September 09, 2005

Farewell to Summer

There is something bright about the flavours of Thai food - a sharp green-ness to the herbs, the tang from the citrus, and the sly bite of the peppers. Even fish sauce - unappealingly funky on its own, lends a grounding note to the high-flying elements of cilantro and lime and the crispness of the green onions. Just having these items in my fridge and pantry make me feel sort of happy.
This dish is from a recipe that I got from Nigella's Forever Summer (albeit via the Marquise, who emailed it to me and insisted that I try it). It has been slightly modified from the original. It is a perfect dish for those long, hot days when you want the stove to be on as briefly as possible, if you must have it on at all, or for those last, bright sunny days heading into autumn, where you want to hang onto the illusion that summer is still here. I served this with a cold spicy soba and homemade gyoza from the stash in the freezer. There were no leftovers.

Thai Lettuce Wraps

  • 375 g ground beef (turkey would also be good)
  • Thai Fish Sauce (about a tablespoon)
  • 1 lime
  • chopped red chiles
  • fresh cilantro to taste
  • 4-5 chopped green onions
  • vegetable oil
  • lettuce to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté chiles for a minute or two before adding the beef. Crumble it around in the pan until it's fully cooked, adding the fish sauce at some point during this process. When all the liquid is gone, pull it off the heat and add green onions, cilantro and juice and zest of the lime. Stir through evenly. Serve with lettuce leaves.

I actually used the whole amount of fish sauce, which might surprise those of you who know how sparing I tend to be with all things fishy. There was a definite tang to it, and the squeamish may wish to reduce the amount to a teaspoon, but I recommend using the full amount. The original contains a garnish of sesame seeds, but neither the Marquise or I bothered with that. Both households received it with great enthusiasm, earning it a place in the summer cooking permanent collection.


Joe said...

Looks very good! I really like wraps with lettuce - just seems to lend a lighter taste and let the rest of the great things inside really come through

Templar said...

Say it isnt so... summer you where too short... We had a bit of snow last week.... it melted as it hit.. but i guess it is true.

linda said...

I know, there is a nip in the air now. Not cold or anything, but it has that Vancouver fall is coming feel...

Dawna said...

Joe - thanks! The first time I ever had lettuce wraps was as part of a traditional Peking duck meal - I just adored them, but only recently got around to making them myself. And they're so easy!

Templar - snow? Say it isn't so, indeed! I'd like at least a lovely, lingering autumn, if summer is on the wane...

Linda - I know exactly what you mean. It's not quite a smell, it's not quite a chilly tingle on the skin, but the tide has subtly turned.