I made these Vegetarian Lettuce Cups for the first time when Mom and our friend and business partner Erika were in California preparing for Big Traveling Potluck. It was an exhausting week as we prepared to welcome a hundred bloggers and sponsors for a weekend of food, inspiration, and community.
We’ve been organizing these events for nearly five years now, so we knew that if we weren’t intentional, taking care of ourselves would be the first thing to go. Breakfast, piece of toast on the fly, lunch a shared bag of corn chips on the way back from the store. And dinner was always a surprise, “Oh! It’s 6:30 already? What are we having?” This year we were determined to do if differently – stocking up, planning ahead, and getting prepped and ready to fortify ourselves for the work ahead.
Mom will eat just about anything, Erika is gluten-free, and I lean vegetarian, but we all agreed we wanted meals that were healthy and light. Standing in the produce aisle of an Albertson’s pondering dinner options, Erika said, “Lettuce cups!” and then I added, “With tofu instead of meat!” I pulled up our recipe for Asian Lettuce Cups, and we gathered the ingredients, simply swapping a package of extra-firm tofu for ground turkey.
That night, after draining the tofu, I mashed it with a fork (like when I make a tofu scramble). While the flavor was spot on, I realized the texture would be better if the tofu were cubed.
I made Vegetarian Lettuce Cups again last night for dinner, cubing the tofu instead of mashing it. This time, the flavor and texture were right. Like ground turkey, the tofu soaks up the flavorful sauce, and when you wrap it up in lettuce with scallions and chopped peanuts, it’s got flavor, crunch, a little heat, and the perfect tang.
A new dish to add to the regular rotation at our house!
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped medium
- 1 package (14 ounces) extra firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
- 4 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- head ice burg lettuce, quartered at the core, core removed, leaves separated and torn into approximate 4-inch cups. Garnish: ¼ cup sliced scallions, ¼ cup chopped peanuts
- Heat oil in a large (12-inch skillet) over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, and water chestnuts; sauté until onions soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add tofu; continue to cook.
- Meanwhile, mix soy, ketchup, vinegar, oil, pepper flakes, and sugar. Add to the sautéing tofu; continue to cook until mixture has thickened to the texture of thick sloppy Joe’s.
- When ready to serve, warm tofu mixture. Lay out lettuce cups on a serving tray. Fill each with 2 tablespoons of filling, then garnish with scallions and peanuts. Serve.