This week has been absolutely brutal for anyone living in the southwestern region of the country. You know that part of the weather report when the weather guy with the weatherproof hair flashes the coming week’s high temperatures across the screen? Well, ours shows 1’s all the way across (and I’m not referring to 11 degrees here.)
You would think that, after living in Las Vegas for over a decade, I would have grown accustomed to this fry an egg on the sidewalk level of heat. The kind of heat that makes you melt even at 5:15 a.m., when you have been outside for all of 30 seconds to grab the morning paper. The kind of heat that doesn’t allow you to start driving your car until 5 minutes after you have turned on the ignition, because the steering wheel would give you second degree burns. The kind of heat that makes people ask you if you’ve spent several days at the beach when all you did was go out to get the mail. The kind of heat…….well O.K., I am clearly not accustomed to it yet.
In this kind of heat, that last thing that anyone wants is a heavy meal to kick their metabolism into burn mode. Casseroles, hearty pasta dishes, and soups are out of the question, and light meals featuring lots of fresh vegetables are called for instead. I love to prepare variations of the popular Asian lettuce wraps, not because I subscribe to the Atkins diet and don’t eat carbs (I wouldn’t last a day), but because they are much less filling, so that you can eat more of the filling. This version is extremely simple, but hits all of the right flavor notes with the combination of lime, jalapeno, cumin, and cilantro. The roasted corn "salsa" adds a smoky-sweet crunch, and the crema cools off the spice. Here are my extra tips for these light and healthy lettuce wrap:
- If you prefer lemon to lime, then substitute the lime juice in the marinade with lemon juice. You can also use orange juice.
- The marinade can tend to be a bit spicy with the addition of the entire jalapeno. To cut back on the heat level, seed the jalapeno prior to adding it to the marinade. Seeds are where the majority of the heat in peppers in kept.
- If you can’t grill outdoors, then grill the chicken on an indoor ridged grill pan. Husk the corn, brush it with olive oil, and broil the corn, turning occasionally, until some of the kernels have started to turn brown, 10-15 minutes.
- Yogurt can be substituted for the sour cream when preparing the crema.
Cilantro-Lime Chicken and Corn Lettuce Wraps
Makes 8 wraps
For the chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into 1-inch strips
1/3 cup lime juice
1 jalapeno chile, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the corn
2 ears corn, husks on
1 bunch scallions, trimmed
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
For the lime crema
1/2 cup lowfat sour cream
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon lime juice
8 large lettuce leaves
Lime wedges, cilantro, and avocado for serving
Place the chicken in a large bowl or zip-top bag. Add the lime juice, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, and olive oil and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for 1 hour.
Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Soak the corn in cold water for 10 minutes and then drain. Grill the corn and the scallions, turning occasionally. Cook the scallions until tender, about 5 minutes. Cook the corn until husks are brown but not blackened, and the kernels are cooked through, about 12 minutes.
Let the corn cool slightly and then husk. Cut the kernels from the cobs, chop the scallions, and combine with the olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
Remove the chicken from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning once, until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.
Make the lime crema: Stir together the sour cream, cumin, and lime juice in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Assemble the wraps: Divide the chicken, corn, crema, and any desired toppings among the lettuce leaves and serve.