Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad

From Beyond the Great Wall, another of the wonderful books by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. This is a warm salad from Inner Mongolia which the authors posit may be a fusion dish of some kind, possibly with a Russian influence.

I turned it into a main dish by the simple expediency of serving it with rice. Oh, so very good ... and it looked just like the picture in the book. It will not only make your taste buds sit up and sing but will be easy on the budget as well.

Beef-Sauced Hot Lettuce Salad

About 4 packed cups coarsely torn romaine lettuce

1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 pound (1 packed cup) ground beef
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon Jinjiang (black rice) vinegar, or to taste
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil

Place the lettuce in a wide salad bowl or serving dish and set aside.

Place a wok or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. toss in the garlic and stir-fry for 10 seconds, then add the ginger. Stir-fry over medium-high to medium heat until slightly softened and starting to turn color. Add the meat and use your spatula to break it up so there are no lumps at all, then add the salt and stir-fry until most of the meat has changed color. Add the soy sauce and vinegar and stir to blend. Add the warm water and stir to blend. (The dressing can be prepared ahead to this point and set aside for up to 20 minutes. When you are ready to proceed, bring to a boil.)

While the dressing mixture is coming to a boil, place the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and stir in the cold water to make a smooth paste. Once the liquid is bubbling in the pan, give the cornstarch mixture a final stir, add to the pan, and stir for about 1 minute, the liquid will thicken and become smoother. Taste for salt, and add a little salt or soy sauce if you wish. Add the sesame oil and stir once,then pour onto the lettuce. Immediately toss the salad to expose all the greens to the hot dressing. Serve Immediately (or see Note).

Serves 4 as a salad or side dish.

Note on Texture: If you use romaine lettuce, the salad will have good crunch as well as some wilted softer textures when you first serve it. We love the contrast. If you prefer a softer texture, either let the salad stand for 5 minutes before serving it, to give the greens more time to soften in the warm dressing, or use leaf lettuce instead of romaine.

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