Monday, November 30, 2009

It's a Wrap

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. I had a fabulous time in LA with Lori. The weather was great, our feast was delicious (we both cooked) and our reunion- the best one yet. It seems that Lori and I have created a ritual for my visits out West which includes a stop the Cheesecake Factory (any location) for pot stickers and grilled chicken lettuce wraps. I just love these two dishes and can't imagine going there and not ordering them. At home on Sunday when I was making my shopping list and apparently reflecting on my meal at the Factory, I decided I'd look in the market for ingredients to create my own lettuce wraps to bring to work for lunch on Monday or Tuesday. I based this recipe on my Asian Green Bean Salad but omitted the green beans and added a few other choice ingredients. This is a pasta-based salad, so if you're watching your weight the bean sprouts in it are a great foil. Plus, they add a nice crunch. Also- the pasta I use is Dreamfields, which claims to be only 5 carbs a serving. One more tip- if you tend to be lazy (like I often am) please take the time to toast the almonds. It takes five minutes and you barely even mess up a pan. This is a vegetarian salad but feel free to add shrimp or chicken, or if it's not too late- some leftover turkey.

Noodle Lettuce Wraps

1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds, toasted (I toast them on my stove top in a dry skillet over medium heat)
3 oz uncooked linguini snapped in half
6 oz fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup frozen petite peas, defrosted
1/2 cup (or more) thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup (1/2 inch) cut scallions
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1 head of Bibb lettuce, washed and leaves separated

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
2 T dark sesame oil
1 T grated peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
1 tsp Sambal Oelek-this is ground fresh chili paste found in the Asian section of the International aisle of your supermarket

To prepare salad, toast almonds and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water. Place cooled pasta in large bowl and stir in bean sprouts, peas, celery, scallions and cilantro.

To prepare dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar. Shake vigorously until blended. Add about 1/2 of mixture to salad and toss well. Cover and chill.

At serving time, place appropriate amount of noodle mixture on individual lettuce leaves and top with chopped egg and toasted almonds. Add more dressing if necessary.

Re-Mix: My favorite way to change this recipe is with the dressing. To the original dressing, add 1-2 teaspoons of creamy peanut butter and shake or stir until incorporated. Taste it to see if it's "peanutty" enough and add more if necessary. If you go this route, serve the wraps with chopped peanuts instead of slivered almonds and eliminate the peas. One more thing- this dressing (with or without peanut butter) has a refrigerator life of about a week, but once you add it to the salad, it's good for about 3 days. Now let's change the vegetables. Anything goes, but my favorite combo is red pepper, corn, cilantro and scallions. It not only looks robust, it tastes fresh and healthy as well.

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