In case you haven't noticed yet, I am not a big meat eater. Oh sure, I love a thick, juicy steak, or a beautiful roasted chicken, and there really is nothing like biting into a huge burger with all the fixings; but, on the whole, I don't actually eat that much meat on a regular basis. There are many days when I have yogurt and granola for lunch, maybe eggs for dinner, or possibly just a big bowl of veggies with couscous or a salad. These meals might not be terribly exciting or always representative of my inner foodie, but they keep me fed, and are quick, easy, and healthy. To keep a rounded diet, I get a lot of my protein from eggs, dairy, beans, cheese, and fish (not all at once, of course), and I love vegetables and fruits so I eat those all the time.
Although I eat this way intentionally to be healthy, to save time, and to be easy on the wallet, I am well aware that this type of eating can sometimes seem a little rabbit-like, and is certainly always not suitable for feeding friends, family, or one hungry Norwegian boyfriend. I think most of the world likes to eat well-balanced meals, usually including a vegetable, a starch, and of course, meat. Plus, I personally really do want to eat meat: I want to cook it well, and and enjoy a variety of types of meats. So it is this type of thinking that drives me to make impulse purchases like leg of lamb, or ribeye steak, or ground organic turkey... and then try to dream up some way to prepare it.
One of these impulse purchases was this lovely ground organic turkey; it is one of the more healthy types of meats to begin with, and the organic variety is even better. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it for the bargain price of $1.99! A steal! I bought it with no real plan or agenda, but I was sure I could work it into a dish that would showcase its flavor and maintain a healthy vibe.
I thought of a couple of different options, but then my friend Steve mentioned a sort of meat salad that his mother used to make that had Asian flavors and fresh herbs. Mmmm... I had never had anything like it, but his description sounded delicious! The version he ate growing up used ground beef, but I was sure I could recreate something similar and just as good with turkey.
Having never tasted this type of dish before, I was not really sure what to expect or exactly how to make it; Steve had listed off all the ingredients, but putting it together was really an experiment in balance. Lots of lime, thin slivers of onion, extra flavor from cilantro and mint, and just the right amount of heat from the red pepper flakes. And volia! A wonderful meat-based dish that I felt worked perfectly to use my organic turkey.
Steve mentioned that he used to eat this type of "salad" just as is, but I decided to have it with some rice noodles and lettuce leaves to make a wrap. The whole thing was really delicious and a snap to throw together; the perfect kind of light, healthy dish that The Cilantropist loves.
*So, it seems I made a traditional Thai or Indonesian-type dish without even realizing it! I just adjusted the recipe title to reflect that fact that this is dish is traditionally called Larb, and is made with ground protein (thanks for the comments!).
Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps with Noodles, (aka Larb)
1 1/4 lbs Organic ground turkey (or extra lean beef)
1/2 of a medium-sized red onion
Juice from 3 limes, about 4 tablespoons
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup roughly chopped mint
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
Butter lettuce leaves for serving
Extra lime wedges (optional)
Heat a small amount of oil in a non-stick skillet. Season the ground turkey to taste with salt and pepper, then brown turkey completely. Drain off any excess fat and set aside to cool. (I browned my turkey the day before and kept it in the fridge; this makes the whole dish really quick to throw together, and is also a good use for left over ground meat.)
Meanwhile, slice the red onion very thinly, and place in a medium bowl with the lime juice. Toss to cover the onion slices completely with the juice, as this will help to neutralize the bite of the raw onions. Then add the cilantro, mint, red pepper flakes, garlic, soy sauce, and cooled turkey to the same bowl and toss well to combine. Put the entire mixture in the fridge to marinate for at least one hour or overnight.
To serve, cook a small amount of rice noodles according to package instructions (usually, soak in boiling water for about 3 minutes) and cool to room temperature. Put some noodles and a few lettuce leaves on each plate, and top with ground turkey mixture. Eat some of the turkey with the noodles, or use the lettuce to roll the turkey into a wrap. Serve with a few extra lime wedges.