May 4, 2010

Eating in Patterns

Sometimes I get into these obsessive food kicks.  Actually, I suffer these obsessive tendencies towards food a lot.  I can and will eat the same thing for lunch everyday, for weeks on end, and still not get sick of it.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers and cheese and apples, yogurt with pretzels and fruit salad, ants on a log.  (And would you look at that!  My lunch habits closely resemble that of an elementary school kid!)  The same goes for breakfast, Cheerios or Special K nearly every single day.  I can't help it, I like the routine.  No, I crave it.

Right now I can't get enough of Asian flavors - hello miso soup, hey there banh mi.  And now these lettuce cups.  While these are by no means traditional fare, or even indicative of one particular cuisine, the chicken salad certainly has the elements that I've been hankering after.  This recipe won't blow you out of the water, but it's solid and I'd say the flavors are easily accessible.  The creeping heat of the sambal oelek is balanced by a tangy yogurt dressing and crisp fresh lettuce.  Nothing too overwhelming.  Nothing too unexpected.  I did these up for dinner, serving three at a time, but honestly, I think they'd work better as an appetizer.  Preferably served with a refreshing Saison or Farmhouse Ale.

Spicy Asian Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups
Adapted from Food & Wine Magazine, September 2009

12 lettuce cups

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4  cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons sambal oelek
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound chicken breast, poached and meat shredded
1/3 cup water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 Bibb lettuce leaves (not the biggest outer leaves)
1 Hass avocado, peeled and cut into 12 slices
Lime wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, mix the mayonnaise and yogurt with the sambal oelek, mustard and sesame oil. Stir in the chicken, water chestnuts and scallions and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the chicken salad into the lettuce cups and top with a slice of avocado. Serve with lime wedges.

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