Ever wonder where, geographically, that lettuce, green bean or steak on your dinner plate came from and how far it had to travel to get there?
It wasn’t until I moved to a foreign country that I became intensely aware of the concept of food miles (the distance that food has traveled from the time of production until it reaches us, the consumer).
At home during dinner, I often find myself describing to my husband where our food came from: “That cherry tomato came from Holland and that cauliflower came from Iran and that Napa cabbage? It came from China. The roast chicken came from Brazil and that pork came from the UK. Those super-sweet mangoes? From India.”
Although it is wonderfully convenient to have available all these products from all over the world without hopping on a boat or a plane ourselves, I can’t help but wonder about things like carbon footprint and sustainability. One of the ways I try to reduce my own carbon footprint is to try and buy as much local produce as possible.
In my community, there is a company that consolidates local and organic produce from different farms into what I call a “mystery box.”
Each mystery box contains different combinations of fruit and vegetables which are freshly picked and transported to a central garden center for sale. Although you cannot choose what goes into the boxes, you can select the box with the produce that best fits your needs.
Having selected my first mystery box, I arrived home and had fun going through the items which included assorted peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, purple sweet potatoes, green beans, baby carrots, fresh basil, and much more. I started to plan the week’s meals around the contents of my mystery box and my goal was to use as much of it as possible without having to buy other ingredients.
Taking inspiration from the red peppers, yellow chillis and cucumbers, I decided one night to make a spicy chicken lettuce wrap.
I loved the flavors of the marinated chicken combined with the spicy yellow chillis and the chile garlic sauce. It was nicely complimented by the crispness of the lettuce and the crunchy texture of the peppers and cucumbers.
These lettuce wraps are very versatile and I encourage you to use whatever is fresh and locally available in your area.
Recipe for Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wraps
1 lb ground chicken
4-6 pieces of lettuce (such as butter, Boston, iceberg, or curly lettuce)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 spicy yellow chilli pepper, sliced thinly
1 cucumber, diced
1 scallion, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Marinade for Chicken:
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
Sauce for Drizzling:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce (I used Lee Kum Kee brand which can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Serves 4-6 appetizer portions.
Mix together the marinade ingredients and marinade the chicken for one hour. Prepare sauce by whisking all the ingredients together. Set aside. Rinse lettuce and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat and fry the ginger for 30 seconds. Then toss in the chicken and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Toss in the red and yellow peppers and the cucumbers and stir for 5 minutes until tender. Throw in the scallions and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Arrange each piece of lettuce on its own plate and spoon the chicken mixture onto the lettuce. Drizzle the sauce on top. Fold in the sides of the lettuce and roll.
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