Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lettuce Play

First of all, there’s a new blog you need to start reading. It’s Harry’s (my husband, in case you don’t know him). It’s not a food blog, but a super-cool astronomy and star-gazing blog. It’s called the Messier Pro (and if you know that Messier was French, you can see that he totally stole the title from The Messy Apron!). Anyway, it’s geared toward anyone who likes to look up at night with a goal of helping you get the most out of your telescope, pair of binoculars, or even your pair of eyes. Check it out here, or, I’ve added it to the Other Cool Stuff link list at the right. See you there!

Well, the lettuce is still looming large in quality and quantity in my refrigerator. In addition to the head of dark red leaf lettuce and the baby greens that we received in our CSA box last week, there was a very nice head of green butter lettuce. This stuff is perfect for wrapping around tasty cooked ground meats and flavorful condiments or vegetables. I think such lettuce wraps got a boost in popularity during the low-carb craze, since the lettuce acts as a small, practically calorie-free tortilla.

I’ve had a sort of flavor anticipation (like a craving only more sophisticated…or pretentious) of crunchy vegetables, diced and drowned in big, big flavors, like sour and spicy. I thought a lettuce wrap might just be a good way to turn this anticipation into reality (as well as use up some lettuce.)

This recipe has crunch and lots of Asian-inspired hot and sour flavor. It is very spicy thanks to the whole serrano chile pepper, and the juice of a whole lime brings on lots of sourness and acidity. I bumped up the sour even more with a secret ingredient: rhubarb, which is hard to distinguish from the celery as you’re crunching away, but provides another layer of depth to the sour flavors. Radishes and raw ginger and garlic just serve to make it even more bold, though still balanced. The ground pork makes this a main dish, but also tames the vegetables a bit. I just happened to have to pork in the freezer, but you could use ground turkey or chicken or crumbled tofu if you want, or just leave the protein out and serve the wraps as a side dish or appetizer.

I usually don’t test recipes extensively before posting them on The Messy Apron. That’s why it is a blog and not a cook book. As a result, I am guessing on the number of servings this recipe makes. I only had ½ pound of ground pork, but the veggies and sauce mixture that I put together was enough to serve with twice that amount. The ½ pound was enough to feed 4 people 2-3 lettuce wraps. I served these with a side of basmati rice flavored with ginger, garlic and green onions.

Hot and Sour Lettuce Wraps with Pork

juice of 1 medium lime
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 serrano chile pepper, stem removed, thinly sliced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup radish, diced
½ cup rhubarb, diced
½ cup green onion (scallion) finely chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 head butter lettuce, well washed and leaves separated
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

1. Combine lime juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and chile pepper slices in a medium bowl. Add the next 7 ingredients (through garlic) to the lime juice mixture.

2. Place pork, salt and pepper in a medium frying pan. Brown over medium heat until fully cooked. Drain and remove to a plate for serving.

3. To serve, spoon about 2 tablespoons pork into a lettuce leaf. Spoon about 2 to 3 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture over the pork. Sprinkle with peanuts. Wrap in the lettuce leaf.

Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish (makes about 16 lettuce wraps)

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