I love having a daughter who is a great cook. It’s wonderful to see her develop her own style and also a pleasure to have the night off! My daughter Rebecca invented these, and ever since, when she asks me what I want for dinner, I reply “lettuce cups.” Sometimes it gets an eye roll and she’ll remind me that we’ve had them once a week for the past 3 weeks.
But how can I resist? A really yummy and vegetable packed dinner that’s also fun to eat!
This is a one-dish meal. So even though it takes some sauteing and steaming, the total time required to get dinner on the table isn’t bad at all. Rebecca suggests having 2 pans and the steamer going at the same time. The few minutes it takes to wash the extra pan is far outweighed by the time saved.
This summer, our mango tree went berserk for the first time ever. The ridiculous amount of mangoes we harvested are the inspiration for the sauce. Other sweet fruit like papaya or oranges may be substituted. You can even use orange juice.
Our mango tree and our dog Juno:
This recipe works well with many different vegetables, so use it as a rough guide for quantities and substitute your favorite ingredients. The general idea is to cook vegetables with the same approximate cooking time together.
A note on lettuce – butter lettuce leaves look pretty and work for small quantities of filling. If you want more of a taco experience you can use iceberg lettuce. Just slice off the end of the head of lettuce and carefully separate the leaves.
- For the Filling:
- 1 cup raw brown rice
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil (refined or unrefined)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
- 1/2 pound green beans, stemmed and cut into 1/2" pieces (cutting on the diagonal looks prettier)
- 10 ounces (before stemming) kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 2 pounds ground chicken thighs (may also use breasts and substitute turkey for chicken)
- 2 large zucchini, diced
- 1 red pepper, sliced into thin strips
- 1/2 pound roasted, unsalted, peanuts (about 1 3/4 cups)
- For the sauce:
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 4 chunks
- 3/4 cup mango, fresh or frozen; can substitute pineapple or papaya
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 5 tablespoons tamari (can substitute soy sauce if you are eating gluten)
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
- For Serving:
- A few heads of butter lettuce (depending on the size) or 1 head of iceberg lettuce
- Make the Filling:
- Cook brown rice: cook in rice cooker or bring 2 cups water to boil in pot, add rice, turn heat down, and cook on medium low until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Stir from time to time to prevent burning.
- While rice is cooking make the filling. Having 2 pans and the steamer pot going simultaneously makes this much quicker.
- In a large pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onion and carrots and cook on medium high until carrots are soft. Stir as required to prevent burning. Remove to a large bowl when done.
- While carrots and onions are cooking, heat water in a steamer pot. In separate batches, steam the broccoli, then the green beans, and the kale. Add each to the bowl when tender.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in another pan large enough to hold the chicken. Cook on medium high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and no pink remains.
- Heat another tablespoon of oil to onion/carrot pan. Add zucchini and bell peppers and cook on medium high heat until softened and lightly brown. Add to bowl.
- Add cooked rice to bowl and gently combine cooked vegetables, chicken, and rice.
- Make the Sauce:
- While the zucchini and bell peppers are cooking, make the sauce.
- Add all the sauce ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth. Pour sauce over chicken vegetable mixture and combine gently.
- Return the filling to the pan. Heat gently. Add peanuts right before serving and combine.
- Cut the end off the lettuce and gently separate the leaves. Wash and spin or shake dry. Arrange on a platter. Spoon the heated filling into lettuce cups. Or serve the filling and lettuce at the table so that people can make their own cups.