Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 9 Lunch

Our lunch today was simple. Maureen Suelzer and I made Chinese strange-flavored black beans, brown Basmati rice boiled with diced garlic scapes and topped with crispy fried shallots, and a vegetable stir-fry.

That's Jane Watts, Jon's mom who helps with the salad greens finally sitting down for some lunch...after we'd all eaten..

The sauce on the blackbeans consisted of finely chopped scapes and scallions and lots of fresh finely diced ginger cooked for a few minutes in a little oil. Then I added tahini, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, chile oil, sesame oil, soy sauce and broth from the black beans cooking. This went into the warm beans and sat for an hour to absorb the flavors. Finely chopped cilantro went in a little before serving.

The rice was a takeoff on m'jedderah, which is rice and lentils mixed with crispy onions...I love those shallots Jenny has stored from last year. I tossed a lot of chopped raw garlic scapes into the rice cooking water and just boiled them along with the rice. Wow, they were so SWEET. I finely sliced the shallots and fried them at high heat in oil until browned and crispy. They went into the cooked rice a few minutes before serving. Let the cooked rice cook and harden a bit before tossing with cooked shallots.

Garlic harvest is next Wednesday so we'll be swimming in garlic finally. I want to do some really garlicky sauces.

Last we made the vegetable stir-fry. Maureen and I both handled woks. Since the burners don't put out high BTU's we had to do small batches of carrots, broccoli and collards in our woks. We seasoned each batch with finely chopped ginger, scapes which I chopped in the food processor to a fine chop and soy sauce--and scraped it into a large bowl. We cooked chopped scallions for a minute at the end and tossed them into the bowl then seasoned everything.

Here's my textbook on stir-fry:

Wok Work Stir-Fry Tips

1. Choose.
Colorful and flavorful combinations (three to five foods).
Choose seasonings like chile or curry pastes, soy, fermented black beans, Szechuan peppercorns, and sherry.
Aromatic vegetables like garlic, onions, and ginger.
Or a prepared sauce like hoisin, plum or one of your own devising (with or without cornstarch).

2. Organize.
Prepare all food and seasonings by slicing, dicing and pre-cooking or pre-treating foods where necessary. Make food pretty, uniform and bite-sized. Expose as much surface area as possible so food cooks quickly. Foods should be dry.
Line up everything you need next to the cooking area, including utensils—BEFORE you begin cooking.
Prepare a condensed cheat sheet of procedure and hang it where you can easily see it as you cook.

3. Stir-fry.
Heat dry wok or a heavy skillet over the highest heat your burner can muster. The wok should be as close to the heat source as possible. If you have a round-bottomed wok, flip your gas burner over to form a cup. Avoid wok rings like the plague—they keep the wok too far from the heat source, but if you have a round-bottomed wok and cannot overturn your burner, use it to avoid catastrophe.

When wok is hot, dribble cold oil in around the edges, about 2 teaspoons for each batch. Swirl it around to coat wok sides. Choose a mild-flavored oil like refined peanut, canola or grapeseed that can maintain high temperature without smoking. A spray bottle filled with your favorite cooking oil will distribute oil lightly and evenly.

Quick infusion—Cook seasonings in the hot, almost smoking oil, briefly. You may start with garlic and ginger in hot oil but keep them whole and pull them out when they begin to color. Add minced garlic later, so that it doesn't burn.

Rapid searing— Add the meat or protein to the hot seasoned oil first (in batches to keep from overcrowding) and cook until done. Toss the ingredients in hot oil and keep them in contact with the hot metal of the wok for a minute or so until they color. Remove seared food to a plate to keep warm

Don't overfill wok. Fill your wok about one-third full--if it gets too full, you'll be stewing not stir-frying. Listen for the crackling-searing noise that means you've got a dry wok or skillet.

Regulate heat as you cook so food cooks evenly and at a reasonable pace without burning. This means that you use the knobs on the stove to turn heat higher and lower. Stand facing stove not your girlfriend. Stir-fried dishes are like babies, they need your constant attention. Don’t be guilty of neglect.

Steaming and Blossoming--Add liquid and/or seasonings, then cover to allow steam to finish the cooking process and the seasonings' flavor to "blossom". Good for hard, green vegetables like broccoli.

Final blending with sauce or seasonings—Return all ingredients back to wok and add toasted sesame oil, scallions, seasonings, or a cornstarch based glaze/sauce. For a sauce: Mix 1 teaspoon cornstarch or arrowroot with every 2 1/2 to 3 ounces or 1/3 cup of cold liquid and seasonings. Pour in slurry mixture and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce clears and thickens, stirring and tossing the stir-fry constantly. Over-cooking can cause sauce to break and become watery again.

Pile your stir-fry high onto a platter and bring to table immediately.

Ah, you there, don’t just leave the wok to crust over. Please take it while it's hot to the sink, rinse it out (no soap remember) and scrub with a fiber brush or paper toweling if necessary to get out stray bits hanging on. Dry wok and place it back on burner to dry thoroughly for a few minutes. Rub with oil again to re-season. Cool wok and towel off excess oil. Stack woks with paper toweling in between to prevent rust. Rust never sleeps you know.

©2000Nancy K. Allen, C.C.P.

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