July 19th, 2011

Portland Porch Lettuce Wraps

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Serves 4
Time: 30 minutes || Active time: 20 minutes

Portland Porch Lettuce Wraps
I could call these White Bean, Nectarine and Asparagus Lettuce Wraps With Edamame Pesto, but I’m afraid you’d fall asleep reading that!

Sometimes location just guides your hand in the kitchen. In the Northeast, I gravitate towards root vegetables, in California I sneak avocado into absolutely everything, and when I’m in the Pacific Northwest, a tiny fairy with stretched earlobes and full sleeves whispers in my ear, “Put some fruit in that.”

I’m like “Wha?! Fruit on my pizza? Fruit in my sausages? Fruit in my beans?” And the fairy is like “Yes, yes and yes!” And I’m like “What are you listening to?” (because she has an iPod shuffle on) and she’s like, “Nothing, you’ve never heard of it.” Then she brushes her black and white bangs out of her eyes.

And so, here I am, fresh from my Portland trip, back in high summer Omaha. I’ve discarded the hoodie for 100 degree weather and cars that honk at cyclists, and I’m putting fruit in everything. Even my beans!

But let me tell you, that little hipster foodie fairy knows what the hell she’s talking about. Fruit doesn’t have to be overpowering and in your face. You can coax the sweetness and flavor into your dish, so that it’s working with the savoriness, not against it. Here, nectarine adds tart, juicy bites, cooked gently enough to work its summery flavor into the sauciness of everything, but not quite so much that it loses its integrity. Instead of being a curiosity, the fruit becomes a natural component, that brings an added dimension to what otherwise would just be sauteed asparagus and white beans with some other stuff. Quite yummy in its own right maybe, but probably not something that the hipster foodie fairy would ever bother with.

Some edamame pesto is the perfect accompaniment, because it’s full of body without being too heavy and oily. You’ll have plenty left over for use on other stuff, so that’s a bonus. And lettuce wraps are a natural, again, because they are nice and light, and their fresh grassiness lets the flavors of everything else shine through. Not to mention that I don’t feel like preparing rice or pasta in this heat!

Some tips for working with stone fruit in particular: Make sure to cut them tiny enough that they cook quickly and meld into the saute without being obtrusive. Pieces should be no larger than 1/4 inch. Fruit that is ever so slightly under-ripe works best because it holds its shape and is never too sweet. Be careful not to overcook. You want them warmed through and juicy, but not mushy, so taste as you go!

For the edamame pesto:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup packed basil leaves
Handful (1/4 cup or so) fresh cilantro
14 oz package shelled edamame, thawed
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Optional: 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

For the beans:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
4 cloves garlic, minced
Several dashes fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound of asparagus, sliced on a bias (3/4 inch pieces or so)
1 large nectarine, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces (leave the skin on)
1 1/2 cups great northern beans, rinsed and drained (a 16 oz can)

To serve:
1 head of red bibb lettuce, or similar

Prepare the pesto:
Place garlic and basil in food processor and pulse a few times to get it chopped up. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until relatively smooth, scraping down the sides with a spatula to make sure you get everything. Add a little more vegetable broth if it seems too stiff. Set aside until ready to use.

Now prepare the beans:
Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium heat (cast iron is preferred.) Saute the shallots in olive oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds more. Season with black pepper and salt. Add asparagus and toss to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add nectarine, and cook for about 5 more minutes. The asparagus should be a bright Kermit green, and the nectarine should release some of it’s juices.

Add beans and toss to coat. Cook until they are warmed through, about 2 more minutes. Taste for salt. Turn off heat and let sit for 5 minutes or so, so that the flavors can meld.

In the meantime, prepare red lettuce leaves. Just peel off the good big ones, rinse and dry them.

To assemble wraps:

Place a few leaves on each plate, spoon in some beans and plop on a nice big scoop of the pesto.

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