Some of you know from my past posts and Facebook musings that this is the first year I’m attempting a real, in-the-ground, chicken-wire encased vegetable and herb garden. I’ve done herbs before, in window box type things, but nothing like this.
And it’s growing. And I have not killed anything yet.
And now it’s bearing actual vegetables. What.
Now, I’ve used my own herbs in recipes before, but this is entirely different. I mean, I have things I can snack on when I’m just hanging out in the yard, people. I feel so good about that. It’s inspiring to know you had some part in giving birth to food, and it’s what originally inspired this series. So here’s to you, vegetables and other stuff in my garden; I hope to see more of you soon. In the meantime, I give you these lettuce wraps. I went cookbook-diving when I realized my star ingredient chose me this week instead of the other way around, and two books in, I found what I was looking for; happy, summery little lettuce wraps starring a few of my favorite ingredients.
Like shiitakes, which I love not only for the double “i” in their name, but also because to me, shiitakes always look like they’re dancing. Button mushrooms look like fat little army men; oyster mushrooms remind me of abyssal sea creatures. But shiitakes always look like they’re spinning around in the grass, arms outstretched.
These wraps have everything; lots of fresh herby flavor from the mint and cilantro (a surprisingly nice combination I would have never thought of), and a nice balance of textures between the crisp green beans and the soft mushrooms and tofu. It packs a decent amount of heat from the crushed red pepper, so do be careful with that; I’m not sensitive to heat in general, but you could easily overwhelm someone (and the ingredients) if you add extra red pepper. I lessened it from 3/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon, and it was still spicy. If you want to add more, do so, but I would be conservative about it.
What you see there is most of the work; it’s not labor intensive, and it involves a quick whisk of a sauce, some rough chopping, and a little bit of saute work. The original recipe called for a dice of the tofu and then added it to the other ingredients as/is; I prefer a little warming on my tofu, so after I finished sauteing the mushrooms, I added a bit more oil and soy and heated up the tofu a little. I think it makes a difference.
This recipe would be just as delicious if you substituted chicken or turkey in for the tofu, and I imagine if you know how to choose and properly cook a steak (I don’t, but someday I’ll work on that), it would make a great dinner option. As always, design this to your taste specifications; I chopped everything you see above, and then added it by handfuls, tasting as I went along. Consider my ingredient measurements guidelines for the quantity you’ll most likely want to have on hand.
In other news, I love you people. Thank you so much for really getting into the farmers’ market series I’m doing here. It’s been a blast for me to read your comments here and over on the Facebook page, and to talk about what’s showing up at your own farmers’ markets and what you’re growing in your own gardens. You’ve been so inspiring, and you’re all so dang interesting, and every week I look forward to seeing what I can come up with for you. So, thanks for hanging out, and chatting every so often. I love you like I love cake. And fresh vegetables, because I love those quite a bit also.
Adapted from what is most likely my all-time favorite “go to” book, Food & Wine’s Annual Cookbook 2006: An Entire Year of Recipes by the editors of Food & Wine Magazine.
Thai-style Green Bean, Tofu + Shiitake Lettuce Wraps
- 12 ounces extra firm tofu, halved crosswise
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
- 4 tablespoons soy sauce (I used the lite kind, but you can use whichever), divided
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 3 garlic cloves, each chopped in 3-4 pieces*
- 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped roughly to about 1/2 inch lengths (and you can do them on the diagonal if you want to be fancy about it. I wanted to eat lunch, so.)
- 3 scallions, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint
- 1-2 heads Boston lettuce leaves, washed, dried, and kept whole (for serving)
*note: I can’t stand scorched garlic. I fear it. It ruins things in one fell swoop, and garlic burns quickly and without much warning. Because of this, I altered this recipe to add garlic flavor without worry of burning. I throw the garlic into then pan, then remove them once fragrant; if you’re not worried about burned garlic or are a garlic professional of some sort, the original recipe calls for the garlic to be very finely chopped, added, and then kept in while warming the shiitakes.
Prepare your filling:
Arrange the tofu halves in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, then place another baking sheet on top of the tofu. Se 2 large, heavy cans on top and press the tofu for 30 minutes. Drain the tofu and cut it into a 1/2 inch dice.
In a small bowl, stir the lime juice with the fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, the sugar, and the crushed red pepper. Set aside.
In a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the garlic over moderately high heat and stir around until the garlic becomes fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. Remove garlic and discard (or, for more garlic kick, mince it up at this point and throw it in your sauce.) Add the shiitakes and cook, stirring, until they are softened, 1 minute. Add 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce and cook over moderate heat until the shiitakes are tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl.
Keep the skillet at moderately high heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce. and wait a few seconds until warmed. Add tofu, tossing around gently until warmed through, about 5 minutes.
note: just so you know, I am no tofu expert. I know some of you are, so if you have your own way of doing tofu, it’s most assuredly better than my way. Please warm/cook your tofu as you like it best.
Assemble the wraps:
Throw the tofu, green beans, scallions, cilantro, and mint into the large bowl your shiitakes are sitting in. Toss gently together, then add your dressing over top and toss again to coat. Spread the desired amount of lettuce leaves onto 4 plates, then spoon salad either onto or next to the leaves and serve.
serving note: for a light lunch or appetizer, this would serve 4 people nicely. If this was for lunch or dinner, I’d say this would serve 2 people.