This past Sunday was the first day of summer. It’s the longest day of the year, and always goes down as one of my favorites. Here it was complete with all things summertime: thick, humid air with random pop-up thunderstorms; a lazy day on the beach complete with a dip in the ocean; an ice cream cone that melted faster than I could eat it; and a light, grilled dinner with lots of fresh veggies and herbs from the garden. I live for these kinds of days.
These lettuce wraps, Thai only by my own association, are the quintessential summer supper. Grilled, light, bright and fresh, but oh-so-satisfying. Inspired mostly by the abundance of lettuce currently being produced in my garden. Do you need some lettuce? Please, by all means, stop by and pick some. And if you see Peter Rabbit, tell him to leave poor Mr. McGregor alone and to swing by Gaffney Gardens instead. We’ll take care of him.
I love a meal that focuses mainly on the vegetables, with just a little bit of meat to give us the protein we need to take that run we keep saying we’re going to take. Thin slices of beef are seasoned, then quickly flashed on a hot grill until nicely charred and just barely cooked through. From there, they get dipped in a robust bath of garlic, ginger, lime juice, sugar and fish sauce. This quick marinade happens after the meat is already cooked, so it’s perfect for non-planners like myself, especially after a long, lazy day at the beach.
To go with this bright, tender steak, we’ll need a bit of crunch. So a little slaw is in order, as well as some crushed peanuts for extra texture and flavor. The cool thing about this recipe is that we make one sauce, and it does triple duty acting as the meat marinade, the slaw dressing, and a little side sauce for those of us who like our food to taste extra zingy.
We’ve got a whole season ahead of us (!!) to enjoy these long days and light suppers. So from my sleepy little beach town to yours, I wish you a very super extra Happy Summer!
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 drop sesame oil*
- 1/2 large cucumber, seeded and julienned (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 carrots, peeled and julienned (about 3/4 cup)
- 3/4 cup snow peas, strings removed and julienned
- 1/2-1 jalepeno, minced (seeds removed for less heat)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
- 1 lb very thinly sliced eye of round steak, or other cut, thinly sliced and pounded out to be about 1/4 inch thick
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 head bib, butter or ice burg lettuce, cored and leaves separated
- 1 bunch fresh mint, stems removed
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed
- 1 bunch fresh thai basil, stems removed
- 1 cup dry roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
- Sriracha or other hot sauce of choice
- Combine all the ingredients and whisk together until the sugar is dissolved. Let sit for at least 15 minutes or up to 48 hours before using (cover and refrigerate). Will make about 1 1/4 cup. Reserve 1/4 cup for the slaw, 1/2 cup for the meat, and the remaining 1/2 cup or so to serve on the side.
- Combine all of the vegetables in a medium bowl. Right before serving, toss with 1/4 cup of the sauce until everything is coated.
- Preheat a grill to high heat and be sure the grates have been cleaned and oiled. Combine the meat with the oil and salt, being sure to thoroughly coat every single piece. Working in batches, place each piece of meat on the grill and let it cook until nicely charred, about 1-2 minutes. Turn the meat over and let it cook for about a minute more on the other side. Remove from the grill, and immediately drop into the reserved 1/2 cup of sauce. Repeat with the remaining pieces.
- Plate the meat with all it's juices on a serving platter with the extra sauce on the side. Place the lettuce leaves on a large plate, and the fresh herbs on another. Have the slaw, chopped peanuts and hot sauce on the side so everyone can pass the plates around and make their own.