Posts Tagged ‘eggplant’

Ginger Chick’n & Fig Stir-Fry

It’s been quite awhile since I posted any recipes to this blog. That’s in part because I’ve tried to make it more about writing, and maybe because I haven’t tried out many new meals — until tonight! And I apologize for not taking a picture, but I wasn’t 100% sure it would turn out good enough to blog about, but it did. And it looked as good as it tasted.

Here’s what led to the recipe: This summer we’re having a bumper crop of figs. We’ve already had our favorite Fresh Fig and Gorgonzola Pasta three times, and we’ve frozen figs to make it again later. So this morning, after picking another batch of fresh figs from the trees in our yard and putting some of them in the freezer, I wondered what to do with the rest. There were more than I wanted to just eat raw (though I did have some), and more will be ripening soon, so I figured I should cook with them and decided to give a stir-fry a try. It was delicious! (Try it if you have figs and don’t believe me — I dare you.)

You already know the main ingredients from the title, and really, I expect you couldn’t go too wrong no matter what else you throw in, but let me explain what I did.

Since we’re vegetarians, the protein base of this meal is called Quorn. They make two varieties: a ground beef substitute and a chicken substitute. To be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve eaten actual chicken, I don’t know whether it’s much like the real thing or not, but that doesn’t really matter. Quorn has a firmer texture than tofu, which makes it a good candidate for this dish. Tempeh or seitan might work well, too, and tofu would be all right but a little soft in texture, even if you get extra-firm. Ginger adds a little bite, and the figs add sweetness. The combination was great, especially with the other vegetables I threw in.

I always start a stir-fry with some onion and garlic in oil. In this case, I added a generous amount of diced ginger, at least a tablespoon, probably more for 1-2 servings. Then I added one small Thai eggplant (the long skinny kind), one small yellow squash, a small sweet pepper, and a couple of mushrooms. I let those fry in a wok for several minutes while my pasta water boiled.

Tonight, I used linguine because that’s what I had on hand, but it would be good with a sturdy rice noodle or bean thread or even asian egg noodle— anything as think as linguine or thicker ought to do well. Boil or soak until soft (follow the cooking directions).

To the stir-fry, I added curry powder, cayenne, and cumin as it was cooking, then added the Quorn Chick’n pieces. Since they’re pre-cooked, all they really need is some time to heat up (you store them in the freezer) and absorb the cooking juices. I also added soy sauce and a little bit of sugar to the mix.

Near the end of the stir-frying, I added one small tomato, chopped, and several quartered fresh figs (about as much volume as the tomato). Then I tossed in a few fresh basil leaves that I had cut into large pieces and a little Sriracha for good measure. Once the noodles were ready, I drained them and then tossed in the wok with the stir-fry to absorb the liquid.

The first bite was to die for — a little sweet, savory, and picante. The heat wasn’t too much (for me), so the basil stood out, especially when I got a bite with a good piece. The tomato and fig didn’t cook too much, so they didn’t lose their shape, and the Quorn gave it just the right texture.

As always with my recipes, it’s more about the principle than the exact ingredients. If you have other veggies on hand or if you prefer to cook with tempeh (its nutty flavor ought to pair well in this dish), then go for it! If you have more fresh figs than you know what to do with, then give this concept a try. It’s hard to go wrong with figs as long as you don’t overcook them. Next time I might try throwing in a little lemon or lime or even orange juice, just to give it a little citrus tang. Or a little cooking sherry to bring out the sweet side even more.

 

 

Okra Fusion

If you live in the South and have a garden, know someone who has a garden, or visit your local farmer’s market regularly (as we do), then chances are you are awash in okra this time of year. We love this slimy little vegetable, but even so, the steady supply can sometimes be a bit overwhelming and challenging to find new ways to cook it.

Of course, we know and enjoy the traditional way to fry okra, though usually we opt for something a little less greasy. When we have fried it recently, we take some corn meal, some flour, some Cajun seasoning (Zatarin’s if we have it, cayenne pepper and cumin, if we don’t), and salt and pepper to taste. Lately we’ve been combining okra and yellow squash in the same pan. Take equal amounts of okra and squash cut in 1/2″ lengths (either cut the squash in rounds, if it’s small or quarter round, if it’s bigger — huge squash probably shouldn’t be used, look for medium to small squash for this recipe). Dust in the flour/corn meal/spice mixture and let sit. Sauté onion and garlic in some olive oil (or if you want to be really traditional, use corn oil or canola oil). Fry, stirring occasionally. Yes some of the coating falls off (or most of it does), but it keeps the okra dry and adds seasoning to the mixture. Serve with field peas and a tomato for a fine Southern-style vegetarian meal. Don’t forget salsa or a nice chou-chou (a sweet, spicy relish) to on your peas. Potatoes or corn on the cob go well with this meal, too. Especially if your appetite is big…

