Friday, July 22, 2011

(Almost) Instant Gratification Lettuce Wrap Burrito

At Amundsen-Scott Station in Antarctica, it's -80°F. They expect a high of -53° today. Almost sounds nice; it's 98° in the shade today, here. This means a lot more when you live in a second-floor apartment and are too stubborn to get an AC unit. I realize the price of my stubbornness is that I don't get to whine about it, so here's a short list of what I'm doing instead:
  1. Flauting common modesty conventions
  2. Drinking electric blue lemonade
  3. Star-shaped ice cubes: they make every cold thing better
  4. Wading with the dog (I have yet to resort to her strategy of digging up some cool dirt in a shady spot)
  5. Going to visit air-conditioning
  6. Breaking out the ice-cream maker
  7. Eating food that requires the stove being on as little as possible
It's on this last point that we dwell for now. Summer food for me rotates around my half of CSA share at Mountainview Farm, exactly a mile from my house. Not only am I supporting a local farm and visiting my growing food, but makes really good economical sense. I teach, so I don't get paid in the summer. Paying a nominal amount up front means I don't have to hang around the grocery store or farmers market in August deciding I can't afford fresh vegetables, much less fresh, local ones. The fee amounts to roughly $12/week for the 22 weeks from the beginning of June through the beginning of October, for a crazy quantity of tasty veggies, responsibly grown locally. It does behoove me to get creative in order to make the most of what's there, though.
The good news is that vegetables like this like to speak for themselves. Lightly sauteed summer squash and sweet onion mixed with black beans, rice and umami-rich yeast spread wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves.

(Almost) Instant Gratification Lettuce Wrap Burrito
(vegan, gluten-free)

Serves 2 hungry people or 3-4 not so hungry folks
  • 1 med. or 1/2 large zucchini (normal large, not New England large)
  • 1 med. or 1/2 large fresh onion
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tblsp Magical Spice Blend
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1½ c. cooked rice (1/2 c. dry), cold, leftover rice is fine, if not better

  • 10-15 lettuce leaves
Slice onion into moderate julienne (¼" thick). Cut zucchini into sticks about ¼" thick and 2" long. Heat a heavy skillet on high almost to smoking. Add olive oil, then onion. Keep it moving for 5-10 sec. then stir/toss occasionally over the next minute or so. Add about half the garlic and the zucchini. Sprinkle with salt and spice blend. Stir/toss occasionally for the next minute or two. Add the rinsed beans and the rest of the garlic. Stir it up, then turn it off. I mixed up about ¾ c. each of rice and the veggies & beans and a big spoonful (maybe a tablespoon) of tasty yeasty goo (see below), and sat down with that and a head of lettuce. I ripped the leaves right off, spooned a generous helping of filling on and wrapped it like a burrito: folded up the top of the leaf, then the sides and ate it stem first without dumping its cargo all over the plate. So simple, so summery and so satisfying. And the damn stove didn't have to be on for more than five minutes. I also made a version of this with leftover rotisserie chicken in place of the beans which I can also heartily recommend.

Tasty Yeasty Goo

The savory flavor of nutritional yeast, believe it or not, reminds me of being a little kid and dumping it on all sorts of things: popcorn, broccoli, pasta. To this day, a plate of spaghetti with nutritional yeast, butter and soy sauce is enough to send my inner 8 year old into joyous rapture and popcorn isn't popcorn without it. Later on, I found I wasn't the only person who flipped out over the stuff that way. A sauce similar to this one forms the basis of many good vegan mac n' cheese recipes, and like many good alternatives to something else, it's disappointing if you expect it to taste exactly the same, but pretty damn tasty in its own right. Also, it'll keep well in the fridge for at least a week, maybe more. A batch has yet to last long enough to find out.
    Mix together until smooth:
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tblsp soy sauce
  • 1½ tsp. Mustard (I used Trader Joe's yellow mustard - you may want to adjust this if you're using a stronger-tasting mustard)
  • 1 Tblsp tahini
  • 1 Tblsp water

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