlist

Christmas songs will soon be spinning nonstop, but before we get there, how about a Thanksgiving playlist that Austinites will love? I asked friends on social media for ideas, and they suggested more than two dozen songs with Austin ties, or at the very least a Thanksgiving vibe that Austin music lovers will enjoy. You can find these songs all together...
Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin-spiced French toast in a slow cooker
Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin-spiced French toast in a slow cooker

Cooking breakfast for guests who are staying in your house can be a tricky affair. When you’re busy trying to make sure their stay is enjoyable, deciding which meals to make can be one of the more challenging pieces of the puzzle. This week would be a good time to pull out those egg casseroles you might make at Easter or Christmas. But if you&rsquo...
The ultimate guide to a budget-friendly Thanksgiving dinner
The ultimate guide to a budget-friendly Thanksgiving dinner

Does Thanksgiving make your mouth water, dreaming of your favorite pumpkin or sweet potato pie recipes? Are you ready to pull out your crowd-pleasing stuffing recipe or are you a cautious cook easing into the kitchen for the first time?  No matter what your culinary skill level, it's easy to make a delicious Thanksgiving meal on a budget. Just...
More Stories