Our delicate purple irises bloomed this weekend and the fat peonies are just beginning to pop. I wait for them every year, anticipating their beauty, watching buds travel up long green stems and swell, a calendar of warming days. Suddenly, I am in tour guide mode, dragging my people through the yard: Look at this deep velvety purple. Look at these pink petals, how the ants are pushing them wide. They won’t last, now that they are open. Look. LOOK.
How is it that I haven’t seen these flowers in a year, when it feels like they were just blooming, like we were just here, in these last few days before summer? Like I was just here— when the kiddos were toddlers, when I was graduating from high school, when I was a little girl myself. As school winds down, I want days to go slowly. The whole summer is spread out before us now, but I know that, before long, it will be August and then it will be June again. Everything and everyone grows so quickly—including our lettuce, which is the inspiration behind this Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap recipe.
Because we are already eating like it is summer: grilling late at night after baseball games, throwing together salads, slurping on popsicles and ice cream cones, eating outside with messy fingers. This Asian Chicken Lettuce Wrap is half salad, half grill, all finger food and self-assembly. It’s sort of like tacos, if you ask one kid, and sort of like burritos, if you ask another—but, you know, with lettuce. I use our butter crunch variety because the leaves make neat little bright green cups that hold their shape for easy rolling. As for the chicken, I cheat a little on the marinade, which is 100% Trader Joe’s, but the peanut sauce is homemade—spicy, peanut, and vinegary all at the same time. It is a recipe that ends with sticky fingers and facilitates an easy next day salad.
To make Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps:
First, marinate boneless chicken thighs in Trader Joe’s Soyaki (or a teriyaki sauce of your choice) overnight. Or don’t. You can always grill and baste. The chicken will be nearly as delicious.
Next, make the Peanut Sauce:
¾ C. natural peanut butter—you must use natural, but you can choose either chunky or smooth
¼ C. (or 2 oz.) of red curry paste
a can of coconut milk—I use lite…
½ t. salt
¾ C. sugar
2 T. white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
½ C. water
Combine the ingredients in a sauce pan. You might feel like curry paste and coconut milk are exotic ingredients, but they are easy to find at any grocery. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, wisking the whole time. Simmer for 3-5 minutes and remove from heat. Cool to room temperature. Leftovers store well in the refrigerator, although it will thicken up.
Then, cook the chicken:
Grill and chop. Or, if you want to cook inside, you could have chopped and marinated and now will sauté. (We are sort of in love with sautéing in coconut oil here, which I also get from Trader Joe’s. It makes the kitchen smell a little tropical and works really well for this recipe.)
And finally, the accoutrements:
(that’s sort of a fun word to use…)
Wash and dry lettuce leaves and lay them out on a platter. Chunk cucumbers and cut carrots into matchsticks as possible toppings, along with actual peanuts. Put the chicken and the peanut sauce into separate bowls and let everyone build their Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps as they see fit.
We have a ton of lettuce at our Farmer’s Markets now, and will open our home market (on 252) for strawberries and produce beginning June 14th. Come see us, and let us help you to welcome summertime with the fresh produce that you’ve come to expect.
See you at the Market.