Cook in the Moment: Summer Lettuce Wraps with Quinoa, Avocado, Mushrooms and Tahini Sauce

Summer Lettuce Wrap with Quinoa, Avocado, Mushrooms and Tahini Sauce (c)2012

Summer is here, and I am strangely pensive regarding her arrival this year. Maybe it’s because this is the summer I turn 30 years of age? Maybe it’s because I have a feeling this will be my last summer living in Colorado? Maybe it’s because I’m headed to the place where I was born to visit my family, who I only see once a year- if that. Most years I allow summer to pass me by without truly engaging in the season. I’m more of an autumn person, reveling in sweaters and fallen leaves. Somehow, this year is different. It seems I’m slowing down a bit, not pushing so hard. A lot of time in my 20′s has been devoted to running an exhausting race, seeking to please everyone around me and trying to measure up to a definition of success that I don’t really believe in. I’m looking forward to my 30th birthday. I don’t expect anything to change overnight, more like a gradual personal growth that’s been in the works for some time now.

This summer of 2012, I’m a little less innocent, a little more humble, a little less judgmental, a little more kind, a little less worried, a little more hopeful…

I’m hopeful that I will continue to become more comfortable in my own skin, to listen to my inner voice above the outside noise, and to go with the flow rather than forcing my way through this world.

Years from now, will I remember the summer I turned 30? Something deep inside me says I should make this one never to forget. Embrace her with all I’ve got. I’m gonna do it. No lists, just waking up every day with intent: to give my all to this world with a smile on my face and a heart full of love.

Summer Lettuce Wraps with Quinoa, Avocado, Mushrooms and Tahini Sauce (c)2012

Summer Lettuce Wraps

In this recipe, a mixture of protein-rich quinoa, mint, and vegetables is bound together with a deeply flavored tahini sauce, then spooned into tender but sturdy leaves of butterhead lettuce. If you don’t like fiddling with folding lettuce leaves, you can serve them as cups, like I have in the photographs. These lettuce wraps make for a satisfying, nutritious lunch or an attractive appetizer.

makes about 14 wraps

serves 4 as a meal, or can be made as an appetizer for 8

Ingredients for Summer Lettuce Wraps with Quinoa, Avocado, Mushrooms and Tahini Sauce (c)2012


For Lettuce Wraps

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces shiitake mushrooms caps, sliced into strips
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 red chile, chopped
  • 6 breakfast radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint
  • 2 avocados
  • juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 2 heads butterhead lettuce

For Tahini Sauce

  • 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup water

Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat and toss in the shiitake mushroom slices. Cook for 5 minutes, until tender. Season the mushrooms with a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. In a large bowl, toss the cooked mushrooms, the fresh scallions, chile, radishes, and mint with the cooked quinoa. Zest 1 lime over the quinoa. Season the mixture to taste with a couple pinches of salt.

Make the tahini sauce by whisking together the juice of 1 lime, tahini, soy sauce, and honey. Add up to 1/4 cup water to thin the sauce out until it just drips from the whisk, kind of like the texture of ketchup. Stir the tahini sauce into the quinoa mixture to loosely bind it.

Make the lettuce wraps. Cut avocados in half and slice them into long strips. Brush the avocado slices with lime or lemon juice to prevent browning. To compose the lettuce wraps, place two slices of avocado in each piece of lettuce and top with a couple spoonfuls of the quinoa mixture. Serve the lettuce wraps open, as a little lettuce cup, or fold and pin them as a wrap with a toothpick. This dish tastes best at room temperature.


It’s best to compose the wraps just before serving. The quinoa-tahini mixture can be made ahead of time, but it will thicken if kept in the fridge. Thin it out with a splash of soy sauce and then compose the lettuce wraps.



  1. Jess, I hope you have an amazing 30th birthday and I hope this year is magical for you. I’ve heard people say it’s the best year of their lives … ;) x

    • Thanks, Kasey. Bring on the magic!

  2. Beautiful post and pictures! I am so glad i get to be with u in this special summer! :)

    • Thanks, sis! Can’t wait to see you next week!

  3. Thank you for this post, Jess. I’ve been struggling with the inner voice vs. outer noise a lot lately, and it’s both comforting and inspiring to hear your attitude towards it all. Happy 30th, I hope this year is the best yet! With these beautiful lettuce wraps, it looks like you’re off to a great start :)

    • Kathryn,
      Thanks for the well wishes, it means a lot. I’m glad you could identify with this post. Like Kermit the frog said, “It’s not easy being green.” :)

  4. Jess – wonderful post. Happy Birthday and welcome to the ’30′s club’ – I joined this in April. Live for yourself and do what makes you happy.

    Where will you be moving to?

    This recipe looks very delish and I’m certainly going to make it soon :)

    • Hi Katie!
      Thanks so much for stopping by and your kind comment. My husband and I signed a lease on a new apartment for another year, so we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We’ve been in Colorado for 4 years, and feel like somewhere new is on the horizon. No plans yet. :)

  5. I love this post Jess – the photographs, the sentiment, the avocado :) I’m an old lady, cruising close to 40, but I remember 30 was a milestone I felt quite anxious about. Looking back, I would totally tell that girl to chill the hell out – everything works out in the end, just enjoy the ride. And you, enjoy your upcoming holiday. woo hoo!

    • Thank you , Renee! I love your sentiment about chilling the hell out. I’m hoping for a much more chill next decade!


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