Can you smell that?

Because I can! This morning I was elated to find that my sense of smell had returned (take that head cold - ha!) and deemed today was the day to turn on the lights of Small Boston Kitchen once again and get cracking on some new recipes. In between a busy day at work I was focused on where this evenings culinary adventures would take me. Fresh off of not eating a lot with much flavor (the loss of smell and taste is so handicapping to a food nerd like me!) I wanted something vibrant and flavorful. A nice "welcome back" to eating real food again, if you will.
In my mind I created a recipe for these Asian lettuce wraps. They were to be perfect. Bright and cheery in color, bold in flavor from sweet Hoisin sauce, tangy from limes, and spicy from crushed red pepper. Stopping off at Trader Joe's on my way home from work, (that place is a mad house right after work. Every cook for themselves!) I was just about done when I realized two key ingredients were not available to me: Bibb lettuce (you know, the large beautiful leafy green that conveniently folds your lettuce wrap "stuffing" in place) and water chestnuts. Water chestnuts were going to be my surprise! That unmistakable crunch. Alas, it appeared cashews would have to hold their own in the crunch department and some Artisan (their word, not mine) lettuce would have to suffice for wrapping.

All in all, I was really satisfied the turnout, despite not having a couple of key ingredients on hand. But that's the thing with cooking. It's not supposed to be perfect and what you have in mind when you start out may be nothing like what you end up with. You have to improvise, go with your gut (pun totally intended) and tweak it until you get it just right.

Isn't cooking just the best?

Lettuce Wraps
- Lettuce (preferably Bibb lettuce)
- 1 roasted red pepper, diced (I prefer to roast my own but jarred ones work well here too)
- 1 carton of shiitake mushrooms
- 1 large carrot, thinly shredded
- A couple handfuls of frozen corn
- A handful of cashews
- A handful of sliced Mandarin oranges
- Thinly sliced green onions
- Some extra virgin olive oil to fry up the mushrooms
For the sauce:
- 4 heaping tablespoons of Hoisin sauce (found in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
- The juice from 1/2 a lime
- A pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- A small handful (2 tbs or so) of fresh cilantro, chopped
- A couple pinches of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
In a small pan, heat some oil and then add the mushrooms and fry them until they brown. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce and whisk together until well Incorporated. Set aside. In a frying pan, add the carrots, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and corn. Fry on medium heat for a minute or two just to soften the vegetables a little. Add the sauce to the vegetables and stir to coat them evenly. Add the cashews and mandarin oranges. Cook everything on medium heat just until it heats through. You don't want to cook it too long because then the vegetables will loose all of their crunch and the variety of textures is really what give this dish a pleasant surprise.

Wash lettuce and pat dry, removing as much water as possible. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the center and top with green onions. Wrap the lettuce around the vegetables and serve immediately.
*This would also be great with ground chicken or pork or you could add a cup of cooked rice to the vegetables just before serving them into the lettuce cups.

As a side note and a quick shout out, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BABY SISTER, BETH! Welcome to the next quarter of your life kiddo...it's gonna be good!

1 comment:

Beth said...

Hey!! Thanks for the shout out. I wish I could have had your lettuce wraps last night. You better make that when I come to visit. :)

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