Batter Licker

March 3, 2011

heirloom beans, broccoli rabe and pea shoots no-oil stir fry

Hardly a revelatory combination, beans and greens are typically spruced up with the standard flavors of Italy and southern regions of the United States. But I can only eat greens sauteed with garlic so many times before I start thinking I’m sick of the greens when, in fact, I’m actually sick of the repetitive flavors.

So I decided to branch out a bit and added some Asian flare to this hearty yet healthy dish.

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Part of my inspiration stemmed from the greens themselves, as broccoli rabe’s slightly bitter profile would clearly benefit from the bright and zesty ginger and the mild sweetness of the pea shoots. And, as I’ve mentioned before, pea shoots themselves taste similar to the snap peas found so often in Asian stir fry recipes, so I knew they’d be a natural match for a spicy Asian dish. But beans?

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Well, I can’t recall ever seeing beans featured in any of the wide variety of Asian meals I’ve had, except my favorite Vietnamese red bean and coconut milk drink dessert. Certainly not in a stir fry. But I had these lovely heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo on hand and already cooked, and I wanted to do something different with them. And why shouldn’t I?

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So I got to stir frying. (more…)

March 1, 2011

pea shoots, daikon radish and grated sweet potato salad with spicy sesame peanut dressing

On a recent trip to the farmers market, I picked up some pea shoots. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with them, nor did it really matter at the time. It was all part of the fun of picking up as-yet-unexplored-by-me produce, and it’s what I look forward to every Saturday morning when I allow myself this $5 or less, single-item indulgence that often widens my culinary repertoire. And this particular Saturday, I was delighted to find a new bunch of greens to play with.

Although I’m generally not a fan of de-podded peas, I love snap peas in salads and stir fries. After tasting the pea shoots, I found their slightly crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor more reminiscent of snap peas (thank goodness!). Having also picked up a daikon radish (regular radishes will also do) because the pea shoots cost only half of my $5 limit on indulgent farmers market purchases, I added that crunchy, slightly spicy root to the mix, and soon decided to use these veggies in their freshest, most flavorful form: raw.

Having embarked on this salad adventure, I wanted to add something healthy but with a little more heft, so I grated some raw sweet potato. That may sound weird if you haven’t tried raw sweet potato before, but trust me and the variety of raw root vegetable salads and slaws out there. As someone with major texture issues, I promise this one isn’t weird. But if you truly aren’t ready for that, try carrots instead to preserve the same beautiful orange color and a similarly sweet flavor.

I also added some cucumber and chopped cilantro – and while I find that cucumber contributes a lightness that’s wonderful in most salads and I think you can never go wrong with a small addition of fresh herbs, they are aren’t essential to this pea shoot and root vegetable-centric salad if you don’t have them on hand. (more…)

December 7, 2010

thai pumpkin curry

A pumpkin recipe on a self-proclaimed pumpkin hater‘s site? Don’t be alarmed. It may look like I’m going back on my word, but I haven’t turned a new leaf and become a lover of all things pumpkin.

However, I have continued to try earnestly to find something (anything!) pumpkin that I might love, besides the seeds, which really don’t count. And after a bite of my friend Justin’s pumpkin curry order at Koh Samui quite a few months back and a recent re-order to confirm that it wasn’t just the cocktails before that first bite that made me enjoy the spicy dish, I can say with certainty that, for me, Thai pumpkin curry is to pumpkins what banana bread is to bananas: the savior of an otherwise icky, squishy texturally questionable food.

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After trying to find festive but practical decorations for my Thanksgiving table, I settled on a large sugar pie pumpkin, two pears, two candles, and some fall leaves. After one pear was sacrificed in the name of pear chips and the other enjoyed as a snack, I was left with a massive amount of pumpkin. (more…)

May 7, 2010

slaw with thai peanut sauce

When I was a kid, I loved cabbage – roasted or boiled, slathered in melty butter, and sprinkled with salt. (I still enjoy that sort of cabbage now, but reserve it for St. Patrick’s Day.) However, as much as I liked cabbage itself, I never understood slaw.

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Most of the slaws I’ve tasted over the years have been more or less drowned in mayonnaise, and you see, mayonnaise and I aren’t quite best friends. I’m a mustard gal at heart, though I’ve learned to enjoy artichoke leaves dipped in a bit of mayo. But I never acquired that same taste for mayo when it came to cabbage salads. Peanut butter, on the other hand, I have always been able to eat by the spoonful (maybe even dipped in a little raspberry jam for some tart sweetness – yum! and yes, that is a “dessert” that I’ve eaten on multiple occasions.).

So when I first dipped chicken (and lamb!) satay – or even grilled sweet potatoes (seriously delicious with this sauce) – into spicy-sweet Thai peanut sauce, it was basically a dream come true. And at some point, probably after I dumped the leftover mango salsa and a dollop of pink chipotle mayonnaise on the extra cabbage from fish tacos, I had one of those light bulb moments where everything in the background fades out and a bright idea emerges: (more…)

April 26, 2010

vietnamese rice noodle salad with shrimp and fresh veggies (bún tôm xào)

I was first introduced to bún at Nhu Y while having a meal with Jay’s parents, and I was hooked instantly. A Vietnamese salad composed of rice vermicelli, vegetables, herbs, and marinated meat, bún is a great way to incorporate a variety of fresh, raw vegetables into a meal.

Ever since then, I’ve been trying – to no avail – to find an equally fresh, well-marinated-and-made bún in the city because sometimes, I just don’t have the time to drive down to San Jose to satisfy my cravings for Nhu Y. But on those days, this fresh and easy recipe does the trick to hold me over until my next South Bay bún adventure.

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My version falls just a tad short of the incredible bún served at Nhu Y, where I have no doubt that they spend much more time marinating the meat and vegetables. But this version is still tasty enough that I choose not to halve the recipe because I look forward to having the leftovers around for lunch the next day or two.

The bright, spicy dressing clings to the veggies as carrots, cucumbers, and bean sprouts play hide-and-seek among the rice noodles and shrimp. (more…)

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