Lao-style Turkey Lettuce Cups

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I’m trying to eat grain-free as much as possible these days, and while I haven’t completely cut out grains, I have reduced them by about 75%. I feel good about that: I’m eating more greens and more sources of lean protein.

I’m always trying to come up with creative and delicious ways to put together a grain-free meal, and these turkey lettuce cups are one of my favorites. They’re not traditional, though: I’ve replaced pork with turkey and omitted some of the toppings (*cough* cilanto, my nemesis *cough*).

These are kind of like larb, but without the toasted rice powder and herbs. (But don’t fret, there is always a time and place for larb.) The best part? You probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Thai-style turkey lettuce cups

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and minced
1 head butter or bibb lettuce, cleaned and leaves separated

1. Place a sieve over a bowl and press the dissolved tamarind through the sieve; discard the pulp. Set the tamarind juice aside.

2. Heat a wok over high heat. Add the oil and when it is hot, add the shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Stir-fry until golden, then add the turkey and stir-fry until it has all changed color and is almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar, the tamarind juice, the fish sauce, and salt and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and peanuts and stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from the wok and let cool.

3. To serve, put a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand, then scoop up a tablespoon of filling and place it on the leaf. Fold the leaf over to make a bundle, or leave it open, and place on a platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.

Queso with Turkey Chorizo

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I’m just going to break it to you now: this appetizer is definitely not healthy. Like, not even remotely. As in, I-bought-Velveeta-for-the-first-time-in-my-life-for-this-recipe levels of unhealthy.

But it’s worth it. I mean, there’s nothing quite like semi-food Velveeta to keep your queso at a smooth, dip-able consistency even after it’s cooled. A liberal sprinkling of turkey chorizo (don’t @ me, it’s actually really good) rounds things out with another layer of crumbly texture and warm spice.

After the chips are gone, you’ll be licking the bowl with this one.

Queso with Turkey Chorizo

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 ounces fresh turkey or chicken chorizo
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/2 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 pound sharp cheddar, grated
2 teaspoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until browned and crisp, 8–10 minutes; set aside.

2. Heat half-and-half and Velveeta in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until Velveeta is melted, 6–8 minutes. Add Monterey Jack and cheddar; cook, stirring, until mixture is smooth. Mix in chipotle chiles, salt, and chile powders.

3. Transfer queso to a warm bowl and top with chorizo.

Celery-Spiked Guacamole

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Remember the Great Guacamole-gate of 2015? I do. The New York Times suggested adding peas to your guacamole, and a near all-out war ensued. And understandably so. Peas do not belong in guacamole. Ever.

Nor does celery, or so I thought. I sort of hate myself for even making this recipe, but it’s really, really good. The celery adds an addictive crunch without overwhelming the avocado-lime-onion trifecta of flavor that makes guacamole, well, guacamole.

Just try it. Sorry not sorry.

Celery-spiked guacamole

Ingredients:

4 avocados, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 serrano chiles, seeds removed if desired, finely chopped
1 clove garlic finely grated
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, plus leaves for serving
Salt

1. Mash avocados, celery, chiles, garlic, lime juice, onion, and cilantro in a bowl to desired consistency; season with salt. Top guacamole with remaining cilantro leaves.

Thai-Style Curried Crab

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If you’ve been reading this blog for more than five minutes you probably know that I love Dungeness crab. Come November every year, I eagerly await reports that crabbing season has begun, so I can make oven-baked crab, steamed crab, deviled eggs with crab, crab curry, chili crab — you get the picture.

When I was in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago, I tasted a mild yellow crab curry that was out of this world. Soft and eggy, it was like a warm blanket of crab and spices (okay, that sounds kind of weird, but bear with me). I wanted to recreate that taste at home and I finally nailed it here. This is not just one of my new favorite crab recipes — it’s one of my favorite recipes, period.

Freshly shelled crab is essential here. Go for the good stuff.

Thai stir-fried yellow crab curry

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1/2 cup half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Thai seasoning sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Madras curry powder
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 pound crabmeat
1 green onion, cut into 2-inch slices
Ground pepper
2 cups baby spinach

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, half and half, fish sauce, oyster sauce, Thai seasoning sauce, and 2 tablespoons of the curry powder.

2. Heat a wok over high heat and add the oil. Add the onion, sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon curry powder and stir-fry until the onion is soft and translucent. Reduce the heat, add the egg mixture, and stir until it resembles a soft custard, about 1 minute. Add the crabmeat and 1 cup of spinach and toss to coat the sauce. Remove from the heat, add the green onion and a pinch of pepper, then toss to combine.

3. Spread the remaining cup of spinach onto a serving platter and top with the curried crab and serve warm.

Japanese Garlic Chive-Scrambled Eggs

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I probably make these scrambled eggs at least once a month. Easy, healthy, and delicious, they make a perfect breakfast (who am I kidding, I make this for dinner all the time too). You can serve this atop rice, but I prefer these soft and warm eggs by themselves.

Make sure to get Asian garlic chives for these, as the flavor and texture are completely different than your standard grocery store chives.

Japanese garlic chive-scrambled eggs

Ingredients:

1 small bunch garlic chives (about 1/2 pound), cleaned and chopped into 1-inch lengths
4 eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon instant dashi granules (optional)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1. In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, soy sauce, salt, and dashi together until blended.

2. Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat, then add the garlic chives, sauteing for a couple of minutes until they’re bright green and wilted.

3. Pour the eggs into the pan and turn down the heat to low. Let the eggs cook, undisturbed, until you see the bottom of the eggs turn opaque.

4. Give the eggs a gentle stir, scraping the cooked egg up from the edges off the bottom of the pan, and allowing the raw egg at the top to run underneath. Let this cook until the bottom layer turns opaque and stir again.

5. Repeat step 4 until the eggs have reached your desired doneness (I like for much of the eggs to remain soft and opaque). Remember that the eggs will continue to cook a little after you turn off the heat. Serve warm.