Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Asian-Style Lettuce Wraps

I did not set out to create a contest entry when I came up with this dish one Sunday a few weeks ago, however I am always on the look-out for an easy, healthy dish that also looks appealing, to post on my website when a particular dish turns out the way I'd hoped.  When I end up with a "success" I MUST take a picture of it before anyone else touches it (I keep my camera on the kitchen counter at all times for just such occasions).  A few days later, when my school (the Institute For Integrative Nutrition) announced a contest entitled, “What’s On Your Plate?” I knew I had to enter this one.  I was thrilled to be one of the contest winners!

As I have mentioned in my blogs, lately I’ve been really into creating meals that can fit onto one platter, made up of mostly raw, simple foods.  Many of these one-platter meals make great customizable wraps when served along side a platter of large-leaf greens.

I read a quote by a chef recently, “We eat first with our eyes.”  A big portion of the appeal of Asian food is its presentation:  the color & texture combinations - bright reds, oranges and deep purples… crisp and cold with soft and creamy.

This dish used the following raw vegetables:
Finely sliced
            Cucumbers (in julienned strips)
            Red peppers (also julienned)
            Purple cabbage
            Green onions
Finely shredded:
            Raw red beets
            Diakon radish (or white radish)
I “pickled” a turnip by thinly slicing it and allowing it to marinate for a few hours in Bragg’s Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar and a little bit of sea salt, in the refrigerator.  This gave the wraps a nice cold pickled accessory, kind of how pickled ginger compliments sushi.

I had some cold, left-over hulled barley (about 1 cup - you could use any cooked grain) that I turned into a mock chicken filling by dressing it with low-sodium tamari sauce (1 Tablespoon – can use soy sauce), the juice of one lime, brown rice syrup (about 1 Tablespoon), some fresh grated ginger (about 1 teaspoon) and some garlic-chili oil (to taste – we like spicy stuff).  This added a meaty texture to the wraps.

The sauce was made with tamari sauce, lime juice, fresh garlic (minced), garlic-chili oil, Chinese mustard and some sesame oil.  Toasted sesame seeds added a nice crunchy topping.

The wraps for this dish were romaine lettuce leaves, but any large-leaf greens would work.

While this seems to have many more ingredients than my usual recipes do, it was pretty much a case of me pulling out whatever I had in the refrigerator that seemed to make sense in this style of dish.  As long as you keep a variety of fresh vegetables on hand and a good selection of condiments, you can make dishes like this without much pre-planning.

These assemble-your-own dishes are especially great for people who are trying to cut down portion sizes, because the assembly during the meal forces you to slow down your eating quite a bit, giving your brain time to catch up with your stomach’s signals of satiety (it usually takes about 15 minutes for our brains to realize our stomach is actually full, and by that time, we’ve reached and often exceeded optimal capacity). 

I love playing with food, and many meals I make take less than 30 minutes to assemble.  Don’t feel like to have to stringently stick to any recipe.  Use your own creativity to create something simple, healthy and fun!

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