Between Passover and Easter we've been going to a lot of family dinners. Roasts were served and leftovers were sent home with us. My husband complained that he's been eating too much meat and he's ready to go back to our regular eating habits, which means mostly vegetarian meals. We eat very little meat at our house now and my cooking has changed quite a bit in the past five or so years.
There are lots of compelling reasons to become vegetarian, both personal and political, but not everyone is willing to give up meat consumption entirely. There is a growing trend towards being weekday vegetarians, or flexitarians. In a way, it's the old model of moderation in everything.
By cutting meat out of your diet entirely you save 5,000 lbs of carbon emissions per year, so even reducing your meat intake to two out of seven days will still make a big difference. A vegetarian diet is significantly cheaper than eating meat every day, so with the savings you can afford to buy locally raised meat and vegetables and save the emissions from the 1,200 miles that the average American ingredients travel. With need for pasture lands, that land could be re-forested with a further decrease in CO2.
Once you cut meat out of your diet for five days a week, you'll find that you will eat less of it on the two days you do eat it. Most people eat much more meat than they should, 3 ounces is really all anyone needs. I've been dipping into a new cookbook called Almost Meatless by Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond. The book has lots of recipes designed to use very little meat and it works. The meat forms a supporting role in the meal rather than being the star. In fact, you'll notice that chicken isn't even mentioned in the recipe title. I got lazy and didn't actually wrap them, but they were pretty delicious anyway. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, because my husband doesn't like the dark meat.I also used lemon juice rather than orange juice, which would have made it a bit sweeter. This recipe serves four.
Asian Lettuce Wraps
For the chicken
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp vegetable oil
1 (2 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 scallion, green and white parts sliced
8 to 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into small cubes or strips
For the vegetables
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp orange juice
1 carrot, cut into 1/8" strips
1 cucumber, cut into 1/8" strips
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 to 3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced diagonally
16 lettuce leaves, washed and dried
2 tbsp roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
1.Make a marinade by combining the fish sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, juice, 2 tbsp oil, ginger, garlic, chili flakes and scallion in a medium bowl. Add the chickn and stir to coat. Cover the bowl and place in the refrigerator, letting the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes.
2.Meanwhile for the wrap, whisk together the vinegar, juice, sesame oil, salt and ginger in a large bowl. Toss the vinaigrette together with the carrot, cucumber, celery and scallions. Taste for seasoning.
3.Heat the remaining 2 tsp of oil in a skillet or wok over medium high heat. Add the marinated chicken and marinade and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often, until firm to the touch and beginning to brown. Stir in the peanuts.
4.Set out the vegetables and chicken in bowls along with a platter of the lettuce. Wrap of scoop of vegetables and chicken in each lettuce leaf.
Difficulty Level: Easy