One night last week I found Mr. T wandering about the kitchen asking–with just a slightly plaintive edge–”what are we doing for dinner?”, which is code for: “are you cooking or do we need to go out?” Having been out to several very nice dinners in the days prior, it was obviously time for me to step up, so I set about rummaging around in the refrigerator for dinner. It did not look that promising: a pound of ground turkey, two sad strawberries, and some random vegetables. It was also the first hot day of summer (calendars be damned) and we were unaccountably really hungry, so I wanted something that would be substantial and tasty, yet sit lightly.

Circling back to that ground turkey and the lettuce sitting next two it, I started thinking about larb gai, the Thai ground chicken salad. Spicy and savory, with nary a heavy carb in sight, it seemed like just the thing. Excited by the prospect of tangy, pungent meat wrapped up in cool lettuce leaves, I set right to work without bothering to do any research to further my somewhat hazy conception of larb gai.

Nevertheless, I kept in mind the hot-sour-spicy-sweet balance that marks so much Southeast Asian cooking and mixed up a dressing accordingly. I also pulled out a trick from my peanut sauce recipe, hot-sauteed the shallots almost to the point of charring to coax out the burnt, caramelly notes also found in Thai cuisine. And, in truth, this really hit the spot. Warm, the turkey mixture was a pleasantly spicy, tingly contrast to the cool, crisp vegetables and made for a restorative and delicious weeknight meal.

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