With this quote in mind, I can’t say enough how much I love to cook for loved ones. There is just something eerily euphoric when I see the reactions from a well received dish of my creation.
That said, my good friend Jo-Anne and I have been plotting to have a cook-up at her house for some time now.
Today it finally happened.
The menu was shy of ambitious (in terms of volume that is) but we fared well.
This dish was inspired by my trip to The Cheesecake Factory while visiting my aunt and cousin in Chicago, Illinois a few years ago. Theirs was a Thai lettuce wrap with chicken satays, but of course, I had to put my own twist to it. Lettuce wraps are pretty fun to eat, and puts control in the hands of the guest. Serve the fillings on a platter with whole lettuce leaves on the side, and let your friends and family wrap their own.
Starter: Spicy Curried Shrimp Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Peanut Sauce
- 1 head fresh iceberg lettuce (6-8 leaves)
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 1 large green bell pepper, julienned
- 1 carrot, shredded or cut into thin strips
- ¼ cup black olives, seeded, chopped
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Peanut sauce (recipe below)
- Curried shrimp (recipe below)
- Wash and dry the lettuce leaves and arrange on a larger platter.
- Arrange accompanying fillings alongside lettuce leaves.
- Let your guests create their own lettuce wraps by choosing a filling or fillings and placing it on a leaf along with the peanut sauce and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
- Fold the leaf in half and enjoy!
- 1 24 oz. pack deveined, shelled, small shrimp
- one medium onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, 2 finely chopped, 2 smashed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. curry powder
- cumin powder (geera)
- 1/2 tsp. thyme leaves
- 1 small scotch bonnet pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp. oil for stir-frying
- In a bowl, combine shrimp, onion, chopped garlic, bay leaf, thyme leaves, and pepper and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes for flavours to develop.
- Mix curry powder and cumin powder in 1/4 cup water.
- In a sauté pan, heat 2 tbsp. oil, and add the two cloves of smashed garlic and allow to burn and flavour the oil. Remove and discard garlic after about 3-4 mins.
- Add liquid curry mixture and stir constantly until it reduces to about 1/3 or to a viscous consistency.
- Add shrimp and cook uncovered on medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Try to get as much water to evaporate.
- Remove from heat, transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/2 tbsp. light soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp. sesame seed oil
- 1/4 tsp. ginger extract
- 1/4 cup water
- In a small bowl, stir together peanut butter, soy sauce, sesame seed oil and ginger extract until well mixed. Gradually incorporate water until texture is smooth and creamy.
“Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” – Dorothy Day
This starter is pretty good on texture and colour, and surely does hit about every taste bud. Create your own lettuce wraps with your favourite ingredients. And, if you’re looking to drop a few pounds or just to knock off eating healthy from your 2013 resolutions list, then this is definitely a fun and simple way to do it!
Of course, this was only the starter. The rest of the meal included a scrumptious oven-BBQ chicken and potato medallions for the entrée, Jo’s very own creation, and out-of-the-box (literally, not figuratively) brownie. Lol. Sides included blanched string beans, fried ripe plantains, steamed rice, and corn-on-the-cob.