Friday, June 26, 2015

Early Summer Stir Fry

Once the farmer’s market is in full swing, it’s hard to stick to recipes. It’s the time for improvising, for flinging together the best, freshest vegetables and herbs to make salads, toss with pasta, or stir fry in a hot wok. This week, I went with the wok and made a delicious, zesty stir fry with radishes, carrots, celery, edamame, scallions, and cilantro.

Normally, I don’t measure anything when I make a stir fry. I just chop up all the good stuff that I have, blast it in a wok, and drench it in what has become my go-to simple sauce: a combination of soy sauce, dry sherry, rice vinegar and Thai sweet chile sauce. I wanted to be able to tell you about this if it was good, however, so I paid a little more attention to the quantities. Of course, the measurements in the recipe below are more like guidelines, as are the actual vegetable ingredients.

I really recommend this combination of early summer vegetables (actually, in your part of the world, these might very well qualify as spring vegetables). The zingy, slightly bitter radishes become tender-crisp chunks when stir fried, as do the sweet carrots. The chewy, protein-packed edamame form a nice textural contrast and provide a pleasant, more neutral vegetable flavor. I kicked everything up with a whole teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but you could use less for a milder dish, or you could use fresh chile peppers to taste if you happen to have some. I had garlic scapes, another early-season favorite, so I used those, but they are easily replaced with minced garlic cloves.

Since radishes tend toward strong-flavoredness in the bitter, astringent direction, I added a bit more sweetness to my sauce in the form of mirin, a sweet rice wine. I really liked the final balance of flavors, especially with the slightly floral addition from a bed of basmati rice. Brown rice would be just dandy, too. Really, whatever is in season is usually just dandy in a stir fry. Let your imagination run wild….and eat your veggies!

Radish and Edamame Stir Fry
Based on a recipe in Fine Cooking magazine

Trust me on the radishes here. They’re delicious! If you like radishes.

2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
½ cup chopped garlic scapes or 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ cups radishes, cut into ½ -inch chunks
1 ½ cups carrots, cut into ½-inch chunks
½ cup chopped celery
1 cup shelled edamame, thawed if frozen
1 cup finely chopped scallions
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons Thai hot chile sauce
1 cup chopped cilantro
½ cup chopped cashews

1. In a wok or a large skillet, heat the oil over high (or as high as you dare) heat. Add the garlic scapes and ginger and cook about 1 minute, stirring frequently. If you are using garlic cloves, just cook about 30 seconds. Add the crushed red pepper flakes and cook about 15 seconds.

2. Add the radishes, carrots, and celery. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp and are beginning to brown. Stir in the edamame. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Stir in the scallions.

3. Add the soy sauce, sherry, rice vinegar, mirin and sweet chile sauce. Cook and stir 1-2 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and cashews. Cook just until the cilantro has wilted. Remove from heat. Serve with hot rice.

Makes about 4 servings.

One year ago: Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

Friday, June 19, 2015

Quick Barbecue Beans

I’ve collected many, many recipes for baked beans, even though I have a perfectly good one (my mom’s; I’ll have to share it here some time) to which any others would have to measure up. Lately, however, I’ve been looking for something a little quicker that might still have some of the feel of a pot of tangy-sweet slow-cooked goodness. I also wanted to eat barbecue sauce.

And so I decided to try a quick and cheating method of flavoring up some cooked beans in a skillet. I didn’t want to just drown them in barbecue sauce, and I wanted to put together something a little more versatile that might be varied in flavor depending on what I had on hand. I ended up trying a combination of simple and accessible ingredients – onion and garlic, ketchup and mustard, cider vinegar and brown sugar – as a flavor base, a combination that I thought might competently host lots of different barbecue-style sauces, from sweet to spicy, smoky to fruity. I ended up being very happy!

While I prefer the firm texture of home-cooked dried beans, you could make this even quicker by starting with canned beans. For my kitchen, I like to keep lots of cooked beans on hand in the refrigerator or freezer anyway, so I’m already prepared to take the extra time to cook them. Most recently when I made this dish, I used white navy beans, which are easy to come by, but the first few times I played around, I used brown tepary beans (which I bought from here and highly recommend). Any small bean that holds its shape well when cooked is suitable for this recipe.

I’ve used a basic “sweet and spicy” variety of a reasonably priced, well-known brand of barbecue sauce, as well as some fancier specialty sauces and all were delicious. I’m thinking of trying this Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce as well. Since the beans are fairly neutral in flavor and the base of the sauce is pretty basic, I think any barbecue sauce would be suitable. Use your favorite and, like me, you might just get a little bit excited about finding another excuse to eat barbecue sauce! 

Barbecue Beans
You could use any small, firm bean in this recipe. I prefer to cook dried beans, rather than using canned beans, but either would probably be fine.

Use your favorite barbecue sauce.

1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 medium garlic clove, finely minced
3 cups cooked and drained white navy beans (about 2 16-ounce cans)
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup yellow prepared mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup barbecue sauce

1. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and just beginning to brown. This should take 5-8 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook about 30 seconds more.

2. Add the beans, salt, ketchup, mustard, cider vinegar and brown sugar, stirring well to coat the beans. Bring to a simmer, reduced the heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes, or until much of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture becomes very thick.

3. Stir in the barbecue sauce. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes more, or until thick and just beginning to get a little sticky. Taste the beans for seasoning, especially salt, and adjust as desired.

Makes about 4 side-dish servings.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bean Salad with Mole Vinaigrette

It was a good nine months ago that I got my hands on a bottle of a very interesting dark chocolate flavored aged balsamic vinegar. I know, right! Such a thing really exists. And it tastes amazing! In fact, it might have been a bit too precious of a purchase for me, because I was kind of afraid to use it.

Of course, a simple vinaigrette would have been a worthy place to use that vinegar, or I could have been deliciously happy to drench some good bread in it. I had an idea, though; an idea I got immediately upon tasting it. Wouldn’t a chocolate flavored dark vinegar be a good base for a salad dressing reminiscent of mole sauce? And wouldn’t that mole vinaigrette be delicious on a bean salad? And wouldn’t that bean salad be more interesting if there were three different kinds of beans in it?

The short answer to all three of those questions is, “Yes!” I cooked dried beans, pinto, black turtle and huge Christmas lima beans. You, of course, could use whatever beans you like, but I really like this combination. You might have to search for Christmas limas if you have your heart set on them, but another large bean (or frankly whatever you want) will do. If you are interested in exploring some new and delicious beans, however, this place is an excellent source (I got both my Christmas limas and black turtle beans there.)

Now, I didn’t make a dressing that was anywhere near as complex as a true mole sauce, but I think I came up with something representative of those dark, rich flavors. I combined that chocolate-flavored vinegar with olive oil, chili powder, garlic, shallots and smoked paprika, and I loved it! I admit that a similarly flavored vinegar might be difficult to find (I got mine at a specialty shop), but I’m wondering if a small sprinkling of cocoa powder added to a good balsamic vinegar might replicate this wonderful flavor, at least for use in a salad like this one.

I hope to try that cocoa powder idea when I run out of the chocolate-flavored vinegar, because I love the complex Southwestern flavors of this hearty salad. It’s a good side dish salad, but is also a light meal on its own with plenty of flavor to dominate as a main dish (I served it with quesadillas). I can’t wait to make it again! I also hope to find some other delicious applications for that vinegar. Oooh! How about a reduction over strawberries? Now that I got bold enough to open that bottle, this could be a really happy summer.

Bean Salad with Mole Vinaigrette
You can replace the dark chocolate balsamic vinegar with plain balsamic vinegar. You might also try adding a small amount of cocoa powder to plain balsamic vinegar.

1 ½ cup cooked pinto beans (about 1 16-ounce can), drained and rinsed
1 ½ cup cooked black beans (about 1 16-ounce can), drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked Christmas lima beans, or other large beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons dark chocolate balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons finely minced shallot
Quartered cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs for garnish

1. Combine the pinto beans, black beans, Christmas lima beans, green onions and cilantro in a medium-size bowl. Set aside.

2. Place the chopped garlic on a cutting board. Sprinkle with the salt and create a paste as described in this post. Scrape up all the garlic-salt paste and place it in a small bowl.

3. To make the dressing, add the olive oil, dark chocolate balsamic vinegar, chili powder, and smoked paprika to the garlic-salt paste and whisk until smooth. Stir in the shallot.

4. Pour the dressing mixture over the bean mixture and stir to coat. Top with the cherry tomatoes and cilantro sprigs to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.