Some Like It Hot

We aren’t afraid of heat in this house. We like spice in many dishes as a matter of fact. However, the author of the recipe of one of our most recent culinary adventures must like their food scorching. This was a new level even for me. It lit up our palates in a way I am not very accustomed. About 50% of the time, I trust my instincts in the kitchen. I’m working all the time to increase that percentage. This is one time I wish I’d done so just a little.

We recently tried Bon Appétit‘s Bibb Lettuce Wraps with Sambal Shrimp for dinner. The Mr was getting over some sinus symptoms and all he could get through to his dulled senses was salty and spicy things. He was craving some grilled shrimp, so to help him enjoy his dinner I pulled a few things from my pantry and garden (and friend’s garden) to wake up his palate. And awaken our palates it did! As a matter of fact it was so spicy, my gums went numb! But, The Mr relished every single bite.

It honestly had all of the elements of a perfect dish. Salt, fat, acid, and heat. This recipe started out so well. All of the base ingredients were spot on and we already know they work well together wonderfully! One change I would make is to cut the amount of the hot chili paste in half. If I had just done this one thing (as I instinctively knew), I likely would have plowed through the entire dish myself! Even amidst the blistering heat, the wraps were incredibly unique and vibrant. They made such a refreshingly light Summer meal (despite cabbage being a winter crop).

Recently, The Mr’s boss sent him home with a massive box of produce, beans, and rice. It had all the best basics and food for more than a week! One of the items in the box was a giant head of green cabbage. I love the purple cabbage that comes with my meals at Edelweiss in Fort Worth, but I love a good cabbage wrap with green cabbage. I actually prefer it to lettuce wraps. Cabbage is far more stable and holds the fillings so much better than lettuce does. Because of this and because I couldn’t find whole heads of Bibb lettuce at the market, it was an easy choice to swap the Bibb for the cabbage.

Another swap I made was also done from a convenience perspective. I have some very generous friends with healthy, abundant gardens. I almost get a weekly supply of fresh produce, so I simply used a gifted hothouse cucumber in place of the Persian variety. Persian cucumbers are thin-skinned like the hothouse variety, but hothouse are long while Persian only grow to about 5-6in. They’re so alike that they can be used interchangeably. They are different, make no mistake, but not so different that one can’t be used in place of the other. Seeing as how the cucumber wasn’t really the star of the plate, the substitution came across flawlessly.

I used fresh mint from my garden. It gave the dish a fresh burst of lightness to balance the heat of the chili paste and the umami from the sesame oil. The chopped roasted, salted peanuts gave a different element of crunch (contrasting with the softer crunch from the cabbage) and saltiness. I paired the meal with the rice cooked in vegetable stock in my Pioneer Woman Instant Pot and dusted the whole with Maldon flaked salt. This dish (with the halving of the chili paste) is honestly delicious and well worth branching out for a meal!

What about you? What is your level of heat tolerance?

Currently Reading: Bon Appétit magazine, November 2014 issue

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