Bold flavors, crunchy vegetables, cool and crispy lettuce combined for delicious, hands on meals! In addition, they are healthy! Lettuce wraps are turning up in restaurants across the country these days. Most often offered as an appetizer, many are happy to make a meal out of them - which is a wise idea.
Five Quick Lettuce Wrap Tips
- Pick large, pliable leaves
- Dry lettuce before serving
- Vary textures, color and flavors in filling
- Make fillings and sauces ahead
- Leave assembly to the diners
The secret to good wraps is bold spicing, along with good texture and crunch in the fillings. Those who find themselves reluctant to eat too many carbohydrates love lettuce wraps. They are refreshing, cool, and cleanse the palette, says an executive chef in Beverly Hills.
Lettuce wraps are a great way to deliver a main dish meal. You can easily create lettuce wraps in an almost endless array of variations at home. You can use the same ingredients you use in burritos, tortillas, pita bread, spring roll, or phyllo dough as a good candidate for a lettuce leaf.
Leftovers work great as well. Chicken, fish or steak or vegetable combinations as filling bases are excellent choices. If you are watching your weight, fill your lettuce wrap with low-fat fillings and lean meat.
In short, the only limit you have with lettuce wraps is you imagination! Following are some recipes to get you started, but do not hesitate to try anything that sounds good to you.
You can use lettuce leaves as a jacket for all kinds of meats, seafood, poultry, vegetables and cheese combinations. In additions, along with tuna, caprese, Greek, egg, Cobb, nicoise, chicken or shrimp salads and rice mixtures, jambayla mixtures, hot fajita blends, kung pao combos and more.
Diners do love wraps - even kids can learn to love them for one simple fact: You get to play with your food, eat with your hands and it is okay!
How to Wrap Things up in Lettuce
Here are a few tips for lettuce wrappers:
- For best results, pick the largest, most pliable lettuces leaves. Iceberg, red lettuce and radicchio leaves or cups along with large spinach leaves are other possibilities.
- Core the lettuce and soak in ice water for an hour or two for easy removal of intact leaves. Separate the leaves and drain each one individually, then refrigerate on a towel for a couple of hours to crisp them. Lettuce leaves or cups can also be rinsed, dried and stacked, wrapped in a plastic bag and refrigerated several hours or overnight. Be sure to dry the lettuce well before serving lest you will have a messy and watery mixture running out of the wrapped-up lettuce leaf.
- Filling possibilities are endless. Think about ingredient combinations you favor and wrap them up in lettuce leaves.
- Vary texture, colors and flavors in fillings and sauces. Depending on the mixture, you might want to have cool and hot, sweet and spicy, and crisp and tender in some of your creations. Make fillings as appealing in looks as in taste. Use colorful vegetables, sauces, etc. There is nothing worse than a bland, uninviting filling.
- Be sure to season fillings well, as the flavors must stand up to the lettuce wrapper. Peruse the seasonings you have on hand and experiment until you have something that tastes good. The bolder and spicier the better. Do not forget that vinaigrette, Dijon and other mustards, yogurt, a wide range of dressings, plum sauce, soy sauce, oils, vinegar's, sesame oil. In additions, you can jazz up fillings with Tabasco sauce, capers, green onions and more.
- Make fillings ahead and keep refrigerated until shortly before serving. If you want to take the chill off or serve them warm, simply zap covered, in a glass bowl or dish, a minute or two in the microwave oven. Watch carefully to avoid overheating and changing the texture of the meat or other ingredients.
- Prepare dipping sauces in advance and keep refrigerated, if desired. If time is limited, use prepared sauces from the supermarket, but they are expensive. Alternatively, use a combination of both prepared and homemade. Asian peanut sauce can run as high as $5.00 and more. Seek out reasonably prices options like fruit or tomato salsas, plum sauce, Chili sauce, cucumber yogurt sauce, etc. Offer sauces in small bowls, saucers or cups.
- Present the filling and dipping items attractively. Place shredded lettuce, in small lettuce cups or on a bed of red or green cabbage leaves on a platter or individual plate (or even on a larger buffet) and invite diners to design the combinations they like.
Lettuce Wrap Recipes
Southwest Style Lettuce Wraps
2 cups chopped cooked skinless chicken breast
1 cup bottled salsa
1/2 cup rinsed and drained canned black beans or 1/4-cup each canned black beans and canned corn
1 tomato, chopped
4 to 6 lettuce leaves
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In a medium glass bowl, combine chicken, salsa, black beans and tomato. Mix well. Heat in microwave oven one to two minutes, if desired. To serve, spoon some of chicken mixture on a lettuce leaf, top with a little cheese and guacamole and wrap up. Dip into sour cream and additional salsa if desired.
Note: To lessen the fat content in this recipe, use light sour cream and fat free or reduced fat shredded Cheddar cheese.
Greek Salad Roll-Ups
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 hothouse cucumber, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, cut in chunks
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup kalamata olive halves
1 green onion, chopped
Seasoned salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 3/4 cup cut-up or crumbled feta cheese
6 butter lettuce leaves
Combine all ingredients except lettuce leaves. Toss until blended. Chill until serving time. To serve, place some of filling mixture on lettuce leaf, wrap up and eat out of hand. Recipe makes two to three entree servings.
Caprese Salad Lettuce Wraps
4 tomatoes, chopped (squeeze out some of juice before chopping, if desired)
1-1/2 cup buffalo mozzarella cheese cubes (about eight ounces)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
Seasoned salt and pepper to taste
Ground pepper to taste
8 butter lettuce leaves
Combine all ingredients except lettuce leaves. Toss until mixed. To serve, place some of mixture on lettuce leaf, wrap up and eat out of hand. Recipe makes two to three entree servings.
Note: For variety: add 1/2-cup canned, rinsed and drained artichoke quarters and 1/2-cup chopped salami to tomato mixture.
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