Sunday, July 13, 2008

ASPARAGUS 2 WAYS: Raw Asparagus & Tomato Curry; Spicy Asparagus Stir-fry

Sometimes we have great produce at the Farmers' Market, sometimes not so good. It all depends on the weather, right? But this last while we have been pretty lucky. Recently we had some great stuff available (see above) which we carted back home. Then the question comes: What to make with all this delightful produce! This is what we came up with in our house.


Before you run away, remember that asparagus is very VERY tender when eaten young and fresh, and of course tomatoes only need a little coaxing to render up their wonderful juices and flavours. Okay - with me so far?

This recipe is adapted from one by Kate Wood in Eat Smart Eat Raw. Since tastes differ and, in any case, we tend to cut way WAY down on or cut completely out added oils and unnecessary oily ingredients, we didn't try this recipe as originally intended. Instad we came up with the following:

For The Sauce:

4 sundried tomatoes, soaked
3/4 lb tomatoes
1 stick celery
1/4 pound carrots
1 or two thick slices of onion, to taste
1 red thai chili
2 Tbsp garam masala, or to taste
a little liquid (soaking liquid from the sundried tomatoes will do fine)

For the Vegetables:

1/4 lb carrots, peeled into long 'noodles' with a vegetable peeler
1 bunch young asparagus (around a dozen stems), cut into bite-sized pieces
4 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 lb spinach, finely shredded
2 tsp pumpkin seeds/pepitas
1 ounce sprouts (I used mixed 'salad sprouts') - and save a few more for garnish

I made the sauce first, putting everything into the blender, adding as much of the tomato-soaking liquid as was needed to make blending possible. This should be a nice smooth puree.You can chill this, but I preferred it at room temperature..

Next the vegetables. The only trick here is the carrot preparation, and that's easier than it looks. Simply use a vegetable peeler and peel thin strips down the carrot to make 'noodles'. When you can't peel any more, chop the tiny nub that's left as best you can and start on the next carrot.

See them below:

Add all these lovely carrot 'noodles' to the rest of the veggies, mixing them into a bowl. Then dump in the sauce.

The sauce is wonderful, but you may want to taste for more seasoning. It can be as salt and/or as spicy as you want it to be.

After adding the sauce, few stirs to coat all the vegetables with the great curry flavours..

That's it. It is easy and it tastes - well - WONDERFUL! Try it :)

For my next trick, I'll just give you my standard


(serves 2 for a light meal)

This is cooked, I assure you, although 'stir-fried' is an exaggeration, since I prefer to stir-steam (you know what I mean).

This recipe was inspired by a very similar one in Madhur Jaffrey's _World Vegetarian_ cookbook. The dish is from Hong Kong.

In this version, oil is at a minimum and the flavours at a maximum ;=) Since this was for a light meal I used only one bunch of asparagus for the two of us. Obviously, all measurements are to taste, but if you really don't like spicy food this just won't taste the same without lots of ginger, chillies and garlic.

1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
A little water or stock to 'sautee' the vegetables - or you can use a little oil if you prefer
3 thin slices of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 or 2 dried hot red chillies, crumbled
2 Tbsp (or so) vegetable stock
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp brown sugar
salt to taste
1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional for those cooking low fat)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds for garnish and flavour
springs of cilantro for garnish and flavour

Soak asparagus in cold water to keep crisp while chopping the other ingredients. Put stock (or oil) in skillet/fry pan over high heat and stir in ginger, garlic, and crumbled chillies. Stir well and then add asparagus pieces (well drained) and stir quickly to coat with spices. Add the extra stock, soy sauce, sugar and salt and when it comes to the boil (almost immediately!) turn the heat to low and cover for about four minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Remove cover. Asparagus should be almost but not quite cooked - in the Chinese way. The liquid should be absorbed, but if not let it evaporate over the heat. Add the sesame oil (if used) and stir. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro and serve over steamed brown rice.

Note, timing is approximate and depends on the weight of your pan and the heat of your stove. The point is: don't let is burn, don't let it go limp, whatever you do. The vegetables should be hot but not losing their very crisp texture.



Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chinese Hawker-Style Noodles and More Catching Up

The thing about street food, in places like Singapore and elsewhere, is that it has to be cooked quickly over charcoal (at least originally - goodness knows what they use now, as it's been a over ten years since we have been there) and, therefore, in a modern kitchen is sinfully quick to prepare. Get your veggies chopped early, then heat your stock (I am usually in a hurry and use a powdered stock or cubes) with the spicy ingredients in there to add more flavour, then pop most of the stuff in the bowls as directed. Now this can all wait until you're ready to eat. Then cook the noodles, add them to the bowls, and pour on the scalding stock. Top with whatever you've chosen for garnish and you're done. A simple and easy lunch or supper, any time of the year!


This is my basic recipe - one doesn't really need to write it down, but it's nice to have a base from which to work. Variations, two of which I have used recently, work just fine.

For two persons (and halve or double or treble etc. as needed).

3 - 4 cups Vegetarian stock
3 - 4 slices of ginger root or to taste, cut into matchsticks
3 chilies finely chopped (more or less to taste)
2 - 3 green onions, sliced crosswise very finely
1 tsp asian sesame oil
6 mushrooms, sliced (if you have time, soak a couple of dried ones too)
50 gr. (or so) medium tofu, sliced into bite-sized thin strips
NOTE: for the photos pictured above and below I used some vegan hamm.
100 gr. fine noodles (angelhair kind - often in 'nests' in asian groceries)
NOTE: for the photos you see I used japanese-style buckwheat noodes. Ya use what ya got!
2 - 3 handfulls bean sprouts
coriander, chopped, for garnish (optional)
peanuts, for garnish (optional) - I used raw cashews this time
soy sauce as needed

And here are most of the ingredients (I think!) just as I was ready to make the whole thing.

Heat your vegetarian stock together with the ginger root, the mushrooms and the chilies. (If you do use some dried mushrooms, add the soaking liquid to the stock.) Slice onions and divide between two large soup bowls together with the sesame oil and the tofu slices.

When stock comes to the boil, break the noodle nests in half and throw into the stock, separating the strands as soon as you can with a couple of forks or a spaghetti server. Noodles should soften very very quickly. Don't let them overcook. Remove from stock with spaghetti server, dividing between the two bowls. Toss the beansprouts into the stock, swirl around for a few seconds then divide between the two soup bowls.

Finally, divide the stock and any mushrooms, etc., that remain in the noodle pot between the two bowls.

Give each bowl a stir to bring up the flavours and ingredients from the bottom and disperse them through the noodles. Garnish and serve.

NOTE: The ingredients are barely cooked - the tofu heats from the hot soup, the beansprouts likewise. The mushrooms are still crisp. You can do variations on this, as I've noted above, but this is how we've eaten it for years. I have also made it using vegan chikken pieces instead of the tofu. Works fine too :)

AND for the rest of this 'catch-up' round?

Well, have a quick look at some photos I have on file.

Here are a few things we've been eating lately:

Above is STIR-FRIED TEMPEH WITH VEGETABLES (well, again, steamed). This is always a good and quick dish, with or without the rice. I like to make sure I always add some ginger root, garlic, onion, chilies and a little celery to give a good flavour to whatever else I'm using. And I generally marinate the tempeh in soy sauce and a little minced garlic and giner before adding to the rest.

And oh yes, above is my SPLIT PEA SOUP that I keep making again and again, enhanced this time with extra spices (mostly mexican style) plus some chopped vegan hamm and coriander and some dear little baby corns cut into coins AND cilantro. Very nice. You can do almost anything with split pea soup as a base. Actually, you can also do it more quickly with red lentils, but that's not what I used here :)

GINGERED CARROT-SQUASH SOUP (above) is exactly that - some onion (not too much) with carrot and squash and flavoured with fresh ginger root and varied herbs etc. Excellent. You can play with the ingredients and flavourings to your heart's content here and not go wrong!

An just above is of course a simple side SALAD. Gotta get your fresh raw veggies as often as possible, especially if you're having a touch week or month or year!

And here comes a favourite standby:

Variations on my STUFFED AVOCADO recipe abound. It doesn't really matter what you use in the way of stuffing as long as it tastes good to you and doesn't fight with the avocado. I usually base mine on carrot, celery and onion, then add all sorts of things like lime or lemon zest, lime or lemon juice, dark or light miso, a little Braggs, plus some seeds (generally pumpkin or sunflower) to give it texture after I've pureed the rest. Any stuffing left over makes a great spread for anything you've got a mind to put it on.

Take care now!