Friday, June 19, 2009

Slobs, then snobs

Last week we ate a meal that made Brian and I first feel like slobs and then like snobs. I'm not overly concerned with creating unified menus for our mid-week meals and we often have strange juxtapositions--Middle Eastern red lentil soup served with quesadillas and a side of sauteed cabbage with caraway seeds? Why not?--but usually my meals aren't quite as schizophrenic as this one was.

We started with my strategy to use up some of the vast quantity of lovely lettuce from the farm share by treating the lettuce
as a containment device, a sort of substitute for tortillas, or egg roll wrappers or pita in the enclosing of fillings. I had planned on a chicken filling with Chinese flavors but then went out on my deck, saw my herbs threatening to overrun their pots and thought a little thinning was in order. With handfuls of mint, basil and cilantro, a goodly splash of fish sauce, some chopped up peanuts and a lime-garlic dipping sauce the flavor profile veered towards something more South East Asian in origin.
I also made some steamed short grain rice to round out the filling. The wraps were very messy and very fun to eat.
Then Brian and I convinced the critters to at least pretend to go to bed (they go in their rooms, we leave the lights on and pretend that we don't hear the bumps and thumps. Denial! It works!)

We cleaned up the kitchen, cleaned up our messy selves (in my case, a change of T-shirt was necessary since I was still wearing my dinner, kind of like a toddler.) Then we settled down on the couch, popped in the latest Netflix offering and treated ourselves to a dessert that was a complete juxtaposition to our dinner: honey drizzled strawberries with honey lavender panna cotta. Other than drizzling honey over the berries about an hour ahead of time to mix with the berry juices and make a syrup, I followed this recipe to a T.
Oh my this was a lovely dessert. It was cool and fragrant and made me feel just a bit elegant eating it. And elegant is usually the last thing I feel after a messy dinner, critter wrangling and the evening house clean up.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps with SE Asian Flavors

1 T canola or peanut oil
1 onion, chopped fine
1 T chopped ginger
1 T chopped garlic
1 lb ground chicken or finely chopped chicken thighs
2 T fish sauce
2 T soy sauce
1 t sugar
4 scallions, whites and greens sliced
1 oz can water chestnuts, chopped
1 carrot, grated coarsely
1/3 C roasted peanuts (unsalted or low salt preferable), chopped
handful of basil (Thai if you have it, regular if you don't), picked off the stems
handful of mint, picked off the stems
handful of cilantro, picked off the stems
two heads of broad leafed lettuce--Boston or butter lettuce is great, but leaf lettuce is good too--washed and dried; try to keep the leaves as intact as possible

cooked short grain sticky rice (about 1/2 C or so per person)

dipping sauce:
1/4 c sugar
juice of one lime
2 T fish sauce
2 T water
1 T soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 T rice wine vinegar
a source of heat: either a small chopped chili, a 1/2 t of dried chili flakes, or a good squirt of sriracha hot sauce

Heat oil in a skillet and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and ginger and cook briefly, until fragrant. Add the ground chicken to the pan and break up into smallish pieces. Brown the chicken then add the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, scallions, water chestnuts and carrot. Stir fry briefly until carrot is softened. Before serving stir in the peanuts and the fresh herbs. Or you can serve the herbs alongside the lettuce on a plate and let people add the herbs to their rice/chicken/lettuce bundles as they like. Serve with the dipping sauce (just mix together all ingredients for the sauce and divide into smaller bowls so everyone has one to dip from) and plenty of napkins.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

a forced pause

I had been having so much fun knitting this:
Until I did this:
I know--it looks pretty contained now. I dare not show under the bandage for fear of causing nausea of extreme proportions. There is a chunk of my finger tip missing thanks to poor attention to my chefs knife while chopping scallions last night. I dabbed/poured some liquid bandage over it in an effort to help my overwhelmed platelets and stop the constant drip of blood. (That stuff stings like hell, let me tell you; I was able to track exactly where the nerve that starts in my finger tip is located all the way up my arm and where it connects to my spinal column because as I put the stuff on the entire thing felt like it was on fire.) Blood bubbled up under the liquid bandage and then the stuff hardened and I went around with a big lump of blackening, drying blood hanging off my finger that Brian got squeamish just looking at. But at least it meant no trip to the ER for stitches. Right now I feel my pulse throb-throb-throbbing in the missing wedge and my typing? Ha--I'm back to pecking at the keyboard with my right index and left middle finger. And screwing up royally.

So I'm a little pissed at myself since the injury is messing with my writing and cooking and also means having to take a forced pause in the above knitting project which has got to be the best stash buster ever. You can see the pattern and read about the inspiration here and if you are a Ravelry member you can see the gorgeous completed versions in the project gallery. It a great way to use up ends of skeins and those stray balls of yarn that you aren't quite sure where they came from but also that you don't have the heart to get rid of. Stuff that looks dull as dishwater when by itself suddenly becomes interesting when combined with other scraps.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tantre farm share, week 4

Whooooo boy! I had trouble fitting all this produce into one photo.
Front row: arugula, dill, peppermint, garlic scapes, 1 pt. shelling peas, 1 qt. strawberries
Back row: 5 (!!) heads of lettuce, radishes, broccoli rabe, turnips with abundant greens, scallions, 4 bunches of spinach
(It might be easier to see this load of green goodness in flickr where I've put notes to identify all the items.)

What I'm planning to do with this week's bounty:
  • Tonight I'm making braised turnips with poppy seeds and bread crumbs to go with some honey balsamic pork medallions and lettuce, radish and scallion salad.
  • I'll use the arugula and some spinach make another batch of Warda's bulgar with spicy greens and I'll resist the urge to scarf it out of the pot--it makes a great lunch.
  • Half of the broccoli rabe will be used to make pizza or calzones with one of my favorite combinations: broccoli rabe, turkey Italian sausage, caramelized onions and ricotta (then I'll blanch and freeze the other half to make this again later).
  • The turnip greens, radish greens, rest of the radishes, some dill, some peas and scallions will go into an improvised spring vegetable soup.
  • The mint will make some Friday mojitos which will precede souvlaki pork, with tzatziki sauce and spinach and feta rice (that also uses scallions and dill).
  • Chicken with garlic scapes and capers will be served with (I'm sure) more salad.
  • The strawberries will be sliced and drizzled with honey to go with honey lavender panna cotta (more details about this recipe in my next post).