Sunday, April 24, 2011

An Appetizing Dinner

I love to make appetizers and small bites a complete meal. A few days ago I was craving PF Chang's chicken lettuce wraps and found many comparable recipes on line. But after perusing awhile, I opted for another approach that intrigued me. I combined a few different recipes I saw and came up with one of my own. And I must thank Kitchen M and Food and Wine for their inspiration. From their recipes I came up with Lemongrass Ginger Meatballs with Pickled Cucumbers in Bibb Lettuce Wraps. I loved Kitchen M's idea of using baking soda in the meatballs (no eggs or breadcrumbs) and Joyce (from Food and Wine) for serving her meatballs with Thai chili sauce and cucumber, wrapped neatly in Bibb lettuce leaves. From there I decided to pickle the cukes, add ginger to the meatballs and use ground beef instead of chicken or pork. Sometimes these brainstorms don't work, but this time- I believe it did.

Lemongrass Ginger Meatballs with Pickled Cucumbers in Bibb Lettuce Wraps

Pickled Cucumber and Onion

1 English cucumber

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 tsp salt

1-1/2 T sugar

1 T soy sauce

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Peel cucumber and remove seeds (I do this with a spoon). Cut into almost paper-thin slices. Slice onion into thin strips as well. Put slices into a bowl, add salt and toss. Set aside and make the vinaigrette. In a small jar, combine the rest of the ingredients and shake well to incorporate. Pour dressing over cucumber and onion mixture, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes (or until you're ready to serve the meatballs).


1 pound ground beef

1 T Gourmet Garden Lemongrass Herb Blend

1 T grated fresh ginger

1 T grated red onion (this was a tearful experience and I will chop my onion finely next time)

1 T fish sauce

1 T soy sauce

2 tsp grated garlic

2 tsp baking powder

2 pinches of salt and a few grates of freshly ground black pepper

12 Bibb lettuce leaves

Sweet Red Chili Sauce (I use A Taste of Thai brand)

Pre heat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl combine all ingredients except the beef, lettuce leaves and chili sauce. When you hear and see the baking powder reacting with the liquids add the ground beef and mix with your hands until all ingredients are combined. Form into 12 1-1/2 inch balls and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake on middle rack for 22 minutes. To each of 12 lettuce leaves, place a meatball and drizzle with chili sauce.

Add a tablespoon or two of cucumber mixture, fold lettuce, pick up the bundle and eat with your hands. Or use a knife and fork because it is kind of messy.

If you're serving this as an appetizer or at a cocktail party, I'd recommend 2 per person. If you're making a meal of this, well... I ate 3 and could have gone for another.

Afterthoughts: This was a very tasty meal. Did you notice I didn't put a spicy (hot) ingredient in either the meatballs or the pickles? I purposefully didn't because I wanted the lemongrass and ginger to stand out, and they did. And I wasn't sure if the pickles could take any heat. But I must admit, I missed the spicy bite I'm used to getting in an Asian lettuce wrap, and will have to figure out a way to please myself and some of my friends who have less tolerance for heat than I do. I'll be working on that and will keep you posted. I also think the next time I make this I'll sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top of the meatballs for some more texture and visual excitement.

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