I can’t honestly remember eating as much lettuce, especially in the form of lettuce wraps, as I have in the past few weeks. Lettuce has stood in as sandwich bread (with sliced turkey and grainy mustard in a hurriedly-put-together lunch), as a hamburger bun (for a pre-theatre chicken burger at a close by restaurant), and as tortillas (in the fish tacos). And that’s only 3 examples. I have many more.
It’s funny that I never really thought about the prevalence of grains in my own diet much before I started this challenge. Bread was always just, well, normal to have around, and I ate it pretty much every day without trying too hard.
It was always easy to make something as long as there was bread, or tortillas, in the house. One of my go-to dinners, when I lived on my own and wanted something simple, was cheese quesadillas. For the past few years I’ve enjoyed assemble-your-own dinners, like grilled lamb or chicken, in a Greek-themed marinade (usually lemon, garlic, olive oil and some chopped oregano), with some tomatoes, cucumber and feta, along with tsatziki and hummus, all in a pita wrap.
I can’t say that lettuce is as satisfying to me the same way that tortillas or pita bread are. It’s certainly not near as satisfying as a good naan bread with Indian food. Not yet, anyway.
What I’ve found with the Paleo challenge, though, is that using lettuce as a wrap shifts the focus to what’s inside. (Isn’t that what your parents used to tell you, it’s what’s inside that counts?) It also makes for a lighter meal — much lighter — than if you’d used bread-like wraps. So after this meal of Thai beef lettuce wraps, with such a flavorful filling, not only I was thoroughly full, but was surprisingly satisfied too.
Adapted from Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach. Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you off -- this is a very flavorful recipe and you'll be glad you tried it. The key is to prep everything before you start cooking, because like any stir-fry it comes together very quickly when you start. It's worth noting that strict Paleos would stay away from soy sauce and hoisin. I used gluten-free versions of both those, and found that the hoisin was key for providing a welcome sweetness to balance the spice.
- 1 head sturdy lettuce or cabbage, washed and leaves separated
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 2-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 1/2 cup carrots, julienned
- 2 teaspoons gluten free soy sauce
- 1/4-1/3 cup hoisin sauce (try this 'Paleo-fied' hoisin sauce from My Paleo Life)
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1-2 teaspoons Asian garlic-chili sauce
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- juice of one lime
- 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- Prepare all the chopped vegetables before you start cooking. Set aside a handful of green onions for garnish.
- In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook until it's browned. Strain the contents of the saute pan over a fine mesh strainer. Set the beef aside and ensure the pan is clear of excess oil.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the same pan, this time over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring frequently until softened. Add the garlic, ginger, carrots, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce and chili-garlic sauce and stir until combined.
- Add the green onions, cilantro, mint and lime juice, and continue stirring for about 2 minutes, until the green onions are just starting to wilt. Add the ground beef back in and combine well with the sauce, stirring until heated through. Stir in the sesame oil.
- Taste for seasonings. You may want to add more hoisin (sweet), fish sauce (salty), or lime (sour).
- To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on a plate and present the Thai beef in a bowl.