Tuesday, May 3, 2011

When Veggies Fall from the Sky

Late Sunday, I was just about to berate myself for not making a meal plan this week and not going grocery shopping when my mother called and announced that she would be stopping in on Monday to drop off surplus perishables that would not survive the few days that they would be away...on an epic journey to B.C. to move my sister's family to Vernon.

I had already pulled some fish out of the freezer and was planning a simple meal of rice and some sort of salad and frozen vegetable (I have peas and beans on hand) that night, so it was easy to just use whatever vegetable they brought. I am now well-stocked with slightly past-their-prime vegetables:
1kg of fresh beans
1lb. asparagus
2 red/yellow peppers
half a head of broccoli
half a head of cauliflower
2 baby cucumbers
1/2 bag radishes
1 tomato
several wedges of fresh (well, slightly fermented) pineapple
a large box of organic salad greens, partially used
a bag of random apples, oranges and grapefruit
half a tub of store-bought potato salad
an empty container that used to contain coconut macaroons (they got hungry on the way)

So, my week of not knowing what to make has turned into an 'uh-oh, how do I use all these vegetables whose best before date was yesterday?' week.

Well, for starters, we had green beans with the fish and swapped potato salad for the rice. I forgot about the potato salad, of course, until the rice was cooked. So then Tuesday's meal was also decided: fried rice of some kind.

I'm pretty pleased with the fried rice, which was more or less my own invention. I was hoping to make something similar to Keo's fried rice, which contains pineapple and cashews. Here's what I came up with, which I really enjoyed, which did not require me to pick up anything from the store--and which also satisfies my plebian urge to add ketchup to Asian food:

My New Favourite Coconut Whole-grain Fried Rice

1 T. canola oil
1/2 T. sesame oil
3 eggs, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup each: sliced carrots, green beans cut to 1", asparagus cut to 1"
1/4 c. dried sliced shitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes
1 tomato, chopped
2 T. ketchup
1/2 c. coconut milk
pinch of curry powder
1 diced red pepper
1 c. or more diced pineapple
4 c. whole grain rice (I used brown basmati, but any blend will do)
2 T. fish sauce (or to taste)
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts (it's what I had, but cashews would be excellent)

Put some water on to boil in a saucepan. When it boils, add the carrots, cook for 2 minutes, then add the green beans, cook for two minutes, then add the asparagus and cook for two more minutes, or until the vegetables reach the desired tenderness. Then drain and refresh under cold water and set aside. Proper technique requires you to cook each vegetable separately, but I opted to save time and do it all in one pot.

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or wok. When hot, add the eggs and swirl to cover as much surface as possible. Cook over medium heat, flipping if necessary, to create an omelette shape. Remove from the pan. When cooled, slice into thin strips and set aside.

Add a little more oil and stir-fry the onion and garlic until soft. Toss in the tomato and ketchup, and a bit of salt and pepper, and cook for another minute or so. Add coconut milk and curry powder and heat to boiling. Toss in the red pepper and pineapple and toss to warm, then add the rice and stir to distribute the sauce. Toss in the blanched vegetables and egg strips and stir until everything is combined. Be sure it is all just heated through. Season with fish sauce and toss in pine nuts. Of course, add in any combination of vegetables you need to use up. The pineapple is a must.

Creamy, nutty rice, just tender vegetables, savoury egg, and little bursts of sweetness from the pineapple. I was quite pleased. I may have to make it again the next time veggies fall from the sky (or tomorrow, to use up the rest of the ones I already have!).

How to use the rest of the veggies? Tune in tomorrow—if we manage to avoid the combination of virus, teething, grumpy toddler and sleepless nights that knocked us off track last week, then I should be able to report on it.

As an aside—here's another new favourite recipe from Mark Bittman that I found a copy of on line. It was easy, fast, and was so comforting, every bite tasted like my tummy was getting a hug. The kids liked it, too!

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