Tag Archives: thai

it’s a wrap: pork & quinoa lettuce cups with thai chili, bell pepper, and coconut cream

pork & quinoa lettuce cups with thai chili, bell pepper, and coconut cream

I made these lettuce cups a few weeks back, and, lemmetellya — these bad boys are a keeper.

pork & quinoa lettuce cups, quinoa rinsed and ready to cook

I’m not generally one to wrap things up in lettuce and call it a day (I’m sorry, but is there anything more depressing than watching someone attempt to wrap a juicy cheeseburger in a flimsy wisp of romaine lettuce and proclaim that they truly don’t even miss the bun?), but I will admit that sometimes when I crave something that normally requires some sort of vehicle to get it from Point A (the plate) to Point B (your mouth), I don’t actually feel like noshing on said (usually bready) vehicle.

pork & quinoa lettuce cups, fresh thai chilis - warm & spicy!

Tortillas, wraps, pitas – I do love all of them, but after recalling pizza, fish tacos, and a pita-fueled mezze platter on my list of eats week-to-date, I was feeling a bit breaded out.

pork & quinoa lettuce cups, fresh grated ginger & garlic

Enter these lettuce wraps – where the exclusion of any wrap-type thing adds to the intensity of the flavors and lets the ingredients shine. Here, sauteed ground pork is mixed up and folded together with crunchy bell peppers, spicy thai chili rounds, and a hefty dose of garlic and ginger, and the whole lot is bound together by a silky hit of coconut cream.

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tofu 1.0: a big red curry noodle bowl with zucchini, red pepper, kale, tofu + crushed peanuts

On the list of things I commonly hear when I say that we eat tofu on average twice a week (partnered with a quizzical head scratch), is that:

a) you have no idea how to cook it
b) you find it very bland
c) it reminds you of a wet sponge
d) your husband/boyfriend/roommate/dog would stage an angry coup d’etat if presented with a bland wet sponge you had no idea how to cook for dinner

And I’ll admit – I totally understand that.

We have only been including tofu in our regular rotation for just over a year or so now, and I can absolutely sympathize with concerns over the validity of it’s presence in your dinner.  I most definitely didn’t come flying out of the gates making delicious tofu recipes; there was a bit of a learning curve, and there were admittedly a few duds amongst the greats along the way.  How to prepare it, how to cook it, how to serve it – dealing with tofu is definitely different than cooking the other proteins that we Americans most commonly eat.  And, after a long day, most people are going to want to come home to something home cooked and delicious that they know is going to taste good – they’re just not up for humoring tofu-science-experiments of any kind.

I, my friends, totally understand. 

I’ve posted a couple of other easy tofu-centric dishes here before (see here and here), but I have not really addressed in depth a few things that I think are important for keeping your tofu dinners out of wet sponge territory.

In my opinion, the key to making tofu taste great is flavoring it well – even if those flavorings are just a bit of crusty brownness and a salty edge.  See the tofu right here, up in that picture above? It’s crispy, brown, and crunchy, and looks nothing like the strange unscented white cube that wiggled it’s way out of the package.

Tofu takes on whatever flavor you impart on it, and that is one of the reasons why it is so awesome.  What’s that you say?

So what, Cory? Chicken takes on lots of flavors too, and it doesn’t freak anyone in the family out when I announce it’s on our nightly menu.

Ok.  That might be true.

But tofu has a whole host of positive attributes that I think qualify it as a very viable at-least-weekly addition to your dinner repertoire:

  • Tofu has 80 calories and 4 grams of fat per serving (I’m basing this on the Whole Foods 365 brand, but most are very close).  Most packages contain about 4 servings, and even in a recipe like the curry bowl I detail here (where 1 package is used for 2 very large servings/with leftovers), you are only looking at 160 calories and 8 grams of fat total for your protein.
  • Tofu is vegetarian, and if you are like me and are picky about the provenance of your meat  (I genuinely make an effort to only purchase meat I know was humanely and organically raised), you can chow down feeling good about what you are eating and it’s environmental impact.  I personally would rather pay more to eat higher quality ‘happier’ meat less often, and fill in my gaps with other alternatives, like tofu. 
  • Tofu is a great source of protein, calcium, iron, and healthy omega-3’s, and is a great addition to both vegetarian and omnivore diets alike.  Most tofu is dairy free, and if you check your package, a good deal of them are gluten-free and vegan as well. (And kosher!)
  • Tofu costs $1.50 per package, each package 4 servings.  Again this is the Whole Foods brand, but thats about what it what it will run you wherever you find it.  What animal protein can you find that will feed 4 people for $1.50?
  • Tofu’s shelf life is generally at least a month (and usually more) from your purchase date.  Unless you plan on freezing your chicken/beef/pork/fish, nothing can compare to how long it stays fresh.

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salmon & soba noodles in thai green curry broth

As much as people just love to hate on a certain someone who has created an empire making meals from (mostly) scratch that can be on the dinner table in 30 minutes or less,  I have to admit – I quite admire her timely quest.  Oh please – trust me – I can only dream to be the type that has all these extra hours loitering around on a weekday waiting to be used up for some whimsical purpose – like whipping up a slow-braised osso-buco, stopping in for a much needed mani/pedi/massage, or bopping over to an ohsostrenuous mid-day sesh at Physique 57.

Ya…that would be nice.

But, fast forward to real life, and there will be none of that.

5:30am: Slap angrily at alarm clock.  Snooze.  Slap. Snoozeslap.
6:30am: Hop-scotch traffic on 8th Ave.  Finally hail cab and check emails.
6:45am-5pm: Coffee. Client calls. Frantic trading. Lunch.  More coffee. More calls. Bell rings. Exhale.
5:30pm: Reluctant gym and/or client cocktails. Run & sweat or chatter & schmooze.
7:45pm: Retrieve dry cleaning. Drop busted-up heels at cobbler.  Walk pug. Think about dinner….groceries….do we have any?
8:30pm: Dinner….dishes (le sigh).
10:30pm: Face-plant-starfish into bed.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.
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hot curry on a cold night: simple green curry with shrimp, potatoes, green beans, and red pepper

I love the sudden stillness that blankets the city before an evening snow.  In the hours before the flakes even begin to make their blustery descent their forthcoming presence is well known.  The streets grow quiet as the sun ducks behind the reaches of the Hudson, warm light spills out of windows onto the sidewalk, and occasionally you catch the smell of a wood fire rising out of an old chimney.  It’s this time – more so than any other – that makes me want to hunker down in my warm little abode with a glass of cab, a warm and steamy bowl of something delicious for dinner, and the person (and pooch) I love.

We’ve had quite a few of these days here in the Northeast – as has just about the rest of the country it seems.  2011 is off to a blustery *frigid* start and the perfect thing to take the sub-zero chill off is a big bowl of this spicy shrimp curry.  The gentle heat of curry paste and the creaminess of the coconut milk come together to create the most delicious and fragrant broth that warms from the inside and fills you up wonderfully.  I absolutely love it.

{But Wait! There’s More…}