Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce

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Beautiful plates of food. Gorgeous posts on instagram. Delicious restaurant meals. Inspirational healthy recipes. You’re motivated; you want to cook, and you’re ready to embark on a journey into the culinary world, and then you open the fridge, and you’re missing the key ingredient.

The eggs. The cilantro. The canned tomatoes. The jalapeno. Suddenly your epicurean aspirations fall apart, and you’re back on the couch with a takeout menu in hand. I get it.

Yes, it is difficult getting started cooking. You have to have the recipe laid out; every ingredient has to be present; you have to make sure all your equipment is up to par. It might seem like missing one thing is the end of the world when you’ve got one thing in mind, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from cooking (and the TV show Chopped) is improvisation!

For example, today I was so ready to make spring rolls. I had my carrots and jicama sautéed, my vietnamese ham all fried up, sauce ready, herbs washed, and then I realized: I was out of rice paper. Duh! Luckily iceberg lettuce came to my rescue and I made lettuce wraps instead. In the future I think I’ll use this as a lazy spring roll version (as opposed to salad-ifying spring rolls) if I’m in the mood to dip.

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If you’ve never heard of vietnamese ham (or vietnamese baloney), called Cha Lua in Vietnamese, do not be put off by the name! It’s such a sad english translation. It’s basically like a huge cylindrical steamed meatball, like the kind you’d find in asian soups, but wrapped in banana leaf. It’s often available at Vietnamese sandwich shops and grocery stores. Try it in a Vietnamese sandwich first (Banh Mi Cha Lua) and once you’re hooked, you can buy the full ham to slice at home!

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Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce

  • 1 jicama, julienned
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled & julienned OR 1 bag shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fried shallots
  • fish sauce & pepper to taste
  • 1 roll vietnamese ham, julienned
  • 1 cup fresh mint, washed
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, washed
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup plum sauce
  • 1 tsp sriracha

Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet and add the fried shallots over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the julienned jicama, stir. Let cook down a bit, for about 2 minutes, before adding the carrots. Stir fry all together until the carrots and jicama are softened and the jicama is slightly translucent. Season the jicama-carrot mixture with pepper and fish sauce to taste. Set vegetables aside.

In the same skillet, toss julienned vietnamese ham and let brown, stirring every minute or so until the small bits are crispy. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix hoisin, plum sauce, and sriracha. Thin out a bit with some water if your plum sauce is too thick.

On a cutting board, slice the iceberg lettuce in half down the stem. Carefully remove the leaves so they do not lose shape.

Layer a leaf with jicama carrot mixture, then vietnamese ham, then the mint leaves. Continue making lettuce “rolls” until all ingredients are finished. Enjoy by dipping the rolls in the hoisin-plum sauce.

Revamp the Classics: Peanut Butter & Jelly with an Asian Twist

As part of theKitchn‘s cooking cure, I’ve been trying a load of new recipes for lunch. One idea that I will definitely be adding to my regular lunch rotations is an amazing spin on an old childhood classic: Peanut butter and Jelly! 

Instead of the sweet route, this sandwich goes savory & southeast asian, with crunchy peanut butter, chili jelly, a drizzle of sriracha, and some fresh herbs on top. To lighten it up, I’ve decided to go open faced. Plus, the sandwich is SO much prettier that way!

Feel free to use any peanut butter/bread/jam you have on hand. I’ll go ahead and give you the recipe for what I used, though. Image

Open-Faced Peanut Butter + Chilli Jelly

  • 1 slice of seeded whole wheat bread (any will work, preferably not a very sweet loaf)
  • 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter (I used Jif)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet chilli jelly or orange marmalade (I have used both and they are equally delicious)
  • 1 drizzle of sriracha
  • A handful of cilantro, mint, torn into small pieces

Layer peanut butter, then jelly/marmalade, then sriracha, then cilantro/mint. Enjoy! 

Simple Tabouli

tabboulicloseupParsley can be so under appreciated. I used to think it had no flavor – it was just a garnish to add color to a dish. Little did I know, parsley is an herb with some real attitude!

The first time I really had parsley, and tasted it, I realized that it was often what was missing in my cooking. It has an earthy, fresh, slightly bitter (but good bitter!) flavor, that’s perfect for completing a dish with all of the five flavors (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami).

So don’t forget the parsley next time you’re cooking! Think shrimp scampi, swedish meatballs, steak and a parsley chimichurri, chicken soup with parsley, or, the recipe that I’m going to present with you today, tabouli! 

Tabouli (tabbouleh, tabbouli), a mixture of bulgur wheat, parsley, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, and chopped tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, is a dish from Levantine cuisine (eastern mediterranean). It’s typically served as a meze, or small plate, alongside  other dishes. I love the way that it marinates well, so leftovers are still good the next day!

tabboulioverheadBasic Tabouli

Adapted from the Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups of boiling water
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 finely minced tomatoes (use nice, firm tomatoes; no watery heirlooms!)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-3 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper

Put bulgur in a medium bowl with 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water, cover, and let sit 20 minutes. Drain if necessary after the 20 minutes.

Add the chopped herbs and vegetables to the bowl of bulgur. Drizzle olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper over the mixture. Toss well, cover, and chill in the fridge. Enjoy!

Note: Feel free to be more adventurous with your tabouli! Use quinoa if you’re gluten free, use less mint and more parsley if you don’t like mint, break out that balsamic vinegar! Also, feel free to add in cucumbers if you have any on hand.
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