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Gluten-Free Living

Gluten-Free Living: Wrap up summer meals with lettuce

  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Tempeh, peanut lettuce wraps.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Tempeh, peanut lettuce wraps.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Tempeh, peanut lettuce wraps.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Tempeh, peanut lettuce wraps.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • Tempeh,  peanut lettuce wraps.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

I’ve been racing against my lettuce drawer for weeks and, until recently, it was winning.

This summer’s cool, damp weather has given just about everyone I know a bumper crop of greens, far more than even the most enthusiastic salad lover can handle. Around here, that’s meant kale, spinach and even chard in smoothies; dandelion greens tucked inside omelets; and arugula eaten straight out of the herb garden. But when those first bags arrived from the CSA overflowing with lettuce, I nearly gave up. Until, that is, I discovered lettuce wraps.

Once a secret of low-carb dieters, this alternative to traditional bread or tortillas is gaining popularity among the masses, and for good reason. There’s no limit to what you can put inside those lettuce leaves, and the results are light, frugal and, of course, gluten free.

Any sandwich filling will do: tuna or egg salad, cold cuts and cheese, bacon and a couple of scrambled eggs. For a Tex-Mex flavor, try cooked ground beef with taco seasoning and chunks of avocado. Just be sure that all your ingredients are gluten free.

My first few attempts at lettuce wraps were rather messy, but my meals grew tidier after a little trial and error. The secret, I learned, is in the leaf. Choose large, sturdy leaves with thick spines, preferably from the middle of the head of lettuce. The outermost leaves will likely be too droopy and fragile. Go too close to the center, and the leaves will be too small.

Rinse each leaf thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels. Spoon the filling along the spine, fold the base of the stem over and wrap up the leafy sides to form a pocket. Eat immediately or, for a crowd, place seam side down on a serving platter.

The best wraps I’ve made so far are the Asian-inspired creations below. They’re fast, filling and, because they’re made with tempeh, vegan. If you’re not familiar with tempeh, it’s tofu’s more rustic cousin, made from fermented soybeans. Do be sure to read the label carefully, as some brands contain barley or other glutenous grains.

You can speed up assembly even more by purchasing pre-made peanut sauce, but nothing comes close to the amazing scratch version I’ve been making for years. The original recipe comes from a cookbook I reviewed for this food page years ago. It’s called Venturesome Vegetarian Cooking by Concord-based food writer J.M. Hirsch and his mom, Michelle Hirsch. (The book is really lovely, and many of the recipes can easily be adapted for gluten-free diets. So consider asking for a copy at your local bookstore.) Making the peanut sauce gluten-free was a cinch: just swap out traditional soy sauce for gluten-free tamari, which is available in the Asian sections of most grocery stores.

When you’re done with the wraps, you’ll have a little less than a cup of the sauce leftover. Here’s what you do: Add a couple tablespoons of rice vinegar and a bit of warm water to the remaining sauce. Stir until smooth and use it as a dressing on your next plate of salad.

Tempeh-peanut lettuce wraps

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 8-ounce packages tempeh, crumbled

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup peanut sauce (recipe follows)

1/2 cup chopped scallions

8 to 12 large, sturdy lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

spicy kimchi for serving (optional)

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a burner set to medium-high. Add the tempeh and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown. Add the carrots and cook for a few minutes more.

Turn the heat to low and add the peanut sauce and scallions. Stir until everything is warmed through. Place a few heaping spoonfuls of the tempeh mixture onto each lettuce leaf. Top with kimchi. Wrap and serve.

World’s best peanut sauce

1/4 cup gluten-free tamari

1/8 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon maple syrup

pinch salt

1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger

2/3 cup natural peanut butter

2 tablespoons sesame seed oil

1/2 teaspoon paprika

hot sauce to taste

Put everything in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth. Sauce will keep for up to week in the fridge.

Recipe adapted from “Venturesome Vegetarian Cooking,” by J.M. Hirsch and Michelle Hirsch

Legacy Comments3

There are many people who live with celiac, who are unable to process wheat gluten and many times other types of grain gluten. So I'd say for those folks a gluten free diet is indeed a healthier diet.

Gluten free diet: the idea that not eating any wheat produces a healthier life style. I recall being told eggs are bad too.

It all depends. Some days things are good for you, the next week they're not. Is salt good for you this week?

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