Lettuce is one of those oft neglected veggies. I fall into the trap of thinking that lettuce is meant for sandwiches and salads alone. Never mind the fact that I’ve made it into Caesar Soup, which is at the other end of the spectrum for sure. You know, I think that soup would taste great with a sandwich. Double whammy on the lettuce.
But, if we can get away from tradition, here’s another way to use lettuce. As a wrap. Ok, I know, it’s been done before. In fact, one of our favorite Asian restaurants has the most amazing lettuce wraps. I hadn’t ever tried a lettuce wrap until we tasted them. They were a bit of the inspiration for this recipe. However, the main inspiration was that I need to be more creative with lettuce.
We normally have red leaf lettuce on hand. It’s a bit more delicate, so I thought that it might be best to double up on the layers. In the end, doubling up was fine, but they were messy no matter what (and I think they’d be messy no matter the variety of lettuce used). So, fair warning: be ready to eat with your hands, and have a big napkin ready to catch falling food and wipe sticky fingers. 😉
Here’s where things get so simple. This is a quick and easy meal. Perfect for a working lunch break on a busy day, as an appetizer before dinner, as a mid-day snack… Whenever you eat them, they’re a cinch.
I used eggplant, tofu, hot pepper, and onion. But, you could also add: mushrooms, bell pepper, summer squash, and julienned carrots. They’d be fabulous! I wanted to include some fresh herbs, so I used Thai basil and mint. The mint can be added to suit your tastes and what you have on hand. I have some in my garden, which is just outside the door, so I didn’t want to miss out on the freshness that mint adds to a dish.
I cooked everything in some coconut oil, because coconut lends well to Asian flavors. The chiles added a hint of heat, the tofu got a bit crispy, and the veggies softened and browned just a bit.
Each wrap was topped with some diced cucumbers for a bit of cool crunch, then I added a splash of rice vinegar and a few flakes of sea salt. I find that a variety of textures is important in wraps, so the cucumber met that need. And the salt and vinegar both help to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients.
I decided to go vegan today and didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything. But, if you wanted to add meat, some beef, chicken, or pork would be great. However you decide to cook it up, it might pair nicely with a Sweet and Spicy Lemongrass Stir Fry… maybe for dinner tonight?!
- 1 small to medium eggplant, peeled and chopped
- 2 T coconut oil (or olive or canola)
- 1 C tofu, excess water squeezed out, chopped
- 1 chile pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced
- 1/2 C onion or shallot, chopped
- could also add: mushrooms, bell pepper, summer squash, and julienned carrots
- to taste salt
- big pinch ginger
- 1 clove garlic, diced
- 1 1/2 T soy sauce or liquid aminos
- 1 T mint, chopped
- 1 T Thai basil, chopped
- 1-2 lettuce leaves per serving (1 if sturdy, 2 if more flimsy)
- 1/2 C cucumber, diced, for serving
- rice vinegar, for serving
- pinch salt, for serving
- Peel and slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Set aside for 15 to 30 minutes to draw out some of the moisture. Rinse and pat dry. Chop as directed.
- Heat a skillet over medium or medium-high heat. Add oil. When oil is hot, add eggplant, tofu, chile, onion/shallot, and salt. Cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring often. Add ginger, garlic, and soy sauce/liquid aminos and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and toss with herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
- Take 1-2 lettuce leaves (layering 2 if desired) and lay them flat. Spoon tofu mixture in the center. Top with cucumber, a splash of vinegar, and a pinch of salt. Roll up and serve immediately.