Of course, we know and enjoy the traditional way to fry okra, though usually we opt for something a little less greasy. When we have fried it recently, we take some corn meal, some flour, some Cajun seasoning (Zatarin’s if we have it, cayenne pepper and cumin, if we don’t), and salt and pepper to taste. Lately we’ve been combining okra and yellow squash in the same pan. Take equal amounts of okra and squash cut in 1/2″ lengths (either cut the squash in rounds, if it’s small or quarter round, if it’s bigger — huge squash probably shouldn’t be used, look for medium to small squash for this recipe). Dust in the flour/corn meal/spice mixture and let sit. Sauté onion and garlic in some olive oil (or if you want to be really traditional, use corn oil or canola oil). Fry, stirring occasionally. Yes some of the coating falls off (or most of it does), but it keeps the okra dry and adds seasoning to the mixture. Serve with field peas and a tomato for a fine Southern-style vegetarian meal. Don’t forget salsa or a nice chou-chou (a sweet, spicy relish) to on your peas. Potatoes or corn on the cob go well with this meal, too. Especially if your appetite is big…

But you can’t cook like this every night. So we mix it up with some bhindi, Indian-style okra. Essentially it’s a lot like Southern fried okra without the breading and with a little different spices. We usually use lots of garlic, cumin, maybe some cardamom or curry, and quite a bit of red pepper. There are good recipes online, if you want something more specific than this. Serve with lentils and rice, or eggplant and rice, or another Indian-style vegetable.

One way to vary the experience of okra is to change the way you cut it. In typical Southern okra, they are sliced in 1/4 to 1/2″ slices. For bhindi,we like to pick out the smaller okra pods or choose a small, thin variety and just cut off the caps (if they’re tender, you might even leave some of the cap on), then fry the okra whole. Sometimes with larger okra pods, I’ve cut them in quarters or halves lengthwise for a change of pace. This affects the texture and the taste (and if cut lengthwise, more of the seeds fall out, especially with the larger varieties).

When we want to go back to Southern cooking, we often stew okra with onion, garlic, and tomatoes (fresh are best, but canned crushed or diced tomatoes will do in a pinch). And of course, we sometimes cook up some vegetarian gumbo or jambalaya.

But my favorite way to cook okra (at least before I married into a Souther family) is in a stir-fry. There the okra doesn’t overwhelm, but adds texture and flavor. There are many ways to do it, spiced with curry or (as last night) with lemon grass and chiles to make a Thai influenced dish. I ground fresh lemon grass, lime peel, cayenne pepper, and garlic in a stone mortar to make the main spices, added a little curry powder, then stir-fried with eggplant, mushroom, carrot, onion, and green pepper.

The Fusion recipe that led to the title of this post, though, was a combination of all of the above — well almost. It was a stir-fry served over soba noodles (though any asian noodle would do). The recipe was born out ofone of those “what can make with what we have left in the fridge” moments. We had made field peas earlier in week, and I had saved the left-over broth, since I’d used vegetable bouillon when I made them and didn’t want to throw it out. The stir-fry itself included okra, eggplant, yellow squash (small ones that I quartered and then cut into okra-sized lengths — I often like to match shapes in a stir-fry), and purple beans (that turn green when you cook them). I began by frying some onion, garlic, curry powder, and okra in the wok. Since we had no tofu, which I usually use in a vegetarian stir-fry, I added an egg and let it fry, coating the okra a little. Then I added the other vegetables, saving the beans for last so they would remain fresh.

Next came the field pea broth, which was pretty much a gel when I added it. It always stiffens up in the refrigerator, but usually gets more liquid when heated, so I figured this would make a slightly thick sauce. To this I added a little soy sauce and a tablespoon of tahini to help thicken it up and add flavor (you could use peanut butter, if you don’t have tahini on hand). To this I added a few quartered grape-sized (or slightly larger) tomatoes from our garden and let them cook just long enough to warm through but keep their shape.

Served over noodles, this recipe went over very well. Though it was done on the spur of the moment, I might have to try to repeat it sometime. Often I ask Kim and Aidan if they can guess the secret ingredient. This time, I didn’t bother. On the one hand, I thought they might guess tahini, but I didn’t think they’d ever guess field pea broth, the ingredient that really makes it a fusion dish in my mind. I also didn’t know if they would both appreciate it as much if they knew what it was. I guess I’ll find out, if they read the blog, anyway…