Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's a Wrap

Although I've pretty much completely decided where everything will go in my new apartment, what color the curtains will be, and exactly what kind of kitchen shelving I'll be buying (a real pantry!), I can't seem to get off my rear end to start packing. I don't know if it's because moving boxes are so damn expensive, or because I don't really have anywhere to put the boxes once they're full, but I just can't seem to get a start. Oddly, I don't seem to be having any trouble figuring out what to make with what's left in my fridge and cupboards. In fact, so far I've made some pretty successful dishes (except for, um...the one you'll read about tomorrow), out of the hodge podge of ingredients I didn't even know I had.

For some odd reason, I've always loved lettuce wraps. I know they're cheesy and simple, but they're so refreshing and messy to eat--in a good way. Whether it's spicy beef, chicken with cashews, or just sautéed veggies, something about a warm, juicy filling enveloped in a crisp, cool lettuce leaf, with sauce inevitably dripping down your hand, really appeals to me. But then again, I also like fondue, so I'm a bit of a culinary odd bird. The point of all this random information is that this weekend, as I surveyed my fridge, two things jumped out at me: tofu and iceberg lettuce. I use tofu sparingly, but when I do, I find that I really enjoy it, no doubt due to the fact that I tend to deep fry it. In this case, it occurred to me that I could make some great lettuce wraps out of small, diced pieces of silken tofu, coated in a spicy chili pepper flour, then fried until they're golden brown and delicious.

I'd never made tofu in this way when it was diced so small, but fortunately it turned out great. I'm a big fan of deep frying with silken tofu, because while the outside crisps, the inside becomes a creamy, molten white custard, creating a really nice contrast with the crunchy, fresh lettuce. Since I had a big bowl of leftover green salsa, I figured I'd give these lettuce wraps a somewhat southwestern twist. In addition to the chili, chipotle, and cayenne pepper in the tofu, I topped the whole thing off with a blend of grated cheeses, a spoonful of sour cream, and of course, several dollops of green salsa. As I bit into each wrap I thought about how proud I was of myself for coming up with a delicious recipe that was out of my comfort zone. Then, with sauce dripping down my arm and onto my elbows, I remembered that I hoped to move in about 2 weeks and had yet to pack a single box. Fortunately, I had three more wraps to keep my mind off of my lethargy for a little bit longer. Here's how to make them for yourself:

Crispy Tofu Lettuce Wraps

1 container silken tofu
3 heaping Tbsp flour
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp chipotle or ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
vegetable oil (or your favorite light frying oil)
1 head of iceberg or Boston bibb lettuce
1 lime (optional)

Toppings: grated cheese, sour cream, green salsa

1. Combine flour with chile, chipotle, and cayenne pepper in a bowl with salt and pepper (to taste) and set aside.

2. Cut tofu into approximately 1/2 inch squares and carefully dredge in flour mixture. Meanwhile, heat the oil on high heat in a large, heavy bottom pot or skillet.

3. When the oil is very hot but not smoking, carefully add the tofu. You may have to work in two batches so the temperature doesn't drop. When the tofu is golden brown, set it aside on a paper towel covered plate to drain, and season lightly with salt.

4. Gently pull apart whole leaves from the head of lettuce. Add a few tablespoons of tofu to the center of the leaf and top with cheese, sour cream, salsa and a squirt of lime juice. Wrap everything in the lettuce leaf and take a bite. Enjoy!


No comments: