The trick to throwing a multi-course dinner? Don’t fill your guests up too fast.
Whenever I throw a dinner party, it’s always a multi-course affair. So starting the meal with a light appetizer is key – the last thing I want is for my guests to fill up before they get to the main course.
These savory lettuce rolls fit the bill perfectly. They’re practically weightless, delightfully crunchy, and certainly won’t spoil anyone’s appetite. But they’re also chock-full of flavor – the spicy shiitake mushrooms deliver quite a punch!
Roll the lettuce wraps up – and then wolf them down!
Moreover, the lettuce wraps are great fun to eat. Because they’re presented open-faced, your guests get to see the lovely ingredients they’re about to enjoy, cupped in their individual lettuce “boats.” For this effect, though, you’ll need to use the right green. Boston lettuce is, in my opinion, the best lettuce for lettuce wraps. The leaves naturally form the shape you see in the photos here, making presentation a breeze.
Finally, the lettuce “boats” are individually hand-rolled by each guest, just before they’re devoured – the perfect finger food!
Food & wine pairing: Santorini, Assyrtiko with spicy shiitake lettuce wraps
Any white wine with good acidity, round texture and citrus notes works well with these spicy lettuce boats. But I particularly love serving an Assyrtiko with this appetizer. This noble grape from the Greek island of Santorini produces complex, luscious wines with vibrant citrus notes, mouthwatering acidity and wonderful minerality. Try an Assyrtiko from Domaine Sigalas or Gai’A Wines. Both wineries make some of the best Assyrtikos in Santorini.
Shiitake mushroom lettuce wraps with basil chiffonade
makes 12 boats or serves 4
active time: 30 min
- 2 large garlic cloves – skinned and crushed (use a microplane grater)
- 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger root (use a microplane grater)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium Tamari soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
- 1 lb (455 g) shiitake mushrooms – stems removed and discarded, caps cut in 1/4″ cubes
- 4 scallions – root ends trimmed, top trimmed 3″ from edge and very finely sliced (3/4 cup)
- 3 tablespoons roasted peanuts – coarsely chopped (use a mini food processor)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 12 medium Boston lettuce leaves (4″ long) – rinsed and spin-dried
- 12 large basil leaves – cut en chiffonade, as garnish
- Step 1: Place the garlic, ginger, salt, cayenne, Tamari and sesame oil in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended and set aside.
- Step 2: Heat a large non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the peanut or grapeseed oil and mushrooms. Sauté for 7 to 8 minutes until the mushrooms are golden-brown, tossing only from time to time. Reduce heat to medium. Drizzle with the ginger-soy mixture. Quickly toss and sauté for only 15 seconds. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl and cool until slightly warm to the touch.
- Step 3: When ready to serve, add the scallions and peanuts to the mushrooms. Drizzle with the lime juice and stir until well blended. Spoon about 2 tablespoons’ worth of the mushroom mixture into each lettuce leaf. Arrange the boats on a platter and garnish with the basil chiffonade. Serve immediately.