Rush Hour

When the weather starts to get warmer, we often get the urge to make lighter meals and look for ingredients that speak of spring and the summer yet to come. However, since there's still that unmistakable chill in the air, it might not be time for salads brimming with cucumbers and summer tomatoes.

That's where lettuce wraps come in.

Good quality Boston lettuce is readily available year round, as are the other fresh ingredients in this simple dish. While I've been known to serve it in the middle of winter as well as the blazing days of summer, I think it's best suited to the first tentative days of spring ... when a blending of fiery Asian sauces and crisp, yet tender vegetables makes us appreciate the best of both the passing winter and the approaching spring.

The filling mixture for these wraps can be made up to three days in advance and simply warmed when you're ready to eat. The lettuce is best washed and spun shortly before you're ready to serve the meal. While this is a bit of a messy meal, it's truly a delightful combination that is a simple meal in itself. Just add a beverage of your choice ... green tea would be a nice compliment.

As always, I encourage you to share your recipe ideas and comments. You can always post comments in the discussion board using the forms provided in the articles or email me directly at . Enjoy!

Asian Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 1 c. vegetarian crumbles -- or any variety of ground beef substitute that you prefer
  • 2/3 c. grated jimica
  • 2/3 c. grated carrot
  • 1/4 c. hoisin sauce
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 T. chili-garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Washed and dried Boston lettuce leaves -- a salad spinner works great for this

Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the diced shallot and sauté until softened, but not browned. Add the vegetarian crumbles, grated jimica and grated carrot and sauté until the vegetables are crisp-tender.

Mix the hoisin sauce, tomato paste and chili-garlic sauce in a small bowl and add to the hot mixture. Turn off the heat and add the sesame seeds and scallions and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the clean lettuce leaves and wrap up, burrito-style, to serve.

  • Yields: 2-3 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes