Friday, May 28, 2010

slab vs. side

I would like for today to be… over. Less than two hours. Good.

Let’s rewind to earlier this week when I had fun recipes (I stockpile posts in a good mood to publish when I’m in a bad! How bipolar of me).

So there are, I think, a lot of Americans who plan dinner based on having a slab of some kind of meat and then from there some things on the side. However, the nutritionists and environmentalists and really even the anthropologists studying food history tell us that it’s the wrong way to go: use meat as an accessory to your meal if you like to add easily accessible protein and flavor, but make it mostly plants!

To that end, I knew Monday’s dinner would involve the using up of some cod. In my heart of hearts I craved fish tacos, but I knew I’d miss the lusciousness of Austin tortillas/salsa/etc., so I decided to take it in a Chinese direction and I’m VERY happy I did cause it was sooooooo good! I used an ingredient that’s been sitting in the pantry for awhile:

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Spicy black bean sauce! Fermented black soybeans, soy, a bit of spicy zing. A mix of sauciness and wonderful salty rich slightly chewy black beans. It is a FABULOUS ingredient.

I decided to keep it super simple and just do a classic stir fry. I knew from my Asian stepfamily that the key to a good stir fry is to have everything totally prepped so you can get the oil searing hot, throw everything in, and just cook it for a wee bit.

Soooo I cut my cod (about 7 ounces… for three people. That’s why you stretch it with a veg, see below) into bite sized pieces, and then dusted it with cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Just a light sprinkling- proper dredging is for people with too much time on their hands.

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Then I heated a pan to medium-high, added a thin film of peanut oil (high smoking point=best for stir fries), and threw in the fish, stirring constantly until it started to brown on the outside.

At that point I added:

1 cup frozen peas (still frozen- they cooked in the pan and released some liquid for a sauce)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 T. black bean sauce

And lowered the heat, covered it, and let everything steam until the fish and the peas were both cooked through.

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This was FABULOUS! The fish was tender and flavorful, the peas added a nice bit of color and their own unique sweetness, and wow the black bean sauce is a great shortcut. TONS of rich, salty, sour, complex flavor using just a small amount! It made this dish realllllly meaty!

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For a nice veggie side I tweaked this recipe for Chinese braised red cabbage.

1/2 large red cabbage , finely shredded
1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1 t. minced fresh ginger
2 star anise
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 T plus 1 t. rice wine vinegar
1 T soy sauce
2 T brown sugar
1 t. sesame oil
Sesame seeds

Put cabbage through sugar into a medium pan with a lid, and bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes on low until all the liquid has evaporated and then stir more regularly until liquids are sticky and coat cabbage.

Serve scattered with sesame seeds and drizzled with sesame oil.

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Also vair nice (and vair necessary- that cabbage was OLD! But that’s the beauty of braising :D)

A bonus (or drawback, depending on how you look at it) of this meal is that it made my house smell like a Chinese restaurant. A delicious one! But that is indeed a strong… olfactory… statement.

Another thing I had to use:

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While I was in Austin, my mom made her fabulous roast chicken. I decided chicken salad was in order! But not just any chicken salad. Fabulous chicken salad from a fabulous new cookbook featuring these two fabulous ingredients:

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At the library book sale I picked up the fabulous Healthy Cooking for Two (or Just You) because I am tired of constantly mentally halving and fourthing recipes. And new cookbooks are just always fun!

I saw everything that went in this chicken salad and went YES!

The dressing:
2 green onions (I used the equivalent amount in leeks… what we had!)
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. chutney (I used peach, from the farm stand. Yum!)
2 tsp. curry powder

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And then, in fact, the majority of this salad is….

Bulgur!

I love bulgur! It’s the easiest to prepare whole grain ever. You can boil it and it takes 10 minutes or you can even just dump boiling water on top of it and let it sit. It has a unique, nutty delicious flavor and a fun shreddy texture.

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So dressing plus 1/2 cup bulgur, cooked in your manner of choosing and then add

1 small can mandarin oranges, drained (ours had been sitting on our shelf for legit a decade, and I was delighted to use it!)
2 T raisins
salt and pepper

I put mine on farmer’s market lettuce and did lettuce wraps. Vair delicious and refreshing.

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5 comments:

Molly said...

Look at your cooking up a storm!

I hope you get out of your funk soon... ew how I hate when bad moods set in :o(

MelindaRD said...

Your stir fry actually looks like it could work here on the island. Cod is very popular here. One wrong move and the whole thing turns rubbery, but they do a nice job here. Most other countries still look to meat as a side dish, particularly developing nations. I guess by diet you can tell the industrialized nations!

From Here to There. In Purple. said...

ooh that cod looks excellent. loving the creativity.

Heather (Where's the Beach) said...

Love red cabbage - thanks for sharing!

Alex H. said...

i've been in a funk lately. I won't even post when i am in one of those, lol...

your food looks delicious !!!!