That wonderful thing is happening that always catches me by surprise this time of year: an explosion of produce, everywhere. It gives me such a feeling of elation — berries, peaches, melons, corn, and tomatoes coming on to the scene in full force. This is the season when I start to live on hefty, hearty salads. It’s so nice to take a break from cooking.
And one of my favorite ways to present a salad — and get my fill of all this amazing summer produce — is in a lettuce wrap. I love that it’s a contained unit that doesn’t require a fork or knife — isn’t that how we should eat in summer? There are infinite possibilities on the flavor front: you can fill your lettuce wrap with a lovely falafel; thin slices of steak and bright cherry tomatoes; noodles, rice, chicken, tofu or seafood, and lots of veggies, of course. Here, I was inspired to try making a variation on a classic peanut dipping sauce with cashews — and it worked out marvelously.
Tofu Lettuce Wraps With Cashew Sauce
Yield: 8 Lettuce Wraps
1 block firm tofu
8 stalks romaine lettuce
1 large carrot, grated
2 avocados, halved and sliced lengthwise
Radish sprouts, for garnish
Mint leaves, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Lime wedges, for serving
For the cashew sauce:
1 cup cashews
2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola oil
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoon red chili paste
First, squeeze the excess liquid from the tofu by placing it between two large dinner plates. You can weight the top plate by stacking a couple bowls on top. Let it drain for 1/2 hour. Discard excess liquid that has accumulated on the plate.
While the tofu drains, prepare the dipping sauce. In a food processor, combine the cashews, oil and water. Process until the cashews become cashew butter. This should take a couple minutes. Once the cashews are buttery, add the lime juice, vinegar, tamari, honey, and chili paste. You may need to scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing of the ingredients.
Next, dice the tofu into small cubes.
To build the wraps, line one lettuce leaf with about 8 cubes of tofu (this will vary depending on the size of your lettuce leaf.) Follow with two slices of avocado, a sprinkling of shredded carrot, and a couple spoonfuls of the cashew sauce. Finish with mint, cilantro and radish sprouts for garnish. Serve with more cashew sauce on the side for dipping.
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink.