Marin Arts & Culture MAC_JUNE_upload - Page 29

Cuisine Lettuce Entertain You By Katharine Browning I n this recent wonky weather, my husband and I seem to be alternating between the air conditioner and the space heater almost every day. But we do know that eventually it will get very hot for many months, and we will all be in need of food that is cooling, but not filling or heavy. One of my favorite things to make for guests and clients are lettuce cup bars. I prefer using iceberg lettuce for the wrappers, as they stand up to heat and have a good, crunchy texture that works well with a wide array of fillings. You can use what you like—butter lettuce, romaine, or even green or red leaf, though they do have a tendency to droop if not properly chilled. Whatever lettuce you choose, just make sure that it is cored and rinsed properly before use. Simply cut off the core end of straight lettuces (like romaine or butter) or if you choose my favorite, iceberg, just place the head root side up, core the heart by cutting a “V” shape around the root section, and then gently remove the leaves by running them under a gentle cold water stream until they naturally come apart. There will be a heart left that won’t really separate easily, so make sure you have a few more than you need. I usually like the focus of my lettuce cup bars to be the lettuce, and rice vermicelli (I use a brand called Wai Wai), and despite the directions on the package, I recommend pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit until you like how done they are. Then you get to play! The fun part is putting together an interesting array of fillings, so your guests get to build dishes to suit their own tastes. I have set up bowls of toasted peanuts, Thai basil, bean sprouts, minced green onions, marinated and grilled tofu, barbequed chicken and beef, cilantro, shredded daikon radish, fresh lime wedges, toasted almond slivers, fresh mint and fresh mangoes. You can use anything that’s strikes your fancy. Best of all, this will accommodate any of your friends with dietary restrictions, making it easy for them to have a delicious meal while enjoying company. Whenever I have served these bars, they have been a tremendous hit. Plus, they are quite impressive looking, and aren’t actually that hard to make. So, give it a try at your next outdoor event, and let me know how it goes! MAC MARIN ARTS & CULTURE 29